Getting to The Other Shore: the Inspiring Diana Nyad Documentary (Part Two of Interview)
We’re back with Part Two of our interview with director Timothy Wheeler and producer Kevin Abrams as they talk about their stunning Diana Nyad documentary, The Other Shore.
Yesterday in Part One, we talked about perilous jellyfish, the benefits of being Diana Nyad’s nephew, and the difficulties of filming her failed attempts to achieve her goals. In this final part, the discussion covers the film’s post-production process and its distribution strategies both online and in theaters. Read on and remember to watch The Other Shore on demand right here with MovieMaker.
Lara Colocino, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): Were either of you there when she finally completed the swim from Cuba to Florida?
Timothy Wheeler (TW): I was. It was one of the most memorable moments in my life. The scene at the beach was beyond anything I had ever expected. I had envisioned a few hundred people, excited and cheering on the beach. This was thousands of people fighting to get to the front, just to be able to be near who had accomplished a feat that they never thought was possible. People really felt the power. They were relating to how much Diana wanted it and that fact that she finally accomplished it.
MM: This film is obviously deals with overcoming obstacles. What was the biggest obstacle you both had to overcome in capturing this story?
TW: There were just so many—we were waiting for the weather, the currents, and then there were sharks and box jellyfish. I would say the biggest obstacle was seeing Diana in real physical harm.
Kevin Abrams (KA): With post-production, I really think the edit was a huge thing to wrangle. Diana had such an anomalous past and complicated life, that to try and consolidate it all into an hour and a half with all the swimming attempts seemed impossible. We just had so much footage by the time we sat down. We probably had close to 20 terabytes worth of raw media, hundreds of hours of footage on every possible format.
MM: How long did the film take to edit?
KA: We started in February, so it took us about 10 months. You know, documentaries are such a bizarre thing. On other projects that we work on we can have a much more regimented schedule, but with non-fiction you really have to give the director and the editors time to find the story and see what sort of comes out.
MM: My next question has to do with Yekra. Why did you guys choose to distribute with them?
TW: Yekra allows us to be in control of the destiny of the film while bringing in resources back to the budget. It allows anyone to be an affiliate whether you’re a large-scale organization or an individual. The fact that Yekra can host and promote the film seems like the obvious way to grow a fan base.
KA: Yekra is this incredibly flexible tool that gives the filmmaker the ability to navigate their own distribution platform and strategy. It really allows you to decide when you want to release, how want to release, and where you want to send the film. With Diana’s sort of following, reputation, and access to media—she was a reporter for a long time and has worked for KCRW, NBC, ABC and all these different places—you realize that she has wonderful contacts in that space. By using Yekra, we could deliver the film to all those different people and help us sort of spread the word on a more grassroots platform than having to depend on other people who dictate what we do with the film.
MM: Those are sort of the benefits of dealing with VOD, right?
KA: Yeah, and also, Yekra’s a little bit cooler than VOD in the sense that it really depends on the networks out there sort of spreading and giving love to your film. And our hope and belief was that that film was something cool that people would want to share and then blast off to their friends who get inspired by what she was doing.
MM: Are there any plans for a theatrical release at all?
KA: Yeah, we’re going to use Gathr to do a bunch of screenings and we also have a deal with Showtime where they’re going to premiere the film on November 7. So then after that we’ll be using iTunes, and all those other platforms.
MM: What made you both want to work in film?
TW: I’ve wanted to become a filmmaker since I was a kid. But I was working for an international non-profit after college and I was really inspired by my travels and wanted to tell stories that other people weren’t telling. So I decided to go back to school and get my masters in journalism, specializing in documentary at UC Berkeley. And that’s where I really launched my professional documentary filmmaking career.
KA: Actually I was always on the director’s path. I went to AFI for grad school and I was in the directing program. When I graduated that’s what I focused on. And then when we started Ketchum Labs, and sort of by default I started getting more actively involved in producing as projects were coming our way. As someone who has a background in directing, I was able to communicate and talk to filmmakers pretty effectively to help them focus on the stuff that makes movies good. I still do directing things but it’s been really fun to put on that producer hat and help other people problem solve.
MM: What’s it like to juggle all these different jobs where you’re sometimes directing, sometimes producing, or doing both at the same time?
TW: It’s a lot. But I come from a journalism background and I’ve worked for a variety of clients including PBS FRONTLINE/World, The New York Times, and even Discovery, where I’ve had to juggling multiple hats in the field. I think that’s the reality of the film world, whether you are working in documentary or reality, you have to have multiple skills.
KA: Yeah, I feel like you have to be flexible nowadays. It’s fun to make projects, so the notion for me is to try and make as many as possible and not limit yourself. MM
Links to more reading:
The Other Shore website: http://www.theothershoremovie.
The Other Shore Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/
The Other Shore Twitter: https://twitter.com/
Kevin Abrams’ Ketchum Labs: http://www.ketchumlabs.com/