Running Movies: What initiated you to make a film that followed four people in competing in a marathon competition?
Steve Alpert: At that time I was working as a film editor at WCBS-TV News in New York. I was 27 years old and felt stuck in the job. I knew I wanted to be a producer and had to have a film to show as a resumé piece. I had just completed running the Yonkers Marathon in April, 1978 and I felt that the marathon experience would be a terrific subject for a film.
RM: Were there other films that influenced how you chose to make Marathon Fever?
SA: No, just my own personal marathon training and race experience which was life altering at that time in my life. It gave me tremendous belief in myself and in what I could create if I was willing to do the work.
RM: Where did Marathon Fever film fit into your career as a filmmaker?
SA: It was the film that launched my producing career. It got picked up by Home Box Office, and USA Network, both fledgling cable networks. Marathon Fever also won numerous film festival awards here in the states and internationally. It sold well as a non-theatrical film for many years. As a resumé piece it got me work for years and years. It landed me a producing job at WNBC-TV News in New York. It really was the lynchpin of the early part of my work life.
RM: The stories you share are very personal. Have you maintained contact with the principle runners in your film?
SA: I did maintain contact with most of them for many years after. But time moved on and my Marathon Fever relationships began to fade with the calendar.
A year ago I showed the film in a class at the School for Visual Arts in New York City, and I came home after the class and called Sam DiFrancesco, this is after twenty-five years had passed since completing the film, and after I told Sam who I was, without missing a beat he said, "You're not gonna get me to run another one of those f---- marathons!" Subsequent to you calling about marketing the film again I did contact Jennifer Amyx who was just ten at that time. We emailed a few times just after that.
I have mixed feelings about contacting anyone else in the film because I want to remember them as they were, vibrant, healthy and full of enthusiasm. I became quite close to all of them during the year of making the film. I've made many films over the years but few of them as personal as, Marathon Fever. You know, writing this is actually making me think about contacting Christine and Joe Thompson, who I have not spoken to in at least twenty years. Last I saw them was at the 1979 Boston Marathon that I ran with Christine. You know, maybe I will give a call!
RM: As you watch your film today, over 25 years after it's making, is there a message that you personally walk away with?
SA: Yes, and it is the same message I understood as I crossed the finish line at the 1978 Yonkers Marathon in a freezing rain, there isn’t anything I can’t accomplish in my life as long as I am willing to pay the price. This is a universal truth and it continues to guide me through my life.
I am now a happily married man (got married at 42) and accomplished oil painter because of what I learned on that day I crossed that first finish line. I have worked very hard to create this new career for myself, visit my website www.stevealpertart.com, (a little shameless self-promotion, thank you), and even completed my fourth marathon, the Jersey Shore, nice and flat, in April, 2000. I think it is my last, although in the back of my mind there is that little voice saying, "one more, one more." I am not listening to that little voice right now -- the training demands are not what I am willing to spend my time on now, but you never know.
RM: Your film was unavailable for many years. What sparked your interest in returning it to public access and how can people obtain your film today?
SA: Actually, it was you Mark, who conjured up this little revival. Thank you for that. People can get the film by sending me an email at sapix(at)earthlink(dot)net.
RM: Thanks for taking the time in answering my questions, Steve. Is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers at RunningMovies.com?
SA: I appreciate the opportunity to have the film available again. The marathon experience is very profound and life altering for many people. It is not something you decide to do capriciously. There are deep seated motivations for wanting to drive yourself beyond to do what you think you can do. The training is arduous and demands a quality of commitment that many have never experienced. And crossing the finish line? That lives with you forever.
When I completed my last marathon, my goal was to cross the finish line with no pain or discomfort, and to help at least one person. It was a warm day which does not agree with my body, long distance running and heat, and I walked where I had to, I wanted to enjoy the day not kill myself. I crossed the finish line a little after five hours which I am still somewhat embarrassed about since I know I was way undertrained, but I was smiling and happy and my wife and friends were waiting there for me. A far cry from that freezing solo journey in Yonkers twenty years earlier.
At mile 19 I came alongside a man in his 60’s who was faltering. He wanted to quit. He told me he had been sick for the week before but his wife said he should run anyway. I told him it was alright to walk, and I gave him water and a few packets of Goo and encouraged him to get to the finish line any way he could. I told him he could do it. He did. He finished way ahead of me which gave me a chuckle.
The marathon experience gave me so much, and I hope that all those feelings are in Marathon Fever. Thank you for making me reflect on the rich experience the making of Marathon Fever truly was.
