Mount Maunganui-based filmmaker Aaron Smart wants his trail running films to, more than anything, tell a story. In Just Keep Running, he focused more on Ruby Muir’s backstory than her undeniable running skills. It’s less about how fast she can knock off kilometres on the trails and more about what made her the woman and the runner she is today.

Smart is also the director of the “Training for an Epic” short films we will be showing at Reel Wild, which documented Mal Law’s preparation for the Partners Life High Five-0 Challenge for Mental Health, possibly the biggest feats of endurance ever attempted on New Zealand soil.

What made you decide to film a documentary about Ruby?

I first heard of Ruby, when I was working on the 2013 Tarawera Ultra Marathon doco that I co produced with Jody Arnott. We were doing a pre production meeting with Kerry Sutter and Paul Charteris,  going through the list of elite runners to feature in the doco (Not being a runner myself this was very important as I needed to know who to look out for) I was intrigued by the story of her upbringing in a remote communal community and thought that it would make a good short film

Before I contacted her with a proposal to make a film about her, I made a short film of my wife running around some cliff tops and native bush, just so Ruby could get an idea of the type of look I was going for when it came to the running sequences.

Can you talk us through the process from pre to post-production?

Once Ruby agreed to do it we worked out a time when she would be back at her family home in the Coromandel. The trip up to the Coromandel also doubled as a holiday for my family so it worked out well. I filmed Ruby over 2 days in which I interviewed her and filmed her running over the rocks and tracks around Hot Water Beach and also through the various tracks on her property. A few months later we met up again at Tongariro National Park and filmed some running sequences around the area. Later on we met up again at Ruby and Kristian’s home where we traveled to the Ruahines where we tramped in and stayed the night up in the hut. I also took my 10 year old son with me on that trip which was cool.  We filmed Ruby running in the evening and the next day across a river bed and with a go pro along the tracks. That was a cool trip and I got to know Ruby and Kristian a lot better. It’s also where it became clearer what the story was and it also became clearer I needed to do another interview. I drove up to Waihi to meet up with Ruby for one last interview and that’s the interview that was used in the final film. Post production is really where the story was revealed. I was lucky that my cousin who’s a film maker was able to give me some notes which helped with really honing in to the guts of the story.

Did you find that the film took a different direction to your initial plan?

Yes, it had lots of changes along the way. There is quite a bit of stuff that didn’t make the final cut. I was conflicted because it was interesting stuff for runners but ultimately I decided to focus on Ruby’s story of growing up with the “hippie” ideals of her father and how that conflicts with the competitive nature of elite sport.

What other films influence your style or inspire you?

My favourite film maker is PT Anderson. I love the look and feel of his films and the way he moves his camera. The goal would be to apply those cinematic techniques to my documentaries. In the terms of inspirational running films, Any film from the African Attachment. Those guys are in a field of there own.

Do you run? What is your favourite running memory?

I started doing a bit more running around the time I was making JKR a highlight being that I entered in the t42 (10km) and came first in my age group.

What can people expect from your film?

I’ve been told that it’s a philosophical film. So even though it’s called Just Keep Running and features running sequences it’s more about the struggle of integrating competitive sport with life.

We’ll also be showing your “Training for an Epic” shorts with Mal Law. Do you have a favourite out of those?

I guess my favourite is the first one where Mal is rocking the poles. We were able to capture some awesome shots of ridge running and using the drone to its full potential. 

What’s next for you in terms of filmmaking?

In April I start filming my follow up (of sorts) to “Just Keep Running” which will be about NZ Olympian white water kayaker Luuka Jones and document her build up to the 2016 Olympics.

Just Keep Running, directed by Aaron Smart and featuring New Zealand ultrarunner Ruby Muir, will be screening at Reel Wild on April 18. Aaron will be present at the event to watch his own film surrounded by other people (which we’re sure won’t be awkward at all, right Aaron?) and discussing it with us all.