The Long Shot is filmmaker Karen Turner’s debut documentary. It’s about Paralympian athlete and mountain biker James Bevis. We caught up with Karen before the film’s Exeter Phoenix premiere and found out about amazing stories, the art of interviewing and the limitless possibilities of writing and filmmaking.
The first question is three in one -The Long Shot, about Paralympian shooter James Bevis is your first documentary. What got you interested in documentary, how did you come across the story and why did it attract you?
I used to work in broadcast news as a Journalist so documentaries were a natural first step for me getting into filmmaking and then that was it! I was hooked immediately. I find now that I think ‘in film’ which means I’m always looking for an amazing story wherever I am.
I met Jim (James Bevis) through mountain biking, we went for a coffee and I suppose I naturally started interviewing him (sorry Jim!). But the more he started speaking about what had happened in his life the more I realised this was an inspirational story -he really did bring himself back from death and hasn’t stopped fighting since. The message is very much; ‘Never Give Up’ and I think that applies universally to us all.
The story attracted me because it was so ‘real’. Jim tells everything as it is, with no sugar coating and I respect that he talks candidly about the experience of feeling your body giving up on you after a horrific road accident, the depression that follows but also what it feels like to win a medal in the Paralympics! The film is a rollercoaster ride of emotions that leaves you feeling inspired -and that’s what I wanted to pass onto an audience.
The Long Shot has some beautiful shots and it also has a straightforward to camera piece by James. Is there a difficulty in combining the human skills of an interviewer, making people who might not be used to the camera comfortable telling their story, and the more technical skills of a filmmaker?
Yes, definitely. Having come from a journalistic background I was fortunate enough to have had the experience of interviewing many different people from politicians to people living on the streets and this experience was invaluable. I once had to interview a group of criminal activists in a secret location who were wearing black balaclavas because they didn’t want to be identified. It was unnerving but at the same time taught me to focus solely on the person I was speaking to and ignore any distractions. I also think you have to be genuinely interested in what people have to say â€“ this might sound obvious but I’ve seen many an interviewer checking their notes or looking away during an interview and nothing kills the rapport quicker than that!
What’s your background?
When I left university I studied for a Postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism and then worked in radio and television as a Journalist for the BBC and Independents all over the country before moving to Devon with my husband and children.
What do you see as the similarities and differences in fictional and documentary filmmaking, and would you consider making fiction films?
At the heart of all good films is an amazing story and that’s the same for fiction and documentary filmmaking but fiction is where the Writer takes over and the Journalist side of me takes a back seat. Fictional filmmaking is very much on my agenda and my future projects include a short film, a television drama and a music video -all of which I am massively passionate about. I think these days when there is so much cross over in film, television, music and advertising with award winning Directors involved in television advertising and music videos as well as Oscar worthy films on the big screen, there are no limits to how far anyone can use their writing and filmmaking skills.
What’s next for The Long Shot and what’s next for you as a filmmaker?
The Long Shot will be doing the festival circuit next year and I will be moving on to other projects including a short film, a television drama and a music video.
Karen Turner, many thanks for your time.
The Long Shot is showing as part of the Off the Beaten Track Shorts Collection at the Exeter Phoenix on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 at 6pm. Tickets available from the Box Office on 01392 667080.