Running Movies: Congratulations on your recent completion of Kicking Bird. How was this movie funded?
Kelley Baker: This movie was funded in kind of a unique way. In December of 2002 I mailed out 100 letters to 100 friends and acquaintances asking each person for $100. I figured if I could put $10,000 together I could make a movie. 49 people responded and I raised over $5000, so I figured what the hell, and I decided to shoot the movie on that money and hope that I could raise the money to finish the movie after I shot it. I called these people "49 People Who Should Know Better By Now". All I promised was that they would all get really nice seats at the Premiere. So I own the entire movie, these people just pre paid for their seats. I ended up putting some of my own money in and that’s how I made the movie for around $6000 cash. That certainly doesn’t count all of the hours myself, or the cast and crew put in to this movie. I also had lots of people donate a lot of services, and other things. I haven’t sat down to think about how much this should have cost, it would probably scare me when I see the extent of all of the donations of time and services.
RM: What are your plans for its release now that it completed?
KB: At this point in time I’m self distributing it. I have spent the last two years touring the country with my other movies and getting good sized audiences. So I’m going to tour with this one as well. I tell people that when I tour, I'm kind of like a punk band on the road, only there's no band and no music.
RM: Publicity and distribution seem to be a difficult issue for independent film makers such as yourself. How are you addressing this issue?
KB: In the past I’ve tried getting larger distributors interested in my films and what has happened to me in the past is that you set up these screenings in New York and LA and some people show up, lots don’t, and some distributors ask you to submit your film to them so they can consider it, and then they sit on it for months. So by the time you finish the movie and take it around to the various distributors and try to get it in to film festivals, which is a lot harder than people think, you’ve been trying to get a deal for a year and you’re totally burned out. You start losing confidence in your film and this whole thing has been such a struggle that you end up not doing anything with it. For me, I’ve done that with my other films, and then after a year I started self distributing but then I felt like I had lost a lot of momentum. With this movie I’m self distributing it from the start. I’ll take it out on tour with me. Kicking Bird will be available for purchase at my shows, and on the web, at www.angryfilmmaker.com. If a big distributor becomes interested, we’ll see what happens, until then, I’m doing this myself. As far as publicity, since we have no budget, I’m circulating press stuff as cheaply as possible and relying on word of mouth. The touring is a big part of it though. I think I’m getting an audience for my work one screening at a time.
RM: This is your third major independent film in the last 5 years. Your last release, The Gas Café was shot in one location without much movement. Were there new challenges involved with shooting this film with so much action and running involved?
KB: The whole movie was a challenge. When you don’t have any money but you have a fairly ambitious idea, you have got to come up with some very novel solutions. With the running, I have a great Cinematographer in Randy Timmerman. No matter what I throw at him he responds with originality and inventiveness. A lot of the street running scenes were shot hanging off the back of his old Blazer, and we tied him to the rollbar on my old Land Cruiser for some of it. In fact as we were shooting with the Landcruiser the back of the camera rig kept hitting me in the head as I was trying to drive. That was a bit uncomfortable. Randy also designed and built a couple of camera harnesses so that he could run with the Actors sometimes. In this film I wanted to get a real sense of motion so we also shot a lot of the static shots hand held. I just wanted a loose feeling, and Randy delivered that for me.
RM: I was really impressed with the realistic characters development. You tend to put a lot of yourself into your films. Is there some aspect in Kicking Bird that is reflective of you or your experience?
KB: I think all of my films are personal. I think there are various parts of me, and my experiences throughout. I was never physically abused, but there were kids who would come to school when I was young and you kind of wondered if they weren’t being abused at home. They had a look to them. And there were always the kids who were being picked on, who were at the lower end of the grade school/high school food chain. And for the most part they were good kids who were stuck in the "no mans land" in school mostly because they were poor. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, and I still don’t have much now, so I think that affects the way that I look at the world. Also, some of the characters are composites of people I knew growing up, and people I have dealt with in the film business. The Coach is very self centered, and he’s a liar and just wants to help himself. He wants to use others to get ahead. Gosh, do you think there are people in the movie business that I’ve worked with or come in contact with that are like that? So the movie contains a lot of my personal experience, it’s just shown in a different way.
RM: Were there other movies that influenced the way you approached Kicking Bird?
KB: Oh sure, a lot of movies. The obvious ones are The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, I also really liked the book, which I read before I saw the movie, and Run Lola Run. I love both of those movies. But there’s also films like Mike Leigh’s movie Naked, and the Danish film The Celebration. I had Randy (my Cinematographer) check out both Run Lola Run and The Celebration. I told him I wanted our visual style somewhere in the middle of that. Lots of hand held low light stuff, combined with lots of energy. I think we achieved that. I'm sure there are more movies, but those are the ones that come to mind.
