The Bothy Project is a outdoors short film by Light Shed Pictures, commissioned by BMC TV, starring Tessa Lyons, Natasha Brooks and Claire Carter. Exploring the wilds on their own terms, the short follows three women adventuring outdoors and includes incredible photography of the Shenavall Bothy in Scotland. Film Curiosity chatted with filmmaker Jen Randall to find out more about the creative minds behind this piece.We loved that The Bothy Project showcased the stunning Shenavall Bothy. How did you find this experience as a filmmaker?
"Shenavall is a spectacular part of Scotland. We chose it as it’s far from the road and when we asked for recommendations, it came top of the list. We got great footage of the area by spending time there – 6 days in total. The crew visited in April and again in June 2016. The landscape had changed colour from brown with snow to green!
We had three people shooting on the project: Nick Brown, James France and myself, so we had three sets of eyes gathering material, along with our stars.
It was a funny experience as a filmmaker. We had such a simple concept, but that ended up making the project difficult to film - it was a case of seeing what was unfolding, pouncing on how to shoot that best, and keeping up with capturing each person’s experience of the area. Halfway up a mountain on our second trip I had a moment of "what am I making?!" But I did have a shot list I’d come up with to create threads and structure to stop me getting entirely lost.
It took a long time in the edit to get to a rough cut I was happy with – it was a case of weaving all the different elements of the trip together and took five days of playing around with it. It was confusing and a bit scary and beautiful and complex."How did the idea for the film initially come about?
"Claire Carter came up with the idea for the film back when we were making Operation Moffat together. Originally it was about women exploring the wilderness to practice map-reading skills and make some art, but what came through was how each woman chose to use their time in that space. We talked a lot about how refreshing it was to be out in the wilds without an agenda designed to achieve something and in the edit, I ran with that concept."It was great to follow their journey. Do you place importance on the female gaze in film?
"It comes down to authenticity. The female gaze needs to be more prominent in film but in the outdoor industry we’re moving in a positive direction in this area. Brands, sponsors, film festivals and production companies are all making efforts to include more women in adventure film and that’s quite a change from five years ago. Now I think we’re in a place where we need to move away from tokenism and look for authentic use of the female voice. Let’s celebrate female-driven film because it is good, because it’s authentic, because it’s saying something or exploring something real.
That’s something I feel passionate about in all my films. Push It was about two average climbers trying to climb El Capitan and Project Mina was about a world-class athlete wrestling with what she wanted from the sport: the fact that these films were led by women was second to their stories. I say let’s lead by example and get on with being part of a change."What is your preferred method of filming?
"We did our best to embrace the complexity of the simplicity! Until recently I’ve avoided using drones. They do spectacular things but I didn’t want to hop on a band wagon for the sake of it. For The Bothy Project James brought his drone along so I thought "let’s give it a try," and it really worked in that massive landscape. I’m especially proud of the closing shot!
I like coming to a shoot with a shot list and an open mind to unexpected opportunities. I have my C100 in my hand with my old Nikon 50mm lens. I keep things fun and make sure my subjects are relaxed, I think you get a lot more from a person that way."Are there any screenings coming up where we can watch The Bothy Project?
"It's been great sharing this film at festivals so far, offering a slightly different take on adventure film, and hopefully encouraging more people to get outdoors. It certainly seems to have raised interest in visiting Scotland's network of mountain bothies. Our next screening is at the Wasatch Mountain Film Festival later this month, but the film is also now available online for free on BMC TV."