Have you ever dreamed of having your name in lights or in a raving review? You're not alone.
Recently while reading the book, The Tom Hanks Enigma by David Gardner, I vicariously learned just what the experience of 'name in lights' recognition must be like and in the process also just how amazing Tom Hanks is as an actor. Like him or hate him, Tom has held a success streak for more than 20 years of achieving at least one major box office hit of over $100+ million dollars each consecutive year. That's a lot of years to have your name in lights. For the rest of us, however, aside from the occasional highlight we remain with singular achievements that most likely mark chapters in life. Today, it's more often a post on social media that got an abnormally high level of likes. Or a singular sport like running a marathon, participating in a triathlon or competing in a highly competitive obstacle course that signifies that sense of achievement. Then shortly after we go back to the day-to-day of life that is poorly connected to the experience itself. For me, in my attempts to see my name in lights, I worked to complete 4 documentaries in the past 15 years that have acted much like those solo achievements by all of us, which are connected by the common thread of returning to the day-to-day shortly afterward. While these milestones have been merely a blip in comparison to the great films of Tom Hanks and others. They have meant a lot to me, kind of like my opus to Mr. Holland (a movie that always made me cry). With all this craziness top of mind, I thought it might be fun to offer some escape to you and revisit a little of the timeline of my life work. Below are my 4 documentaries and some insight into what was happening in life around them. I hope you find time to enjoy one or two and share it with others.
#1: Profiling HURT: An Ultra Runner's Journey to Hawaii's HURT 100 (2005)
I set out to do this film in 2005 while working on shows for NatGeo and Animal Planet in San Francisco. It was also shortly after I had returned from my sailing trip and capturing the film, Reaching Reality. Frustrated by the edit of Reaching Reality, which would go uncompleted for 15 years, I went off to Hawaii with friend Mark Gilligan (founder/owner of UltraSignUp) and his plans to complete the HURT 100 for a second time.
Ironically, after completing this film I left the project untouched for nearly 3 years before completing it in Italy after having moved there to be with my now wife. That decision and arguably the reason the sailing film didn't get publish was fear of failure. The inspiration and courage to do so came after watching two brothers (Giorgio and Marco Priori) complete a small documentary they had filmed in Alaska called, The Last Rush. Their courage to screen it before an audience was a light that shines on the darkness of my own fears of failure. I realized I needed to complete the project and I finished it shortly after. From there my first film went on to screen at the Arizona International Film Festival and win the Honolulu Film Awards in 2011.
*Footnote: Giorgio, Marco and I collaborated on a film called, The Violin Ghetto with there production company NextSun Productions. It was shot in Cremona, Italy. After a year of production, no funding could be secured and other than this teaser it was never completed. #2 Ultra High: Running at 18,000 Feet (2011)
If you have been following my work over the years you might be thinking to yourself that this film, Ultra High, was released nearly 2 years after the release of The High, so what gives on making it #2 in the list? Ironically this film was shot in 2011 and during that period I discovered a far more compelling story in The High. So while all this footage sat in a hard drive for another day, I created a fundraiser campaign on Kickstarter that collected $6000 (from some of you) and set off to return to the Himalayas of Northern India in 2012 to capture what is now, The High.
It is worth noting that I suffered from a certain amount of pulmonary-edema while sleeping at 14,000 feet near the finish line of the race to film the runners coming in. Upon my return to Italy, where I was living at the time, I was diagnosed with pneumonia after spending an additional 10-days on a honeymoon trip in India with my wife. It was painful and I still have scare tissue and suffer from asthma in my lungs today (I share in-depth the struggles of making both films in my behind-the-scenes doc called, The Making of The High).
*Ultra High went on to screen in the Ultra Film Festival and Buenos Aires Running Film Festival respectively.