BFI Future Film Festival 2023
Pacing the Pool
'Pacing the Pool' provides a tiny glimpse into the extraordinary life of Richard Pace, and what lies under the surface. To Richard, water is not only the source of life, but also the source of physical and mental healing.
Hello Radheya, the last time we spoke was back in 2018 when iRony was part of the InShorts Film Festival, what was that experience like for you?
I can’t believe it’s been about 5 years since then! Because I’m based in Australia I couldn’t be there in person so it was more of a remote experience, but it was great and it’s an amazing feeling to have your work selected and shown in festivals. I feel like I’ve grown a lot since then too as a creative and filmmaker so it feels nice to come full circle speaking with you in a way.
Congratulations on having Pacing The Pool part of the Future Film Festival 2023, how does it feel to be part of such an incredible line-up of short films?
It feels amazing! I’m so grateful to be part of such a great festival again and we’re really honoured to have been selected amongst such talent. I’m sad that I can’t be there to meet the other filmmakers in person but I hope to make connections online.
Pacing The Pool is also nominated for Best Documentary, what does it mean to get this type of recognition for your film?
It means so much to me that our documentary has recognised like this. Pacing the Pool is one of my first documentary films and so it’s a really rewarding feeling to have it be nominated. Our subject Richard Pace is thrilled as well of course!
How important are festivals like Future Film Festival in creating a platform for short films?
I think that festivals like Future Film Festival are incredibly important in allowing creatives to get their work out there and have their work seen by others, and also to connect with people from around the world. I had a really great experience with BFI Future Film Festival before, because I’m in Australia (and because of COVID) we were all participating online but it was amazing to watch everyone’s incredible shorts and listen in on the seminars and workshops. It definitely inspired me a lot.
Can you tell me how Pacing The Pool came about, what was it about Richard Pace’s life and story that interested you so much as a filmmaker?
My parents swim at a local swimming pool, Beatty Park, where Richard also swims, and they became acquainted. I had heard that Richard had led quite an interesting life and he had an autobiography out, so I got my hands on a copy and read it all in one sitting because I was so absorbed. There were so many more aspects of his life that we were too big for our short in the end, but I think what interested me the most about Richard was his approach to life, his attitude when faced with adversity, and his relationship with swimming/his ‘pool family’. In the lead up to production, I swam with him in the early morning and it was great to see how being in the water is an immense source of healing for him and provided the framework for a loving community. Being able to capture that essence was really heart-warming to see, and it made the filmmaking process a truly special experience.
When working on a film like Pacing The Pool how flexible were you able to be with the shoot?
We couldn’t be too flexible as it was funded through a local short documentary funding program, and there was a pretty quick turnaround that we needed to meet. So we had to be pretty efficient and effective with getting what we wanted according to the interview I had with Richard and what direction we wanted the short to focus on. Thanks to my incredible crew we were able to get through it without too many hiccups. Initially we planned on Pacing The Pool to be around 15 minutes and covered a few more aspects of his life, but we found that in the edit it wasn’t enough time to address so much. So the post-production process was definitely the most flexible part of it all, finding it in the edit.
What were the challenges you faced making Pacing The Pool?
Time was a bit of a challenge, as mentioned because of our relatively quick turnaround deadline - and trying to keep on time was also a challenge during the shoots. In the lead up to production I was a bit nervous as I had only made a documentary once before as part of an internship, and that was a small project where I was the only filmmaker. I wasn’t as familiar with live-action as I am with animation so it was nerve-wracking and exciting to dive into something more challenging. I was very lucky to have a really amazing crew to work with and it was a great learning experience. We did have a couple issues just to do with equipment but they all turned out alright in the end.
Looking back, what would you say have been the most valuable lessons you have taken from making this short?
Overall it was really valuable as my first live-action documentary experience working with a crew, and soaking up so much along the way. It was great working with our DOP Justice Goodrick, and I learned a lot going through the entire experience together. I’d also edited all of my previous works so working with an editor for the first time was amazing. Our editor was Cal McLean, and seeing how his mind worked was eye-opening for me. We did have a bit of a scare with a missing piece of (very expensive) equipment that was luckily found, but I think in future having a better system in place will be a priority for me because that was kind of terrifying haha.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I’d always loved watching films, but my passion for filmmaking really came through when I was around 10-12 years old and would start trying to make little films of my own. Often I wouldn’t have any actors so I would set up my available camera (my iPod touch or dad’s MacBook Air) and film myself in the different shots I needed, use crappy green screen effects and mash it up together in Windows Movie Maker and iMovie. Occasionally I convinced my brother or my mum to be my stars and they resulted in some pretty unintentionally funny videos we like to laugh at now. Ever since then my love for filmmaking has only grown, and I love that I’m able to pursue this as a career.
How much has your approach to work changed since you started out?
I think the biggest change to my approach to work has been structure. When I was starting out I would make films myself, partly out of necessity/lack of resources. But because I was making them independently it meant that I could work at my own pace (not have to worry about deadlines) and I didn’t really have a good pre-production or planning process set in place and would kind of make everything up as I went along. Now that I’m working with more people the pre-production and planning parts have become a lot more rigorous (and for good reason)! This goes for live action and animation, I’m currently working on a film called Bird Drone. Even though it’s a short film it’s the largest animated project I’ve ever undertaken, and working with other people means we had to follow a standard procedure. I like working both ways but of course having some structure to how you’re working makes things a lot easier when working with a crew (and it’s good practice when you’re following an industry standard approach).
"I wanted to literally and figuratively depict what goes on under the surface - both in his body and mind."
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films/stories they want to tell?
Absolutely! I think creativity is all about pushing those limits and in turn, thinking about how you can make your stories and works all the more extraordinary, moving or thought-provoking. I also think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films/stories they want to tell because I want to keep watching content like that - things that stick with you long after you leave the screening.
What top 3 tips would you offer a fellow filmmaker?
Believe in your films, invest the same amount of time in getting your film out there as you did in making the film, and embrace rejection and failure with humility.
And finally, what message do you hope your audiences will take away from Pacing The Pool?
In our discussions, both Richard and I thought it was important to show how he used swimming and aqua-therapy to help the effects of Polyostotic Fibrous Displaysia, as well as the importance of having a supportive community and social group. I wanted to literally and figuratively depict what goes on under the surface - both in his body and mind. Loneliness, fear, friendship, hope, love. I mainly wanted audiences to see through Richard’s point of view, and we always needed to hear his voice (literally), his personality, and his perspective throughout. His direct quotes narrate the film with his impressions and experiences. From his memories as a child to simply how he feels in the water. I hope that his character and his approach to life will stick with audiences as they leave the screening.