2024 Behind the Lens: A Line in the Sand

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The 2024 F3T is underway – click here to find a local showing and purchase tickets.

Next up in the 2024 F3T Behind the Lens lineup, we head to the pristine island of Andros in the Bahamas. The bone-fishing is world class, but how could a proposed 5,000-acre limestone mine change that? Flylords was lucky enough to catch up with the filmmakers Harrison Hughes and Steve Schwartz, to learn more about what went into the making of this film. Check out the full interview below.

Flylords: Harrison and Steve, tell us a little bit about yourselves. Also, what were your individual roles in creating this film? 

Harrison: I’m a freelance filmmaker & photographer who has been shooting professionally since 2011. I picked up a fly rod in 2017, started shooting for some outdoor brands and never turned back. I am the camera operator & editor for the film.

Steve: Oddly enough, I’m a writer by trade. I’ve been working in and around the fly-fishing industry for a while now, but never as a producer. I handled a lot of random stuff, from coordinating the story at the beginning, interviewing on-camera talent, naming the film, taking some photos, booking flights, and pretending like I knew what I was doing. Oh, and I couldn’t forget offering feedback to Harry in the editing process. I’m sure he loved that part.

Flylords: How did you decide to make bone fishing in Andros the subject of your film, and how did you go about capturing the unique features that make Andros such a pristine ecosystem?

Interview, Bahamas, Andros, F3t Behind the Lens

Harrison: Funny enough, we were actually planning to go to Mexico for this trip. It was supposed to be a promo trip for a fly fishing company we were working for. After speaking with Gabby and her husband John, they said the fishing was amazing on Andros so we shifted this trip. Andros truly feels untouched. There were multiple times while we were on the West side that I thought to myself “I’ve got to be the first human who has tossed a fly here.” Capturing the scenery was super easy, just had to make sure to bring multiple drone batteries.

Steve: Yeah, I remember we pivoted the entire trip in real time during our first call with Gabby and John. You could just tell that they were in love with this place, and the mention of double-digit bonefish didn’t hurt, so we rolled the dice and decided to go with them. Obviously, it turned out to be the right move. And, to piggyback on Harry’s point, it wasn’t hard to make Andros look great. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

Flylords: How did you initially learn about the proposed 5,000-acre limestone mine? Can you break down some of the potential environmental threats associated with such a mine?

Drone, Bahamas, Andros, F3t Behind the Lens

Steve: That was actually the biggest reason we pivoted to go to Andros on our initial call. Harry and I knew we were looking for some kind of story—an interesting person or whatever—and when Gabby mentioned that there was a proposed limestone mine, it piqued our interest. I did a little research and it seemed a thread worth following. 

As for the threat of the mine, the risk outweighs the need. From a human standpoint, Andros holds the largest source of fresh water in the Bahamas, and it’s crucial for the country. Any sort of negligence or mishap (which seems to be a “when” not an “if” for most mining projects) could harm that water source beyond repair. Also, the economy on Andros and the Bahamas lives and dies on tourism, and a mine would only harm those prospects as well. The entity vying for the mine would argue that they’re bringing jobs to the island, but there’s no real evidence that it would move the needle for the economy in any meaningful way and most sources we spoke with said that other mines in the Bahamas have proven that any wealth leaves the Bahamas and doesn’t benefit its citizens.

To me, there’s also a deeper issue. In most cases, modern culture is trying to reverse the damage done by mines, dams, and other impediments. We’re continually trying to reconcile past sins. This situation, much like the Pebble Mine, is an opportunity to stop a mistake before it happens. There’s no question that humanity needs resources, but there are places where we need to make a stand and say, “No, not here,” which is where the title for the film came from. 

Pebble Mine, rightfully so, got a massive amount of coverage and press. For some reason, this issue has not, but I think we would both agree that Andros is not any less beautiful or important to the people of the Bahamas, as well as those of us in the fly-fishing community. And, let’s be honest, a few people are going to get rich off of a mine like this—don’t let them tell you any different. To me, that’s never a good reason to make a fragile ecosystem even more vulnerable.

Flylords: As the Culinary Editor at Flylords, I’m always interested in learning about the role fishing plays in food culture around the world. What fish species, if any, are commonly consumed in Andros? Did you enjoy any particularly memorable meals during the trip?

Flats, Fly Fishing, Bahamas, Andros, F3t Behind the Lens

Harrison: I went down to shoot for this film twice, and I looked forward to every meal. The Conch and crab were absolutely unreal, I’m drooling as I type this. 

Steve: I just ate bonefish the whole time. Just kidding. I don’t have too much to add here, other than Bahamian cooking is incredible, and Andros Island Bonefish Club had the best of it. 

Flylords: Balancing storytelling while conveying environmental issues can be complex. How did you make sure your film engaged audiences while still effectively addressing the potential threats to the area?

Beer, Cheers, Bahamas, Andros, F3t Behind the Lens

Harrison: The mine was originally just going to be a side story to a fun fishing promo, but as we conducted more interviews and spoke with locals, we knew the mine needed to drive this, and the fishing partnered as it would be directly affected by the mine. 

Steve: In this case, it wasn’t too difficult because the target species is a direct reflection of the health of its ecosystem. Anglers hooking into bonefish is just a small way of pointing out why this place is special, and also what’s at risk. Prescott Smith and Shawn Leadon are as committed to the health of their home as they are to running kick ass fishing lodges. I was blown away by both of those guys—two of the most passionate, intelligent, and humble people you’d ever meet. It just made sense to connect their cause with their lifestyle.

