Nov 2015

I have just returned from Kendal Mountain Festival. It has been eleven years since I last went to the festival. This year was a celebration of the film makers as much as the mountaineers, skiers, endurance racers, rock climbers and mountain bikers starring in the films and it’s greatly enhanced by that.

I had two primary reasons for returning this year: Thursday’s “editing from scratch” course, offered as part of this year’s Kendal Film Academy and Friday’s Bike Night, featuring a Q&A with UCI Downhill overall World Cup series champion, Josh Bryceland. There were also a raft of inspiring, thought provoking films to be seen over the course of three days.

The editing from scratch course did exactly what it said on the tin. Directors, Light Shed Media’s Jen Randall and Land and Sky Media’s Dom Bush took a small group of us through the basics of selecting clips, adding soundtracks, incorporating effects and setting the pace to maintain viewers’ interest.

With the growth of GoPro, YouTube and Vimeo, video has become a much more important element of any company’s promotional materials. However, it was only during the course that I was struck by how editing can making the critical difference between compelling viewing and a yawnfest.

The wonderful thing about Kendal is that an absolute newby like myself can be taken through the basics by successful directors like Jen and Dom in the morning and then go and watch their films at the festival that afternoon.

At the end of the course each of us had to show a brief edit, based on exactly the same footage. In the space of a couple of hours, some students had skilfully combined scene setting, storytelling and carefully selected music, to create a genuinely exciting clip. The variation in the final edits amply demonstrated that the power is in the cut.

Key learning points that I took from the course are:

  • Editing can make or break a film.
  • Music choice is central to the pace and mood of a video. Both Dom Bush and Jen Randall reported that they often already have a soundtrack in mind when they are filming and editing a sequence.
  • Try to tell a story.
  • Don’t use in jokes.

During Bike Night on Friday 21st November, we heard from Cut Media director, Stu Thomson, whose film, “The Ridge” with Danny Macaskill had already received 23 million views on YouTube. During the Q&A, Stu was asked about the music for The Ridge. He explained that he wanted it to have a Scottish feel, with a strong beat and crescendo, but without resorting to the usual drums and bagpipes. He’d spent hours searching for the right track and narrowed it down to a shortlist, before selecting “Blackbird” by Martyn Bennett from the album “GRIT”. I think there are a fair few million people who agree that it’s the perfect soundtrack to the epic views of Danny riding the Cuillin ridge.

Later that evening, Steel City Media’s Joe Bowman, director of “This is Peaty,” shared the stage with professional downhill mountain racer, Josh Bryceland. During the Q&A, Josh turned to Joe and thanked him for making the series because it had stopped Steve Peat from getting too serious and made the Santa Cruz Syndicate more fun. A nice gesture.

I’ve never made or edited a film, I’m not a talented mountain biker and, after twenty years of being not very good at it, I gave up rock climbing two years ago. So why did I go back to the festival after all these years? I’ve been asking myself the same question.  I watched DamNation on Friday and one line resonated: one hundred years after USA’s dams were built, salmon are still swimming upstream and banging their heads against the dam walls, trying to reach their spawning grounds. Two hundred years after the industrial revolution, I am continually drawn back to the hills and mountains of my forefathers. Kendal allows me to be surrounded by, learn from and be inspired the people who never left.

Kendal is an opportunity for education, celebration and reconnection. As Josh Bryceland pointed out, it also gives us chance to say thanks to all the unseen people who schlepp the cameras up the mountains and rock faces behind the stars of the show, to bring us the footage that keeps us clicking.

ITV News – Kendal Moutain Festival, the ultimate guide.