Freelance photography leads to movie on the Pamlico

Published 5:49 pm Friday, April 28, 2017

For the Daily News

For the better part of 20 years, Jennifer Woolard has spent the majority of her spare time doing what she loves most: documenting commercial and recreational boating through the use of photography and videography, under the name of North Creek Productions.

Woolard started by taking pictures while traveling on her Jet Ski in and around the Pamlico Sound. Her Jet Ski trips range as far as 80 miles and up to six hours in a single trip. Woolard’s photos include a variety of scenes on the water, dolphins, sunsets, shrimp boats, crab boats, sailboats and more.

Her love of documenting life on the water led to a free service for passing boaters in her area. She recognized the unique lines as well as the artistry of boats and would offer to take pictures of those vessels as they traveled through the area. After taking photos, Woolard would pass her contact information on a card in a Ziploc bag to the boaters. This passion and service grew to include aerial photography.

“I love aerial photography; there are times when I spend evenings searching Google Earth for specific ground locations, such as streets and buildings where movie and television scenes have been filmed all over the world,” Woolard said.

Over the years, the passion of Pamlico photography evolved to include footage taken from her homemade, water-proof, floating drone that she would fly alongside and overhead. The vastness of the Pamlico Sound is a crossing for travelers from all over the world, and Woolard has crossed paths and met sailors from as far away as New Zealand.

On July 2, 2014, Woolard was returning from a photography expedition on the sound when she encountered something rare and unique.

“I could not tell what it was from a distance, but my instinct told me to ride toward it. It looked like a black dot from a distance. As I was riding and flying closer, I realized that it was a vessel like no other that I had ever seen,” she said.

Woolard rode around it several times, took pictures, and even video clips of it.

“I waved at the passengers and then returned home,” she said.

AT PLAY: Dolphins play in local waters, one of many scenes Woolard loves to capture on her forays out on the water.

After studying the pictures and researching the vessel, she found that it was a world-famous floating theater company traveling from Canada to Florida. The company was composed of a group of actors who live on the boat and perform all around the world. Woolard contacted them last year and told them their story had inspired her to write a screenplay that she would direct as an independent feature film.

“Amazingly, they remembered me riding around them three years earlier,” Woolard said.

Her hobby of maritime photography on the Pamlico has led to a diverse group of people coming together to participate in this film project. During the planning of this film, Woolard enlisted a variety of local sailors and community members to participate. Paul Del Rio has been extremely generous in providing the primary vessel, Bolero, a schooner of New Bern to be used in the filming, the crew of the Jeanie B Sailing Charters of Washington has included their vessel and local commercial fishermen have also expressed an interest in appearing in the film, according to Woolard. All of these volunteers are people she’d photographed at some point, she said.

The title of the film is “The Performers.” North Creek Productions plans to cast actors from East Carolina University Theatre Department, New Bern Community Theater, as well as talent agencies between Raleigh and Wilmington. The casting will include 10 major roles and a variety of extras. The filming locations will be primarily along the Pamlico, Pungo and Neuse rivers. Additional filming will take place in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, Woolard said.

Woolard said she plans to use this film experience in applying for an internship with Lucas Film Ltd. LLC in San Francisco, and has full confidence in adapting to the challenges of directing a film on the water.

“I’ve ridden and filmed in every type of condition imaginable,” Woolard said, adding that her experience with videography from her Jet Ski and water drone has blessed and prepared her for the challenge. For Woolard, this lifestyle and hobby has led to a unique discovery and to a dream in filmmaking.