|Years:||I'm 34 years old|
The film chronicles the crewmembers of the Mary Parker, a boat that floats up and down the Mississippi River, pushing barges full of grain cargo during harvest season from Rosedale, Mississippi, to the port of New Orleans.
Powell spent four years interviewing the workers, which include former convicts, longtime riverboat captains and young men looking to earn some cash to tide them over until the next job. I grew up in Mississippi about 10 miles from the river, and I grew up hearing stories about these river rat characters, these outlaws who work out on the river.
I have a cinematography background, too, so the idea of going out on this boat really appealed to me. Was it difficult to get access to film on the Mary Parker?
There are some pretty serious chemicals out there, and you have to have the right level of access to even work out there. I had a family connection to this mom-and-pop company from the Mississippi Delta, and they let me get on their boats and interview their crews.
This kind of job is basically a second chance for someone. How did you go about shooting the film?
Because access was hard, I started out just interviewing different crews on different boats and people on land. I would talk to people on their off days.
But as soon as I got on the Mary Parker, I thought that these are the people whose stories I wanted to be telling. They work six hours on and six hours off for 28 days straight. I had to get on their schedule, and that was a challenge; it wore on me, too.
Also, it was a pretty small space. It was hard for the crew to accommodate us.
Another issue was noise. It was an attempt at an interview.
Avoiding subtitles is a way of making people pay attention. Is there a lot of burnout?
If it works, it works, especially with the home life. For some of them, they go out there and worry about their wives cheating on them, things like that. But some people handle it really well. They check in with their wives every day and make it work. What about women—are there any working on these boats?
There was a cook on the Mary Parker. But there are definitely women captains. Speaking of an amazing woman, you also worked on the documentary about motivational speaker Lizzie Velasquez. What was that experience like?
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Just being around Lizzie was incredible. It was an honor to participate in that film and just hang out with Lizzie for two months. We went to Park City, Washington, D. It was really fun.
It means a lot to her to be able to share her voice in a feature film. But can the tech translate to better experiences ahead?