Blackwater encompasses the power of five Black men whose paths have been challenged with loss, defeat, fear, and pain by life’s ups and downs and social injustice challenges black men and black boys face every day. They have fallen into an “endangered species”, only surviving day to day. Through surviving life’s trials, each man has found grace and success in the outdoors, healed and mended by nature’s medicine to the soul, embracing the art of fly fishing and building brotherhood. Blackwater is an expedition of a journey in the Gates Of The Arctic Circle National Park, adventure, a vision quest, and a fly fishing adventure that surpasses the color of their own skin connecting to the fundamentals of nature’s, the poetry of life, and prosperous joy. Like indigenous communities, they find self-fulfillment in being outdoors. They find their own representation, and hold space for everyone, especially inspiring young Black boys. It is a dual survival between black boys who can not make the connection to a black man in the outdoors due to lack of representation and black men finding representation in wild spaces to call their own. Hopefully, these youths can see themselves, and be inspired to embark on their own journeys into the outdoors. The concept is a tactically crafted story in dialogue and adventure, with emphasis on dismantling the fear for BIPOC and inspiring BIPOC to pursue their journey in the outdoors and uplift black boys’ lives in green spaces.
This story is told in 5 directions; 5 lives and 5 perspectives wrap into a heavy dialogue discussion in nature tackling the heavy topics of masculinity attempting to answer questions such as “ Where do I as a black man fit in nature?” and “ How do we hold space in nature as anglers paving the road for our next generation of young men so they could see us and know this space is for them just as much as for everyone?”
James Edward MillsWriter
Deevon Deevon “WeS” LA RUEEditor
Completion Date:April 1, 2023
Production Budget:35,000 USD
Country of Origin:United States
Country of Filming:United States
Shooting Format:Sony FX6
Chad Brown is an accomplished documentary-style portrait and adventure photographer, creative director, film director, and conservationist. He is also the founder and president of two non-profit organizations and a veteran of the US Navy.
Chad’s current work focuses on outdoor adventure travel and documenting threatened wild spaces. He connects the public to endangered areas by showing the true spirit of the indigenous people of these lands and telling stories focused on social justice and environmental justice tied to BIPOC communities connecting to outdoor spaces.
He is deeply interested in capturing moments of passion and the human spirit. Through his striking documentary portraits and photographic exhibitions, he advocates for social and environmental justice. His photos are intense, raw, stylized images with a bold approach, unique angles, and dramatic lighting.
Chad studied communication design and photography at American Intercontinental University. From there, he attended Pratt Institute in New York City where he earned his Masters of Science in Communication Design degree.
He has managed interdisciplinary teams as a creative director, art director and photographer both as a freelance artist and for agencies. He is a former editorial photographer for the New York Times. His work has crossed into underground hip hop, fashion and culture where he worked with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons (founder of PhatFarm) and Rasheed Young (VP of Run Athletics) to photograph and develop creative ad campaigns for national hip-hop culture magazines.
Chad moved from New York to Portland, Oregon in 2007, where his life and career path expanded beyond the traditional creative world. His adventure photography assignments now lead him all over the world to countries like Japan, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, as well as into the Alaskan Arctic several times a year.
Mother Nature played a significant role in his healing from the war trauma he experienced as a Navy service member. A failed suicide attempt eventually led him to launch a non-profit organization called Soul River Inc. in 2013.
This unique organization specializes in outdoor education and cultural expeditions that Chad calls deployments. It brings at-risk youth and Veteran mentors together and takes them into threatened wild spaces, providing mission-driven experiences where advocacy and outdoor education meet.
This work has led Chad to Capitol Hill, where he advocates for our public lands and wild places. He gives youth leaders of tomorrow the opportunity to interface with Congressional members.
In 2021, Chad founded Love is King, a non-profit organization that focuses on welcome access, safety, and healing in the outdoors for BIPOC communities and other under-served voices.
He is a board member of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Alaska Wilderness League. He has been featured on BBC and CBS, including Good Morning America and NatGeo/Disney’s Called to the Wild reality TV show, and in national publications like Outside Magazine and The Drake. He has also been featured in regional publications across the Pacific Northwest.
Chad was the first recipient of the Breaking Barriers Award presented by Orvis, and the Bending Toward Justice Award from Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley. Learn more about Soul River Inc and Love is King.
"When I was born into this world, as I grew up into manhood my father once told me I am an endangered species. Black men are a threat in this society."
"I directed this film because of the continual overlay conversation amongst black men's social groups and the urgency of many diverse and gender groups being created with then the outdoor industry. Outdoor brands are pouring money into many groups to help support various initiatives with underserved populations. There is also a flux of learning fashionably Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which is excellent but toxic even amongst white allies. This is not a bad thing and shows potential support, but within this interest in the outdoors, black men get unnoticed and overlooked in so many spaces beyond the outdoor world. A negative stigma lurks over black men and silos our voice and presence from positive to negative. Very seldom, a positive light on black men, our work in our communities, and our professions fighting social justice and environmental justice rather than presented as a societal threat from media and bad stereotypes.
I wanted to direct a particularly unique story organically around five prominent thriving black men who are leaders in their own space and show the audience five stories of whom they are in this world, their struggle, their fight, and their sense of adventure in the outdoors as each one faces environmental justice in their paths, social justice with questions of themselves and their experiences as black men in the wilderness. The audience will learn about every five members, but most important, will be pulled into emotional conversations and colorful to help a white audience go deeper with a lens to learn and explore deeper conversations of black men where they are coming from. This film does give a sneak preview into these black men that will spark new and ongoing discussions that could very well land a conscious white ally leader in the conversation space who could be a decision maker who can help create initiative programs that support black men in the outdoors, which becomes a domino effect to inspire young black boys to pursue the outdoors.
When it comes to media and how it is presented, black men are always displayed as hostile or angry. This film is to counter this long-lasting media culture of negative stereotypes and to show black men in a better light, engaging in nature and adventure, dismantling masculinity, and showing how black men can thrive and be full of heart and love, and supper conscious when it comes to ourselves, community and the outdoors conservation space.
Part of my inspiration is pulled from old black tv sitcoms like Sanford and Son or The Fresh Prince of Belair from their outdoor scenes.
This film's goal is to leave you wanting more and wanting to know more in these conversations we are having in the movie as an Agway to talk off screening go into deep thought and many discussion. Black men and boys matter as much as every other gender initiative.