Tom Mallion, producer at Trademark Productions is an official BT Storyteller, documenting the lead up to the Olympics in his own unique way – on two wheels. Tom recently won a trip to the first ever Youth Winter Olympic games in Innsbruck by winning a blogging competition for the London 2012 Olympics. We find his story inspirational and wanted to share it, in his own words, with you…
Q: How did you hear about the BT Storytellers competition?
I have always had a great passion for the Olympics so I tend to follow a lot of people related to the games on Twitter, and one day someone posted a link to the competition, as BT is trying to make this the most socially connected games in history, I felt it was quite fitting. I applied immediately.
Q: Did the inspiration come first or were the guidelines provided by BT?
The BT Storytellers project is made of 100 film-makers, writers, photographers and bloggers; We are all tasked with telling the story of London 2012 in our own specific field, mine being through film. We are all volunteers which I am loving, as I’m meeting so many great people and I am loving getting caught up in the buzz that the Olympics is bringing to London. I have cycled all my life and feel London is really transforming during the build up to the games, and the best way to see this is by bike…and it keeps me fit too. So BT invite us Storytellers to events around the UK and I have been trying to cycle to as many of them as possible.
Q: What is the main aim of the project? Are you aiming for a particular outcome?
I hope to uncover a range of stories for 2012 – from athletes preparing for the games to the thousands of hard-working people behind the scenes. I am as interested in the inner workings of the games as hopefully the viewers of my docs will be – seeking out the unknown roles that brings the “greatest show on earth“ together, but I also enjoy meeting the more high profile people in charge, like Seb Coe or Danny Boyle for example, and finding out how they’re dealing with the pressure and getting their thoughts on London 2012. I am also constantly looking for stories of people being inspired by the games by setting personal challenges despite not being endorsed by the Olympics.
Q: What challenges does filming on a bike present and how do you overcome them?
Filming on my bike means I have had to use smaller cameras and scale down my equipment greatly. When I made the journey up to Stoke on Trent for example I only had room for my Canon 7D, a tripod and a small compact camera for the bike shots. I picked two fantastic lenses from London Camera Exchange on the Strand – a 50mm 1.8 and an 18-220mm, which provides me with a great range in a compact-portable kit. Also I haven’t got the back up of a crew, so I have to shoot a lot more than normal, to make sure I get the coverage to make an interesting film.
Q: What distance in total will you have travelled by bike at the end of this project?
I haven’t got a goal or any idea how many miles I’ve travelled so far, but would estimate its well over 200 miles of cycling.
Q: Have you done filming in this way before? If not, why did you think it was a good fit for this project?
I have never made documentaries like this before, I felt it would be a good fit because Olympics is all about inclusion and getting the nation more active – so I was inspired to use my bike as a main feature to try to inspire people to get back out on two wheels.
Q: What are some winning tips you’ve discovered during the film making process?
Good coverage is always behind a successful TwoWheelDoc and good sound recording. You can make the best looking film in the world but if the sound isn’t there to match it then the viewer will lose interest very quickly. Length of the film is also important, as my films are predominately found on Youtube I try to limit the length to ideally 3-5 minutes.
Q: What have you taken away from this project so far?
So far I have met many people that are really being lifted by the Olympics from Lee Pearson, the Paralympic dressage rider, to Gamesmakers at the interview process. People are really getting behind the games and putting their effort in 100%, whether they’ll be representing their country or showing people to their seats in venues around the UK.
Travelling to Innsrbuck to Youth Winter games allowed me to meet young Team GB athletes who have aspirations of competing at the full Olympics in the years to come, their passion and excitement was clear to see and my weekend in Austria was very inspirational.
Q: Is this a solo mission or will you have other team members to hand?
My BT Storyteller films are currently all about my personal story of the games, but I have always got my production team ready if the film demands a bigger operation. I enjoy working as a one-man-band operation but it does add a little bit of extra pressure.
Q: What has been your most inspirational moment in the process?
Definitely meeting Lee Pearson, he was such a professional and being the world’s most successful paralympian, I’d expect nothing less. When he was walking and standing he was relying heavily on his crutches but when in the saddle, him and his horse seemed to become one, and it looked so effortless. It just goes to show that if you really put your mind to something and determination then you can succeed.
Q: What has been your biggest Challenge?
Biggest challenge was definitely finding Lee Pearson’s farm about 10 miles away from Stoke city centre, stoke is a lot hillier than I expected. Ha, no seriously it was probably filming at the British Olympic Association Ball. It was my first ever proper experience of a press pit, it was frantic and busy. You had to keep your wits about you as you looked out for the celebs/athletes entering the red carpet, while you were interviewing another personality and during all that you are continually getting wrapped up by their press guys to finish the interviews. It was all good fun though.
Q: Has being involved in the story telling of the run up to the Olympics altered your perception of the games?
Being involved with the story telling hasn’t altered my perception of London 2012 greatly, as I knew there were people out there as passionate about the Olympics as myself but its been really interesting finding out how far people go for the games, and how much the athletes themselves are looking forward to competing for their country on home turf.
Q: Did you have dreams of becoming a professional athlete when you were younger? Do you remember where your love of sport began?
I have cycled all my life but never had a dream of becoming an athlete, I don’t think I’ve got the concentration to become a professional athlete, it takes a lot of mental strength to train for just one sport. I take part in triathlons, but am no where near good enough to compete professionally, I’m only out to beat my older brother.
Q: What’s the next step for you in the creative process to push your next project to another level?
I always trying to use different equipment to make the films more creatively interesting – and try to seek out interesting stories of individual challenges. I am currently researching two guys who are rowing the Atlantic, with a goal to arrive in time for the opening ceremony in July – a feat I am amazed by and hope to inteview them very soon.