*Directed by Andrew Telling*
Named after the arduous climb in Spain, Sella is a highly atmospheric and visually arresting insight into life at a pro team training camp. Shot during Rapha Condor Sharp’s recent training camp, the film is the work of Andrew Telling, winner of the Rapha Condor Sharp Film Competition. Andrew’s compelling short perfectly captures the rhythms and rituals of training camp life, with seemingly mundane tasks such as team meals, meetings and massage offering a marked contrast to punishing rides in the winter sunshine. To capture each rider’s style and personality on their bikes, Andrew spent hours interviewing each rider off them. Andrew’s dedication pays dividends out on the road, as elegant and innovative camerawork, set to Andrew’s own haunting score, results in a rarely seen glimpse of what it looks – and in some cases feels – like to ride among the pros.
Interview with Andrew Telling
Can you firstly tell us about the name Sella?
Sella is a mountain in the region of Alicante, Spain and is a renowned spot for climbers. Reaching the top of the mountain signified the high point of the team’s training ride, it was also the first spot that resonated with me as soon as I arrived in Spain.
How does this relate to the original brief and your concept?
At Sella the riders stopped, took a water break and fuelled up. This pause allowed me to document the riders when their cover was down. This was important as I wanted to try and get a more honest take on the riders both on and off the track. The word ‘Sella’ works perfectly for me as the film doesn’t have any spoken word narrative, the narrative is based around the ritual of their training ride.
Rapha Condor Sharp have taken a new direction this season, were any of the younger riders noticeably nervous or tentative?
They were definitely tentative about the new team set up. I noticed how the team were starting to gel more as the camp progressed. The hunger to start the racing season was the main driving force behind their enthusiasm.
The interplay between the older more experienced guys and the new younger team members must have been interesting.
Yeah at times, the older guys have the same sense of humor as the young riders. More importantly you could see the older riders taking more of a mentor role on and off the bike; giving advice but also sharing experiences like fitness techniques and what food to eat and when.
Were there any challenges on the shoot? Tell us a bit about the process.
Aside from physical issues filming from a car/ bike/ on the road, the pace of the team was really fast, it took me a few days to adjust to their tempo. Due to the sheer speed, I often had to predict where the focus would be as they passed. Initially, I approached the shoot by documenting the landscape, then the riders as a team on the road. I spent a lot of time leaning out of the support car filming individual portraits, then out of the open boot on the descents. I wanted to create additional new angles, so I created a camera rig mounted to one of the bikes. The cyclists took it in turns to ride this POV rig, which allowed me to capture a more intimate side of the team. It was an experimental working process, thankfully my camera didn’t fall off and the sun came out at just the right time.
Each night after filming, I reviewed the footage and made notes on what new angles I needed to find for the next day. It was a constant work flow which I think you can see in the final film.
Was it difficult getting ‘behind the scenes’ and making the riders feel comfortable around the camera, in the hotel for example?
At the start and when there wasn’t much conversation between me and the team. As the camp went on day by day the riders got used to me being around, rider by rider would start to ask questions about what I was doing and it was good to use the film to break the ice. Towards the end of the camp I felt comfortable enough to try out more adventurous shots by lying or standing in the middle of the road as they passed by, or filming from the back of the boot, we had some good banter about it.
Which shots or situations were you keenest to explore?
Filming behind the scenes was something that really interested me, documenting the downtime of the riders and what they did to pass the time. I also wanted to show the physical elements and reactions of each rider to this intense training process.
Not everyone gets to witness these environments… What kinds of things surprised you about professional racers? Many people only see a very serious side of the sport.
I wasn’t surprised by the unparalleled dedication and work ethic of the team; these are values I attribute to Rapha. What took me by surprise was the warmth and support of the staff working behind the scenes, from the team manager, Swannie and to the bike mechanics. It’s a very well oiled machine which really allows the riders to perform to the best of their ability.
What can you tell us about yourself?
I am London based film and music maker. I work on commercial film projects whilst pursuing my own short films, documentaries, collaborative projects and music.
How would you describe your approach to film making and what do you aim to achieve with film?
My approach is to try and recreate the experience I get when I film a subject or visit a new environment. I am interested in exploring this candid experience through my films and music. I take reference from a lot of directors, photographers and musicians such as Jem Cohen, Mike Mills & Geoff Barrow to name a few.
I am passionate about exploring the broader side of documentary film making, presenting my own narratives and weaving my own musical score into the creative process. This is something I have built on by making SELLA, but also something I will continue to pursue throughout my career.