People seemed to like my previous Dumb Weightlifting Questions
blog post, so I figured it would be a more entertaining way to get some information across about American Weightlifting
. These are all real questions or comments I’ve received, sometimes paraphrased or combined with others.
Why isn’t [insert your favorite coach or athlete] in the movie? He’s coached/been an Olympian!
I’m not sure why this is a surprise to anyone, but I couldn’t include every single coach and athlete in the country in the movie. Someone is bound to feel like someone important was left out. There isn’t much I can do about it. I chose who I chose for a number of reasons. I wanted to include a collection of coaches who represented the range of different coaching situations and histories, from veterans to new coaches, and from coaches working in private gyms to coaches working out of high schools. They are not only in there because of who they actually are, but also because of what they represent.
A couple specific complaints pointed to the fact that a couple coaches not in the movie have coached an Olympian and lots of international team members. I find this extremely odd considering that the coaches they would have been replacing have done the same, and have done far more in most cases. Schmitz, Takano and Thrush have all coached Olympians—and have each taken athletes from day one to the Olympics, not just picked them up after they’d already been to the Olympics, or started them for a couple months before they left to the Olympic Training Center. I don’t even know if another coach in the US has coached more Olympians than Jim Schmitz.
Natalie Woolfolk was a 2008 Olympian, American record holder, multiple world and pan am team member, and multiple time national champion. Casey Burgener was a multiple time world and pan am team member, multiple time national champion, and American record holder (and should have been a 2008 Olympian, but got screwed by politics). So when you’re worked into a lather about your favorite person not being in the film, remember that they’re not the only good coach or athlete in the country.
Often I think at least part of the issue is that the veteran coaches I chose are not well-known outside the actual competitive weightlifting community because they’re not shameless self-promoters and credential-inflators like some others are, and consequently aren’t currently fashionable on the internet. But if you really want to compare credentials, not facebook likes, it will be pretty clear-cut. Are there other coaches deserving of being profiled? Of course. But again, there is a limit to how much can be fit into a single movie.
Why didn’t you include more people? It’s all west coast! Is it because you hate women?
Were there a lot of coaches from California and the West Coast? Yes, because there happens to be a lot of good coaches on the West Coast, and because I could afford to get to them. I had others I planned to include, but was unable to for various reasons—in some cases, because those coaches or athletes never bothered to follow through with my multiple requests to include them (funny because in at least 2 cases, people complained about these very coaches not being in the movie—take it up with them).
That I don’t care about women in weightlifting was a pretty fascinating claim (this all apparently based on the fact that John Coffee wasn’t in the movie—someone I would have liked to include, actually, had there been space, time and money for it). Anyone with even the most limited exposure to me and Catalyst Athletics should know that I coach more female than male weightlifters. And my estimation is that there are more lifts done by women than men in the movie.
And how I’m expected to have included more people in the movie, when it was extremely difficult to get it just under 2 hours as it was, is beyond me, especially when that complaint was made on at least one occasion by the same person who also wanted the interviews to go more in depth.
Why isn’t there a traditional arc?
I had a very brief (yes, 2 hours is brief to me in this case) length of time to get across what I wanted to get across. I had to make a lot of decisions about what not to do or include. Although originally my intention was to actually have a more traditional story in the movie (i.e. following a couple athletes as they trained in their respective circumstances to the National Championships / world championships qualification), as the process unfolded, I realized it would be impossible to do that while still including other things I wanted to include. I was also limited by the fact that I couldn’t afford to do the extensive filming and traveling that would have required. I settled on the “arc” of following a complete training session of a weightlifting team, while also following a lineage of coaches and athletes. I’m sure that won’t be apparent to a lot of viewers, but what can I do, I’m no Scorsese.
Why did you focus on the coaches so much instead of the athletes?
Because coaches tend to have more experience in the sport, have more to say, and be more articulate. I think they’re in a better position to really get into the background of the sport and the reasons for its struggle. I interviewed I believe seven weightlifters as well—not a small number in my opinion. I wasn’t able to use a lot from all of them for various reasons. A focus on athletes would have been a completely different movie—not necessarily a bad one, but not the one I wanted to make (or could make) at this time.
Why isn’t it in HD?
When I started this movie, HD was still relatively new, and being as I could barely afford an adequate SD camera for the job, HD wasn’t even a real consideration. Since most of the footage was shot already by the time HD was more affordable and accessible, I was already long committed to that format. (See photo accompanying this post - not exactly a major production).
Why does everyone in the movie shrug when they pull?
Clearly because they’re total amateurs and have no promise as weightlifters, and their coaches are idiots.
Why can’t I go see it in my local theater?
The entire cost of making, distributing and promoting the movie was less than a mainstream movie production spends in about an hour of filming. Getting a theater distribution deal would be impossible, and having independent theaters screen the movie directly would be a guaranteed loss of money for us.
I didn't like it because it was all about the sport of weightlifting and didn't talk at all about general fitness.
I don't even know how to respond to that politely other than by saying, Have another close look at the title of the movie.
Why does the movie jump around randomly from topic to topic?
Put your iPhone down for a minute and focus. As I mentioned above, there is a rational structure for the entire movie, although it may not be readily apparent to everyone. But believe me, it wasn’t haphazard—organizing the footage in a way that made sense was one of the biggest challenges for me. As I mentioned above, the entire length of the movie follows a single training session by a weightlifting team (Catalyst Athletics, of course—not because they’re the best in the world, but because they were accessible to me whenever I needed without cost or travel—and because they’re the best in the world). During this session, the movie runs through a series of topics in what I consider a fairly logical manner—what the sport is, why it’s in trouble, what the difficulties for athletes and coaches are, how competition works, the mental game, the appeal of the sport for athletes, what can be done to help it, and hope for the future of the sport in the US. (The more people have watched it, the more I’ve seen “get” this, so this answer may have been premature.)
Why aren’t there cool visual effects and graphics and explosions and car chases?
The simple, bare visual style (like the cover/poster of the movie) are both intentional stylistically and necessary. Financially, it was impossible for me to bring anyone into the project but myself, which meant I was stuck with whatever limited ability I had, and the limits of the software and hardware I was working with, which were by no means of the highest quality available. However, flashy doesn’t appeal to me anyway, and the simple and sparse aesthetic supports the theme and content of the movie perfectly. The entire process and product are accurate reflections of the state of the sport in the US.
Why doesn’t the movie tell us how to fix weightlifting in America?
First of all, I’ve never claimed it would do so. Second, I think if you pay attention at all, many solutions or at least courses of action are in fact presented along the way—they’re just not all packaged in such an obvious manner.
Why is it so depressing and hopeless?
This question/complaint may actually be the one that mystified me the most, because I see the movie as being completely hopeful and encouraging. Of course there are a lot of depressing elements—it’s about a sport that is in serious trouble. But the passion and dedication of the community comes through very clearly, in my opinion, and ultimately there is a very real sense of hope and confidence in its continued improvement. Beyond just suggestions of hope, it’s said explicitly multiple times. I’m not sure how that can be missed so completely. Many of the reviews coming out so far have included the word “inspirational”, so if you find the movie depressing and hopeless, I can only assume you’re projecting.
All other complaints
Make your own movie, and enjoy the criticism from everyone else who hasn’t.
If you haven't seen the movie, you can buy it on DVD or download/streaming here.