It was the beginning of 2013 when Director Colin Gardiner approached me with an idea for a self funded doco, writes Producer / PD Martin Wells. After reading up on Gig boat racing and chatting to Richard, another friend Colin had asked to help, we decided to get involved. With a very small budget, the adventure to make Blood Sweat & Oars began.
It took most of 2013 to produce, film and post produce. We decided to set up Tall Dog as a production company, even though we are all freelancers we felt an umbrella was needed to be taken seriously as a production company, albeit a small one. My own background has been as an editor for many years, before moving into directing and producing, along with doing more and more EP work. Colin’s background is similar, an editor for the past twenty years, and then a successful director in advertising and corporate docs. Richard has been a cameraman and DOP for many years and is one of the best in the business.
We also had the help of three other cameramen during the filming on the isles, along with using 5 go-pro’s to capture the sound and effort from on-board the gigs during the races. Wrangling the footage was done by us all after a race and often during races, so that was a challenge. As for post production. We can’t thank Films at 59 in Bristol enough for their help and support. They were an absolute wonder and nothing was too much.
The Project was to follow the Clevedon Gig boat club as they trained over the winter in preparation for the Gig Boat world Championships on the Isles of Scilly. What is it? Well the boat is a 9.8 metre hand made wooden ocean going rowing boat. It holds 6 rowers using old style large wooden oars and a cox who directs them and steers.
At weekends the giggers religiously rise from their bed at 5.30 am to get to a training session in the Bristol docks or on the Clevedon sea front. The weather is irrelevant; frosty morning, torrential rain…and sometimes even sunshine! On top of this already punishing training routine many attend equally strenuous training sessions in the gym 2-3 nights a week.
The regattas, which the club take part in, are a great spectacle of both camaraderie and competition. On land the atmosphere is friendly, a real community spirit. This all changes on the open sea, where no holds are bared in the race to the line, some 4 miles away. Signalled by the dropping of a flag on a distance boat, there is an explosion of oars in the sea, of cries of effort and determination, of screamed instructions from the cox. They pull as much sea past them as they can, as quickly as they can. Faces tell the story of the pain and the effort, the blowing cheeks as the air is sucked deep into the lungs to fuel another stroke. And all the time, behind this huge effort they concentrate on the technique of blade through the water as efficiently as possible.
The most extraordinary change has been amongst the women members of the club. Woman in there 40’s and 50’s have been propelled into overdrive as this passion for gig racing has taken hold. This level of dedication throws up many personal issues as they completely re-order their lives to accommodate this obsession. As a consequence there is now a new group of men in Clevedon, those who choose not to get involved in the sport, but their wives do. They are referred to in polite conversation as the ‘gigging widowers’.
After completion of the film we decided to start marketing our wares. To this end we have entered it into various festivals including The renowned Canadian international Film Festival in Vancouver. This festival attracts over 700 entries from over 30 countries, including many from Hollywood. So when we had a call saying we had won the award for excellence in film making, we were over the moon and slightly shocked when you consider the competition. The first thing we did when we found out, was to laugh. I don’t think we could quite believe it. Now it’s been great as we are getting the attention we believe it and the team deserve. The film is off to MIP and is in the catalogue. We also have the help of Sally Kenchington of Brightside films, who’s doing some nifty marketing and getting it in front of people for us. As for the next project. We are working of some ideas that are unique.