OCEAN CITY – It wasn’t what came into the scales of the White Marlin Open that inspired filmmaker Nick Ruff to create a documentary on the famed billfish tournament, but rather what happened out on the open seas that spectators never witnessed.
And so, with members of his film crew in tow, Ruff and his team at Reflection Pictures embarked on a days-long journey last summer to capture the anglers’ perspective in a new feature-length documentary entitled “Five Days in August.”
Premiering at the Ocean City Marlin Club next week, “Five Days in August” follows two boats competing in the 44th Annual White Marlin Open.
Ruff, a Maryland native, said he spent many summers at the scales during the White Marlin Open at Harbour Island Marina, but never witnessed the action that took place off the coast.
“My brother and I were talking about it one year and wondered what it was like out there,” he said. “Everybody has the perspective of the scales and they stand around there waiting, but I was curious as to what happened 50, 70 miles offshore. These guys are fishing for days hoping to pull in a multi-million-dollar marlin. I thought I’m a filmmaker I should see if we can get on a boat and make a documentary about it.”
Ruff is a four-time Emmy nominated filmmaker and co-owner of Reflection Pictures – a production company based in Los Angeles – whose latest credits include “Visioneer: The Peter Diamandis Story” and “The Roughnecks,” a film that featured one of the oldest and most intense Pee-Wee football teams in Texas.
“We were familiar with that sports documentary genre, so that was our one confidence going into this from the beginning,” he joked.
Through a series of conversations and phone calls, and with the support of Jim Motsko, founder and president of the White Marlin Open, Ruff and his crew soon found themselves onboard two boats competing in the 2017 tournament, the Marli captained by Mark Hoos and the Stalker captained by Steve Moore.
“My grandfather actually knew Jim Motsko when he was little and they used to go on hunting and fishing trips together back before the White Marlin Open was a thing,” he said. “So I approached Jim with this idea and he couldn’t have been more supportive … He welcomed our crew in with open arms.”
Throughout the course of last year’s tournament, Ruff said he and his crew members – who were divided between the two boats – spent nine days interviewing participants and tournament organizers and capturing footage of anglers in an environment unfamiliar to them.
“I had never been offshore fishing before having made this, which I sometimes find as a good asset to have, being unfamiliar with what I’m shooting,” he said. “I had this fresh perspective on it, so I was curious. I was going to be shooting everything I was curious about.”
During days at sea, Ruff said he witnessed the anglers’ passion for the sport.
“Sometimes it’s been hours and nothing is happening and the guys are cracking jokes on the boat, listening to music and all of a sudden a marlin shoots out of the water …,” he said. “It goes from relatively quiet to sheer pandemonium and everyone is rushing around, trying to keep the marlin on the line and it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to get one of these fish on the boat. It’s unlike anything else that I had ever experienced.”
Since last year’s tournament, Ruff said his production company has spent a total of nine months editing and polishing the documentary, which will be presented at a sold-out screening event at the Ocean City Marlin Club on July 31. The screening will also feature a 50/50 raffle to benefit the Maryland Food Bank, which receives fish donated from the White Marlin Open.
“The people at the Marlin Club have been so gracious to have us for this screening,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine a better place to show it for the first time.”
Ruff said “Five Days in August” will be submitted to film festivals worldwide and was recently accepted to the Chesapeake Film Festival, which will take place Oct. 11-14.
Ruff added he hopes viewers walk away with a better understanding of the sportfishing industry.
“It’s more about a lifestyle, a people, a culture than it is about a sport,” he said, “and I think you are going to get a little history out of it, a little bit of adventure and passion for a sport you may not know anything about.”
For more information on “Five Days in August,” or to view the trailer, visit www.fivedaysinaugust.com.
This year’s White Marlin Open is scheduled for Aug. 6-10. Registration is still open at https://whitemarlinopen.com/online-registration