Insanity Radio’s Head of News Kenza Garmzi interviews alumni-turned-documentary-filmmakers about filming in the Welsh Mountains, mental health and battling the elements.
How did you decide to work together on this piece of film considering that you graduated in different years?
We knew each other obviously from uni. I was President of the swimming society. He was in his last year when I started. We reconnected actually about a year ago for kind of career reasons. So not particularly related. But like I say, we kind of Isaac helped me with my job searching for a bit and then yeah, we basically realised I kind of clocked that a lot of what I wanted to get into Isaac had already started a career path down those paths. And so obviously, for me, it was a great opportunity to get some exposure with someone who has some experience and I think Isaac was looking for quite a specific type of person. So yeah, we reconnected I guess partially by LinkedIn, which sounds quite formal and then obviously just DMS after that.
Yes, I would have to say when I was talking to Jacob, the reason why we actually combined on this project specifically was I was already creating films outdoors or doing sort of environmental mental health filmmaking, and Jacob is a photographer, a videographer who mentioned that he wants to make films to me just a passing comment, and I just thought, why not make one with me? Let’s give it a go. Originally, it was just going to be a run, trying to beat a record and be really cool to use that as a platform for mental health. And Jacob resonated hugely because he runs all the time and has like a good situation with making a positive well-being day out of himself each day. And that was it. He got involved from that point onwards, but yes, it did happen at university. We were in different years but Sports and Societies, Insanity, you know, all these sorts of clubs. You might not think at the time that you know, the people you meet there, you’re gonna see again, but you do. I’ve come across so many people who are at a university and Jacob has a really good friend and, you know, we’re really lucky that we met in that club or society because we’re doing two different degree courses and might not have never made this film.
So, you kind of answered the question a little bit there but what made you guys pursue filmmaking? I saw also that it wasn’t really in your degree focuses, so why filmmaking? And also, is there any inspiration that you drew from any existing films for this film?
Yeah, so why filmmaking? I guess in terms of delivering the message, it’s a great form of media to do that. I think nowadays, obviously, short films. And podcasts are kind of the two big areas that people are really kind of keen on. I think for me, growing up, I definitely had an interest in creating. I don’t want to call it art because that sounds a bit pretentious, but I enjoy drawing and stuff like that. I’ve loved photography for a long time, and I think I just kind of wanted to diversify the photography a little bit, but also make it not just taking photos for the sake of taking a photo or not just making a video for the aesthetic kind of purpose but having a motivation behind it. And yeah, trying to really create some kind of impact, even if that’s just a really small impact. I think that’s certainly why I wanted to get involved.
Yeah, and from my side, filmmaking is an extension of storytelling. And I find stories are important. You’ll get around to talking about all that happened today, what you do that makes an impact on someone, the stories that you tell, the cause, but it’s behind the story and I think a visual aid is so much better. Like stories, filmmaking does that. That’s why I wanted to more impact
And were there any inspirations behind the film? From any existing films that you’ve seen.
Yeah, I definitely did market research. I’m trying to think of any of the titles, I don’t know if I could recall all of their titles. There’s a lot of outdoor indie films that are around floating about in film festivals. There are outdoor film festivals, Kendall mountain festivals, the biggest in Europe. I went to the Kendall mountain festival with a previous film and showed my film there were a lot of running and outdoor films that we saw where there was a bit of running footage, but there was more of a backstory of the person and the individual as well as the causes and purpose behind it. So, we took a lot from a general point. There are a lot of indie films that we saw, and that inspired us with this film, in particular, actual titles are a bit difficult if you’ve got one.
I can’t find any actual titles. It’s quite difficult, I think. The Alex Honnold going solo which kind of sounds quite similar in name, was Free Solo but wasn’t particularly intentional. But as an endurance athlete, he was particularly inspiring. I personally find David Goggins particularly inspiring, he’s an endurance runner. So, to answer your question, I don’t think it was one particular thing but the community around endurance activities and the kind of mindset that’s required for that, I think that was the main inspiration.
As mentioned at the beginning of the film, there were a lot of negative thoughts surrounding whether or not the run would be possible, or whether you had the capabilities to do it. So how did you challenge those negative thoughts concerning the run? And would you say that the process for challenging the negative thoughts would be similar to how you challenge negative thoughts in your day-to-day life, such as when you’re experiencing mental health issues?