RM: Were there any major challenges in filming the running sequences used in this film?
KB: Sure, we had no permits and no permission from anyone. So it was really a lot of stress, we needed to shoot these scenes and not get caught. We found a couple of tracks that fit really well in to the script so we went there on weekends and tried to shoot as fast and efficiently as possible before we got busted. Actually that’s pretty much true for all of the exterior scenes. No permits, no permission, no problems. So you have to figure out quickly how you can cover scenes really well, with extras, and get out of there before any officials show up and ask for paperwork.
RM: You are called "The Angry Filmmaker". Need the public be warned when you bring your film to their community for film festivals?
KB: Yes, they should be very afraid... Actually I’m angry about the plight of independent film. I think it’s crap. The whole independent film movement doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s a label. When you have these "indie" films that are made for 5-10 million dollars with well known actors, directors with trust funds, and you have test market screenings to see what audiences want and don’t want, that makes me angry. That’s not independent. People are being sold a bill of goods, a brand if you will. As far as do I walk around pissed off all of the time? No. I think if I did I would probably have had a couple of heart attacks by now. I’m just angry about the state of filmmaking in general. There’s way too much crap out there and a lot of good stuff never gets distributed, and seen. I try to be good when I’m touring. Honest.
RM: Thanks for your time, Kelley, is there anything else you want to say to the readers at RunningMovies.com?
KB: Yeah, go to my website (www.angryfilmmaker.com), and buy my movies. I want to make more. And tell all your friends there’s this crazy guy in Oregon who needs to be supported, go to his website and check it out. And support real independent filmmaking, not the corporate crap we’re getting in the theaters. I’ll shut up now...
Running Movies: What prompted you to make a historical documentary about the 1928 running of the "Bunion Derby"?
Don Bigbee Jr.: Our interest was Andy Payne. He was a Cherokee farm boy from our home state. Being Indian ourselves we feel the need to bring Indian heroes to life for our children and call attention to the great things tribal people do.
RM: How long did it take to complete the research for you film and was there some resource that you found most revealing?
DB: Actually the research continues. We get bits of information from viewer through the website all the time. Several descendants of the runners have added to the story. Unfortunately we only had an hour on PBS.
RM: Was it difficult making reenactments of the runners with these events happening over 70 years ago?
DB: Yes and no. It was a difficult effort to find the 1928 alignment of Route 66. Once we knew the route, all of the shots were made on the actual race course. We do believe in most cases the road conditions we found were the same as 1928. This made it easy to shoot the reenactments.
RM: Your official website to the film is one of the most extensive sites I have seen to promote a movie. What was your main goal in putting your site up?
DB: As I said, we only had an hour on PBS. We learned so much by digging in the newspaper, morgues, libraries, and historical societies that we couldn’t just keep it to ourselves. For the most part the Bunion Derby was forgotten. We hope through the website and the show that this most amazing undertaking will take a more prominent place in our history.
RM: Public television initially broadcast your film on a national level. What was the initial response with such a large audience seeing your work?
DB: It has been overwhelming. We have received so many positive comments.
RM: Visionmaker.org currently has distribution rights to The Great American Footrace. How long will they be providing your movie for sale and what is the plan after that time for distribution?
DB: We have not thought about it much. The contract is in place for a few more years. Some cable TV folks have expressed an interest.
RM: Do you have any other projects in the near future that will be featuring running?
DB: Not at this time, not running anyway. We are working on a film about the 1920’s oil boom in Oklahoma and how it affected the Osage tribe. The Osage owned one of the biggest oils reserves of the day.
RM: Thank you, Dan, for arranging for your film to be available for this month's movie give away. Is there anything you would like to mention to my readers?
DB: We hope you enjoy the film as much as we enjoyed making it. In this day of “extreme” sport lets not forget what Andy Payne and the Bunioneers accomplished.
Running Movies: You have been involved in the sport at so many levels: competitor, reporter, author, and filmmaker. What aspect of the sport has interested you the most over the years?
