Women in Adventure 2018: And the winning films are…

Posted by Tamaris Higham on 13/03/2018
Winners of the BMC TV Women in Adventure film competition 2018 at Sheffield Adventure Film Festival. Photo: Charlie Low.
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3 judges, 30 entries, a sold-out ShAFF session and a huge cash prize pool. It's safe to say that the BMC TV Women in Adventure film competition 2018 has been the biggest one yet and now, we're excited to share the winning films with you.

Now in its fourth year, the competition was created by the BMC, WomenClimb and the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (ShAFF) to encourage more women to get in front of, and behind, the camera. 

How the competition came about

With a tiny one fifth of the films screened at ShAFF 2014 featuring female protagonists and a strong desire to see more adventurous women on the big screen, the Women in Adventure film competition was born. 

Director of ShAFF, Matt Heason, said “ShAFF is behind this competition because we think that it's really important to see the gender imbalance of outdoor and adventure films balanced, and ultimately to see the number of participants also balanced. Several years ago we decided to do something concrete about it and introduced the Women in Adventure panel at ShAFF.

"We can certainly see that the gender imbalance is slowly moving in the right direction, as one third of the films screened at ShAFF 2018 featured a female protagonist, or were made by a woman."

Women in Adventure judge and Founder / Editor in Chief of WomenClimb, Emily Pitts, said "Next year I'd like to see filmmakers casting their nets wider and putting their films forward to other film competitions. We can see the impact that this competition is having, but I want to see the impact spread further and to see more women on screens at all outdoor film festivals."

ShAFF 2018 (9-11 March) saw over a hundred filmmakers and film fanatics gather to hear the Women in Adventure panel (Women in Adventure judge Claire Carter, filmmakers Hannah Maia, Elise Wicker and Menna Pritchard, Women's Trad Festival organiser Ellie Fuller and She Xtreme Director Ruth Farrar) discuss adventure film, balance, ambition and contentment. 

                                          The ShAFF 2018 Women in Adventure panel. Photo: Charlie Low

"You don't have to take a trip to the mountains to go on an adventure" (Claire Carter) was a clear theme that emerged as the conversation continued, which lead on to the announcement of the winning films and in particular, the film which took first place...

2018 winners

This year's competition received a record 30 entries. That's double the number of films submitted for last year's Women in Adventure comp! Check out all 30 entries on BMC TV

WIA judge, Emily Pitts, tells us what she thinks of this year's films: "This year's entries presented a real step up in terms of variety and the number of films submitted. I am thrilled that so many people filmed their adventures and put such effort and skill into submitting to the competition. The films that made it to the top spots got there through different combinations of creativity, interesting camerawork, good sound and, of course, a story well told. Deciding on a winner is never easy. We know that people put a huge amount of time and passion into creating their films. Each story brings something to the table and try to rate one against another can feel subjective." 

Niall Grimes, BMC guidebook guru and Women in Adventure judge, said "The quality and spirit of the submissions this year really blew me away and I would say that every one of the films I watched engaged me. It was a Women in Adventure competition and the thing I started to feel was the adventure of actually making a film. The thing that annoyed me, if anything, was being sat in a position where I had to somehow apply a sense of judgement to them. All these films were beyond any judgement. They were all winners."

Can’t take the suspense any longer? Okay, the winners of the BMC TV Women in Adventure film competition 2018 are:

FIRST PLACE: Night High

Night High is a visual collaboration between highliner Sarah Rixham and photographer Dora Dc. The film encapsulates the dreamy flow state athlete Sarah Rixham finds whilst floating in untouched space on a one inch wide slackline. She uses the cover of night to explore unique urban gaps in the pursuit of this dream-like state induced by highlining. A film by Dora Damian & Sarah Rixham.

Emily Pitts, WIA judge, said "Night High is creatively shot, with a fascinating protagonist and a compelling atmosphere. I was enchanted by the film - the pace, the shots and the fact that it was adventure in an urban environment. We don't need to go far for an adventure, even if we live in a city."

So what motivated Dora to create Night High, and how does she feel about taking first place in the fourth BMC TV Women in Adventure film competition? She tells us: "Meeting Sarah at ShAFF in 2016 had a huge impact on my photographic practice; she introduced me to slacklining and shortly after I started documenting the slacklining community and lifestyle. 

"When she approached me about making a film together 2 years later, I knew it was going to be something special. 

"My background is in photography, and Night High was my first venture into producing, directing and editing. It certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone, and I really enjoyed experimenting and feeling challenged. My strength as a visual artist lies in storytelling, which manifests itself across various genres, from fine art to adventure sports. I look up to Sarah a lot as an athlete, and being able to capture her essence in this film was a great privilege. Her mind and body strength are phenomenal, her perseverance - unparalleled. 

"Winning the BMC TV Women in Adventure film competition was a surprise given the number of really strong submissions this year. Film is an avenue I wish to focus on more, and I’m grateful for the confirmation and encouragement that came with this award."

