We recently did a Q&A with the awesome team from Dooster, Dylan Ladds and Ryan Scura, the super talented guys behind the Ledlenser Trails In Motion Film Tour feature, Coming Home | Ag Teacht Abhaile, which is part of this years film tour line up. We chatted all things challenging and inspiring around the film making process, so we hope you enjoy all their fabulous insights!
TIM: What was the most challenging aspect of putting the film “COMING HOME” together, and how did the idea for the film first come about?
Joint: There were two things in making “Coming Home” that were particularly difficult: first, was just believing in the project enough to commit to it and then putting in the work to realize the vision. This is a challenge with nearly every project, but particularly with passion projects. It is easy to doubt an idea when sponsors repeatedly decline support and you have to take a risk and invest your own time and money to give it a try. Paddy was a great collaborator throughout the film and we were all patient with each other before committing to the trip and trying to make this film. Paddy’s enthusiasm for the story and our experience with runners from Ireland only made us believe more deeply in the idea, so in many ways it got easier as we went along. The second challenge was the logistics of filming Paddy’s Wicklow Round attempt while also respecting the spirit of the Wicklow Round by ensuring that our presence filming was not aiding Paddy’s attempt in any way. This was something we talked with Paddy and other mountain runners in Ireland about a lot to try to strike a balance of enabling us to capture the best story and visuals, but not having too great of a presence in the mountains. It was also just logistically and physically challenging to figure out where to be throughout the course and when and how to maintain communication with each other and ensure everyone’s safety. We ended up having each cameraman (Dylan, Ian MacLellan, and Ryan) partner with a local runner to provide support and serve as a witness to verify we were not aiding Paddy.
The idea for the film came through brainstorming adventure ideas with Paddy over lunch. We are good friends and are often chatting about ideas. While at first it was tempting to chase these places around the world we’d never seen before, we agreed it was most powerful to ground his adventure and a story in his connection to his home in Ireland. Originally, we were more focused on his physical pursuits and actually wanted to also attempt the Dennis Rankin Round in Northern Ireland and explore establishing a new round. However, our first trip to Ireland really opened our eyes to the rich history and culture of Irish mountain running, and we all wanted the film to focus on that and to use Paddy’s attempt to bring people into the community instead of focusing solely on Paddy. The structure of the film evolved throughout filming and most significantly with the subsequent Wicklow Round record breaking runs. At first, we were questioning how those attempts would affect our story, but we quickly concluded that they strengthened the film by highlighting the achievements of other Irish mountain runners and the community support and passion for everyone’s efforts.
TIM: Which aspect of the filmmaking process do you like the most and which do you least enjoy?
Ryan: The actual filming is always my favorite part of the filmmaking process. I love the technical and physical challenges of capturing beautiful images that support a story, but even more so I love the opportunity to immerse myself in new communities and be able to witness people’s passions and perspectives. We are so fortunate to be able to experience these moments and have people trust us with their stories and vulnerabilities.
I struggle most with the producing aspects of filmmaking. It is always difficult to ask people for money and to believe in your ideas and there will always be rejection associated with it. That being said, it is an important part of filmmaking and it was fun to force ourselves to work on that more on this film. We are fortunate to work with some great partners that really believe in the story we are telling and just want to help it reach more people.
Dylan: I also enjoy the shooting part most - being in interesting new places, following the action, always ready to capture the story, however it may unfold. It’s often exhilarating, and also exhausting (in a good way). I also do a lot of the music and sound design for our films, and that’s a really fun process. I’m very involved with traditional music, and for this film I was able to source beautiful tracks from many of my professional musician friends.
Editing is often a struggle for me (Ryan edited Coming Home). Creativity comes easier to me when I’m in the middle of the action with a camera, not sitting in front of a computer screen. Once I push myself into it, I can get into a rhythm, but getting the engine warm is tough.
TIM: How long does a project like this normally take?
Joint: Each project is unique and it is hard to neatly define the timeline. We came up with the idea and started working on it over two years ago, but the bulk of the work took place more within one year. Our main shoot in Ireland was in April of 2019 and then we edited the film for a few months and finished on July 31st.
TIM: What do you feel are the key aspects to story telling in filmmaking, and what is most important to you to convey in the stories you tell?
Ryan: We are always focused on telling relatable human stories in our films. We want viewers to understand a new perspective and experience, but one with which they can connect and empathize. Often, we use one or a few personal stories to tell the story of a broader community. We’ve found ourselves returning time and again to telling the stories of a community, because we’ve had such powerful and formative experiences in similar communities and want to share those stories with more people.
Dylan: I think it’s important to respect your subject and take time to learn it and get to know the people involved. If the filmmaker is immersed and experiences the subject, they’ll tell a better story. And as Ryan said - relatability is definitely important. It’s okay to explain something very specific and niche, as long as it’s used to convey a larger idea.
TIM: What stories do you still want to tell in terms of your filmmaking, and if budget were no question what would you tackle?
Ryan: There are so many stories we would love to tell. It’s hard to pick one specific thing, but something that is a little different is we have a couple ideas for more stylistic shorts that would be a lot of fun and a nice change of pace from our other work.
Dylan: I’m very involved with a youth international traditional seamanship competition that is similar to Outward Bound in many ways. I’ve made a couple short films of my team’s training, but I’d love to make a more in depth film about the program and all of the countries involved, what the goals are, and how it makes the world better.
TIM: Do you have any tips or insights for first time filmmakers out there, that you wish someone had told you to begin with?
Joint: Follow your passions and tell the stories you are most excited about. Even if it isn’t ‘trendy’ or fits current styles, your own voice and passion will come through and people will naturally gravitate towards your work. If you haven’t found your voice, then start by trying to imitate things that you like. Try not to get hung up on having the best gear or making the perfect project. Just go out and make lots of work. Make bad work. Fail, a lot. This will build your skills and your voice and also encourages you to embrace your love of filmmaking and find the aspects of it that get you most excited.