Rockall - The Edge of Existence
Produced by Academy award-winning Slick Films and WILD Studio, Edge of Existence is a short documentary about the most remote island in the UK, Rockall, and the tiny selection of people who’ve attempted to survive there. We follow an ex-Navy adventurer as he makes the 16-hour boat expedition to the rock, to question why we risk our lives for arbitrary accolades and adventure?
Rockall - The Edge of Existence
In June of 2022, Navy veteran Cam Cameron, along with his expedition team and our film crew, will be traveling the 16-hour boat trip to the UK’s most remote islet Rockall, where he hopes to survive on the granite surface for one week to raise £1,000,000 for charity.
An expedition of this scale has only happened four times in human history. In fact, there have been more people on the surface of the moon than those who have slept on Rockall.
The first recorded stay on Rockall was in 1985, with SAS veteran Tom McClean, surviving a mammoth 40 days on the inhospitable rock. With the sea crashing over him, and just a small plywood box to protect him from the elements, it’s not too difficult to imagine the fear such an expedition would stir.
As well as following Cam on his preparations and journey to Rockall, we speak with Tom McClean, now 80 years old, as well as the occupying world record holder (46 days), Nick Hancock, to reflect on their time with Rockall and discover why we yearn for this kind of adventure.
“Of all creatures that breathe and move upon the earth, nothing is bred that is weaker than man.” ― Homer, The Odyssey
I’ve fallen in love with a rock that I’ve never met, who lives in the middle of the Atlantic ocean. And I can’t explain why.
The idea of this project initially started as research into isolation, following the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020. Since then, the film has deepened into something so much larger than I could have imagined.
It feels very fortuitous to have embarked on this documentary at the exact moment that another adventurer plans to travel to Rockall, something that happens once in a decade. This is why I’m so curious to travel with their team, to the edge of existence, to understand why we yearn for adventure.
After leaving the SAS in 1969 to become the first man to row across the Atlantic Ocean solo, Tom decided he wanted to be the first man to live on Rockall, to affirm the UK’s sovereignty of the island.
With the backing from his peers in the Special Forces, Tom attempted the challenge in 1985 and against all odds, succeeded, becoming the first man to live on Rockall, for a duration of 40 days and 40 nights.
In 2014, Nick attempted to break Tom McClean’s occupation record on the rock. The unpredictable weather on the rock, 300 miles from Scotland, meant that Nick had to visit on three separate occasions before managing to land.
Intending to stay for a mammoth 60 days, Nick had to cut his trip short as a storm hit the rock, washing away most of his supplies and damaging his survival pod.
In June 2022, Cam Cameron, along with two fellow adventurers, James and Chris, will be attempting to survive on Rockall for 7 days, with the aim to raise £1,000,000 for a number of charities. In the months before their trip, we will be filming them as they prepare for the expedition, as well as joining them on the two-week voyage to Rockall, documenting their every hardship and victory.
Throughout the documentary, we will shoot each scene with a Direct Cinema stylisation, intervening as little as possible, once setting up the initial prompt for their action. In shooting with one camera, takes will be long, handheld and seemingly uncouth, allowing the beauty of the environment to naturally guide the framing of shots.
These scenes will be complemented with a range of interviews, both informally, on-location, and set up as more traditional interviews.
In 725 BC, the first written version of ‘The Odyssey’ was inscribed in clay, beginning the succession of fables, poems, and stories that ensued, telling tales of epic oceanic adventures and lessons taught by the gods of the time.
Nearly 3,000 years later, it’s easy to see how morality has become muddied by complex life. Now, more than ever, we need to be reminded of our origins, that we are not omnipotent gods, but merely side-effects of the chaos of the world.
The power of the entire Atlantic ocean compared to one person seems to surely be one of godly scale and is as close as we can be to living the real-life tale of The Odyssey.
The adventures of Rockall appear to be a modern-day fable, with humble adventurers traveling out into the treachery of the oceanic wilderness to face their inner demons as well as survive the brutality of the ocean. Alone, facing oblivion and indifference simultaneously.
Surely at that point, one can truly understand what it means to be a human.
Due to the length of the expedition to Rockall itself, much of the budget will go towards kit hire, crew and food over the three-week trip in June. As well as ensuring we’re as safe as possible whenever shooting on or near the rock.
Director - Aaron Wheeler
In 2019, his first film was screened at Cannes Film Festival, after winning the Nespresso Talents UK award for his short film ‘Better Together.’
Following this, he has directed several short films and documentaries, collaborating with brands such as Liverpool FC, John Smeadley and Disney with published work in The Telegraph, Complex and The Evening Standard.
His most recent short film, Ryderz, was an Official Selection for the London International Film Festival, London Lift-Off Film Festival and INDIs of 2021.
Director of Photography - Bryn Howard Williams
Bryn Howard Williams is a Director of Photography working across an array of music video, narrative, and non-fiction films. After graduating from the University of Leeds with a degree in Cinema and Photography, he worked with Slick Films on an array of films.
Bryn has worked with Aaron on several short films and music videos. Their latest collaboration, Ryderz, is currently in its festival fun, having already screened at the London Independent Film Festival and the INDIs festival 2021.
Producer - Ed Emsley
His recent documentary, “Being Black at Cambridge,” was recently nominated for a Royal Television Society Award.
Ed gained his extensive experience in producing films for The BBC, the Guardian, and The Telegraph. He has worked in UK production companies as both a film director and producer across a range of projects for noticeable brands including Boeing, Microsoft, John Lewis, Audi, and NatWest.
Executive Producer - Ash Horne
Ash Horne is the Creative Director at the Academy Award® winning Slick Films.
Kick-starting his career with two seasons of the musical comedy sitcom ‘The Midnight Beast’ on E4, produced by Warp Films.
From shooting lo-fi hip-hop music videos on a dime, Ash has gone on to collaborate with the likes of Ice Cube, Selena Gomez, Bobby Lee, Dodie Clark and Kevin Hart.
His most recent short film ‘PLEASE CARE!’ directed by Bertie Gilbert & starring Hugh Skinner, premiered at the BAFTA-qualifying Norwich Film Festival and went on to win ‘Best British Director’ at the British Short Film Awards 2021.
Over the past two years, this project has become a very big part of who I am and a story I passionately want to tell. When I first spoke with Nick Hancock, he said Rockall was like a sinkhole of history, dreams and adventures that you fall into and I have been no exception to that.
Cam’s expedition to Rockall in June is the perfect backbone to tell this story so I can’t wait to travel with him, along with our awesome team, to find out how it feels to be on the edge of existence.