Pat Butcher: This is a big question, because there are so many things that have happened over the four decades that I have been closely involved in running. The move to professionalism was long overdue, yet there are some aspects of it which have got out of hand, like the reliance on pacemakers in races, which is frankly boring, and is killing interest in middle distance running, the focus of track competition. I discuss this at some length in my book, The Perfect Distance, which I understand will be in US bookshops from February 2005. But problems like this are inevitable, no system is perfect. That said, by far the biggest problem in track and field athletics, as in so many sports, is ‘performance-enhancing’ drugs. I was one of the first track journalists to write extensively on the problem – in a series of articles which appeared in The Times of London in December, 1987. It is no excuse to say that drug-taking is just as widespread in many other sports, but I do think that track gets it in the neck, because it is the principal Olympic sport, and it is perceived as somehow being more to blame for sullying the Corinthian ethic, which never existed anyway in the Ancient Olympics. There was just as much cheating back then, AND the winners got paid…
As for drugs, gene doping, ie genetic implants will soon be possible, so what then? If performance-enhanicng drugs were not dangerous to health (and many of them are not, in small doses), then I would be inclined to say let’s have open house on drugs. But I am not optimistic about the future. To finish (and I could go on at length), what has interested me most in recent years has been the advances in women’s athletics (to use the European/worldwide term). Women are still subordinate in so many societies, it has been fascinating to see how women are using sport as a means of emancipation, and their stories, and the way the records are coming down has been the most exciting thing for me.
RM: Your first film you produced was Arabian Knight: The Story of Saïd Aouita. Why had you selected Aouita rather than one of your countrymen (Coe, Ovett, Cram) in choosing the focus of your film?
PB: Firstly, I have always been interested in cinema, so it was inevitable at some point that I should make some form of cinema, in this case, documentary. My career as a journalist only took off in 1982, by which time documentaries had already been made on Coe and Ovett, and one on Cram was in production. I was intrigued by Aouita, and I had the advantage of being a French speaker, so I think I did the very first interview with him by an Anglo-Saxon journo. That was at the World Champs at Helsinki 1983, and I got to know him quite well over the succeeding years. He was a real character as well as being a great champion, he brought a lot of colour to the sport. I thought his attempt to win their 800/1500m in Seoul, having won the 5000m in LA, was one of the most outrageous (and courageous) things ever attempted at the Olympics. That he failed, ie third in the 800, then injured for the 1500, did not diminish the scope of his ambition, and ultimately that’s what separates the great athletes from the rest. Also being Moroccan, there was a degree of exoticism that we were able to capture in the documentary, which also features interviews with Coe and Cram, incidentally.
RM: How has your personal running and competing in this sport influenced your movie making?
PB: I think if you strive for excellence in anything, you strive for excellence in everything. You cannot separate one facet of your life from another.
RM: Do you have a favorite film about running?
PB: That’s easy – Jericho Mile, without question. Firstly, Michael Mann is a class-act as a film director, and although this was his first feature, and as a TV film suffered from a small budget, it has so many points of interest – good acting, a serious script, with tremendous sub-plots (rival gangs in the gaol – actually filmed in Folsom), as well as capturing the striving of the principal character, Murphy, to give a sense to his life through running to Olympic standard. At a deeper level, it’s a revenge drama, with overtones of Greek tragedy. As such, there are no cheap, ’glorious’ ending, although it manages to be life-affirming. The film is ‘small’ in scope, but perfectly realises its ambitions. It‘s a reminder just how good films can be, in both form and content, when there is so much trash around.
RM: Race for Kenya was your latest documentary film. Are there plans on making this film more readily available for the public to purchase?
PB: Unfortunately not. Race For Kenya did not get the exposure I had hoped, in fact, it hardly got any exposure at all, despite what I felt was a serious attempt to explore and explain the reasons for Kenyan running success. Perhaps it was too serious in an era when triviality rules. I’m afraid the cost of transferring the documentary to DVD would far outweigh any income I could expect from sales. Furthermore, I am principally a writer, and I had a book project that I wanted to explore.
RM: Your latest project was the 2004 release of the book The Perfect Distance. Have your goals been met with this writing and is there any film plans in the near future?
PB: This was the book I was always destined to write, because I was able to document probably the greatest era in British and world athletics, as well as integrate some of my own ideas and opinions on the sport and competition in general. Again, it hasn’t achieved the sales that I hoped, but my priority was the writing of it, and I think it is a book which will endure. As for films, there is, ironically for the subject of my book – Seb Coe and Steve Ovett – a young French documentary maker interested. I have agreed to help him all I can, the doco would need to made this year, to concur with the 25th anniversary the Moscow Olympics this summer. Because, despite all their world records, what everyone remembers – including US fans, who weren’t able to watch the 1980 Olympics, because of the boycott – is their two races in Moscow.
