The Shapeshifter, changing action into art


Art and action come together in the latest episode from the Skip Armstrong film series Of Souls & Water. Posted online this week to National Geographic Adventure Magazine The Shapeshifter raises the adrenaline bar more than just a few notches as this third film marks a dramatic transition from stories of calm contemplative flat water to a hard charging opus of raging white.
“We always envisioned an action oriented film in the series that was divergent from the rest,” Armstrong said in an exchange on Facebook. “This one took on the form of being more fiction than a character study.”
Pro kayaker Ben Marr dances more than he paddles over churning rapids turning back flips, barrel rolls and pinwheels in an elegant ballet of skill, precision and passion. In a choreographed display of expert water work the film contrives a fiction belied by the fact that it is amazingly real.
“I wrote the story to give emphasis to Ben himself and to bring alive some of the mystery of life,” Armstrong said.

“The curious explore unbound by restrictions of place and mind and perhaps discover things we don’t understand… magic, alchemy, flight,” says the narrator in the opening frames.

This 6-minute 6-second short breaks down a few of the boundaries of fear and doubt to show what’s possible when a force of nature is plied with just the right amount of ambition and desire. With minimal storytelling Armstrong lets Marr’s talent speak for itself. Though the final scene shot at night with water flares might seem a bit over the top it succeeds in providing just the right crescendo for a dramatic finish that works.


The Joy Trip Project is made possible with the support sponsors Patagonia, Rayovac and the New Belgium Brewing Company

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I’m a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.