Lastly, Gabby and John were the perfect conduit for the audience, a way to bridge the gap between the U.S. and the Bahamas. Those two are fully committed to protecting and serving Andros, even though they don’t live there anymore. They can fish, too. Gabby’s an incredible guide in her own right. Her service is called Lady Luck Adventures in Destin and after seeing her fish, I’d strongly suggest booking a charter. And no, she didn’t pay me to say this—but she’s welcome to. 

Flylords: What was the best, worst, or weirdest moment of the trip? Take your pick.

Bonefish, Bahamas, Andros, F3t Behind the Lens

Harrison: Best part for me was one morning our guide wanted to commit to finding flamingos. He said local Bahamians go their entire life not ever seeing them or not even know they live on the island. We searched for about two hours and as we gave up hope, we saw a pink cloud on the horizon feeding on thousands of shrimp. My hands were shaking as I got the drone up, and then embarked on the greatest drone footage I have ever captured. I flew with hundreds of wild flamingos that most likely have never seen a human in their life. It was absolutely unreal.

Steve: Easy. My casting was the worst part. 

Flylords: Filmmaking inevitably comes with challenges. Can you share some memorable moments or obstacles encountered during the actual filming process?

Fly casting, Bahamas, Andros, F3t Behind the Lens

Harrison: Apart from the mosquitos and doctor flies eating us alive during evening interviews, there was a looming risk in filming the documentary because of the issues we were highlighting. There are BILLIONS of dollars going into the push for limestone mining, and the locals and public officials fighting them have been bribed with over $100,000, framed and put in jail, and there was even car bomb attempt on one of the most prominent fighters of the mine. 

Steve: This definitely can’t top a car bomb, but simply getting all of the coverage we needed in such a short amount of time was really tough. In fact, Harry went back for another quick trip because we needed to fill some gaps—and he just happened to bring a fly rod along…

Flylords: I’m headed to Mexico to target bonefish for the first time in about a month. Any tips, fly pattern recommendations, or anything else you think I ought to know before heading south?

All Smiles, Bahamas, Andros, F3t Behind the Lens

Harrison: I wish we touched on this more in the film, but we actually stayed and fished with Crazy Charlie’s kids. His son guided us and his daughter cooked some of the most incredible meals for us. Saying that, I stand by the crazy Charlie and Gotcha being the two best bonefish patterns on the planet. That’s all we used, and we lost count of the fish we caught.

Steve: Man, I learned so many hard lessons. First, practice casting to moving targets if you’re a little rusty like I was. I can hit a dime at 70 feet at a stationary target, but when it’s cruising across the bow with a stiff crosswind, that’s a different ballgame. It took me a while to get back into the swing of things. Second, listen to your guide. These guys are the best of the best, so when they say, “strip, strip, strip, strip, stop, strip, strip, stop, set the hook,” just do what they say, even if you can’t see the fish. They can see it, and know exactly how to hook ‘em.

Flylords: What is the overarching message you hope viewers take home after watching this film? How do you see the film making a tangible impact on viewers, and what specific actions do you hope your audience will take after watching?

Bonefish, Underwater, Bahamas, Andros, F3t Behind the Lens

Harrison: My biggest hope is that this film highlights an issue that could destroy the island and fishery forever, and we somehow have a part in stopping that from happening.

Steve: I’m with Harry on this one. When we asked Prescott what could be done to stop this mine from happening, his answer kind of broke my heart: “We need people like you to notice.” There are entities out there who are taking advantage of people who, for whatever reason, don’t have the collective voice and influence to stand in their way. The majority of Bahamians don’t want this mine, but that doesn’t seem to matter. I hate that. I’m sure there’s plenty of limestone in other places but this island with a small, rural population is an easy target. If we can stop this one, maybe we can start setting a precedent and make the next target not so easy. 

Flylords: What can we expect next from you? Any film ideas or adventures down the pipeline?

Beer, Fly Fishing, Bahamas, Andros, F3t Behind the Lens

Harrison: My mind has been racing ever since we got word that we made F3T. 2024 Cicada hatch, Michigan smallies, brown trout of Italy, or New Zealand trout after doing a Hobbit tour, I’m gonna do it all. I’m all in on making more fly fishing films.

Steve: Between our two families, we have five kids under the age of six, so that’s generally enough insanity. That being said, I have a feeling 2024 is going to be a solid year. Now that we’ve checked F3T off of our bucket lists, it’s time to skip the Golden Globes and go for the big one. Yep, the Oscars. 

Flylords: Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to share that I haven’t asked about already? 

Harrison: I’ll be in Dallas, Destin, Nashville and Knoxville for the tour. Would love to meet up and talk shop with anglers and filmmakers attending!

Steve: Watch out, Harry’s a hugger.

A Line in the Sand, Bahamas, Andros, F3t Behind the Lens

Special thanks to Harrison Hughes and Steve Schwartz for taking the time for an interview. Stay tuned for more iterations of the Fly Fishing Film Tour, F3T Behind the Lens series by clicking here.

The 2024 F3T is underway – click here to find a local showing and purchase tickets.

2024 F3T Behind The Lens: RIO DE GIGANTES

2024 F3T Behind the Lens: Triple Trouble

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