Q&A: Ben Potter On Making Looking Movies


It began with .22/250 in a single hand and a digicam within the different. Ben Potter was 15 years outdated and looking squirrels in Northern California when he picked up a video digicam for the primary time. Quick ahead greater than 20 years later, and Potter is the creator behind a few of the most fascinating and provoking looking movies on the web. 

Potter is the founding father of Cana Outdoors, a digital inventive company devoted to sharing tales via the lens. He works with a few of the prime manufacturers within the business together with Sitka, YETI, Mathews, Tanglefree, and Gunner Kennels. In 2019, Hunt 41—a celebration of American waterfowl looking, as Potter describes it—debuted its first episode showcasing a structure hunt on the Nice Salt Lake. All through the sequence, Potter, together with a handful of fellow waterfowl maniacs, intends to movie the 41 huntable species of geese and geese and share the tales of the locations these birds take them and the individuals they meet alongside the way in which.

There is no such thing as a mistaking a Potter movie. His distinctive type and expertise come throughout as genuine and relatable. After watching, you need to get on the market and hunt. I had the possibility to take a seat down with Potter and discuss to him about his profession as a filmmaker.

Ben potter picking up decoys
Potter with digicam in hand as he helps decide up decoys on the finish of a hunt. Cana Outside

When did you get began filming hunts?

I grew up within the East Bay space, east of San Francisco, in somewhat farm city. My dad took me out for my first duck hunt after I was 3, and I’ve been chasing geese ever since. I began filming for enjoyable in highschool. It sounds tacky, however I used to be filming my squirrel hunts after I lived within the East Bay. Lots of ranchers had simply infinite issues with squirrels, so I volunteered my providers.

I went to varsity at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo the place I reside now. Some neighbors and mates knew that I did video for enjoyable, and so there have been little enterprise alternatives right here and there to start out making a few bucks and assist pay for college.

I began Cana Outside in 2004 whereas I used to be in class. In 2012, I began to do some work within the out of doors enviornment. I actually simply put the shotgun down and picked up the digicam extra. I believed I might carry my very own take to filming waterfowl hunts.

Did you shoot nonetheless photographs at first or go straight into videography?

I went proper into video. For me, photographs had been extra of an afterthought. Videography all the time intrigued me as a result of it’s a puzzle that you simply’re placing collectively to inform a narrative. It’s more durable for me to do this with photographs. One thing a couple of transferring picture and the sounds of the marsh, the gun photographs, the duck calls, and the water. I really like working all of these components right into a timeline. I like pictures, however I discovered that I get pleasure from creating movies greater than taking photographs.

Ben Potter standing in the stern of a duck boat
Potter, standing within the stern of a duck boat above, began filming waterfowl hunts in 2012. Cana Outside

If you method a brand new mission, is the storyline often predetermined, or do you simply begin filming and go from there?

A part of what I really like about doing work within the out of doors business, or simply within the outside normally, is that it’s so unpredictable. You don’t know what mom nature goes to throw at you. There have been occasions if you go to mattress and it’s 60 levels and exquisite. Within the morning, it’s single digits and blowing snow. I feel that’s a part of what I really like concerning the uncontrolled facet of looking. There’s solely a lot you may plan. That doesn’t imply I don’t attempt to produce my shoots the most effective I can forward of time and work with a inventive group.

If it’s Sitka Gear, then I’m working with their producers to get to know the topic first in order that I’m not fully blind entering into. I did an elk movie a number of years in the past known as The Linguists concerning the historical past of elk calling. I feel that gave me somewhat little bit of a bonus in the way in which that all the pieces was new to me. That didn’t imply I wasn’t ready for what I used to be attempting to perform on that shoot. There’s all the time a ton of room for studying, and occasions you’ll get there and notice, Oh, wow. This random man that we by no means met, he’s truly a fairly fascinating dude. I’m going to create somewhat section on him that I didn’t plan for, since you simply by no means know who you’re going to satisfy.

Are you able to consider an instance of an fascinating character you weren’t anticipating to be a part of the mission however was?

There was a dude years in the past after we had been doing the wader launch for Sitka Gear. We had a shoot in Montana this one morning. I used to be with a bunch of individuals from the advertising and marketing and product groups. We had been looking on a river and had some prototypes of the waders. We met up with two guys who we obtained related with to hunt the spot. Their plan was to hunt downstream of us and meet up later within the morning. I went as much as this old-timer and stated, “Hey, man, why don’t you simply put on my waders and check out them out? Perhaps I’ll get some photographs of you later within the morning.”

A few hours later, right here they arrive rolling down the icy river in a canoe. It’s 5 levels out, they’ve ice dripping off their beards, and their canine is frozen. I walked out into the center of the river. I’m chest-deep holding my Pink digicam (digital cinema digicam) and getting these photographs that had been my favourite photographs of perhaps the entire mission. It will be virtually unimaginable to plan that. If somebody was going to plan that shot they’d have despatched the canoe up 100 yards and had them drift. Effectively, as a result of that they had been on the river all morning these guys simply regarded haggard, ya know?

That they had a bunch of canines, a pair geese, and their outdated shotguns. That’s the type of stuff that I simply love as a result of I met this man that morning. He wasn’t actually the expertise or purported to be a part of the shoot. There’s one thing about it if you meet somebody that’s simply so ingrained in that scene and their world of looking which you can’t recreate.

How does a product shoot differ from a story movie?

After I’m taking pictures a product piece it’s a very completely different deal. It’s very hammered out photographs of what are we attempting to function. What are the issues that make this product distinctive? Why is there a necessity for it in comparison with what’s already out within the business in that line of substances?

As we speak, it looks as if everybody has a digital digicam and is capturing content material. How do you make your work stand out?

I assume I don’t actually ask myself that query. I don’t assume, How can I stand out? I simply preserve doing what I like. I virtually put on blinders. I don’t say this to sound like I don’t care about different individuals’s exhausting work within the area. I attempt to simply deal with what I’m engaged on.

Taking pictures a movie or photographs are extraordinarily subjective, proper? When somebody says, “this man’s the most effective,” that’s a particularly subjective factor to say as a result of there are individuals whose work I actually admire, and I assure many wouldn’t agree. However that’s what makes artwork and creativity so interesting as a result of everybody has a voice. I feel the extra individuals expressing that and choosing up a Canon Insurgent, the higher.

I all the time inform myself, I need to do that so long as I’m having fun with it, pleased with my work, and really feel like there’s a spot for it. The out of doors world for me is actually fascinating and particular as a result of it’s an enormous a part of my residing, but it surely’s additionally my ardour. That is what I do alone time. I’m going to do that whether or not or not I’m getting paid for it.

Why did you create Hunt 41, and what do you hope to perform with this movie sequence?

It began with a few Utah guys that reached out to me. One was an elk hunter and one was a duck hunter. They stated, “We’d like to make a movie about looking the 41 waterfowl species in a single season.” I used to be actually intrigued by the concept of pursuing completely different species and completely different voices, however I proposed the concept like this, “What if as a substitute of creating this a narrative about you checking of 41 geese in a single season, we make a sequence that makes use of the geese because the roadmap to main individuals across the nation, and connecting with completely different topics in several states as we chase the completely different species?”

It was much less a tally-board movie and extra about doing what I already actually love to do which is inform tales about hunters. As you’ve seen, we’re eight episodes deep, I’ve gotten to satisfy and expertise fairly a little bit of the nation already.

As duck hunters, we by no means get uninterested in listening to duck tales or studying about new duck hunters and the way they hunt. We’re hungry for that stuff. I wished to morph it into that, right into a sequence, and make it concerning the individuals versus a listing of geese. So long as I’m bodily in a position, I see no cause to cease even after we end all of the states. There are nonetheless tales to inform.

What are the variations and difficulties of filming waterfowl looking in comparison with big-game looking?

I feel logistically it’s somewhat completely different. Generally with big-game looking, you can be within the backcountry for a number of days. That’s a complete completely different method along with your gear and batteries. After I’m doing a duck hunt I can blow via Pink batteries all day lengthy and never fear about it as a result of I’m going to be again on the resort room to cost. If I’m at an elk camp, I’m organising a photo voltaic setup on a Aim Zero (transportable energy station), or bringing a generator to maintain issues rolling. It’s somewhat extra rustic if you’re making a big-game movie.

With geese, you may mess up somewhat extra. There shall be one other flock or one thing else will occur. With big-game, you must capitalize on that second when it’s occurring. It’s essential to be prepared. Going into a movie, my group and I wish to have a mindset of Let’s begin this journey and finish this journey on the identical power. We don’t need to be operating out of gasoline on day 4 or 5.

After I was filming The Linguists, I hiked over 200 miles with my digicam. I misplaced a ton of weight. I not too long ago regarded again at outdated photographs of that 12 months and man it was like I used to be again to my school weight, my battle weight. Duck looking is tough, however I might say it’s a distinct type of exhausting. It’s chilly, it’s moist, and it’s simply completely different components you battle towards versus the weather you cope with massive recreation.

What’s the favourite place your videography has taken you?

There’s no place like residence. I really like hunting California as a result of it’s so nostalgic. Nevertheless it was neat after we shot the harlequin in Washington. We had been on this island trying again at Seattle. It was a kind of moments like, Man. Take a look at the place I’m proper now. We’re sitting on this washed-up go surfing a rocky seaside. We shot this one duck. Freaking lovely duck. That was a cool second.

What cool moments stick out to you from Hunt 41 to this point?

There was a second in Wisconsin after we had a kind of days of infinite mallards coming into our unfold. I often wait to shoot my gun till I really feel like I’m good with my content material. I shot a few greenheads, after which I might nonetheless shoot black geese.

We had been simply hanging out and right here comes this wad of 35 to 40 mallards. I see one black duck in the midst of this flock. I pull up, and the fellows begin yelling, “No. No. No. No. No.” I shot. I knew what I used to be taking a look at. The fowl folded. Then right here comes the lab with a black duck in its mouth. All people was like, “What?” That was a neat visible. I’d by no means shot a black duck earlier than in order that was a brilliant particular second for me.

What’s your favourite waterfowl species to hunt?

I completely love cinnamon teal. I feel they’re one of many coolest geese. They obtained a loopy sound. They fly somewhat in a different way than the opposite teal. I actually get pleasure from taking pictures them as a result of they eat nice, and are a tough goal to hit.

What’s your present setup for filming and photographs?

For probably the most half I attempt to do my taking pictures on Pink cameras. My favourite one which I attempt to use as a lot as I can is known as a Pink Epic-W. I like it. I really feel like that paired with a 24mm to 105mm lens is a fairly stable run-and-gun looking setup.

What suggestions do you may have for somebody who needs to start out filming hunts?

I might say just remember to are your personal greatest fan. Filming looking is just too exhausting to let somebody let you know what’s good and what’s not good. It’s an excessive amount of of an funding as a result of in the event you’re entering into it, that’s most likely as a result of you’re a hunter your self, and also you like it. You’re keen about it. You need to do it justice. I might additionally say don’t fear in case your type adjustments. That’s a part of rising as a human and as an artist—and a part of continually studying learn how to inform a narrative in a different way.





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