Q&A with Sarah & Jen
We asked Sarah and our film maker Jen a few questions about the incredible process of creating ‘Home’ and how the film came to fruition. If you have any other question for Sarah or Jen, get in touch.
Sarah - tell us why you wanted to make this film about your journey?
I really enjoyed the storytelling element of my first rowing journey across the Indian Ocean. I filmed half heartily and mostly talked to the camera about my food cravings and barely captured any of me actually rowing, so I knew that I wanted to pay a bit more attention this time round and actually think about the process.
I wanted to be able to share some of the magic and energy of places I have seen, especially those that most people will likely never see firsthand - like the mid ocean, for example. To encourage curiosity and just to share the journeys of mind, body and soul, which I have always found fascinating.
I had always held out a hope that we might get a broadcaster or production company to commit, so that we could reach the widest audience and have the most resource behind the process, especially the filming. And while we had lots of interest and conversations, it always fell away or was not a worthwhile offer.
So then I determined that I would find the best team I could to create something more personal and that would do the story and all those who helped make the journey a reality justice in its storytelling. I waited - which is unusual for me, a natural impulsive - until I found the right person. And up cropped Jen, directing and editing a beautiful film that I happened upon and I knew that I wanted whoever was behind the film, to make mine. Oh, how I love serendipity!
Jen - what got you involved with making Sarah’s film?
I’d seen a short film about Sarah’s time kayaking the Aleutians at a film festival in 2012/13 and loved the spirit of that adventure. You don’t often see accounts of huge expeditions that are clearly incredibly tough but also so full of joy. I was excited to see two women in such a funny, gnarly film. When Sarah approached me in 2015 about putting the story of the whole journey together, I was immediately keen because I remembered that short film, and I was interested in diving into bigger questions behind such an enormous journey, peeling back the layers that led to this young woman questing off for four years by herself.
Sarah - what’s the main message you want viewers to take away from watching your film?
I want people to know that it’s OK to not be OK sometimes, and that there are ways and means of getting better. That being vulnerable and asking for help is a good thing. I want people to embrace fear and know that it serves a purpose of telling us something - that we needn’t let it stop us from chasing our dreams or trying new things. And I want people to know that the biggest part of making something happen comes in saying ‘I’m going to give this a go’.
Jen - what do you believe is the biggest message that viewers will take away?
I hope viewers will leave feeling connected to Sarah’s story, thinking about their approach to mental health and the beauty, kindness and contrasts of our planet. AND with ideas of what their next adventure will be!
Sarah - how many hours of footage were there? Was it hard to keep on top of documenting everything as you went? Charging batteries etc?
I don’t even know how many hours of footage there were. Poor Jen had a mission and a half with that.
I did find it hard at times, yes. There were periods when I struggled to film due to apathy or frustration with the camera always being there, and others where comments from outside affected my perception of my filming. Sometimes, like at sea, it was just too dangerous or I was too scared to film. Other times it was technical stuff that got in the way like losing or breaking key bits of kit or data, the endless faff of charging or keeping batteries warm in freezing temperatures. But in the grand scheme of things, there was a trust that somewhere in amongst it all would be a film worth sharing, and often the camera was a really important friend.
Jen - tell us about working through all that footage! What a big job that must have been
I walked into this project with little idea of the mountain we were about to climb. I scheduled a month for going through the raw footage but in the end it took four… eventually we hired an assistant editor to help so that I could start editing, otherwise we’d still be going through it! So it was a lot of work wading into the rushes, and difficult to piece the when and where’s together at times, but part of what I liked about this project is that the footage is real and raw, and every so often I’d come across a magic moment that would give me a new surge of energy for the film. I was blown away by Sarah’s dedication to filming as she went, it takes a lot of energy and focus.
Sarah - This film is very personal and reveals a lot about you and your mental health, how do you feel about this?
I’m glad to have been open and honest about this side of the journey, as I know how helpful it can be to hear from someone going through something similar. So from an awareness point of view, I am glad. From a vulnerability point of view, and in letting that rawness be seen and heard and viscerally felt, that’s a bit scary. But I have a much better idea of what I need to protect myself and how to be with that vulnerability now, so I’m Ok with it.
Jen - what was it like working with Sarah on this project?
Sarah is such a warm, open person who isn’t daunted by much, so this has been a special project to work on and we built a strong collaborative relationship. There are lots of great memories I’ll keep safe - our first get together to make our Kickstarter video and work out our plan of attack as we rowed down the river, working on the voice over - I’d write notes on my rough cut with ideas of what Sarah could say, Sarah would add to/edit and record lines on her phone to send me which I’d add to the edit, we’d then get together and dig in to every word and line and record again…. until finally she was in the sound studio recording for the last time. It was also a delicate and difficult project at times, as Sarah continued to process the journey and all it meant to her as we made the film. It’s always a privilege being let into someone’s life and untangling how to share it, and this has been one of the most fun, challenging, unpredictable and rewarding of privileges!
Sarah - what was it like working with Jen on this project?
Jen has been a superstar and I’m so happy to have worked with her. She is great fun, while also being bold and yet nuanced and thoughtful, creative and ultimately very human. Which was important because I fell apart a bit while we were making the film. Ultimately it played into the creative process and the honesty of the thread, but Jen handled the crying mess that I was very kindly at the time.
Jen - who is this film for?
I think this film can be for everyone and anyone. It’s for people who like adventure, who are interested in human stories, big landscapes, bears, whales… who have struggled with mental health or know some one who has, who aren’t sure if they’re tough enough (they are), who like laughing, who are ready for a fresh take on an expedition film or have never watched one before. I think this film has the potential to sweep anyone up and along with it.
Sarah - if you could get anyone to watch this film, who would it be?
If I could bend the laws of the universe, I’d love for my Dad (who died in 2006) to see it. But mostly I’d love for youngsters to see it and see the value and thrill of chasing dreams, of changing plans, of exploring the world and of getting through tough stuff.
Jen - what is your favourite part of the film?
The Pacific ocean had me from the start. To be alone out there in that beautiful, terrifying landscape, totally vast and empty one second and teaming with life the next. It was also once I got to this point in watching the raw footage that I had a eureka moment - ‘I know the shape of our story now and the Pacific ocean is the key!’ I often had dreams of being out at sea when I was editing those sequences, maybe one day I’ll get rowing.
Sarah - what is your favourite part of the film?
The ocean legs take me back to a very special, sublime place but I am so fond of Gao and that section of the film is so powerful.
Anything you’d like to have included if you’d had more time?
I would have loved to include more of the Aleutians leg, but my paddling partner Justine Curgenven has already made a brilliant film of that leg of the journey (Kayaking the Aleutians/CackleTV.com)
Jen - what makes this film so different to others that you have made?
Coming on board at the post-production stage was new to me - usually I plan and shoot and edit the projects I work on, so I’m there from beginning to end. It was exciting to have the puzzle pieces in place and ready to go. But it was the scope of the project that was the main difference for me - the amount of footage, the monumental journey, the deep, complex personal story and the overall length of the film pushed me to new places and I’m so glad I got to be part of it.
Sarah - what advice would you give to anyone considering taking on a similar journey?
Embrace the changes in the plan for all the richness and lessons it will ultimately reveal to you. Don’t forget to just be in the moment, too. Trying to do too much as you go along can sometimes take you out of the experience, in a way that you can never reclaim. And, of course, don’t take yourself too seriously!