RM: Thank you for your time, Pat, and is there anything else you would like to express to the viewers at RunningMovies.com?
PB: As you know, I’m a big fan of RunningMovies.com, because, as everyone can now tell from my responses above, it combines my two great passions (apart from beer and women), running and movies!
Running Movies: This is your third independent film that you have made. What was your main interest when you chose to make a film that chronicled Natasha's quest to run a marathon?
Angelike Contis: I had always admired marathon runners and considered running a marathon a major feat. That’s why when Natasha said she wanted to run one, we both instantly decided it was the perfect topic for a video diary-like film. As we got started, we started to realize that there was a small, but admirable group of runners in Greece who went very much against the grain of contemporary Greek culture. You rarely see joggers in the city of Athens, unless you know about their hang-outs.
RM: As running is a part of your routine, what influence did this have on how you made your film?
AC: I’ve been running - sometimes regularly, sometimes infrequently - for the last 14 years. I always dreamed of running a marathon, though I still haven’t. (Maybe I can do my first one in a year or two.) I think the main influence it had is on the rhythm of the editing and the "in" it gave me to be able to interview people about the topic. Obviously, I think if the director runs it adds to the underlying enthusiasm of a running film.
RM: Were their difficulties encountered in making this film due to the changing goals due to training and health issues that Natasha encountered?
AC: In an early screening, my friends felt the film was too "whiny", full of Natasha’s complaints. We had to edit out some of that, because they were right, the plaguing difficulties weren’t that interesting to hear about after a while. (In retrospect, I probably should have filmed Natasha demonstrating her problems, for instance difficulties walking and painful running, though I probably didn’t because I knew that she wouldn’t be too pleased at the time to have me filming that while she was miserable). I think in the end, it was realistic that the story dragged out more, because you can’t run a marathon without one obstacle, or until you go through various programs before finding what’s right for you.
RM: Did you employ any special film methods in capturing the running sequences?
AC: I found it technically very difficult to actually record people running. You can get them from a distance, but it’s really hard (without a bigger budget or camera skill!) to film their feet, muscles, strain and to technically record the sound of their breathing and footsteps. We got it a few times, though, but not as many as I’d liked. The biggest challenge, of course, was trying to film the Berlin Marathon. Luckily the city has an extensive subway system, and I’d run as fast as I could in between stops, trying to make it too our next meeting point. Some of the shots of Natasha during the race we didn’t even find until playing back the tapes in slow motion! It was real risky because even if I didn’t see Natasha, I had to have the faith that she’d passed in front of the lens at the right time and go on to the next meeting point.
RM: You are currently selling Run Natasha Run through your website, www.runnatasharun.com. Are there any plans for additional distribution of this movie?
AC: In a promotional effort, to get the film shown, I’m actually giving away the first DVDs for now. I am in the process of contacting running magazines, however, to
publicize the video around the world and start doing more sales to individuals and running clubs in particular, but also TV stations with sports slots.
RM: Your film was shown in a film festival in Italy a couple of months ago. What was that experience like for you and do you have plans in participating in other film festivals in 2005?
AC: I attended the festival with my partner Jez Bentley, who wrote the music. It was thrilling to be in Milan, though we were underwhelmed by festival organization (no Italian subtitles!) and the lack of people at our screening. However, it was nice to be part of an international festival, and we’d love to enter the project in other international festivals. Maybe in Japan, where running is a huge sport!
RM: The 2004 summer Olympic Games were held there in Athens. What was that experience like for you and did you bring out the camera much during that time?
AC: I got a good work out. I spent most of the Games in the heat, carrying around my equipment on my back. I wanted to record what life was like in the city during this unique event for three people (a journalist friend, my Olympics volunteer father and a local shopowner who’s a poet). A few days ago I screened a rough draft of this new project and am now busy finishing up the editing and recording the city five months after the Games. I attended many sporting events, and must say that the men’s and women’s marathons were absolutely thrilling to experience first hand. I watched both from the Athens Marble Stadium, where the 1896 Olympics were held. There was a massive screen following the race until you realized the runners were running down the final stretch and right outside the stadium. Both races were full of drama and an amazingly emotional feeling at the finish line. I have mixed feelings about the modern Olympics, after experiencing them first hand. While there were priceless moments like these, the Games have become incredibly expensive to host and the Athens 2004 organization really limited the information that journalists were able to acquire and distribute out to the public, in a backbreaking effort to generate positive PR mostly for their corporate sponsors.
RM: Thanks for you time, Angelike, and congratulations on your film. Is there anything else you want to share at this time?