                             Winner and creator of Night High, Dora Damian. Photo: Charlie Low

Slackliner and star of Night High, Sarah Rixham, gives us some insight into the film: "The theme of the video is dreaming; dreaming in the sense that this is a way I like to describe the flow state, that I and many other adventure athletes and creative people are searching for. Also dreaming in the sense that projects, goals and ideas that we dream about can be reality. It feels very satisfying to firstly complete the highline project I have been dreaming about for a couple of years and also to have my ideas be transformed into a visual representation of what I experience and how I feel by Dora’s creative hand. It was such a surprise and feels like a dream for our film to win the competition. It makes me happy to think that our work might resonate with people in some way or inspire them to do their dream project!"

Niall Grimes, WIA judge, said "There was an essence to Night High that absorbed me. For about the first minute or so I was watching it, after that I was in it. It was the one that made my heart race, the one that took me, even sat on my sofa with a can of Heineken in my hand, to that place where I experience adventure. And the badass mastery that it displayed was sublime. There will be all the technical stuff – the sound, camerawork, music, editing malarkey – but that just allowed the other stuff to shine through. Again, it’s a shame to have to apply the word ‘winner’ to such a roomful of champions as these films, but Night High did something for me that not many films do."

SECOND PLACE: Stop, Breathe, Go

It’s easy in the 21st century to get lost in the detail of everyday life. It’s easy to lose a sense of the world around you, or take the easy option and flick the kettle on. But where’s the fun in that? Just stop, breathe and go. A film by Catherine Dunn.

When asked how she felt about achieving 2nd place, Catherine Dunn said “I’m absolutely chuffed to pieces! The message behind the film is one I’m really passionate about, so for it to be recognised by the BMC and more people to hear my message really is fantastic.

“I think the world has become so distracted by social media and the belief that to be an adventurer or to explore the outdoors you need to look a certain way or have certain equipment, that people are afraid to step outside and explore the world around them. I think adventure is such an important part of life for personal development, mental health and just for a good time! So I wanted to create a film which encouraged people to look beyond all the distractions of everyday life and start their own adventure.”

MOST WATCHED: JUMPSCARE 

(With 19.5k views at the time of winning)

Fear of falling is something every climber comes across at some point in their climbing life; the feeling that cuts into your gut and leaves you weak. One woman tells the story of her fight with height and why she still never stopped loving the rocks. A film by Leon Buchholz.

Cora Schubert, star of JUMPSCARE, said "After watching the entries from the last few years we wanted to make a film inspired by my struggle and love with climbing. We hoped that many people could relate to the topic and maybe even be inspired to try and push through their fear even when it feels like nothing is changing.

"We obviously struck a nerve. Thousands watched the film after we and our sponsor shared it and the views just continued ticking up. We'd kind of hoped for something around 5k and are now not far off 20k. We got so much amazing feedback from people who felt inspired by our efforts and thanked us, and people who said they now understand their friend's fear better. The most touching were those who said they had practically given up fighting their fear and now feel inspired to try again. It is absolutely amazing. We got so much more out of it than we'd hoped for! Thank you so much for supporting us and inspiring me to share my story."

SPECIAL MENTION: The Salty Dance Floor

Rock-climbing as a waltz with the rock “…part atoms, part song…”. A film by Sarah-Jane Dobner & Sandro Gromen-Hayes.

We asked climber and co-creator / star of The Salty Dance Floor, Sarah-Jane Dobner, how her and Sandro felt about achieving a judge's special mention award: "We're both delighted! Humbled and happy. It was brilliant linking up with other women at the BMC TV Women in Adventure session at ShAFF."

              Film-makers Sarah-Jane Dobner & Sandro Gromen-Hayes. Photo: Charlie Low

Niall Grimes, WIA judge, said "I love it when people try to do something different. What made The Salty Dance Floor stand out for me was its attempt to express an emotion that I have felt as a climber, so in that respect it was a very pertinent film for me. And it used the medium of film to not try to explain or verbalise this feeling, but to put the feeling across. What was the film saying? I have no idea, but I understood it."

SPECIAL MENTION: TAMAZIGHT

"Tamazight" means 'free people', and is what the Berbers call themselves in their own language. In October 2017, Jenny Tough ran solo and unsupported across the High Atlas Mountains, a place still populated by the Tamazight, but patrolled by the Moroccan Gendarmerie. The 860km expedition run took 22 days, using old Berber trail networks and carrying a 10kg backpack. This film was self-shot by Jenny with a compact camera stuffed in the side of the backpack. A film by Jenny Tough.

Filmmaker and adventurer Jenny Tough shared her feelings on achieving a judge's special mention award: "My solo and unsupported run across the Atlas Mountains was an incredible experience and a really difficult challenge for me, and I'm delighted that the judges enjoyed the footage I captured during my expedition. I filmed and edited this film entirely by myself, and hope that in sharing my adventure with audiences more people, especially women and girls, will feel inspired to take on their own big challenges. I'm not a professional athlete, nor do I have a fancy film crew or production company - it's just me and a small camera, proving that anyone can do this if they really want to. I am beyond stoked that this competition exists, and watching all of the entries this year made me really proud of what women in adventure sports are achieving and sharing in 2018 - winning the Judge's Award was a cherry on top."

WATCH: all of this year's entries

WATCH: the 2017 winners

WATCH: the 2016 winners

WATCH: the 2015 winners


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