From the writing standpoint, I had a lot of preparation time for this one. I had, by the time my Inception idea came in, February that year, and we planned it for August. And so, I had six months to train for it. What I was doing was slightly killing myself in training to simulate what could have happened. For instance, most people think when you’re training for a marathon, you run 20 miles before the marathon, and they think that you’ve hit that level and you can always push six miles by that point. My training involved waking up after one hour of sleep, and in the middle of the night in the dark, freezing cold, I’ll try and run 20 miles to simulate being tired and the multi-day effects of the run I was about to take on. I was trying to make myself so tired and miserable and basically would run in the rain in the dark with no sleep just to simulate those mental tough moments. And then that had allowed me to build some self-help tools. Interestingly a lot of it was quite simple, It was just taking things in and having mindfulness, a little bit harder in the dark, can’t see much, but when you’re out in the daylight, and just taking in nature and wildlife it is key. When you say what else can translate across to normal day-to-day living, it’s knowing there’s light at the end of the tunnel. How many times did people say that? But actually, every single time I came down a miserable difficult moment, it will pass. I knew it will pass time, and all I needed to know in my mind was right, this is rubbish, but in and out things may be different. I had that all the time in my head, and that is something that in day-to-day life ‘oh so difficult at work’, you know, ‘I’ve got this email, this person was complaining’ that email will pass. I’ve translated everything I do. It’s just perspective setting, really is.
What were the challenges some of the challenges that you faced during production? It’s a bit more difficult than a regular film because there are a lot of challenges that you might not see coming, especially when you’re outdoors filming.
I think a lot of the challenges I faced were as much due to the fact that I was new to filmmaking as anything else. I think you try and plan as much as possible, but inevitably, without experience, there are always going to be things you miss. I think some of the biggest challenges were around trying to capture Isaac to film right because he is running and so he’s not ever still. And so, from my perspective, if I have filmed him at one location, let’s say, I have to then try and get to the next location before he does and those locations aren’t always pre pre-determined. No, Isaac definitely created a route. But as he said, there are many times he deviated from the route or he got to a checkpoint, let’s call it much later than he had initially anticipated. So, in that situation, you know my plans kind of get knocked out a little bit because I’m not, I’m not at the location I wanted to be at this time. So, I said that’s one of the biggest production challenges. The other one, of course, is just trying to capture enough footage to portray what Isaac went through. Which again, comes with my lack of experience somewhat but you know, just making sure that there’s not a case of just getting everything on film, but trying to portray what as it was feeling and yeah, why is it was going through as well. There was the kind of two main production challenges.
And why do you think the outdoors is so healing for those with mental health illness and you personally?
So, from a very personal perspective, it’s a place where there’s no noise? When I go into nature, oh, yeah, people say, Oh, noise silence. There are birds. Trees are rustling, mighty rain, but when I say noise, I’m talking about no people talking to you. There are no pressures, Nature doesn’t want anything from you. It’s not there to take something from you. And also, the other thing is, you have this digital lifestyle nowadays. We have phones with notifications, bang, bang, bang, notification, bang, bang, and we have all this information coming from so many angles. We’ve never been in a more information overload time and outdoors, it gives you that space where you disconnect to reconnect and when I say disconnect, reconnect, I’m disconnecting with all these problems with technology and all of the negativity to reconnect with myself. When you’ve got so much information being thrown at you from all directions and so many pressures this builds people during the day, and it all builds up. Whereas me time, who am I? You have no time to even think about who you are. So, when you go out in nature, you know, it treats you like a legend. You go out there, and there’s no like I want this from you and that for me, it all disappears and then you can say, what do I want? And it’s a really good, relaxing time to spend sort of goal setting or understanding who you are and what you like. Sometimes you don’t get that because you’re scrolling through social media and people telling you what you should like. Yeah, I could go on forever with this.
Are there any more films in the future from either of you that we can or maybe even future collaborations that we can enjoy? And where would we be able to find these future works?
Yeah, we spoke about doing something else together. And we think that there’s lots of room here and maybe different causes? Same cause who knows? Storytelling adventure, we have so much in common in that space.
Where to find the filmmakers: