A new film called “Desire Lines” follows world-record highliner Mia Noblet as she returns to her hometown of Nelson, British Columbia to pioneer new highlines at her local ski resort.
For Mia Noblet, coming home is a progression not a regression. We’ve featured the world-record highliner, who hails from Nelson, British Columbia, on this site and in Kootenay Mountain Culture Magazine before but this is the first time we’re showing the trailer of a documentary about her. “Desire Lines” is filmed by fellow Nelsonite Ryan Flett and it features stunning footage of Noblet highlining at Whitewater Ski Resort, the ski hill she frequented while growing up. For those not in the know, highlining is a sport in which participants string five-centimetre-wide tubular webbing between two elevated points, attach themselves to it with safety harnesses, and walk its length without the help of a balance pole.
The film is premiering at the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival and virtual screenings will take place November 12 to December 12. The full online release will be December 14. We caught up with Ryan, who’s a professional outdoor photographer and filmmaker to ask how this film came together. Below is the interview.
Hey Ryan, congrats on completing “Desire Lines.” What was the hardest part about the filming?
We were hoping to finish production by April 2020 but the pandemic had a different idea. It was actually a blessing in disguise because it gave us another season to be able to round out the story of Mia and her family. We had to manage the restrictions of Covid but due to the fact we were filming outdoors, it was easier to manage.
What was the best part of the process?
Getting to see the Noblet family and friends playing and doing incredible feats was quite special. This group of people, who have known each other all their lives, were all in to support Mia. There was always such a great sense of camaraderie, support and safety mixed in with a lot of fun. We all wanted to support Mia’s vision and the group made that possible.
Who was the crew involved in rigging and shooting?
In total we probably had 50 people help with rigging, shooting, and carrying gear. Myself and cinematographer Bohdan Doval shot most of the footage with Mia’s brother, Douglas, providing some of the amazing drone footage. The rigging crew was the most essential from a safety standpoint. Mia relied mainly on Douglas and Chandrima and Denis Lavoie who have extensive rope training (they are all members of the local Search and Rescue.)
Did you have to get permission for any of these shots, such as from Whitewater?
Whitewater has supported us from our first highline and we kept in communication with them for the whole project. All of the highlines were located outside the resort’s boundaries but we kept management and patrol aware of our plans. Douglas Noblet was a patroller at Whitewater for years so we kept a safety plan up to date with them. We also got approval to film Mia and her brother Elijah working at the resort.
How many hours of video did you shoot and how long did the project take from idea to final edit?
That is hard to say. I know we have tons. Maybe a better example is that we filmed on 20 different days. All the footage can be a blessing or a curse. It can really help frame the story or be a time suck. As for editing, we spent a couple months in post-production. We spent more time crafting the story because I wanted it to have more heart than a typical winter sport film. We made sure to have the personalities of Mia and her siblings guide the film.
Have you ever tried highlining?
I have not stood up on a highline but I was coerced to zipline to the middle of the Half Dome highline, which is about 300 metres long and is located at around 2,500 metres. It was at the end of two days filming where temperatures hovered at -20°C and the winds were howling. It is such a spectacular place so I had to do it. When would I get that chance again? I was almost not able to pull myself back up the line. It made me have another level of respect for what Mia does.