learning to craft meaningful films that inspire
Nicola Waterworth // 30 April 2019
Find It Film co-founder Nicola Waterworth interviews fellow co-founder Danielle Sellwood. Part 1: what is Find it Film all about?
Over 2 years since our first public event Danielle and I spent some time reflecting on our journey with Find It Film. Part of this was a reflective interview process and the results are important to share about who we are, why we do what we do and what we want to achieve with our impactful and important films.
So how does it feel to be part of Find It Film 2 years after we held our first major event at Bristol’s arnolfini?
It feels great to still be here two years later. It’s been a really full on time on the one hand. We have done lots of different things, and while our mission has stayed the same we have changed direction to making films, so we’re in a different place than we thought we would be when we started [when we intended to run film festivals and events]. It feels right to be getting women’s stories into other spaces to share them. I prefer where we are to where we could have been, that we looked around and took the leap and I invested in my learning and creativity to start making our own films.
On the other hand I am frustrated, I’m so keen on moving forward and always want to be further forward than I am. There are so many films we want to make, so many stories to tell. It remains really important to get our films and others like them out there, particularly to younger women and men, we really want to develop a programme that young people, and I believe that will happen when we find the right people to collaborate with.
Find It Film has achieved so much through collaborating generously with others and long may that continue.
Thinking back, why did you want to start Find It Film?
I can’t remember which year [probably 2014], but I went to BANFF and they showed ‘Spice Girl’ with Hazel Findlay. It was about an awesome climb and I found it really moving and inspiring, very emotional to watch. It was even rarer back then to see a film about a woman and I thought, “this needs to be seen by more people than are sitting in this room”. I looked around and everyone was wearing outdoors gear, they’re already converted. I thought, “there has to be a way to get these stories to a wider audience”. It became my mission to find ways to reach more people with that film and others telling stories of women and girls in sport.
How did this become a career shift for you?
My background is in design, I did fashion design at college and designed sportswear and I am a very visual person. When I co-founded Sportsister in 2008 following the Beijing Olympics we had a desire to use great visuals and our print versions were quite groundbreaking; alternative women’s magazine covers that were pretty great, something I probably haven’t given Louise (Hudson) and myself enough credit for.
While I was doing this and working as Visual Director for Women’s Sport Trust, pioneering the Getty Images Collaboration, it was becoming so much easier for people to make their own films. When I started my first career, film-making was such a complex process and you studied and worked for years to become a film-maker. I love cinema, its power to tell stories and touch people emotionally but it simply would not have occurred to me before the last two years that I could start a career making films. Getting a film to production and getting it screened remains a complex set of skills, negotiation and trades, but technology and other innovations in screening have made it simpler to get entry into that world and work out where your skills lie.
And the other key moment was when I stopped worrying and feeling daunted about the scale of the task and decided to get on and learn.
Working with experts over the years who I have deep respect for gave me high standards for what is good, but I also realised a level of confidence in the skills I already had to bring to film-making. So I gave it a go, and I liked what I did and then others like it and you take the next step. It’s all about taking it in small steps. Those small steps are enabling me now to tell some of the stories I have wanted to share for years from all of the female athletes and adventurers I have met and worked with.
What have you learnt about how Find It Film can have an impact?
Film and storytelling undoubtedly have an impact on people’s lives. Demonstrating that impact is always going to be impossible to quantify; we know thousands of people have watched our films on-line and hundreds now at our own events and other film festivals. But film-making in sport or outdoor adventure can still feel like a closed, niche world and the risk remains that films are seen by those who already “get it”.
What we can do is constantly offer opportunities to receive feedback, hear that feedback and look at our approach in light of it. In the last six months we have got more feedback from audiences as we get more films out there and we get some great feedback from people saying they are “inspired”. Feedback and learning is why we have our Sounding Board, so we can directly ask a diverse range of women how our films make them feel and what they think the impact is or could be.
Most importantly, we unfailingly get fantastic feedback from the athletes we make films with;
that the way we tell their stories is what they wanted to see. For the athletes to enjoy the experience of making the film, to like it, feel it represents them and even feel uplifted and empowered by it has to be one of the most rewarding parts. Inherently it makes the film authentic and powerful to the audience.
Are there any particular films, moments or festival selections that really felt like massive achievements?
I’m absolutely loyal to every film I’ve made, and every athlete we’ve worked with. There was though something really special when I interviewed Charlotte Gilmartin about the relay team not making it [Olympic short track speed skating qualification for the 2018 Winter Olympics]. It was the end of a long, hardworking qualification process and they were so devastated.That Charlotte was prepared to sit down and share how she felt with me, and for her there was massive conflict because she was going to the Olympics as an individual skater. She was so generous with her emotions, it was really raw and she obviously saw benefit of sharing that for her, her teammates and for others. It was very special to hold that space.
Getting selected for film festivals is pretty cool, many of them are small but it validates your work and says that someone else thinks people will want to see it. Selection for the Nottingham International Film Festival was pretty exciting because it’s not a sports or outdoors festival and it meant the film could be seen in the city where the speed skaters trained so there is an important connection with place. Rejections are much more common. We don’t really expect to get selected for the bigger festivals but it’s still disappointing and the scene feels a bit restrictive; you have to pay to enter and when you’re small and don’t have a PR company it feels like harder work, and that’s after you’ve worked so hard to make the film. It’s hard work for anyone to find funding for films, but even more so in women’s sport which remains underinvested in. It seems obvious to us that there’s this great opportunity but it still hasn’t been recognised by others to its full extent.
What are your ambitions now? For you, and for Find It Film?
We are ridiculously ambitious in the sense of wanting to take on bigger projects, that tell more challenging or controversial stories and that come from a very personal place. There are so many films and stories that we already have that we want to tell, and I always want to find more. Ultimately I don’t want to just keep doing the same. I need to get technically better and build relationships with athletes that enable us to tell some of “the big stuff”. Sport and outdoor adventure are a much more complex terrain than we often see. There are so many factors at play that affect someone’s chances of success; whether that be trying to win a global competition, setting a record or even just having access to enjoy a sport. There can be some pretty devastating and challenging experiences as well as the triumph, and we largely see the triumph currently. We’re keen to illustrate the full range of what sport and adventure bring to people’s lives and what we can learn. It’s something we try to explore in our #findingempowerment project, the highs and the times for girls and women when it’s not felt empowering to them.
You can see the trailer of our latest film with Lia Ditton here.
In Part 2 of this interview we will explore the process of making films with Find It Film and Danielle’s journey to film-maker in more detail.