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The Boatmaker

Casey McGarry

The Boatmaker

Film synopsis

Meet Ken Minor, 78, retired architect turned boat builder. A family man, old-fashioned yet a forward thinker inspired by moral principle. Meet Loretta Minor, 76, Ken’s wife - faithful, hardheaded though likable, good with money, and maternal. She’s also been the #1 champion of the boat build since the beginning. These are the two characters at the center of our film.

In 1988, Ken Minor bought the plans to build a 30’ Lyle Hess-design Bristol Channel Cutter wooden sailboat. Although at the time, he ran a very busy and successful architectural design firm, he dreamt a simple dream of building a boat and sailing around the world.

On the surface, “The Boatmaker” is the story of a craftsman, who steadily spends 25 years of his life building a boat, yet there are many layers beneath this man’s story we wanted to tell.

Imagine a big, empty space in the bottom floor of an architectural firm. Ken, the assiduous and imaginative guy he is, began drafting the ribs for his boat in the un-leased basement space in his office building. A few years later, in 1991, he began construction on the boat in his backyard located in the mountains of Sycamore Canyon - Santa Barbara’s lush backdrop. The next step was to protect the boat from the elements so he built a barn by himself to house the operation. As time went on, Ken’s selection for the most optimal parts and materials that were going on the boat became nothing short of obsessive. The boat is furnished with rare types of wood and metal castings from around the globe. He even casted and threaded much of the hardware on his own. There isn’t one square inch of the vessel that Ken hasn’t constructed by hand, helped design, or installed himself. Everything is custom. It's a fine piece of work and perhaps one of the most beautiful wooden boats ever constructed.

Our film has your typical three-act structure. The first two acts of the film are structured around the events that took place during the time we call “the boat move.” Not unlike how the film “Man on Wire” is structured around the big event of walking across the Twin Towers on a metal wire, our film revolves around the process of moving a 16,000lb boat and its cradle out of a California canyon. Throughout the first two acts, we will intercut the nerve-wracking experience of extricating the boat out of the ravine with our main subjects’ personal stories. These vignettes will vary in theme and intent: one thread makes you fall in love with a character, providing essential background information, i.e., Ken’s formative years and how Ken met his wife Loretta. They are informational, well-crafted and endearing personal stories. The other story-types build tension and suspense, serving to break up the film’s peak dramatic event of “the boat move,” i.e., Ken’s house burns down in the Sycamore fire in 1977. Then years later, Ken’s house and boatshed almost burn down again during another fire but miraculously both structures were saved by local firefighters. We will explain the more interesting parts of the boat build animating the best stories from over the years. A lot happened with that boat in the 25+ years of building it. As the narrative unfolds, we reveal that what was at stake was a lot more than what we first suspected about this beautiful boat and its reserved builder.

In the final act of the film, after the audience experiences the excitement of the boat being moved out of the canyon (better known as the climax); the boat successfully gets towed down to the water. In March of 2016, with hundreds of adoring fans looking on, Ken alongside his family and friends launches the boat at the Santa Barbara Harbor. Ken’s boat, ”Morning Song” is probably the last wooden boat of its kind and built locally to ever to be launched there – maybe even the last wooden boat of any kind. Unfortunately, it’s a dying breed. An even bigger and second pay off in our concluding chapter comes when Ken and Loretta sail their boat, one of the most beautiful wooden boats ever built, off into the horizon at sunset. We leave the audience asking, what will their new life be? It’s your quintessential open-ended and thought-provoking ending. “The Boatmaker” is a story about a man and his boat, and what it takes to fulfill a lifelong dream."

Project summary




United States



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