The founder of Broon Coo Films, Katrina Brown is our first Shextreme Alliance Member in the Spotlight. Joining our empowering community on the day we launched in October 2018, Katrina is a filmmaker, adventurer and mother of two, so we find out a little more about her projects, achievements and what’s next for the Scottish media maker.
A passion for filmmaking stemmed from Katrina’s ethnographic work as a social scientist. Using cameras in an attempt to understand aspects of human behaviour by filming various practises, Katrina also collaborated on a film which explored issues between different groups of stakeholders titled, “Grazing on the Edge”. Katrina explains, “I’m always struck by the power of film to keep movement in the body, the environment, empathy and other emotions central to our quest as researchers.”
“It didn’t take long before I wanted to make films to tell the adventure stories I thought needed to be out there. I always had a hunger to see more women in adventure films, and I remember, for a while, it would be notable if a mountain film festival had even one movie with women in it!” - Katrina Brown
The happy marriage of adventure and filmmaking resulted in Katrina’s first film airing at the Kendal Film Festival in 2008. Katrina explains, “My friend and I had never touched a ‘proper’ camera until the week before when we did the Kendal Mountain Festival Film Academy and 48-hour Film Marathon. The learning curve was steep, but we were surrounded by top industry professionals giving us the confidence and skills we needed”.
Since her debut at the Kendal Film Festival, Katrina has created many more insightful films with her most significant achievements to date being, “Riding Through the Dark”; a film about the relationship between cycling and mental health, and “Woman Up”, a 3-min film about how big the cultural barriers women were facing in sports and mountain bike participation. Both of these films were selected for festivals in the UK and Europe, picking up prestigious awards along the way.
Motherhood vs. Adventure or Motherhood = Adventure?
So what’s next on the cards for Katrina Brown and Broon Coo Films? Having noticed a lack of content that speaks to the common quandary of how one can pursue parenthood while retaining their desires for adventure, Katrina set out to develop a film which investigates the transition that takes place when becoming a mother and its impact on adventurous lifestyles.
The film follows female professional cyclists who navigate the transition to motherhood and the challenge it presents to their bodies, identities and the ability to get outside and find their flow. It draws on Katrina’s account of trying to balance motherhood and mountain biking during pregnancy and babyhood, with the experiences of three athletes who have recently become mothers: Tracy Moseley, Harriet Pike, and Paula Regener.
“As a former elite mountain bike racer and lifelong lover of being in mountains, when I first became a mother I struggled to adjust to the very different set of mental and physical pressures having a baby presented… then I realised I wasn’t the only one who had to work through a bubbling mass of mixed feelings to redefine the role of outdoor adventure in their lives.” - Katrina Brown
Katrina aims to show that adventures don’t have to stop when someone becomes a parent and that she hopes people who watch this film will be inspired that the outdoors can still play a big part in their lives while remaining realistic about how hard this can be as a parent. It also poses the question, is motherhood a new kind of adventure?
Challenges and Barriers
Many women who work or play in a mostly male-dominated industry discuss challenges that they themselves and others may face when attempting to break into the scene. Katrina shares one difficulty that she has overcome as an adventure filmmaker, “having two kids has made my filmmaking much slower going due to the time and energy they take up. However, the way they have helped me slow down and notice the world differently has helped the way I see the world and use a camera as a technique of attention.”
With a poor representation of women in adventure and media making roles, there’s a widely debated topic surrounding the existence of gender barriers when it comes to filmmaking, “It was the lack of seeing women’s experiences on the screen that drove me to start making adventure films... However, the adventure filmmaking world is still part of the wider outdoor adventure world which is still dominated by masculine values and marketing, and it can be hard to feel truly at home when you don’t have many, if any, female role-models”.
It’s essential to showcase women in creative positions, on the screen and behind the camera so that they serve as a role-model to budding female media-makers. Seeing people succeed in these roles is empowering, reassuring and positive, something Shextreme is dedicated to promoting and encouraging.
Shextreme Alliance endeavours to help level out the gender and diversity playing field in adventure filmmaking by offering support and training to aspiring female adventure media-makers. Katrina expresses what being a member of Shextreme Alliance means to her, “initiatives like Shextreme Alliance can be an important source of inspiration needed for female filmmakers to grow and occupy more space in the filmmaking world, ultimately to the point where the pay, opportunities, representation and clout have parity between men and women. Such initiatives can help more women to gain skills but also support the women who are already crushing it to be more recognised and able to shout about their abilities and achievements.”
“Joining Shextreme Alliance feels like joining a virtual team - one that provides a super-positive, supportive space for sharing inspiration, ideas and skills.” - Katrina Brown
Like all members of Shextreme Alliance, Katrina benefits from the support of an empowering women’s community; “It feels like an exciting place where we can play to our strengths and share what we can with others, regarding knowledge and experiences. We can also garner new skills and insights in our weaker areas, and – crucially – feel OK with the vulnerability that comes with admitting weakness, and asking ‘daft questions’ ... I also really enjoy the access to the free film every month – it forces me to sit down and enjoy others’ work for a while!”