AC: That’s about it. By the way, Visions of Eight was fantastic. I loved all of the films, and found the marathon tale in it exceptional. It was inspiring as I finish editing my own Olympic tale. Hope 2005 is a good year for running and writing about running!
Running Movies: As an independent film maker you could have gone anywhere to make a movie. What prompted you to follow the cross country season of girls team at Tuba City High School?
John Goheen: When I was approached by Corbis Documentaries (which no longer exists), I was given a once in a lifetime opportunity. I could pretty much do any subject anywhere in the world I wanted to and I was given a healthy budget to work with. This is something very few documentary filmmakers ever get the chance to do. In the beginning, I chose doing something on the broad subject of Native American running. Eventually, the subject of the story was narrowed down to profiling the Tuba City girl’s cross-country team.
As I worked to find a good story to tell, I decided to do a story on a high school running team. I made many, many phone calls and the name Tuba City High School kept coming up in conversation after conversation. Milfred Tewawina’s name kept coming up as well. I eventually spoke with Milfred and we agreed to meet. Milfred was very cautious about committing to such a project. As you see in the film, he is very protective of "his" girls.
Prior to meeting Milfred, one of the elements that peeked my interest about him was the fact that his great-grandfather, Louis Tewanima, is one of only two Americans to win an Olympic medal in the 10,000 meters (Billy Mills the other). I was able to actually get film of the 1912 Olympics showing Louis, but the Olympics own the rights and they wanted $25,000 for less than 25 seconds of film. And that was for only 5 years. Milfred ended up getting to see the footage for the first time, so there was some good that came out of it.
Originally, both the girls and boys teams were to be profiled, but working alone on this film, I discovered it was impossible to cover both. At the first meet, so much happened with the girl’s team, that I realized I couldn’t be in two places at once, which I often needed to do.
RM: You were a runner in college. Did these experiences with your own running influence decisions on what to film and how to edit Lady Warriors?
JG: I ran both high and intermediate hurdles and long jumped in college at Eastern Washington University. I still run today, just to stay in shape and in the winter I run in a few snowshoe races. I am still interested in running as a subject and my oldest son, Ryan is a collegiate distance runner at the University of North Dakota.
A major factor in determining whether I would shoot this subject had to do with my son. I was pretty sure Ryan would make it to state either as an individual or with his team, and of course I had to be there. If his state meet conflicted with Arizona’s state meet, I never would have done this subject. As it turned out, Colorado’s meet was the week before Arizona’s. I hired another photographer to go to the regional meet in case anything crazy might happen. Ryan went to state as an individual and nothing exciting happened at the regional.
RM: Was there a time when you felt like you were excepted and brought into the local community and Native American culture in Tuba City?
JG: I would never go as far to say I was ever brought into either the Navajo or Hopi communities. Being non-native this just isn’t going to happen. Eventually, I earned the trust of many and the end result of the film was something everyone could be proud to be a part of.
I knew I had earned the trust of the girls when they went off to a running camp in Utah. Part of this weeklong experience appears in the film. At the last minute, Milfred was unable to make the trip, which meant the girls were left without his ever-present guiding hand. This was a huge opportunity to spend time with the girls without Milfred and see them in an entirely different light. It was the only time I would get this opportunity.
One night the girls started telling jokes and at some point they start telling some pretty risqué ones. I couldn’t believe they were doing this knowing I was documenting it. But they did and some of that makes it into the film.
Later when I returned, I told Milfred about this. He told me that in both the Navajo and Hopi cultures, women telling dirty jokes is part of the culture. Milfred told me that if you want to hear some good jokes to see his mother. After hearing that, I had no problem putting this element in the film.
RM: With you shooting most of the film by yourself, was there any unique challenges in filming the running sequences or at the Arizona State Cross Country Championships?
JG: The film was shot using a professional Beta camera and SP tape. At the first meet I actually set up a second and third DV camera, but since DV quality is so inferior to Beta that I did not use any of this and did not use a second camera until the state meet. Working alone has it advantages and disadvantages. Being in good shape helped a lot too, as Milfred likes to run the course to get ahead of his team. That meant I had to do the same. For the most part, I think I was able to capture what needed to be shot with one camera.
As for the state meet, I hired three friends of mine to work with me, and used an unmanned lock down camera that was relocated a couple of times during the race by one of the other photographers.
RM: Your film was very successful at numerous film festivals in 2001 and 2002. What was that experience like for you and what opportunities did that create for your movie?
