Interview with Filmmaker Hayley Stuart (STILL RIVER, SILENT JUNGLE)

STILL RIVER, SILENT JUNGLE was the winner of BEST DIRECTION at the November 2021 DOC SHORTS Film Festival.

1. What motivated you to make this film?

As a whitewater kayaker, it was all too often that I would come across communities that were, or were about to be, impacted by large hydroelectric projects. I studied in Bolivia in 2014, and kept in touch with some of my advisors from down there. When they told me about the Chepete-Bala dam projects in 2017, I wanted to help get the word out in some way. Initially, it was just going to be a 1-minute film, but before long it blossomed into a full production (my first ever).

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

two and a half years!

3. How would you describe your film in two words!?

Save Bolivia’s Rivers

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

1. Inexperience/too many objectives with too few people: This was my first time directing. But my film crew and myself were also instructing rafting, and guiding individuals down the river, which made it hard to capture certain moments. Halfway through the production, my film crew went home and another crew came out. We were still in the jungle, so it was difficult to communicate what had been filmed and what we were going for

2. Lack of funds: The trip and the film crew was entirely volunteer. The project was mostly self funded so I would have to take long breaks from it to go back to teaching high school (which also wasn’t lucrative).

3. Cultural/language barriers and intricacies- Even though I speak spanish, not everyone in my crew did. It became clear how important communication is between EVERYONE. And even when you do speak Spanish, there are so many cultural aspects of entering and interacting with indigenous communities.

4. terrible sound equipment

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I felt very uplifted! It was very nice to hear people react to the film.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

When I found a story I wanted to tell that wouldn’t reach the right audience if I had only written an academic paper.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

The Incredibles

8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

I think you’re doing a great job! I’m new to this, so I’m not sure yet.

9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?


10. What is your favorite meal?

A really good tofu pad thai.

11. What is next for you? A new film?

Doing a Masters now in Water Science, Policy and Management at the University of Oxford. My goal is to use this short film as a proof-of-concept for a feature-length documentary on the same subject.


By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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