With the UK back in lockdown, we’re opening our 'Lunchtime Cinema' series with ‘Drifting’, a short SUP watch from freelance adventure filmmaker Rachel Sarah and outdoor enthusiast Abbey James. Filmed in summer 2020, the film has a real sense of time and place - days spent baking, shots of keep-cups locked up in cupboards, and a marked change in our relationship with our local nature. The film captures a mixed bag of feelings that so many will be able to relate with; from feeling lost and isolated away from our friends to finding solace in the greens and blues of our parks and canals.
“I hope it captures that feeling of helplessness a lot of people have been feeling, though with a slightly positive edge,” filmmaker Rachel Sarah tells me over Zoom from Leeds. “That peacefulness, as well, of actually just being out on your own - and that being out on your own isn’t actually always the worst thing in the world.
That peacefulness, as well, of actually just being out on your own - and that being out on your own isn’t actually always the worst thing in the world.
“I struggle with my mental health, like a lot of people do, and I am a really outdoorsy person - it's literally my job! - but that doesn't mean that I find it really easy to go outdoors. I actually find it really hard, and I can start to convince myself that going outdoors doesn't help. Having a project really does help me.
“It's almost a weird stigma to say that: 'I actually find it hard to go outside'. It makes you feel like less of an outdoorsy person, but I think that a lot of us are in the same boat, and in lockdown, it's hard. If you're feeling crap and you've got bad mental health, it doesn't real matter what's on your doorstep.”
Bee also admits that it can be a battle to get herself outside at times, but says that once she gets outdoors, she can almost immediately feel the benefits.
“I find myself in a cycle that starts with feeling down, and not wanting to go outside, finding fault with my abilities to run or paddle,” Bee says. “But when I get outside, even with a short walk across the road to the park, I try to focus on the bird song, and the wind in the trees, and it lifts my spirits. As momentum builds, I find I want to follow the birds to further afield and higher ground. Paddling and trail running gets me there. And it doesn't matter if I'm any good at it.
It all starts with listening to the sounds around me.
“It all starts with listening to the sounds around me. Even in the tightest restrictions I take some time to sit on my back steps and listen to the woodland activity behind my house.”
For both Rachel and Bee, the filming process was something new. ‘Drifting’ was Rachel’s first collaborative film project, and has spurred many since. For Bee, it was a new creative medium altogether, and due to household restrictions, she even ended up borrowing Rachel’s camera for a week and filming the indoor sequences herself, with the help of her partner Rory Southworth.
“Sometimes I'm bursting to make something creative,” says Bee, “and collaborating with Rachel on Drifting was an opportunity to do that.”