Filmmaker Ted Ryan shows us the kind of things we do for the movies we love.
Written by Ted Ryan | Posted by: NewEnglandFilm.com
When I found out that my favorite movie of 2013 was playing the Vermont International Film Festival and that its star would be in attendance, I hatched a plan.
I booked a hotel room in Burlington, arranged to get my sister’s car to drive from Boston, and prepared to shoot something for the event. The idea of shooting and editing a 60 second piece about The Crash Reel – a documentary that had deeply moved me – became my new goal.
Since I had finished my first feature film in 2010, I had been cutting a series of spec commercials and promos, hoping to gain notoriety from the ad agency world. I wanted to make a film festival PSA, to not only add to my filmmaking reel, but to try an alternate genre other than narratives – which was the only genre I had worked in thus far.
Oscar nominee, Lucy Walker’s The Crash Reel chronicles the rise and fall of Kevin Pearce – a professional snowboarder whose career and life nearly ended when he suffered a traumatic brain injury during a 2009 training run before the Vancouver Olympics. Kevin is from Hartland, Vermont and his father is Simon Pearce, the acclaimed pottery guru, whose company is headquartered close by in Quechee, VT. The films’ exploration of extreme sports, and, more importantly, the themes of family support during crisis strongly resonated with me.
If I went to the festival, where the film was showing and where Pearce would be speaking, I could grab my own footage and make a deeply personal PSA. Although inspired to make this piece, I’m in no way affiliated with The Crash Reel or HBO – which produced and has aired the film.
I knew filming without a press badge would not be considered a great idea, especially when Kevin Pearce himself would be present and part of the event. I spied a local news van outside but, as far as I could tell, no one was shooting video was within a ten mile radius. My adrenalin shot to the roof, however, when I finally spied Kevin Pearce out of the corner of my eye. He was mingling with the crowd and signing autographs.
After the movie finished, I felt the opportunity was right to get my footage. The moment Kevin and his family (who were also in the film) took the stage, I snuck up front, and shot their entire Q & A session. I felt the content of the Q & A was more interesting and meaningful than the Crash Reel Q & As I’d seen at other festivals.
After he was finished answering questions, discussing the movie, and his recovery, Kevin graciously greeted and chatted with the crowd for a solid 45 minutes.
Not only was The Crash Reel the opening screening of the Vermont Film Festival, it was also a special screening sponsored by the Vermont Special Olympics. David Pearce, Kevin’s brother, who has Down Syndrome and is a huge focus in the film, participates heavily in the organization. During the Q & A and meet and greet, Kevin and David shared some very special moments which were caught on camera. As the meet and greet proceeded, I continued to shoot – politely moving through the crowd, grabbing snippets of Kevin’s conversations. I never interrupted anyone for an interview – instead, opting to remain a fly on the wall. One of the Pearce’s brother’s girlfriends asked me if I need a tripod. ‘I was in!’ I thought. When the post screening festivities concluded, I packed up my camera gear and waited for the chance to speak to Kevin myself. It never came. His time was filled by too many people.
When I returned to Boston, I began cutting my PSA – extremely satisfied with the footage and how close I had gotten to my subject and the event. My goal was to construct a deep perspective of the event – one that showed the importance of Kevin speaking directly to his audience members. Many of the audience members had suffered brain injuries themselves and were elated to meet a TBI survivor and tell him their own story. A huge element of The Crash Reel deals with Kevin’s struggle to recover from his injury, while maintaing a strong desire to return to snowboarding – even though his doctors and family remind him of the grave dangers. Since I was filming months after the film was completed, I had captured a new juncture of Kevin’s life and his most recent decisions on these matters.
I edited in the vein of a commercial – which I think turned out to be more creative, fun, and endearing than a straight up news piece. Kevin’s most powerful festival speech – which became the backbone of the PSA – had to be cut and re-arranged for continuity. Still, its undying message made me well up inside and drew me close to my project at hand. In the speech, Kevin talks about his ongoing struggles with his injury and how he had come to hate himself for his own shortcomings. An event like knocking over a glass of water would cause him to curse and tell himself he was stupid. It’s only when Kevin came to accept his injury and himself that he excelled in his recovery.
In Kevin’s case, it is an acceptance of his brain that has been permanently changed because of his accident. As a result, Kevin has founded the “Love Your Brain” foundation that promotes awareness and prevention of traumatic brain injury. More importantly, it advocates loving and understanding our own bodies and minds.
With strong feedback, I have posted my completed Crash Reel PSA on YouTube and Vimeo. The Vermont Special Olympics has posted it on their Facebook and the Vermont Film Festival should be doing so shortly. I have also begun the process of tweeting to The Crash Reel website itself and am hoping they may promote the PSA. Regardless the eventual scope of the piece, my experience taught me an important lesson. Whether it be Vermont or Boston, or a festival or any type of gala, media worthy people are abundant here in New England. In many instances, it can be harder to document these individuals. I am grateful to the film festival and the Pearce family for so kindly allowing me to film. Venturing into new and unchartered aspects of your filmmaking is immeasurable and the most important part of the filmmaking journey.
Here is my PSA for The Crash Reel.
For more information about Ted Ryan, see: You Tube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TedRyan?feature=mhee Vimeo Channel: http://vimeo.com/user8613107 For more information on the Vermont International Film Festival, visit their website.