Fredric Golding says that while studying philosophy in college, he learned “how to ask the ‘big questions.'” He adds, “I am proud to say I still ask the big questions and I am still discovering what makes us all tick, what compels us to act in the way we do in different situations.”
Golding is an industry vet, having worked in the biz for 25 years. He produced the documentary, “Hank Aaron: Chasing the Dream,” which was nominated for an Oscar in 1996 and directed “Hardwood Dreams: Ten Years Later” for Spike and created “Dead Tenants” for TLC.
What it’s about: Golding’s “On the Mat” is on the surface a film that follows a high school wrestling team over the course of a season. Beneath that, it’s a look at the pure spirit of heart, mind and body as manifested in the young wrestlers at Lake Stevens High School, in Lake Stevens, Washington. It is an inside look at a unique, ancient sport that has been passed on from the Greeks. From sweat and tears to takedowns and pins, ‘On The Mat’ is a story filled with emotional ups and downs, team turmoil and individual plights and victories.
Wrestling is like no other high school sport, says Golding: “The level of dedication and effort is quite unique; a wrestler works out during the season and during the remainder of the year. Having to “cut weight” or get their body weight as low as possible, the wrestlers at Lake Stevens High School endure obstacles that most people would never consider doing. They are a throwback to ancient times when the Greeks would draw a circle in the sand and simply wrestle. Not only is physical endurance necessary, but mental toughness is what makes a state champion.
On becoming a fly on the wall: “The biggest challenge in making ‘On The Mat’ was working with a group of kids, aged 15-18, and getting them to accept and be comfortable with the camera being around for a long period of time. I found that I first had to ‘break down’ the reality TV barrier, so the story would be natural and cohesive. I found that intelligent questions and respect for the wrestlers space made it easier to bring the camera into their lives. Also, I had a head coach who was extremely helpful in constantly giving me information about the kids and their difficulties during the season. As the season progressed, the camera became a fly on the wall, and the interviews and scenes flowed like scenes from a fictional film. For this, I am extremely pleased with the final film.”
Golding hopes: “I also hope that the Tribeca audience will see wrestling as a metaphor for ‘life lessons.’ It is not always easy to get what you want, when you want it. And ‘On The Mat’ serves up this premise from many different points of view. Lake Stevens wrestling team is a reflection of society in general with good guys and bad guys, and with winners and losers. Furthermore, as with the finale in ‘On The Mat’, happy endings are often filled with irony; while we cheer for a win, we find ourself cheering for the antihero.”
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
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