I walked in to the house Saturday afternoon and told my wife that the two previous days, including that morning and afternoon, were some of the best days I’ve had this year, and I feel like my year has been pretty good! Lubbock hosted its annual Flatland Film Festival (aptly named for the region), through which I was introduced to some great films and some even greater people. One documentary was especially impactful: 100: Head/Heart/Feet.
I’m no film reviewer, so I won’t tread where I can’t swim. The film is about Zak Wieluns, an ultra-runner, and his attempt to complete the Vermont 100 Endurance Race. Yep, that’s a 100-mile foot-race, ladies and gents. I used to run quite a bit, some competitively, but a 100-mile race just wasn’t even on my radar. Nowhere close. In any case, the film is right up the adventure athlete’s alley. It is a dynamic story, and in true documentary form, the visuals are both well-done and highly related to the personalities of the characters in the film and to the sport. My wife is a marathon runner and triathlete, and I cannot wait for her to see it.
However, 100: Head/Heart/Feet goes well beyond super-endurance athletes and ultra-running. Thematically, the story relates to humankind on many levels. Mike Mooney, co-director of the film, speaks about how the film is on some level about setting long-term goals and seeing them through. Running a 100-mile race isn’t something you decide to do a week out from the event. Nor a month. Nor half a year. It takes time and passion, which is another theme (as one would assume) showcased in the film.
Personally, I walked away with a different-yet-related theme stuck in my head: accomplishment. While the film’s credits rolled, I kept thinking to myself: “Everyone deserves to accomplish something big in their life.” In addition, I also kept thinking about how Zak was surrounded by those giving him encouragement–family and close friends, as well as race-day running enthusiasts and other runners. The film doesn’t necessarily glorify ultra-running, instead making it an integral part of a story that is much larger. Finally, I walked out of the film saying to myself:
“Everyone deserves to accomplish something big in their life with a team of supporters.”
I whole-heartedly believe that. Everyone is so deserving of getting something big done in their life. “Big” is relative. For Zak, an avid runner, it was training for and running a 100-mile race (I’m not going to say whether or not he finished it–you’ll have to see the film yourself). That takes commitment. Serious commitment. For a photographer, maybe it is landing a spread in a local magazine with a story you wanted to tell. Maybe it was building a portfolio of work to earn your first regional commercial job. I always tell my students to have in mind a few things they would really like to do in the five years that relate to their photography. I can only teach from experience. I remember being a student wanting to work in magazines. I made every effort to do so, and within a year, I was doing just that. I remember wanting to shoot my first cover the next year, and I did. It all took work getting there, though. Lots of work. And time.
It also takes a team. When you hear of someone running a 100-mile race, thoughts emerge of lonely hours of training and an in-your-head experience that characterizes the activity made up of a bunch of lone rangers that are incredibly talented and just a bit crazy. Photographers, does this sound a bit familiar? In actuality, while there is a large amount of time spent by one’s self for both activities, and learned skill and talent, it simply does not happen without a group of people (again, the size of which is relative to the goal) behind you. Zak will be the first person to tell you his family and friends are a necessary part of his running. Mike knows an ultra-marathon of a documentary like 100: Head/Heart/Feet just can’t be done without the help (volunteers, mostly) of many others. This facet of the film reminded me to be thankful of everyone around me, and to recognize them for their help in getting me to where I’m at and where I’m going. My wife (translated my hero) and children cannot be thanked enough. I hope that everyone with big goals has such a support group. This group can be very diverse, but it is essentially comprised of those that believe in your goal and in the process that will help you accomplish it. In my heart, I hope everyone reading this has such a group. If you don’t, seek them out. These people will encourage you, provide physical and emotional support, and in a positive way, help you stay accountable. There is value in all of it.
I had the pleasure of spending the weekend with Zak Wieluns (above left) and Mike Mooney (above right) while they taught a Saturday-morning workshop I helped host for participants interested in running and/or documentary filmmaking. In addition to thanking them for their time, I’d like to say that it was especially nice to simply hang out with new friends and, like Zak puts it, kindred spirits. Of course, I couldn’t let our time go without making a few images (the top image is of Zak running the red dirt trails of Caprock Canyons State Park, where the workshop was held). They both agreed to be a part of a new portfolio I’m shooting on advocates for active outdoor lifestyles. Like Zak, Mike is an avid runner, and they both value being outdoors as much as one possibly can, making them perfect for the portfolio. I can’t say enough great things about these guys, and I hope our paths cross again soon!
As a way of wrapping up this rather lengthy post, I want to encourage you all to be intentional about setting goals (photographic, personal, whatever they may be), and seeing them through. In lieu of much inspirational jargon, I’m usually quick to simply say “Work hard!” Do so, but also do it with a goal in mind and a community of supporters.
Also, if you made it this far, you’ll note this is the first post I’ve written since May. I’m fortunate to have been busy with family, work, and writing, but my blog has suffered. Not for long, though. I’ll be making an announcement about a couple new books later this week, a new studio, and revising an old series soon! Thanks for the support, everyone!