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Directed by Andrew Telling
Brought to you by Rapha and Condor and 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
Tell us about yourself.
I am London-based film and music maker. I work on commercial film projects while pursuing my own projects; short films, documentaries and music.
Sella is an interesting title. Where does it come from?
Sella is a mountain in the region of Alicante in Spain. It’s a renowned spot for climbers and the top of the mountain was the highest point of the team's training ride. It was also a spot that resonated with me as soon as I arrived in Spain.
How does this relate to your original concept for the film?
At Sella, the riders stopped, took a water break and fuelled up. The idea for the film was to get to know the individual riders and the break allowed me to document the riders when their guard was lowered. This was important as I wanted to try and get an honest take on the riders themselves. The film doesn’t have any spoken-word narrative. Instead, the narrative is based around the rituals attached to a training ride.
Rapha Condor Sharp has taken a new direction this season by focusing on younger riders. Were any of the new team riders noticeably nervous or tentative?
The younger guys were definitely tentative about the new team set-up. Their hunger to start the racing season was the main driving force behind their enthusiasm and I noticed how the team started to gel more as the camp progressed.
The interaction between younger team members and the older, more experienced guys must have been interesting.
It helps that the older guys have the same sense of humor as the young riders. More importantly you could see the older riders adopting a mentor’s role both on and off the bike, giving advice but also sharing experiences, things like fitness techniques and what food to eat and when.
Tell us a bit about the filming process. Were there any particular challenges on the shoot?
Aside from the physical challenge of filming from a moving car or bike, the pace of the team was really fast; it took me a few days to adjust to their tempo. Due to their sheer speed, I often had to predict where the focus would be as they passed. I spent a lot of time leaning out of the support car, filming individual portraits, or leaning out of the open boot on descents. I wanted additional angles, so I created a camera rig mounted to one of the bikes. The cyclists took it in turns to ride with it, allowing me to capture more intimate shots. Thankfully the camera didn’t fall off and the sun tended to come out at just the right time. Each night after filming, I reviewed the footage and made notes on what angles I needed for the next day. There was a constant workflow, which I think comes out in the final film.
Which shots or situations were you keenest to explore?
Filming behind the scenes was something that really interested me, documenting what they did to pass the time off the bike. I also wanted to show the physical consequences of such an intense training process and the reactions of each rider to it.
Was it difficult making the riders feel comfortable around the camera, in the hotel for example?
At the start there wasn't much conversation between me and the team. As the camp went on and the riders got used to me being around, they would start to ask questions about what I was doing and it was good to use the film to break the ice. Toward the end of the camp I felt comfortable enough to try more adventurous shots, such as lying in the middle of the road as they passed by. We had some good banter about it.
Many people only see a very serious side of the sport. What surprised you about professional racers?
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. It's a very well-oiled machine which really allows the riders to perform to the best of their ability.
How would you describe your approach to film making in general and what do you aim to achieve with this film?
My approach is to try and recreate the experience I get when I film a subject or visit a new place. I take references from a lot of directors, photographers and musicians, people such as Jem Cohen, Mike Mills and Geoff Barrow, to name a few.
I'm interested in exploring the broader side of documentary film making, presenting my own narratives and weaving my own musical scores into the creative process. It’s something I’ve built on by making Sella and something I’ll continue to pursue throughout my career.