- Associated Press - Thursday, February 4, 2016

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Lucas and Meigan Bell were excited to talk about their upcoming documentary film, “Live the Stream,” which, outside of their marriage, is perhaps the couple’s most significant collaboration yet.

But first, a brief word about spoilers.

A guy walks into a bar and then - something, right? It’s a setup we’ve heard a thousand times, flashing lights on a runway letting us know that a punch line is about to land any minute now.

It’s fun, that fleeting bit of tension between tee-up and delivery, waiting to see if the pilot can stick the landing in that tight space between expectation and surprise and in doing so, replicate in the mini-narrative of a joke, the same series of small combustions that help propel a car forward.

If you ask Lucas and Meigan Bell to talk about their protagonist Joe Humphreys, they will gush effusively about the former head of the Penn State angling program, a renowned fly fisherman who has shared plied stock and trade in the company of presidents and celebrities. They will talk about Humphreys’ passion for teaching, his almost religious fervor for the outdoors and his uncanny ability to navigate almost any stream.

Ask them about some of the locations where they’ve been filming for the past nine months, and prepare to hear crickets.

“We really wanted this to be a more personal look into the icon that is Joe Humphreys,” said Meigan Bell.

Both have been especially careful not drop any hints at what to expect from their finished film. Places, names, trout - the Bells have redacted it all in the name of entertainment.

It’s difficult not to sympathize with them. Humphreys isn’t exactly an unknown quality. He’s hosted a fly-fishing show on ESPN, appeared in a couple of instructional videos and has been featured in the pages of the Centre Daily Times and other publications. It’s the difference between writing about a small, up-and-coming restaurant that’s starting to catch on and a national chain with brand recognition to spare.

The hefty legacy of the once and still great fly fisherman had provided the Bells with one heck of a setup - but how on earth did they come up with a satisfying payoff?

“We really wanted this to be a more personal look into the icon that is Joe Humphreys,” Meigan Bell said.

What that means in relation to the actual narrative of the film is still unclear - which is good. Because the truth of the matter is that if a guy walks into a bar and orders a ginger ale, we’re all going home disappointed tonight.

If we really want a better sense of what “Live the Stream” is all about, there are of course other options. If the advent of the Internet has taught modern day cinephiles anything, it’s how to obsessively scan promotional materials for random details doing their best impersonation of a clue.

The film’s teaser trailer is pretty straightforward but you can see right away how the Bells, at least on a technical level, are hoping to distinguish their entry from the rest of Humphreys’ videography.

It is unquestionably a documentary, full of the requisite talking heads and voice-over narration - but the footage itself has a sweepingly cinematic quality to it, a grandness of intention framed in a series of stunning panoramic vistas and close-ups of the master in action.

Everything about it seems crisper and more vivid, like Mother Nature has finally saved up enough money to take out a proper big-budget ad, and slowly, over the course of two minutes or so, a narrative starts to unfold.

Joe Humphreys: fly fisherman. Joe Humphreys: teacher. Joe Humphreys: lover of nature.

“I was almost in tears when I first saw it,” Humphreys said.

It might be overstating it to say that he was completely surprised by the footage - after all, he was there when they shot most of it - but the teaser might have gone a long way toward answering the question he posed some time ago when Lucas Bell first approached him at a Lancaster fly-fishing show and asked to tell his life story.

“Why me?” Humphreys said.

The quick, easy and - thank goodness - expository answer to that question is that Humphreys and Lucas Bell go way back to the latter’s tenure as a student at Penn State, when his short film about the school’s angling program brought them together by way of overlapping interests.

That was almost 14 years ago - a lifetime for a filmmaker, less so for an 87 year-old.

Lucas Bell went on to co-found and serve as the creative director of Nomadic, where Meigan works as an executive producer and head of production. Up until now, the company has mostly been in the business of creating promos and show packaging for channels like A&E;, Discovery and National Geographic.

“So many people get involved in fishing and don’t look up and see the beauty around them,” said Humphreys.

The plan was always to branch out into film.

“We’ve been waiting for the right opportunity, I think, and the right story,” Lucas Bell said.

Both husband and wife have a passion for the outdoors and had just returned from a fly-fishing trip in New Zealand when Lucas suggested crafting a film with Humphreys at the center.

Humphreys was the perfect match. They had a lot in common, plus he was nice, successful and had his own car. The entire union might as well have been the byproduct of a site that pairs unattached filmmakers with interesting subjects looking for a good time.

You can see that chemistry on display in the teaser trailer when the camera lingers on a pair of boots sloshing through sun-splashed waters or colludes in a vision of a perfectly executed cast.

As far as short presentations go, as far as great setups go, it works - but why? We know that Humphreys is great at what he does - his resume makes it impossible to expect any less.

What’s the payoff?

“I’m saying, ‘What do I have to offer? I have experience and a lot of time,’ ” Humphreys said.

Humphreys moved to State College when he was 6 years old, shortly after the Great Depression hit and the bank that his father worked at closed for business.

He was the new guy in town who benefited both from patience and a shrewd appraisal of the local social scene.

“Fishing was a such a big thing. The kids I met, they fished,” Humphreys said.

The streams, at least how they remain in his memory, were pristine, the only place to be if you were an early riser with bib overalls and a dream. Sometimes his father would go with him, more as a way to pass the time than anything else.

Humphreys said that he enjoyed the camaraderie between father and son, much in the same spirit that he enjoys the company of other fishermen - but it’s the communion between man and nature that has kept him soaked to the skin for the better part of the past eight decades.

“So many people get involved in fishing and don’t look up and see the beauty around them,” Humphreys said.

He’s done his best in the past few years to be an advocate for the protection of natural resources and recently founded a Spring Creek chapter of Trout Unlimited, an organization dedicated to restoring fisheries across the country.

And maybe there really is something in the water.

That’s the prevailing theory being tossed around by Lucas Bell, who thinks that on some level, fly-fishing has helped to sustain Humphreys, keeping him perpetually young and active.

The production on “Live the Stream” was supposed to have wrapped by now, but Humphreys’ calendar keeps filling up with new appearances and teaching gigs.

“Joe Humphreys makes us tired,” Meigan Bell said.

Production is scheduled to extend into July if the filmmakers can reach their $50,000 crowdfunding goal on indiegogo.com. Until then, a release date remains somewhere upstream.

From the start, both Bells had set out to make a film about an 87-year-old man who takes the phone off of the hook so that he can watch Penn State football uninterrupted.

The fact that he happens to be one of the best fly fishermen in the country just adds color.

“It’s more personal. It’s beyond fly-fishing. You get to hang out with a great guy,” Lucas Bell said.

If that’s the punch line, then we’ve all heard worse.

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Full trailer of “Live the Stream”:

https://www.centredaily.com/living/article57361438.html#storylink=cpy

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Online:

https://bit.ly/1KSBiGX

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Information from: Centre Daily Times, https://www.centredaily.com


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