JG: This was the first time I experienced the film festival circuit. There are hundreds of festivals worldwide, some more prestigious than others. Lady Warriors got into quite a few festivals and received recognition at virtually every festival it was in. In one festival, it was the only documentary to appear at that festival and it came away with the Best Picture award. Whenever a documentary can beat out Hollywood feature films, you know you have something interesting and entertaining.
Probably the best thing to come out of these festivals is that Milfred and most of the girls got to attend various screenings along the way. Milfred wanted the girls to see the film first on "the big screen". At various festivals, different girls would attend. Probably the best one was the Native American Film Festival in San Francisco. Lady Warriors was the opening night film, which is a huge honor in itself. The film appeared at the Palace of Fine Arts to a near capacity crowd of 800. Milfred and three of the girls were able to attend. The girls sat right up front and the audience could hear them laugh and giggle throughout the film. During the state meet scene, much of the audience was on its feet cheering the team.
At the end of the night, awards were given out and Lady Warriors received the Best Documentary award. Milfred and the girls spent the weekend as celebrities. It was a lot of fun for everyone.
RM: HBO picked up rights to Lady Warriors in 2003, and broadcast it often during that year. How is your film being distributed now and how can people obtain their own copy of your movie?
JG: Presently there is no further broadcast anticipated for Lady Warriors. The best way to get more information about Lady Warriors is to contact me at JGo10@aol.com.
RM: Have you maintained contact with the coach or any of the athletes since you completed your film?
JG: I continue to hear from several of the girls from time to time. Same goes with Milfred. At last update, all but one of the girls were in college and Milfred now works in law enforcement on another Arizona reservation.
RM: Do you have plans on producing another movie in the future that features running?
JG: At this time, I don’t have any plans on doing another running film. I have thought about doing a follow-up film 10 years after to see where everyone is in his or her lives at that time. That would depend on a lot of things. One, whether the team would be okay with that. Two, if I can get Corbis to give me the rights to do this using their film. And lastly, if I can get the funding to do this.
RM: Thank you for your time, providing the film for the monthly give away in the past, and is there anything else you would like to tell the viewers at RunningMovies.com?
JG: This film proved to be not only a film about running, but also a unique look into Native culture. It was one of the best projects I have been involved with during my 25-year career.
Running Movies: Can you describe the timeline that you took in the production of Run Like A Girl?
Charlotte Richardson: "Run Like A Girl" took me 4 years and 8 months to make. I started the film as a final project for a Certificate in film at the NWFC and it grew from there. Projects are normally 7-15 minutes long, but I felt my film’s subject needed a much longer film. I proposed doing the film on digital video versus the normal 16mm film and editing it on the computer. This enabled me to produce a longer film for a lot less money. Even though film tends to be "prettier" to look at, I felt the digital video was a good choice given the cost. My initial concept was to look at the experiences I had had during the early 70’s when women were fighting to run longer distances. I knew from my own experience that women had not been able to run further than 400 meters in the Olympics until 1960, and then only 800 meters at that point. I began to look for a women who had run in the 50’s and 60’s, and realized that Doris Heritage, a two time Olympian (’68 and ’72) lived right up in Seattle. Doris and I had run against each other at the beginning of my running career and towards the end of hers. She had always been a hero of mine, and we knew each other slightly. Because of the time period she had competed in, the late 50’s through the mid seventies, she had never really gotten the recognition she deserved. Among the running crowd, we all knew of her incredible accomplishments, but unlike a Mary Decker Slaney, or a Joan Benoit Samuelson or the young stars of today, Doris is unknown with the average public. She had won the National Cross Country Championships eleven times and the World Championships five times! She seemed to be the perfect choice for my documentary. From there I developed a time line and budget, and began to do my interviews. I started with Doris first, and actually did close to 10 hours of interviews with her. I also filmed several of her cross country meets with her team at Seattle Pacific University. From there I chose a state caliber high school girl cross country runner, also from Washington State and interviewed her. I spent that fall of 2000 following her around at cross country meets and into the State Championship. At that point I began to transcribe the interviews. This took me a long time, and at many points I questioned why I was spending so much time transcribing...but it definitely paid off. After getting all the words down in print I set up a large table and began to try to put what I thought were the important ideas and moments together. I had printed out the transcriptions and cut them in to strips. I then began to arrange them on the big table. As I did this the film began to take shape. I would then paste them into a rough script and work from that. Finally after about a dozen or so revisions, I was ready to do a rough assembly of the film interviews. The rough assembly was basically all the talking heads from the interviews, but what a thrill to finally feel like a had a "film". From there I began to work on the images. I didn’t want the film to be "literal", but more to give you a sense of what it was like to be a runner during the different periods of time in which the women ran. Probably the best advice I was given was from Enie Vaisburd, one of my advisers. I was struggling with trying to find images to go with the story. I was being too literal and not thinking outside of a traditional linear story. Enie said to "play" with the images. It was so freeing to take images, slow them down, overlay them, combine them and "make" the images I needed. It was a real turning point for me. I worked not from start to finish, but in sections...moving through the film with what I had, and continuing to look for what I needed. I continued to work on editing in images, and also to continue to edit the voices. The film was constantly changing. Then in the summer of 2002 I began to close in on the final assembly. It was then that I started to look for music.
