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For me, this is where it all begun. Back in 2007.
At university I enjoyed photography, but focused on filmmaking. I knew I wanted to look at visual style and techniques for story telling rather than a traditional narrative, but I wasn't entirely sure I knew how to achieve it. Luckily, being at university at the time I had the time and the support to be able to explore and develop the project over the course of the year.
I have always had a passion for racing. Be it bikes, cars, karts.. what ever I could get my hands on, but the pressures of pushing yourself against the clock, chasing every fraction of a second brings a level of competition that can cloud everything else around you. I wanted to explore this in the film and look at how a rider sees a race course. The smallest details and moments of precision that make the difference between 02:27:897 and 02:27:860. And that difference is important.
I made the decision early on that I would shoot on film, rather than digital. A couple of reasons for this, mainly I knew I couldn't afford the digital equipment to achieve the shots I wanted. Slow motion rigs are expensive. In 2007 the iPhone couldn't shoot 240fps.. in fact the iPhone wasn't even launched when I started working on this film.
Secondly, I wanted to explore what could be done with film. My peers and lectures at uni had all come from a film background, and everyone talked with such passion about using film and how different a experience it was than shooting digital.
With this in mind I set about looking for 16mm solutions for shooting higher frame rates and being mobile enough to run and gun across the mountain in Dunkeld, which would be the main location for the shoots. It became very quickly apparent that 16mm was not cheap. In fact more expensive than digital when you start looking at good lenses, telecine facilities and film stock. So it was back to the drawing board.
Super8 was the only option. The cameras were cheap, the stock was relatively easy to get your hands on (at the time anyway) and there was the Beaulieu 4008 ZM, a camera that would allow me to shoot 70 fps (when played back at 18 fps gives you a 3.8X slow motion effect) and with an adaptor took my Nikon lenses. Only issue is that it weighs in at about 2 and a half kilos. Not ideal when you want to strap this onto a bike and rider like a GoPro. But it was still the best option, so onto eBay and I found one from a french seller that fitted in, just, to the budget.
Film stock was all brought through the fantastic team at The Widescreen Centre who were a massive support throughout the process. With the logistics sorted, it was about time to focus more on the story and making it happen.
We shot it over a couple of days at Dunkeld, one of the more natural tracks on the Scottish Downhill series circuit. I was able to get Ben Cortis, a fantastic rider with a loose and fast style. At the time he was riding for 777 racing, and really pushing for the Scottish title. We had our own race team before, and Bens brother had wrapped up the senior championship the year before. Im not convinced Ben was aware exactly what I wanted him to do, but he was willing to give it all a go regardless which helped to make it happen enormously.
I was also lucky enough to get a loan of a second Super8 camera by a good friend of mine at the time, Tom Akass (a fantastic photographer, you can see his work here). A super nice guy, and I still have the camera to today! I will give it back ... honest. With these 2 cameras we were able to mount one to the bike and be able to pick up additional shots whilst reloading the camera and getting the film stock stashed away safely.
To get the POV shots we had to balance the 2kg camera out with a rock duct taped to Bens helmet, just to allow him to be able to ride at a decent pace with out his head being pulled of to one side.. health and safety may not approve this kind of setup at a UCi race nowadays.. but at the time solution worked.
The project would never have been as successful with out the sound track that was crafted for it by Andrew Kirk. He took on board all of the ideas we had for the film and developed this soundscape around the silent footage (we didn't record any sync sound on location to camera, as we were shooting on film). In fact the sound design was so good Andrew picked up the sound design award at the Scottish Screen Academy for his work that year.
The film was also selected for the BFF and screened in New York and London as part of their traveling show.
Overall the project fuelled my passion for filmmaking and drove me onto try and develop more work, more films and make a career doing this. And so far its not worked out to bad.
There were many people involved in making this project happen but a big thank you should go to Ben Cortis, Andrew Kirk, Ian McAllister, Simon Cortis, Steven Brock, Tom Akass and Steve Hogben.