This month’s member in the spotlight is filmmaker and photographer, Heather Mosher. Hailing from the Canadian Rockies, Heather grew up as a keen outdoorswoman, spending her childhood out in the wild, camping and climbing.
Today, Heather works out of the Vancouver area both directing and editing a variety of short films, documentaries and feature productions, all of which encompass the call for adventure. But what we all what to know is, where did Heather’s journey begin?
Growing up with a keen interest in art, Heather always wanted to become a photographer after getting into darkroom photography in high school. However, unsure as to how that would pan out, Heather graduated and went on to attend a teaching college in New Zealand as a backup plan.
In 2012, Heather returned to Canada from New Zealand and started to work a full-time job in the photography industry, in an attempt to forge a path in photography, her original passion. It was from here that she reached out to professional photographers seeking guidance and assistant work so she could develop her understanding of what it takes to make it in the photography world.
“If I hadn’t hurt my knee that year, I don’t think that I would be a filmmaker now.”
In 2014, shortly after Heather left her full-time job and struck out as a freelancer for the first time, disaster struck in the form of a skiing accident which left her with limited movement over the summer. While housebound and injured, a local filmmaker she had been in touch with asked if Heather wanted to help edit a wedding video for a happy couple. With nothing better to do and with little experience editing footage, Heather threw herself in at the deep end and spent that summer learning to edit videos. It was during this period that Heather’s skills evolved, and word got out that she was available to edit video. Soon, the wedding videos turned into short commercial films and by the end of that year, even a short documentary, and so, Heather’s career in filmmaking began.
In the same year of returning home from studying in New Zealand, Heather attended the legendary Banff Mountain Film Festival which played an integral role in the direction Heather’s career was to take. Planting the seed for adventure media-making, coupled with her passion for climbing, Heather recalled, “it was then that I knew the being outdoors was really important to me.”
Heather’s first big film editing break came when she was invited to work on Switchback Entertainment’s film, Kilian. This short adventure documentary follows Kilian Jornet, an extraordinary mountain runner, as he attempts to ski and climb the Seven Summits of Romsdalen - a 77km route with 9,000m of elevation gain - in a single day. Heather explains why this film was a pivotal career moment: “I really like that film, and Killian is an amazing athlete. Working on ‘Kilian’ was the start of me really realizing it was possible to make a career in adventure documentary. It was a chance for me to prove myself, and now the film has over 1-million views, which is awesome.”
The second film partnership between Switchback Entertainment and Heather was Liv Along the Way, featuring French climber Liv Sansoz. Heather recalls, “It was a really challenging process, as it was more of a true documentary edit. I was able to see the whole process unfold, and it took a lot of work to figure out how to piece the story together.” Since its premiere, Liv Along the Way has gone on to win a few big awards around the globe, including the Grand Prize at the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival, and Best Mountaineering Film at the Inkafest in Peru.
“It’s still a boy’s club - even if, as a woman, you’re welcome to join - but it’s still a boy’s club.”
Working in a mostly male-dominated industry isn’t always easy, especially when there are times that you find yourself to be the only woman on the set. Heather shares her experiences about what it’s like to be a female adventure filmmaker, working on some pretty big projects: “I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve almost always worked with good people who are supportive. I’ve found that with smaller productions, I don’t really notice it, but sometimes on bigger productions where it’s very male-dominated, there’s a different vibe on set.”
When it comes to being a woman in the media-making industry, there are often discussions about barriers and whether they exist because of the industry, or whether they’re self-imposed. Heather believes that “there can be a lot of little, subtle barriers, but I think the biggest problem is when women lack confidence. Women’s only groups can help because they create an environment where women can share their specific experiences and support and encourage each other. Being around just other women takes away any worries about not being able to keep up with men, or being judged. Groups like Shextreme Alliance provide a space where women can share their experiences, fears, and concerns without having to worry about how that’s going to be received.”
“If you see women doing things that you don’t usually see, it’s inspiring!”
Fortunately, there are many more doors opening for women in the creative media field. In Canada, there are several film grants available on the condition you have a female lead in the production team. Some organisations, like the CBC and Telus, are being proactive to encourage women into the industry by helping to break down barriers.
After attending a Shextreme meet-up at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in 2018, Heather joined Shextreme Alliance to connect with people, gain some insight from the masterclasses and to share mentorship through the community. “There aren’t a lot of female adventure filmmakers out there, because adventure documentary itself is already such a small niche. So to be able to have access to a community of other women who have similar experiences and share similar goals is really encouraging”.
Coming up in 2019, Heather has two big film projects in the making. One is a short film about how social media has impacted mountain culture in the Vancouver region, which is due to premiere at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival in late February. The second big project is a 44-min documentary for the CBC, about a mountain guide on Vancouver Island running an outdoor adventure programme for men transitioning out of homelessness. Directing and editing this project, Heather is busy editing footage in time for the national premiere on CBC in the summer.
What started with an interest in photography and a fateful knee injury one spring, Heather’s path led her into a career of adventure filmmaking. So what advice can she give aspiring creatives? “Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to get to where you think you want to go. Just make something that you think is cool. If you still want to make films, you’ll do another project after that, and then just keep going - one little step at a time.”