What it's about: "Bending Steel" is the intimate journey of an introverted man who struggles to shed self-perceived limitations that shackle his body and mind.
About the filmmaker: I grew up with my sister in a small New Jersey suburb. My parents were always supportive and they did their best to nurture our interests. We started acting at an early age and joined the Screen Actors Guild. We would skip school so dad could take us in to New York City and go on auditions. Eventually I took a break from the business but over time reconnected with my love of cinema and went to film school.
"Bending Steel" is my first feature length film. This would have sounded disappointing to me back in the day, as I would have hoped this moment had occurred sooner, but my timeline and expectations of myself were a little off. The truth is I wouldn’t have been ready to take on a project like this. The experiences that I’ve had over the years have opened a capacity within me to approach subject matter with greater maturity.
It’s interesting how things work out and how people’s lives take shape or, in some cases, perceive to loose shape. This is one of the underlying themes in the film. It’s never too late to start your journey, whether you are behind on making your dream a reality or just think that you are.
What else do you want audiences to know about your film? The film follows Chris Schoeck as he takes his steel bending public, out from the basement of his apartment building and on to the boardwalk of Coney Island, once known for such legendary strongmen as ‘The Mighty Atom.’ With the help of Chris Rider, his strongman trainer, we are introduced to a world of strength and showmanship. As Schoeck meets the strongman community he begins to develop as a person and take a deeper look at who he is and what he is trying to achieve, no matter how impossible it may seem.
What was your biggest challenge in developing this project? The biggest challenge for us was time and resources. Chris had a defined goal, to perform on Coney Island by the end of the summer. We started in January of 2011, so we had less then nine months to get it all in. Filming started immediately as we didn’t want to miss any of his progress. Subsequently, in our rush to get filming, we bypassed opportunities to raise money and do it the ‘right’ way. This was our first film and we didn’t exactly know how things worked, like getting grants and getting investors on board, things that most seasoned filmmakers know all about.
What would you like Tribeca audiences to come away with after seeing your film? "Bending Steel" has a lot to do with perception and the journey of overcoming the adversity of that perception. How we see things in life, whether or not they are real or just in our head. Is a steel bar too hard to bend? Is a crowd of strangers going to accept you as a performer or boo you off stage? It takes strong convictions, both mentally and physically, to destroy these perceived limitations. Chris is constantly at odds with perception and fears that cripple his world. His journey to take back his life is a struggle that on some level we can all relate to.
Did any specific films inspire you? I don’t think any one specific film inspired me in the making of "Bending Steel" but rather the cumulative effects of being inspired by films my whole life. I will say though that up until this film, I have always been more interested in fiction than documentary. However, there were moments during the filming of "Bending Steel," when Chris would say something or react a certain way, that was so genuine and deeply moving that I felt it would have transcended a fictional scene of similar circumstance. Those subtle real life moments that we captured became a form of inspiration.
What do you have in the works? At the moment we are developing several ideas. One of which is a doc/fictional hybrid based on a true story.
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 2013 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on April 17 for the latest profiles.