Interview with Steve Wystrach about the upcoming feature documentary called Manry at Sea—In the Wake of a Dream
For more information on the film and to watch the trailer, click here.
1. How did you come across the Robert Manry archives?
The seeds of the Robert Manry Project sprouted in 1996 while I was preparing for a voyage from Southern California to Hawaii. I’ve been an avid sailor most of my adult life, with a special love of bluewater passagemaking. During that period, I reread many of my books about solo sailors and small boat voyages.
Since I was in the process of outfitting my boat, I had a particular interest in sections about gear and provisioning. One of the most detailed chapters on the subject is “Comments for Sailors,” in Manry’s 1966 book, Tinkerbelle. His book was exciting and inspirational the first time I read it, and remains one of the best sea stories in my library.
I noticed in Manry’s equipment list that he carried a 16mm movie camera. I simply asked the question, “Where is the film?” That set off a case of amateur sleuthing, and in the end (after two years), I located Robert’s brother John, in Alberta, Canada, who told me, “Yes, it’s all in a box in my garage. I was afraid I might have to toss it in the trash one of these years during Spring cleaning.”
2. Have you always worked in the film industry?
I’ve been a filmmaker since high school, and spent my professional career as a film editor and archivist. I manage the classic TV archive for the US Borax 20-Mule Team show, Death Valley Days (1952-1970), and just completed the restoration of all 452 episodes for the Library of Congress. It’s currently playing on the STARZ Western channel, and Grit TV.
3. Are you also a sailor or adventurer?
Besides sailing, my other passion is making long-distance walks on the vast network of European trails, particularly in France. I’m leaving in April for a 5-week trek heading south from Reims. I walk solo, and carry an ultralight backpack, and usually stay in bed and breakfasts, or hostels. It’s a fabulous way to see a country. I’ve also walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago in Spain three times. I have a website about those adventures at www.longwalking.com where there’s a short video about some of the trails I’ve walked.
4. What have you learned about Manry during your research that has surprised you?
First, he was an ordinary “everyman,” who nurtured a very strong secret desire to fulfill his life long dream of sailing across an ocean, ever since he heard a lecture by a German adventurer, while growing up in India.
Second, was how the news media feeding frenzy began, and the audacious way that one journalist set out to track down Manry at sea, in order to scoop up the story before Tinkerbelle arrived in England. It’s a riveting twist to the story, and makes the film much more than just a “boy in a boat” adventure.
5. What impact do you think the voyage had on Manry’s relatively short life?
The main thing is that despite the limitations placed on him by culture, class, finances, and family, with humility, quiet tenacity and a joy for life, he made his dream come true. There’s a lot of depth to his biography that is not included in his book.
His fame gave him freedom to pursue other ventures. He had a successful tour of the lecture circuit, and made a second, year-long voyage, in a larger boat, circumnavigating the eastern United States with his family. I own that film, too, so who knows, maybe there will be a sequel. But, first things first.
6. What do you anticipate will the movie’s running time?
This is a full-length feature and runs a little over 90 minutes. We have a finished rough cut, which has been honored as an “Official Selection” at the American Documentary Film Festival, coming up in Palm Springs. In late March, I’ll be participating in a film pitch forum, competing for a grant that will go toward completing the film. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. There’s a second trailer rough cut you can watch here.
7. What is your expected movie release date?
If the financing and creative details like composing the score, animation, and a massive amount of film restoration all come together, we’re looking to complete by November – in time to submit to Sundance. ###
Read the eBook PDF of Tinkerbelle here.