RM: You were an outstanding runner, and now you coach. What influences has your own athletics played on your filmmaking career?
CR: First and foremost I have always felt that running had changed my life for the better, and that without running my life would have been very different. It gave me a purpose and taught me to focus and to set goals. Running is a passion of mine. Because of serious injuries, I have not run competitively for close to 12 years. I have always coached, but after not being able to run, I transferred my passion for running into a passion for coaching. I love it! I also feel that the commitment and discipline it takes to be a national caliber athlete is similar to what it takes to be good at anything. I applied that commitment and discipline to film making and it really helped. Often in the film making process there are times when the problems and difficulties of making a film become almost overwhelming. From my experiences as a runner, I knew that you had to work hard, keep your goals in mind, and that you sometimes failed before you succeeded. I saw others becoming overwhelmed and not finishing their films and I was determined to keep going. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have those low moments. I did, but somehow I would "catch my breath" and start up again. It is very much like running a difficult race.
RM: Were there challenges involved with obtaining footage that dated back to the 1960’s and 70’s?
CR: Great challenges. I found early on that women runners were a very low priority when it came to moving images. On top of that, women distance runners were of no interest, even in the Olympics. I called many different organizations, the USATF (once the AAU), the United States Olympic Committee, and even the International Olympic Committee and no one seemed to have any moving images of Doris. Even when Doris was inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame, the committee called me to see if I had anything they could use in a small tribute film to her. It was truly amazing! So I had to find images of Doris in home collections, and I also had to use still images with movement behind them to get a sense of Doris running. It was very hard.
RM: What unique considerations did you keep in mind when you put yourself in your own movie?
CR: It was hard to see myself as a "character" in the film. I think we all want to project a positive image of who we are, and it was hard for me to talk about the sad aspects of my running career. It was also difficult to see me on the screen in such contrast to my younger self. I was afraid at times that I wasn’y being as objective with myself as I was with the other two women. I could change what was said, and manipulate my images and words. I guess in the end I settled for being part character and part narrator.
RM: What method did you take in selecting the high school runner featured in your film?
CR: Camille’s coach had been at a running camp I was at and she recommended Camille. I felt she was a good choice because she too was up in the Seattle area. She was also a state caliber athlete and I could follow her season around by driving to her meets! Because our budget was non existent, I was happy to have both Doris and Camille close by. Camille was also passionate about her running and reminded me of a young Doris.
RM: Your premiere was a special night with most of the people who were featured showing up to watch your film. What did you take away from that opening event?
CR: The premiere of the film was at The Guild Theater in Portland. The place was packed and I was so excited to have so many people interested in my film as well as supporting my efforts. When it has taken almost 5 years to finish a project there are so many emotions. Relief, pride, nervousness, and excitement. The showing was everything I had hoped it would be. People really seemed to love the film and that was the most wonderful reward of all. Before the showing I couldn’t get my heart to stop racing, and I felt as though I was about to run a race! But once the film started to play I relaxed and really enjoyed the experience of seeing the film on a big screen. It looked great!
RM: Can you describe your plans for future showings and what plans do you have to distribute your documentary?
CR: I have set up a website for the film www.runlikeagirlfilm.com and I am hoping to get "Run Like A Girl" into some festivals. I hope from there to offer the film to schools, clubs, and track and road races to show. I think it is a film that needs to be seen, as well as enjoyed. It is a celebration of where we as women runners have come and where we are. I think it is also a film that can be enjoyed by men too as it really talks about running in an authentic way...the passion, the commitment, and the life lessons. I hope many people see it also to get to know about Doris Heritage, probably the very greatest middle and distance runner the United States has ever produced!
RM: Thanks for your time, Charlotte, is there other items you would like to share with the readers at RunningMovies.com?
CR: I would also like to say I hope to make another film soon. I feel there is so much more to say about women runners and so much history and inspiration to be filmed. I have just begun!