‘Speed of Sound’ is a portrait of self-professed adrenaline junkie, Carina Edlinger. But the film is a lot more than a profile of an athlete. Carina is a uniquely fascinating person. The Austrian visually impaired Paralympic cross-country skier made her Paralympic debut during the 2018 Winter Paralympics just at the age of 19 and claimed her first Paralympic medal in the women's 7.5km classic cross-country skiing event. At the 2022 Winter Paralympics and won a gold medal in the 1.5km sprint and a bronze medal in the 10km free event. With only 1.5% vision she speeds downhill at 80km/h.
It’s easy to see why Carina was a good candidate for The Listening Pitch 2022, which director Jade Ang Jackman won with the concept for this film. As part of The Aesthetica Short Film Festival, with Audible, the competition invited filmmakers to submit proposals for a short documentary on the importance of sound. The aim was to understand how sound shapes the world around us – especially as many of us are returning to it with new ears after living through a pandemic for the past two years. The Listening Pitch was looking for bold stories that demonstrate how listening is more than just hearing. To fully appreciate ‘Speed of Sound’, you need to listen intently.
‘Speed of Sound’ premiered at The Aesthetica Film Festival 2022 earlier this month. LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Jade to talk about her decisions behind her striking film.
LBB> How did you first become aware of Carina and what were your thoughts?
Jade> After watching a feature documentary on the Paralympics called Rising Phoenix, I started watching multisport events more regularly and educating myself on the athletes out there. As with the rise of women’s football and boxing, it’s viewers duty to diversify what they're looking at too! So, I read the coverage of Beijing’s Winter Olympics which is how I first heard about Carina.
LBB> When did the idea for the film first come to you?
Jade> I actually have a little black book of ideas that pop into my head - some of which will definitely never leave my notes haha. For a while, I’d been interested in collaborating with someone who had a very different sonic experience of the world to me. Sound can be such an under appreciated part of the filmmaking process and how we experience our world in general. Around the same time, I saw the Aesthetica and Audible ‘Listening Pitch’, who gave me a grant towards the film, which is when the concept of Speed of Sound took shape.
LBB> What was your vision for what you wanted to convey at first?
Jade> Carina goes 80km/h on her skis at 1.5% vision so I wanted to show how much she loves going fast… In her own words, she’s an adrenaline girl! Due to the specific outlook of the Aesthetica and Audible ‘Listening Pitch’, I started to think about what speed sounds like and what the experience of that noise must be like for Carina. As a visually impaired athlete who competes outside, hearing the elements gives her such an original view of the world and that is what I wanted to be our starting point.
LBB> Did that change as you got to know Carina? You never know what someone is going to say in an interview, so did her thoughts and perspectives change what you depicted in the film?
Jade> We’d spoken about her sonic experience and done an interview before shooting. It meant that when we were filming we knew what visuals to shoot to capture her movement. But, I think what surprised me was Carina telling me about the lack of visibility in Austria. For instance, her gold medal winning race wasn’t shown on TV in her country. With documentary projects, I do like to be very clear with my collaborators what my style, aesthetic and take is before starting to make sure that they are down with it and we’re on the same page.
LBB> Because sound is so important to her as an athlete, it feels natural that sound in the film is drawn attention to. What were your thoughts on what you wanted to achieve on the audio side and what were the key decisions there?
Jade> Carina had commented that you can tell if someone is a good skier through the sound of their movement through the snow so we couldn’t record anyone else and fake it! We flew out the talented sound designer, Rob, (who had also been my kickboxing coach!) We’d spoken about sound and sport quite a bit - he also did the sound design for another film of mine, ‘More than Movement’, with the Gay Times and Channel 4 about boxing and the LGBT+ community. He came out to film in Oberhof with us and he was literally running behind her as well as strapping several microphones to various areas of her body. It was amazing to watch!
LBB> What was the biggest challenge making the film and how did you overcome it?
Jade> I had thought the biggest challenge would be shooting skiing in August as our film needed to be ready for or getting our crew to a rural part of Germany. Whilst there were no issues with shooting, we wanted to be extra conscious of Carina’s needs whilst filming. Oh and we did actually lose a drone operator to covid two days before the shoot but managed to hire Alex, from UpUp Berlin, at the last minute which was a blessing!
LBB> What aspect of or moment in the film are you most satisfied with?
Jade> Whilst Carina is visually impaired, she is also a trauma survivor and her eyesight has worsened because of what happened to her. When we were shooting, she said she was experiencing the best vision of her life. Knowing that we’d created such a trusting environment for our collaboration was really meaningful to me. From a production perspective, we wanted to have really descriptive sound design so the film was accessible to other visually impaired members of the audience.
LBB> How has the reaction been? Have people received the film as you'd expected or have there been surprises?
Jade> We had a private screening in London and I arranged a panel discussion about moving beyond representation in women’s sports. One of the panellists, Julie Ming-Jue Rodgers, is double paralympic sprinter and athlete. She commented on the styling choices and the general aesthetic of the film. Namely, how we focussed on Carina’s unique skills and elevated clothing choices made. My regular collaborator, Mia Maxwell, is queer as well as being neurodiverse and both of us in our own ways feel passionate about creating spaces where everyone feels excited by their wardrobe. We’d spoken at length about how we wanted Carina’s looks to be standout. So, I was really happy that it was picked up on and resonated with people.