When you think of riveting cinema, fishing films may not come to mind. Jamie Howard (Col ’90) begs to disagree. As founder and head of HowardFilms, he has added fishing to the list of action sports that have been turned into gripping television viewing.
He accomplished this in the same way that the National Football League turns old game footage into riveting theater—by using music, narration, innovative camera angles, extended slow-motion shots and a story line. Howard added one touch you will probably never see in an NFL film: the underwater shot.
Of course, fishing has long been a staple of outdoor television shows, but the episodes Howard watched over the years lacked action and drama. He was convinced these elements were there; they just weren’t getting captured on film. Case in point—the weekend shows on tarpon fishing that he watched growing up. “The tarpon can exceed 200 pounds, and landing one on a fly rod is a singular accomplishment,” says Howard. But when he saw tarpon fishing on television, “the magic was missing.”
With an athletic background and a youth spent absorbing the spectacle that television had brought to other sports, Howard had a vision for what he wanted to create. But he was starting from scratch. “There was no paradigm for fishing films,” he says. “And I had no idea whether there would be a television audience for them.”
Before he could find an audience, he needed a network to carry his shows, which proved to be an obstacle. Sports networks refused to look at them; eventually, he got a bite from the Outdoor Life Network. When his first film finally aired, in 2002, it ran without any advance promotion by the network. Nevertheless, viewers found “In Search of a Rising Tide” and made it one of the network’s highest-rated shows that year.
Howard has been drawn to fishing since his childhood in Charlottesville. “I probably first picked up a fly rod when I was about 10,” he says. “My father took me anywhere and everywhere to fish. At some point, it got into my DNA.”
But for years, it didn’t figure into his livelihood. After earning a degree in rhetoric and communication studies at UVA, where he worked as a Cavalier Daily sports photographer, he wound up in New York. There, he wrote advertising copy, directed commercials and lived in a high-rise complex that looked out on the World Trade Center. After Sept. 11, 2001, he found himself living next to the smoking crater of Ground Zero. “I felt like this was a point in my life where I could stay on the same career path, or take a risk and do something even more fulfilling.” HowardFilms was born.
To see Howard’s work, visit www.HowardFilms.com.