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Meet the SXSW FIlmmakers #46: Timothy Wheeler Films One Last Attempt From A Swimming Legend

By Indiewire | Indiewire March 7, 2013 at 7:52AM

A legendary swimmer comes out of a thirty-year retirement to reattempt her greatest feat: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida. Timothy Wheeler's directorial debut "The Other Place," follows Diana Nyad's recent attempt at the impossible, and asks the viewer among all of their own successes and failures if anything is really impossible.
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The Other Shore
The Other Shore
A legendary swimmer comes out of a thirty-year retirement to reattempt her greatest feat: swimming 103 miles non-stop from Cuba to Florida. Timothy Wheeler's directorial debut "The Other Place," follows Diana Nyad's recent attempt at the impossible, and asks the viewer among all of their own successes and failures if anything is really impossible.

What it's about:

The Other Shore tracks legendary swimmer Diana Nyad’s lifetime vision & her four harrowing attempts to swim non-stop from Cuba to Florida.

Tell Us About Yourself: I became interested in storytelling when I was working for a non-profit in a neighborhood of Bogota, Colombia called El Cartucho with a marginalized community of war victims. There were so many rich and important stories that I knew had to be told but I hadn’t yet found my medium to tell these stories. That’s when I went to UC Berkeley to get formal training in journalism. I came out not only with a masters but a new love for visual storytelling and documentary. Since then, I have sailed with indigenous canoe builders from Dominica, stayed at the palace of President Sirleaf in Liberia, and ripped through 50-foot waves with the Sea Shepherds in Antarctica. When I think back on all the places, more importantly on all the people, it has been a very fortunate and adventurous ride. The Other Shore is my feature documentary directorial debut and it really feels as though every subject from every past project is here with me now. We are all part of the interconnected journey.

What else do you want audiences to know about your film? Even though this film details the herculean effort Diana has put into accomplishing this swim dream, this is not a film about swimming. This film is about commitment and drive to fulfill a dream at whatever cost. This is one of those lucky films where you know you struck gold from the onset. I always knew her dramatic past and well-documented achievements would make a captivating film. But I never imagined that in 2010, then 60-year-old Diana would ask me to document her coming out of a 30-year-retirement from marathon swimming. She would attempt her elusive world-record dream swim, 103 nonstop miles from Cuba to Florida. Come on! I was stunned; and honored. I knew this would make an amazing film regardless of the swim outcome. But I don’t think either of us knew how powerful and profound the experience would be.

What was your biggest challenge in developing this project? There were so many challenges in making this film that it is almost laughable to try and name one as the biggest. Visas, hurricanes, sharks, jelly fish, funding, 400+ hours of footage, last minute flights to Cuba, lives on hold for months, years, on end — take your pick! These were all quite challenging. And Diana is also my aunt. So, I have an even deeper connection to my film’s subject. I was always concerned with her safety and her health during her swims. I’m watching her in the water stroke after stroke: some painless and inspired, some horrific and heartbreaking. It was really tough.

What would you like SXSW audiences to come away with after seeing your film? What I love about this woman and this story is that they both, inevitably, get people talking about relatable and universal human experiences: success, failure, dreams, disappointments, hope, grief, commitment, and obsession. Life is a paradox in so many ways, and we see it everywhere: In our own lives and in others. In nature even. I would like people to be thinking about their own mortality, what really is most important to them, to how they spend their precious time, and what they would be willing to give to achieve their dreams. I would hope that people would be inspired by the film and her life to live their dreams and accomplish their own personal goals and not give up.

What would you like SXSW audiences to come away with after seeing your film? What I love about this woman and this story is that they both, inevitably, get people talking about relatable and universal human experiences: success, failure, dreams, disappointments, hope, grief, commitment, and obsession. Life is a paradox in so many ways, and we see it everywhere: In our own lives and in others. In nature even. I would like people to be thinking about their own mortality, what really is most important to them, to how they spend their precious time, and what they would be willing to give to achieve their dreams. I would hope that people would be inspired by the film and her life to live their dreams and accomplish their own personal goals and not give up.

Indiewire invited SXSW 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 2013 festival.

 Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on March 8 for the latest profiles.

This article is related to: SXSW Film Festival, Meet the 2013 SXSW Filmmakers





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