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Jon Bowermaster on his film “SoLa, Louisiana Water Stories”

Jon Bowermaster on his film "SoLa, Louisiana Water Stories"

In his film, “SoLa, Louisiana Water Stories” – available in its entirety at the bottom of this page courtesy of SnagFilms – filmmaker Jon Bowermaster takes a look at Louisiana’s complicated relationship between man and water.

SoLa, Louisiana Water Stories

Writer/Director: Jon Bowermaster

60 mins.

The full film is available free on 

SnagFilms (and at the end of this article). This interview with Jon Bowermaster is part of a series of SnagFilm filmmaker profiles that will be featured weekly on indieWIRE.  

[Editor’s Note:  SnagFilms is the parent company of Indiewire.]

Your movie: In 140 characters or less, what’s it about? 

Everywhere you look in Louisiana there’s water; rivers, creeks, bayous, the Mississippi, the Gulf. We found pollution, and life, everywhere.

OK: Now tell us what it’s really about.

When we first went to Louisiana, in July 2008, to make a film about the complicated relationship between man and water there we had no idea that our reporting would conclude with the worst manmade ecologic disaster ever.

“SoLa” is a poignant look back at a way of life that may now be gone forever as well as a prescient look at exactly how the gusher in the Gulf was allowed to happen … thanks to corruption, malfeasance and an industry and political climate that environmental pollution simply a cost of doing business.

So tell us about yourself. What’s your background? Why did you want to make movies?

I’m a writer whose work has evolved into documentary filmmaking. Six-time grantee of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, most recently for the NGS I did a project that took me around the world looking at coastlines on all 7 continents and made a film on each. It had been 10 years since I’d made a film in the U.S. and Louisiana seemed perfect, given my interests in people who live and depend on the water. The day we arrived in Louisiana in July 2008, there was a massive oil spill in the Mississippi off New Orleans, setting the tone of our film. As we were editing the film, in the spring of 2010, the BP oil spill in the Gulf began … and we stopped editing our film and it turned into something quite different.

What inspired you to make this movie?

Nearly 4 billion people in the world live within 60 miles of a coastline. Almost everyone in Louisiana has an intimate relationship with water, with the coast.

What was your single biggest challenge in developing or producing it?

Far too many stories, far too few minutes.

What do you think SnagFilms audiences will respond to most in your movie?

Incredible characters who tell their stories, from the Spaniard headed for the Amazon who stopped off in Louisiana to get used to the heat and mosquitoes and never left the Atchafalaya Swamp to the 65-year-old grandmother who was “Erin Brokovich” when Erin was still wearing short pants, defending communities against polluting corporations and earning herself bullets through her office window … from the LSU professor who blamed the Katrina mess on the Army Corps of Engineers and got fired for his honesty to the wife of a fisherman whose taken on the mess left behind along the coast by oil and gas explorers.

Were any specific films inspirational to you while making the movie?

A wide variety of books and movies, anything about culture in Louisiana, going back a generation or two. Les Blank’s “Spend It All” was perhaps greatest single inspiration …

Future projects in the pipeline? Tell us!

In late December we are sailing to Antarctica (where I’ve been 20+ times), this time to film a 3D film for distribution to museums and science institutions around the world and Discovery’s 24/7 3D channel (3Net).

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