Sandra Cook

Producer and Director

Sandra Cook

Sandra’s mission in life is to have adventures with meaning. Her favourite saying is “How can I make this work?”. She was attracted to this story because it had it all the key ingredients – tragedy, triumph and a love story. The idea of going into the outback and visiting isolated parts of Australia appealed to her sense of adventure.

Sandra began working in the film industry after several years exploring developing countries. After a stint of hitchhiking on yachts, Sandra ended up in Mexico on the user-end of an underwater camera. This experience inspired her to go back to Australia and study the craft of filmmaking in her hometown of Adelaide. 

Since then, Sandra has worked on the feature documentaries The Burning Season (2008, in Borneo), Show Me the Magic (2012, in New Zealand), and Two Degrees (Upcoming, in Papua New Guinea) as well as freelancing in film & TV camera departments. Sandra has also produced custom content for Discovery Channel (USA) and Tourism Australia.

In 2010, Sandra created a multi-platform documentary project for people affected by road trauma called Journey Beyond Road Trauma (www.journeybeyondroadtrauma.org). This online community allows people to connect with others, tell their story, and campaign for road safety and positive change. 

When she's not on location (and sometimes, when she is) Sandra enjoys being underwater, thinking about traveling, and watching movies with happy endings.

Director’s Statement by Sandra Cook

When Jim Cairns (Executive Producer and one of the main characters in The Ride) asked me to make a film about the expedition, I was instantly drawn to the project. I was intrigued and inspired by the concept of four ‘broken’ men making such an ambitious trek to confront their past. I felt the story had many dynamic and exciting elements – heartbreaking stories of loss, a cautionary tale, and extreme adventure travel... all against a backdrop of survival and resilience. The fact that one of the characters was getting married along the way meant that it would be a love story too! 

The timeframe was incredibly tight, with just two weeks to pull together a crew together and go. I had just finished my previous project and was in Northern NSW for a well-earned vacation. My vacation turned into pre-production and I interviewed the four main characters and their wives over the phone. When I asked Eileen - Craig, the quadriplegic’s wife - to describe him, the first word she said was ‘sporty’. Call me naïve, but I couldn’t grasp how someone confined to a wheelchair with limited arm movement could be described as ‘sporty’. I was hooked; I wanted to learn more. I knew I had to make the journey to Perth and find out what these men were all about.

The Ride is a road movie unlike any other: it’s a “boy’s own adventure”, a turbocharged travel story, and an intensely personal cathartic journey reflecting on the past. Through the characters’ confessions, we delve into their darker days, and relive what it was like to become disabled. We also explore the other consequences surrounding it, such as sex, finding a life partner, and dealing with catheters. The audience is given an insight into their worlds and the film breaks down the barrier between able bods and those with disabilities.

The men are honest, open and vulnerable, whilst also being bold, funny, and profound. Above all, they are determined to show that despite the impact their accidents, they are not defined by their disability but by their enormous strength of character. 

The Ride takes place in some of Australia’s harshest yet most visually stunning locations. We made our way through rarely-travelled parts of the country, initially with a crew of two; myself and Conan (camera). We worked 24/7 in a complex, challenging and ever-changing environment. Our biggest challenges turned out to be keeping up with the men – the trip was fast , furious and relentless. Recording sound without a sound recordist is a complete nightmare when you have four characters, helmets, and the constant background noise of bike engines. We also had to deal with delicate laptops, cameras and hard drives in a technologically unfriendly environment where dust is unforgiving and everywhere.

The very real threat of danger from the Australian environment created the perfect piece of third act drama: who could have imagined the Simpson Desert would flood and threaten to prevent our gang from reaching the final, climactic crash site?

Refusing to be broken by insurmountable odds, the heroes of The Ride ultimately offered the most inspiring of adventure tales as they strove to make peace with the tragedies that forever changed their lives.

  • AGAINST THE GRAIN PRESENTS, THE RIDE, A FILM BY SANDRA COOK - CRAIG PARSONS, JIM CAIRNS, ANTON ZAPPELLI, TERRY MADER - CINEMATOGRAPHY BY CONAN FITZPATRICK, SOUND RECORDIST ROB STANKOVICH, EDITED BY TIM WOODHOUSE - OFFLINE EDITOR ELENDIL ARCHER, ONLINE EDITOR ERFAN KHADEM, MUSIC BY ROBERT CLARK, SOUND DESIGNER JOHN BRIDGES - ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS SCOTT BRYAN & MARCEL PETRIG & SCOTT LANE & IAN GREEN - TITLES & GRAPHICS BY HACKETT FILMS, EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS JIM CAIRNS & SUSAN MACKINNON - DIRECTED BY SANDRA COOK, PRODUCED BY SANDRA COOK