When it comes to deciding which project should be the first to feature on the Power 10 Films website, which better than the one that kicked it all off? There is and never will be any project that has made a bigger impact on me than this documentary. It had been a dream, an idea for so long and then one day in 2013, I emailed a few prospective athletes and that started the long process of creating Trials: Finding the Medal.
There’s a lot that can be talked about when it comes to this film. It was 9 months of filming but years in from start to finish. I learned that when it comes to filming a documentary, you should really be in love with the subject matter, the people and the story because it will become your life. And it did.
Initially the plan was to show 3-4 people trying to make the U.S. National Rowing Team within the para-rowing catagories, and I was trying to find people who had never made the team before. At first I contacted Margaret Stran, she had narrowly missed the team the year before, and Patrick Johnson, a coach with a long history of successful rowers in D.C. Patrick told me about Dan Ahr and how he was expecting his first child and with that news, I decided to alter my original plan.
As part of telling the story of para-rowing, I wanted to showcase the various categories, so i began looking for someone in the TA or LTA categories. I was also wanting to showcase the beauty of rowing across the US. Andrew had been rowing at my former boathouse in OKC and after a recommendation from a common friend, I contacted him, excited for the prospect of returning to Oklahoma. I soon learned that he was moving to Boston, which although sad for my familiarity with OKC, was great for telling the story of para-rowing as Community Rowing in Boston has always been a hub of advancement in the sport.
It wasn’t until actually 3 months into filming that I was able to secure the ability to film Josh. He had been active duty in the Marines and although I spent a long time trying, the military is not easy to gain access to as an independent film. So once he was officially retired, we began filming. In Trials, you’ll notice that we introduced Margaret and Dan, and then later Andrew and Josh. This was for 2 reasons. 1) It was being shown chronilogically and we didn’t start filming with Josh until late, so rather than create time confusion, we held off on introducing him. and 2) We decided that introducing all 4 athletes initially reduced the memorability of their initial stories, so we opted to introduce 2, expand their storyline, and then introduce 2 more. Either a reason or just a justification, we feel like it did make a difference when it came to creating an impact throughout the opening act.
The people in the film is what makes this film so great and so memorable. The progress of the season would have been similar regardless of who was featured, but these 4 individuals put so much into opening their lives, spending time reflecting on every decision they made and being committed to the promise they made to me a year prior. We didn’t know who would win or who would lose but knew that the story that needed to be told was about the process and the impact that has on people.
Once the film was completed, and we finished a long editing process, the film ultimately screened in 13 cities across the US. It was in 6 film festivals, won Best Documentary and Most Inspiring Film. It was used as a teaching tool at various universities and as a source of fundraising for several boat clubs across the country. The feedback we received was great and it meant a lot to not only create the film I had longed to make for so long, but to create something that made a positive impact for rowing and for people with disabilities. It was the first film but not the last.