I rarely put conditions on reading my blog posts (apart from “please read the whole damn thing before ripping it apart in comments”), but I will do so now.
Please please watch the film if you can. Some of you have seen it already, but most of you have not. The only thing standing between you and the film is fifteen bucks. Whether or not you are “the kind of person” who buys movies, if you can afford it, please consider buying a copy.
If you are passionate about the sport, then support those who work hard to develop the sport. This is how you can give back, and this is how the sport can grow. [One way you could do this is by sharing the film’s website on your social media platforms!]
ONTO THE FILM REVIEW
Well, hey there, Rise of the Sufferfests! I have been expecting you. At times, we were not sure if you’d claw your way into existence. So glad you made it.
I first met Scott while crewing at the Spartan Death Race 2013. He was tall, loud and obnoxious (still is). I bought him a drink, and we instantly became friends.
I have now seen the film multiple times, and I still tear up every time I hear the starting music, because oh-my-god-do-you-realize-how-much-work-this-was? Because Scott pulled off something pretty incredible – a real honest-to-god documentary on a topic he is passionate about. All that – as a first time film maker.
I don’t sing dithyrambs – we are all imperfect, and I am all too well aware of that fact. AND one of the hardest things in the world is to review and critique something a friend made.
Scott is vulnerable. Transparent. Imperfect. Oh-so-human.
And therefore, oh-so-likeable.
Just like the film itself.
Too Much About Scott
Some were surprised to find this much of Scott in this film. What film director puts himself on the cover? Yet… I have a feeling Scott himself had no idea that this film was going to be about him when he started filming it.
What could have been an expose about the sport turned out to be the coming of age tale of a father, with obstacle racing as a backdrop.
I have never made a film before (neither has Scott until now), but I know that creations rarely listen to their creator – they have ideas of their own. You start making a thing, and before you know it, the thing takes on a life of its own, and you are in for a ride. You can either force it, or sit back and enjoy.
There is this “oh shit, it’s about me” feeling about the film, like a toddler walking into a mirror. It is a separate plot twist. Remember Eminem’s “Stan”?
Come to think about it, his name was… it was you, damn.
So, yes, this film was about Scott. And when a film is about someone, then you can hardly get too much of that someone, can you?
The Classic Hero’s Journey
I will now bore every single film major to tears and refer to the classic hero’s journey. (Fuck off. I have NOT majored in film, and I like to learn, ok?)
We can trace this journey throughout the film – from “call to adventure”, as Scott starts exploring the story of Tough Mudder, to meeting the mentor, in his first encounter with Mr. Mouse, to numerous tests, allies and enemies, and, of course, the crux of film – the ordeal – when Amber announces she is pregnant.
The road back involves Scott embracing fatherhood, and taking on physical training, and, finally, resurrection and the return with elixir, as he takes on the World’s Toughest Mudder, and completes fifty miles.
Is It Narcissism?
The obstacle racing phenomenon came out of nowhere, and surprised all of us. Or, perhaps, the rise of the sufferfests was inevitable.
The main question of the film was: “Why would people do this to themselves?”. And the overarching answer that is offered to the viewer is “narcissism”. We do this for the profile pic, for the glory, for the performed super(wo)man version of ourselves, for the pick-up line at the bar. We do this to impress our colleagues, our boss, our girlfriend, our mom. We do this to seem better than we are, tougher than we are, cooler than we are.
Narcissism may explain someone’s initial drive to the sport, but not repeated quests for more pain, after you already got that muddy profile pic. Tough Mudder is “not a race, but a challenge”. Why do a challenge more than once? [Remember the ice bucket challenge? I bet you’ve only done it once].
So, why would James Appleton find himself shaking uncontrollably, battling hypothermia, year after year?
Most of your friends and coworkers don’t know the difference between Tough Mudder and Spartan Race; and the girl at the bar does not know the difference between Spartan Sprint and Spartan Ultra Beast, and the fact that one is supposed to be way more impressive than the other.
And perhaps, we should differentiate here between racers who treat Tough Mudder and similar events as a “been there, done that” event – check it off, and move on – and those who push themselves to do another event, and another.
The core personality characteristic that seems to emerge is sensation seeking. It is the individuals with high threshold for excitement that are drawn to the sport. They are the ones who seem to keep finding ways to make it suck just a bit more.
A journalist walks into a bar, and says: “I think I am going to make a movie now. Can I please have $297,000?”.
When I first learned that this was going to be Scott’s first film, my initial reaction was: “Who the fuck does he think he is?”. As in… Are people even allowed to do this? Is this even legal? Can you just say you are a filmmaker?
I admire guts. So I have been one of the original backers of the infamous failed Kickstarter campaign. I watched the amount raised grow slowly, so slowly… too slowly, and then disappear overnight when the total amount has not been raised.
The epic failures are not rare on Kickstarter – projects that fail to raise the necessary amounts tend to fail by large margins. Only 10% are able to reach 30% of their funding goal. The first campaign reached less than 10% of its goal.
How many of those failed campaigns actually come to fruition? I’d argue not many.
And that brings me to my conclusion… If you have seen this film, you may have seen the interviews, the race footage, Scott’s journey to fatherhood, and the story of Mr. Mouse.
What you probably missed is a set of giant balls that it took to make this film.
Well, I see you, Scott Keneally.
And I say BALLS.
As for the actual film review, I’ll summarize in two words:
I love you, man. Can’t wait for the next one.
WANT TO WATCH THE FILM FOR FREE (you, cheapskate, you ;))?
Here’s the thing…
Most people will not purchase this film not because they cannot afford $15, but rather because they are used to getting content (however, questionable) for free. Statistically speaking, if you are online, and your hobby is obstacle racing, $15 is not a make-it-or-break-it amount of money. Yet I heard many say that they would watch it if it was free. Darlings… why would it be free?
As a blogger, I feel guilty for perpetuating this sense of entitlement by providing quality content for free for the last four years. Creating stuff takes thousands of hours. Why shouldn’t the artist be compensated for his work?
The digital download of the film is $14.99USD. [Oh, and did you know you can rent it from iTunes, Amazon and Google for $4.95 USD? Although you should totally buy it, because you’d want to be able to watch it again – amirite? Also, if you want to make sure that the whole amount goes to the filmmakers, then purchasing through the website is your best bet.]
If you do actually find the cost prohibitive, you are not off the hook yet. I’d like to give you an opportunity to watch it anyway.
Share the film’s website on your FB profile, and encourage your friends to buy it. Tag me in that post, and I will enter you in a raffle for one of the THREE film downloads.