It’s not everyday you see a unicyclist, so when I came across Laura Mahler’s latest short documentary I was taken aback. In the beauty of Switzerland, Laura follows three mountain unicyclists enjoying what they love and experiencing unridden paths.
Without further ado, here is the incredible short documentary ‘HOME’ followed by my interview with Laura about her background, why she chose to create the documentary and her filmmaking tips for those wanting to pick up the camera themselves.
Can you tell us about yourself and your background?
I’m fascinated by the world around us, and honestly love delving into journals, books and films to research & discover as much as possible. I got an MRes in Environmental History and really considered going on to a PhD. But I always found documentaries so exciting and engaging, and in the end I wanted to give it go. It’s a big learning journey and I’m only just at the beginning, and its in making these sort of shorts that I’m really finding my voice and what it is that I want to say.
You’re on a mission to document ‘important stuff’ – what’s the message that you’re trying to convey in your filmmaking?
I have this idea that I want to look at individual aspects of human life, and question each one’s impacts on and of the natural environment. So with Home, it’s really about our need to be outdoors and engage with nature – to get away from everyday life and be with nature in weird and wonderful ways unique to each of us. That as civilisation encroaches wild lands more and more, we try harder to feel a part of and vulnerable to nature. I think that makes unicycling very important!
Your latest film follows three people in Switzerland who are mountain unicyclists! How did you come across Etorre, Sandy and Florian?
I imagine loads of film or book ideas come from somewhere very far from where they started. I started with knowing I wanted to do something about mountains – I hiked a bit in Poland in the summer and came back just really curious about them and how humans have managed to create lives in the most difficult of mountain terrains. And it turned out no one had made a doc about MUni yet, so that seemed like a good way to angle it.
Unicycling is one thing, but mountain unicycling is next level. How would someone even begin to get into this?
Sandy (in the film) said it best – he lived among mountains, so it just came as natural next steps to him. I think if you’re into outdoor sport and pushing your limits, it makes sense to continually increment our activities. Run an extra marathon the next day, add another section to the -athalon, try to beat a time record. Sort of: “sure you can unicycle – but can you unicycle down that massive hill?” I wonder what they’re going to do next!
Did you have a go at mountain unicycling yourself!?
Nooooo I straddled it for about one revolution of the wheel before toppling over – all holding onto two people’s shoulders!
Throughout the cycling industry are so many untold stories of passion, success and dedication. Do you think you’ll look towards bikes (with two wheels) for a future project?
For sure! Cyclists are brilliant people. I’m no wheel-ist, I’m interested in awesome stories with any number of wheels! Haha. There’s so much to be inspired by and learn from out there. You can do it downhill, uphill, across countries, with a motor, in pairs… Its something that carries us from 3 years old, from the graduation out of stabilisers, to the city-centre commute to work, to 75 and regularly heading out to keep your heart in check. I could make a whole career out of this!
You’re a self-claimed “wannabe filmmaker” but you’re out there making films. If you had only three tips to give to someone wanting to make their first short documentary, what would they be?
I sort of run off these:
Ask yourself: What is it about the world that interests you? What makes you really appreciate the world around us, or even, what do you really think could be better? Anything we make ourselves has to really get our own hearts beating.
Ask for advice. If you can, be as specific as possible about what it is you want help on.
(This is the one everyone will tell you and everyone tells me) Just start making it.Eventually it’ll find itself, or you’ll reroute it, or move onto something better. You’ll learn more in one day of just starting it than a month of planning. You gotta start to start.
If anyone has any tips for me in exchange I happily welcome them!!