Writer and filmmaker Sprague Theobald has released his documentary, The Other Side of the Ice, which shows his transit of the Northwest Passage from Newport, Rhode Island, to Seattle, Washington, on his Nordhavn 57 Bagan in the summer of 2009. The film captures scenes of haunting beauty as the boat passes through a remarkably desolate part of the world. But another voyage happens along the way, as Theobald reunites with his grown stepchildren and his son on the boat more than a dozen years after a nasty divorce. We caught up with him late last year as he was setting the release schedule for the film.
Power & Motoryacht: What’s going on with The Other Side of the Ice?
Sprague Theobald: The film was finished about a month ago. It took far longer [than expected], but because there was no pressing schedule I didn’t rush it. I worked with some editors for the first time, so I didn’t edit. I had some really, really talented guys—I just stood back and let them do their work. What they made from it is just nothing short of brilliant. I can say this without any ego involved, because I wasn’t the one calling the shots really, but it’s turned into this incredible multilayered story of adventure, climate, beautiful photography, and then the story of family coming back together which just absolutely unrolled so wonderfully in the piece.
Power & Motoryacht: Sounds like the result surprised you.
Sprague Theobald: It really has. When I wrote the book I knew the story was there. But when we were on the trip, we had five cameras and I encouraged the kids when it got tough, when it got lonely, when it got isolated, to take the camera and talk to it. And I wasn’t going to look at any of the footage until the trip was over, they could say whatever they wanted. And as the trip progressed and got harder and harder and we slipped into darker and darker mental states, what the kids talked about on camera was just incredibly exhilarating. There was no Oh woe is me or I don’t know if I can do this. The level of thinking and then the appreciation for each other and the appreciation for the trip—they started to bring up issues on camera unbeknownst to me. When I got back and started looking at the footage I just saw this huge group feeling from the family split 12 years earlier, and each one of them were addressing it without me asking them to.
Power & Motoryacht: Literally you couldn’t have scripted that better.
Sprague Theobald: Last spring I flew the kids to New York and we hung out for a few days. We hadn’t seen each other a whole lot, and I got them all together at once, and we did some post-trip interviews, in which they could look back and comment on the trip and how their lives and how their family has changed. And again, it’s a huge eye-opener. I wish I could take credit for this tremendous feeling that happened. On the trip we didn’t have time to [bring up old grievances] and say “Hey, remember that time you said…” because the trip was so hard, that was all trivial. We were in the trenches together and we learned to rely on each other and the love started to come up from that reliance and dependence.
Power & Motoryacht: Does the voyage ever stop evolving in your mind?
Sprague Theobald: No it doesn’t. Since the day we landed, I work or deal with the trip in one aspect or another every single day. It’s not just the basic scenes and footage that I didn’t know existed or that I forgot that brings it all back for me. It’s constantly changing. I’m seeing new angles on myself—I’ve changed so much. All of us changed so much from the trip. It’s just such a point of reference now. There are times somebody says something and then they ask ‘Have you ever felt like that?’ And I find myself answering, ‘Yeah, when I was up in the Arctic….’ It changed all of our lives.
The Other Side of the Ice will have a weeklong engagement at the Quad Cinema in New York City beginning on March 8, or may appear at a film festival near you soon. For an updated schedule of screenings, please check out www.spraguetheobald.com.
This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.