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Roll with the new

Vail Daily/Shane Macomber On left Rush Sturges (left) and Brooks Baldwin (right) are two-thirds of the Young Gunz core triumvirate. The all under-20 outfit of Sturges, Baldwin and friend Marlow Long produced, filmed and star in "New Reign," a new kayak film which premieres tonight at 10 p.m. at 8150 in Vail Village.
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In an opening slow-motion shot in the new kayaking film “New Reign,” filmmakers Brooks Baldwin, Rush Sturges and Marlow Long tread toward the camera slowly and ominously.Their swagger is confident, their eyes piercing, and their intent unquestionably direct.The self-proclaimed founders of the Young Gunz – an under-20 group of hardcore paddlers – have a definite plan, a covert mission, so to speak. Their objective is to bring kayaking to the forefront of the extreme sports realm. Once the action starts up in “New Reign,” one quickly realizes that these young guns have ample ammunition for the cause, too.The film plays out like a list of things not to try in a kayak: i.e. plunge off 100-foot falls; intentionally flip and roll off raging whitewater waves; surf the mammoth Zambeze river in Africa, which at low water still runs higher than the Colorado River at flood level.It’s not just that the trio of Baldwin, Sturges and Long and the other 11 “Hired Gunz” in the film live to tell about performing such harrowing feats. What’s more impressive is that the Young Gunz make the action look easy, to the point that risking life and limb becomes routine theater. The film’s effect is somewhat numbing for the novice viewer, who may start out being afraid for the paddlers in the film – even though they don’t appear afraid themselves – before coming to terms with the fact that nobody is going to die, and that the drama that is being played out deserves both respect and admiration.It also deserves appropriate questions, such as, “What do your mothers think when you guys do things like this?”

Those questions and a bevy of others were answered when two-thirds of the Young Gunz founding trio – Baldwin and Sturges -stopped by the Vail Daily’s offices on Wednesday. And, when the two showed up, they were nowhere near as menacing and untouchable as they appeared to be on film, although their intent was still unflinching.Freestylers”I think the difference between our video and what people have seen in the past is that it’s innovating freestyle,” Sturges said. “We’re always trying new things. Last year alone we came up with three new tricks.” Sturges, raised in Forks of Salmon, in Northern California basically learned to kayak right after he learned how to walk, since his father runs a kayak school. Baldwin, out of West Glacier, Mont., is also another river rat, having been raised in a family of kayakers. They do say that their mothers get queasy at times when they show footage to them, although they both mentioned that it’s not the same thing as showing it to someone’s mother who has never kayaked before.Both were reared on the rivers by families who cherished the sport, and so their passion for promoting and expanding kayaking is something that their loved ones can resonate with. Their hope is that it is also something that will strike a nerve with other outdoor enthusiasts.

“We’re hoping that (the sport) goes bigger,” Baldwin says “We did this to promote the sport. It’s a fun video. There’s stuff that goes along with the music that’s kind of funny and just gives it a different feel.”The film, which was shot over a year-and-a-half in such exotic locales as the Northwest Territories in Canada, Norway, Africa and the U.S., is captivating for more than just the kayaking. There are shots of the local culture in Africa, while streaming waterfalls are captured from a traveling car in Norway. The personalities of the players are also highlighted with candid shots and quasi-outtake footage – a staple of the extreme sports genre – allowing enough room for each Gun to make a name for themselves. “We made one other film,” said Baldwin. “It was called ‘The Next Generation.’ We did it while we were still in high school. We sold a little bit, but not any big sales.”It was after both Sturges and Baldwin moved to Vancouver to attend film school post-high school, that the two got more serious about making films. While “New Reign” is not necessarily revolutionary, it does stand out for it’s cinematography and score, and is a very polished product from three kids under 20. As Sturges mentioned, both he and Baldwin – two kayaking experts – wanted to make a film that they enjoyed, figuring that if they accomplished that feat, then it would be hard for anyone else not to take notice of movie.”We use water-proof equipment, just so we can get the angle that you want to see,” Baldwin said. “At times, we took a boogie board and we took straps and we dropped it off a bridge. Then, we had it surf the waves, and we could come out and touch the camera and get really cool angles. Pretty much how we learned how to shoot was by thinking about what you’d want to see.”



Close calls One of the last two questions asked of the two was whether or not the team or paddlers in the film had ever decided against doing something because it was too hairy.From the outside, it looks like the team is up for anything, aside from dropping Niagara falls, but both Baldwin and Sturges refute that logic.”If somebody really wants to run it and everybody thinks they’re capable of it, then we do it,” Baldwin said. “Sometimes, with lots of people, they probably shouldn’t have done it. We got some pretty close calls. Once when we were up in Canada in the Northwest Territories, one guy goes in and gets stuck in the hole. He actually got his pants ripped off him because the water was so powerful. Also, some of the footage on the film is shaky, because we weren’t sure where someone was in the hole. That’s kind of like where you say, “OK, do I really want to use the camera right now, or do I want to see if our friend is OK.”That’s kind of like where you say to yourself, “Do I really want to go out drinking Friday night, or do I want to go see this movie.”It’s a question that only you can answer.Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at npeterson@vaildaily.com


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