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My Run as a Moviemaker

My Run as a Moviemaker

Articles - Directing

As an independent moviemaker, I understand that challenges and obstacles go along with moviemaking. You never know what’s exactly going to happen. The key is how you handle these ups and downs along the way. I live by my motto: Be powerful, be unstoppable.

I approach moviemaking and my life with what I call the “Rocky Balboa Attitude.” As long as you keep fighting and you don’t quit, you never fail. It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, smacked around or beat up; as long as you don’t stay down you always have a chance to succeed.

Moviemaking is like a marathon and the story behind My Run is no exception.

My Run is the story of Terry Hitchcock who, after tragically losing his wife to breast cancer and struggling to raise three young children on his own, seized on an idea. He wanted to accomplish the impossible: Run 75 consecutive marathons in 75 consecutive days to bring attention to the incredibly difficult lives of single-parent families.

For me it all began late in 2004 in Bloomington, Minnesota. I was looking to do my next film. I knew that I wanted something inspirational, a hero story, something in the vein of a Rocky or The Natural, but as a documentary. I had heard of Terry Hitchcock and his accomplishment, and then a mutual contact introduced us. I was inspired by his story even more after meeting Terry. He conveyed such passion and zest for life and I knew right there I found my next project, so I secured the rights for the documentary and for the future narrative motion picture (Pushing Life).

Now it’s 2005. I secured my cinematographer (Matt Ehling, who filmed the interviews and B-roll on the Panasonic SDX900), composer (Steve Horner, who created an original score for the film) and writer (Kim Pederson, who used Final Draft). I had a working history with all of them, and we decided to shoot a three-minute promo trailer using Terry’s interview and intercutting the original footage of his run from 1996, which was shot on Beta by a cameraman Terry hired to follow him and his team along the run. We would use this trailer as our marketing tool to help raise funding combined with our business plan and Website.

Well, the dollars didn’t come easy, but they eventually came and we kept the dream alive.

In 2006, I moved from Minnesota to Los Angeles to continue the journey. There I met my producing partner Mark Castaldo of Destiny Pictures in a coffee shop, which happened to be owned by my future co-producer, Christian Pierce. Mark responded to the story and came on board and has been a key producer and team member ever since. Over the next two years, we dug in—raising money, making phone calls, shooting interviews, shooting B-roll, whatever it took. We also began to expand the team. Editor David Frank, associate producer Christine Redlin, publicist Robin Parkinson and J. Marie Fieger and a few others joined us. There were many times when the struggle seemed endless: More interviews to do, more footage to get and always more money to be raised.

During the production, Matt and I planned an on-the-road shoot to get additional B-roll footage, such as landmarks, towns and cities, from Terry’s run. We totally did it guerilla-style; we shot in eight states in five days and traveled 3,000 miles. The days were full coffee and beef jerky, necessities of Midwest moviemakers.

Cut to May 2009, while grinding away in post-production, a defining moment happened—a major boost that we all needed came through when a good friend of mine (who occasionally works with Billy Bob Thornton) saw a rough cut of My Run. Our wish was to secure Billy Bob as our narrator; I’ve been a big fan of him as an actor and moviemaker (I think every indie movimaker is fan of Sling Blade).

Later that week, I received a text from my friend regarding the film “This is fantastic; I’ll pass it on to Billy Bob.” (Cool.) After a little while, I received an e-mail from one of Billy Bob’s producers saying he has agreed to do the narration. (Very cool.)

We recorded the narration at Billy Bob’s studio, which is where his group the Boxmasters records. After the narration was completed, we had a few moments to talk moviemaking. (Again, cool.) I mentioned to him that we needed an end credit song for our film, and asked if he had something that would work. He smiled, and then mentioned that he had the perfect song and proceeded to play “Every King Wears a Crown.” The first line went as followed: “There’s a lot of warriors out on the road.” He was right, it was the perfect song. Having Academy Award-winner Billy Bob Thornton as narrator gave the team newfound energy, a big adrenaline shot.

Today, My Run’s journey continues as its screening within the festival circuit. In October 2009, the film had its world premiere at the Austin Film Festival and won the “Audience Award” for Best Documentary. In December, My Run won “Best Documentary” at the Mammoth Film Festival.

In February 2010, My Run was showcased with two special screenings in Sedona, AZ, co-sponsored by the Sedona International Film Festival and the Sedona Marathon. This event kicked off Sedona’s marathon weekend, and the two showings were packed with local residents, film festival attendees and marathoners. Ultra-marathoner Bob Redwanc found himself deeply moved in an unexpected way after seeing the film: “I’m a marathoner running the Sedona marathon. I came here to be inspired to run, but instead was inspired to love my wife more.” That is the greatest and most powerful comment that I have personally received as moviemaker and it made our entire team proud.

Next up, My Run will be screening as an “Official Selection” at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival (April 16, www.mspfilmfest.org), then off to Atlanta Film Festival (April 18, www.atlantafilmfestival.com), then to the Newport Beach Film Festival for its west coast Premiere (April 25, www.newportbeachfilmfest.com) and then to DocMiami as its Florida premiere as the opening night film (May 28, www.docmiami.org). Proceeds from the DocMiami screening will go to the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Currently, we are focused on the building the visibility and awareness of My Run as we prepare for our DVD release at the end of the year. We’re doing this through multiple grassroots approaches, for example participating within the festival circuit, targeting and connecting directly to our target markets, which include family-friendly audiences, runners, baby boomers, single parent families, faith-based and general filmgoers. We are also creating a positive online presence that includes actively growing social networks on sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (fan pages and groups) and other online communities.

By successively utilizing social media we can connect directly with our audience, which increase our impressions, ROI and help us build momentum and spread the positive word of the film. You can follow My Run online through our Website and social media: www.myrunmovie.com, www.facebook.com/myrunmovie, www.youtube.com/myrunmovie and www.twitter.com/myrunmovie.

Terry is a real-life Forrest Gump, someone who had all the cards stacked against him and still managed to come out with a winning hand. What makes Terry’s story special is that after raising his kids, he took it upon himself to make life better for other single parents and their kids. At the age of 57, with a bum heart and knee and ankle problems, he decided to run from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Atlanta in 75 consecutive days to bring attention to and provide a voice for single parent families. Despite the cold and heat, the rain and wind, Terry ran and touched the lives of thousands with his courage and his message along the way.

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