What was it like producing a short film about rowing blazers, with the athletes who still wear them today? We spoke to Douglas Ray and Kate Slotover to find out.
What was the intention of the film and how did you go about achieving it?
Doug: We wanted to make a mini-documentary, something that said a little bit about the world of rowing – you can’t really understand the significance of the blazer without also knowing a bit about the sport. Thanks to Jack’s tremendous contacts in the rowing world, we were able to film some amazing athletes and tell that story from the inside.
Kate: For the film’s graphics I tried to incorporate some elements from the blazers themselves. Each club has its own unique blazer design and those stripes and colours are not just decorative but have really specific meanings.
Were there any surprises during production?
Doug: The big surprise was how down to earth and patient the rowers were, despite a few technical and logistical problems. Having worked with some high profile people in the past I was really pleasantly surprised by how friendly and amenable everyone was. People with gold medals, Olympic champions, world record holders – they couldn’t have been nicer!
Kate: Yes, they were really lovely. One thing that impressed me was that, although rowing seems from the outside like a kind of exclusive world, the rowers we met were all incredibly open, welcoming and encouraging.
What was your impression of the world of rowing?
Doug: They’re all mad to want to do it. I don’t understand it. It must be something you either have or don’t have and I don’t think I have it.
Kate: But it’s incredibly inspiring. They’re all people who are really motivated by wanting to get the best out of themselves, and it’s hard not to be moved by that. I’ve totally Googled beginner rowing courses since – and one day I might actually try one!
How do you think videos like this can connect people to books?
Doug: I think videos can give you a taste of a book, but there’s something unique about a book. The way you read it, the way you choose where to start, the way you can return to it, the way you share it. A video is a linear thing, but it can convey emotion in a different way, through music, editing, you control the viewer’s experience a lot more.
Kate: There are some wonderful photographs here, and a beautifully printed large-format book is the place to really enjoy them. Plus I don’t think there’s anything Jack doesn’t know about rowers, or rowing. He really lives in that world. So there are all these little fascinating details in the text, notes about the rowers or stories from the histories of the clubs. We would never have had time to feature them all in the film, but they’re all there to discover in the book.
Check out the film below:
Rowing Blazers looks at the striped, piped, trimmed and badged blazers that are still worn by oarsmen and oarswomen around the world, and at the rituals, elite athletes, prestigious clubs and legendary races associated with them.
Available for £34.95 from the Thames & Hudson website.