The Glider Pilot

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Thursday 29th June 2017

It’s that time of year again, the time for My RØDE Reel, a film competition which challenges filmmakers to put together a three minute short film on a theme of their choosing. Last year I entered the competition with a short about Ed’s running. This year’s film is a gliding documentary about my father-in-law Roger Banks who is a glider pilot. It was filmed in the Cotswolds at Cotswold Gliding Club near Stroud in Gloucestershire. For the uninitiated, gliding is a competitive air sport. Pilots fly unpowered aircraft and stay airborne by finding and using thermals, ridge and wave patterns. Some gliders also have small engines for the purpose of sustaining flight in sub-optimal conditions, but the aim of the game is to stay in the air and traverse long distances by following thermals, ridge and wave patterns across the country.

I wanted to make a documentary, as it’s my favourite form of filmmaking. I love making really natural films and keeping things simple and real. As such, I knew that I wanted to follow Roger as he arrived at the airfield, set up his glider and got ready for launch, just as he would when preparing to fly at any other time. My plan was then to cut the footage together with a voiceover of him talking about gliding, explaining how he got into the sport and the reasons why he loves it so much. I also hoped that we would have a chance to get up in the glider for a short flight for some aerial footage, but gliding is so weather dependent that I was unsure if a flight would come to pass.

Back in May we set two dates in the diary for filming to increase our chance of good weather. On the first day it was overcast and rain was forecast for the afternoon and evening. We went up to the airfield anyway at around midday and I captured lots of footage of Roger going through his safety checks and setting up the glider. I also captured plenty of B-roll around the airfield, for example signs, the wind sock, long grass blowing etc. All of the little shots that I like to think of as the glue that holds the story together. Ed helped out with filming, too, capturing footage of me filming Roger which I knew I would need for the Behind the Scenes video. In the end, we didn’t get up that day as the wind was too strong and we were the only people at the airfield.

Roger’s dog, Maisie, waiting patiently for us to finish filming and take her for a walk!

The following weekend we returned to the airfield and the conditions were very different. Instead of being 15C and cloudy with strong wind, it was 25C at 10am, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and there was no wind. It soon became apparent that it would be too difficult to match the footage from the weekend before with footage filmed on the second afternoon and so I just started over. As I’d watched Roger putting the glider together the week before I knew which shots to look out for, what worked well and what didn’t, and I managed to get through my shot list nice and quickly. Again, Ed helped out with setting the glider up whilst I filmed, and then when I was putting my parachute on he took over the tripod and main camera and filmed our winch launch, flight and landing.

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed making The Glider Pilot. It turned out even better than I’d hoped, and I’ve still got lots of footage to go through. When wedding season is over I plan to go through the interview and make a longer film for our family, as Roger gave such a brilliant interview.