I’m in the process of making a documentary about my husband Ed’s attempts to break 15 minutes for 5km. At the moment his PB is 15:09, set in the summer of 2015 at a Tipton Harriers open meet. I’ve been tagging along to nearly every race over the past 6 months to capture race footage, from grim cross country races under flight paths and grey skies (Donington Nationals) to blisteringly hot Midlands League events such as Tamworth where Ed has taken it upon himself to gather points for his team and navigate immovable barriers at speed. The steeplechase really is an event for masochists.
I’ve captured lots of footage, but it only makes sense in the grand scheme of a longer documentary. For a 3 minute short film I felt that the narrative would have been all over the place moving from race to race. As such, by the time May came around I had settled on the idea of focusing on a single race for the My RØDE Reel entry: Highgate Harriers Night of the 10,000m PBs.
A change of plans…
My plan was to film his race, some B-roll of the track and event, and a mini interview back at home of him talking about why he loves to race. I thought it’d be a tightly composed short film and would work well by keeping things simple.
The trouble is that races don’t always go to plan. You can train well, eat right, get plenty of rest and be wearing lucky pins, but sometimes legs just don’t turn as fast as you would like them to. It wasn’t Ed’s best race, and it didn’t feel right to make a short film about it. With just a week to go until the deadline I began to wonder if I should just scrap the idea.
In the end and after much back and forth I decided to put my entry together in an afternoon from fresh footage rather than documentary footage. On Wednesday evening (the 25th) went for a walk in the Lickeys. The forest was lovely and quiet and the light was magic. It was on our walk through the trees and bluebells that we discussed the idea of filming a normal evening run up in the forest with a voiceover of Ed talking about why he loves to run. A couple of days later we went back and filmed everything I needed for my short film in a single evening.
Some final thoughts
First and foremost, the biggest lesson I took from this is that documentary filmmaking doesn’t always go to plan. Documentaries are different from narrative pieces in that there’s very little control of the environment or filming schedule. With a documentary and particularly with events and run-and-gun style shooting I can’t control where my subject will be standing, the light falling on them, the ambient audio, or in Ed’s case with running the fact that some races just don’t go to plan.
The second lesson is something I already knew. It’s really satisfying to complete a project. The process of committing to a project, planning, filming, editing and uploading in a set time period is challenging but incredibly rewarding. Films don’t need to be ‘perfect’ so long as the storytelling is tight. I really enjoyed forcing myself to create something in a limited time span when my original plans fell through.
I’m glad I entered My RØDE Reel 2016 and will likely be entering more competitions in the future. It’s not about winning for me, but about pushing myself beyond my usual boundaries and producing the best work that I am capable of at any given time. In some ways, my creative process and goals aren’t too dissimilar to Ed’s training and racing.