Carbondale filmmaker heading home to the Potomac River for his next project
Growing up just outside Washington, D.C., Michael CB Stevens had the mighty Potomac River right in his backyard. But, like so many of his neighbors, he never really embraced what he had.
Now, with a greater understanding, the 25-year-old Carbondale-based filmmaker plans to return to his roots and explore his native waterway.
“Growing up in the D.C. area, it’s very urban and there are very few places people can go to kind of get away,” Stevens said. “It’s kind of a problematic word, and I’m aware of that. Not everyone has a ‘backyard.’ But that word means something to everyone. I kind of want to explore what that means.”
Stevens will partner with childhood friend Grant Horton, currently a law student at UCLA, on the 250-mile, self-supported bikepacking and packrafting trip on the Potomac. On Monday, Stevens will head home to Cabin John, Maryland, which is located barely 10 miles northwest of downtown D.C. On May 14, the two plan to ride off from their childhood homes, paddle 135 miles down the Potomac, and then pedal the 115 miles back to the start.
The end result is expected to be a short film called “Reviving the Backyard.”
“We tried doing this a couple of times. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, it just wasn’t working out,” Stevens said. “I want to take my time with this one. I’m not in a hurry. It’s really important to me and I want to do it right.”
Stevens left his home on the Potomac and eventually found his way to Colorado in 2011, where he studied philosophy at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. Late in 2015 he found his way to the Roaring Fork Valley, holding down various jobs, including an internship with Aspen 82, and now is a full-time freelance filmmaker and photographer based out of Carbondale.
His journey west is what opened his eyes to the plight of the country’s public lands and it soon became clear that he needed to use his skills with a camera to help preserve what too few realize they have in their own “backyards.”
“Philosophy gave me critical tools to look at bigger issues and question them. Filmmaking just became the vehicle in which I could ask those questions,” Stevens said. “We realize it’s been put to us to do something about it, to bring attention to what is going on. I kind of naturally would go back to visit family and would always be going back to the river.”
If all goes to plan, Stevens hopes to have something resembling a trailer for his film ready to show by mid-summer. The final product is only expected to be about 15 minutes long, but Stevens does intend for it to be the first in a series of related films.
While the topic certainly has a seriousness to it, Stevens plans to take a relatively light-hearted approach to his trip on the Potomac and reconnect with a lifelong friend.
“I was never thinking about a film. I was just thinking about, what if I went out and did this? But with the skill sets I’ve been developing professionally, it kind of clicked for me,” Stevens said. “I want to make sure it’s not too serious. I want to highlight what it’s like to spend a bunch of years apart from a good friend and then reflect back on it. I want it to be relatable.”
To learn more about Stevens and his work, visit www.michaelcbstevens.com.
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