Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Interview: Daniel Koenig of Power 10 Films on His Adaptive Rowing Documentary

Joshua Langston-White on the dock (Photo: Daniel Koenig)

Filmmaker Daniel Koenig is in the midst of a powerful project on rowing, and he could use a helping hand. Koenig is currently in the process of shooting a documentary on four adaptive rowing athletes who are aiming to make the U.S. national team this summer: Dan Ahr (shown in the video clip below), 2012 Paralympian Andrew Johnson (read his RR interview here), Margaret Stran, and Joshua Langston-White. The film will serve to not only offer insight on the process of training for a national team bid, but also on adaptive rowing as a whole. We checked in with Koenig on the project, his rowing background, how you can donate to this project, and what's next.

RR: What fist inspired this project? Did you have a personal connection to the sport beforehand?

Daniel Koenig: I started rowing in Oklahoma City as a freshman at the University of Oklahoma and currently row with Rio Salado Rowing Club in Tempe, Arizona. I’ve always had a passion for the sport and love the feeling of being out on the water. Rowing is a unique sport in that it can be an intense workout or a calm escape and I wanted to find a way to show others why I have such a strong love for being out on the water. Having a rowing background has actually been very helpful while filming this documentary. In addition to knowing the lingo and what questions are important to a rower, being a rower myself, I have the ability to take a single out alongside the athletes and do interviews on the water while rowing down the Anacostia or Black Warrior River. I think having such close access to the rower will help the viewer connect with each athlete and have a better feel for the sport.



RR: What has been the most significant challenge you’ve faced so far?

DK: The most difficult aspect of shooting this film is probably in the logistics. One thing I love about this documentary is that it features four athletes from four very different locations. Over the span of 8 months I have driven up and down the East coast, from Boston, Massachusetts to Crystal River, Florida, several times in order to show the progression for each athlete throughout the season. Making sure I am aware of each rower's schedule and that I am in the right city at the right time is a constant concern. As this is a documentary, life happens and plans don’t always pan out as expected. You just have to be flexible and adjust as changes occur.

I also find many mornings when the weather is perfect and the water like glass that I just want to put down the camera and go for a row myself. It’s a tough temptation but so far I’ve been able keep the documentary as the higher priority. I guess that’s the downside to taking on a subject you’re passionate about.

RR: From a cinematographer’s perspective, what tips could you offer anyone looking to create a film about rowing?

DK: Rowing is beautiful and nothing quite compares to slicing through water at 6am. When something is that beautiful, it’s hard not to come out with usable footage. But the best ways to insure a quality image is to keep a fast shutter speed so that the motion is crisp, and buy a nice circular polarizer. Because rowing is outside on water, there is a lot of light reflecting around—being able to control how that light is seen will really make the images stand out. Also, not every day is warm and sunny so having the commitment to endure those cold, wet, or even snowy days can be a major test.

RR: How can the rowing community get involved and help?

DK: Through the first week of June we are raising funds to help send us into post production strong. This being an entirely independent film, it has only been through the support of those who believe in our message that we have reached this point into filming. Entering the next stage, we would really appreciate any help so that we can deliver a high quality film that will shine a positive light on our sport. There is an Indiegogo page running until June 6, which will give people the opportunity to join us in showcasing how the sport of rowing is able to make an impact on the lives of four individuals. There are also quite a few perks available to those who donate, including a DVD, advanced screening tickets, and a trip out on the water with myself or one of the featured athletes.

Beyond just this documentary, I think it would be great for the rowing community to continue to add adaptive races to the schedule when planning a regatta. For athletes training to represent their country on the international stage, having sufficient racing experience is important. Currently, there are few regattas including para events to their race schedules. These athletes want the opportunity to race just as much as anyone else and having more options and opportunities to race will only improve their performance.

RR: What impact do you hope that your film will make? Are you finding that even in production, your project is helping to shine a light on adaptive rowing?

DK: There are a few things I hope this film will be able to show. I hope people who see this film will leave understanding the importance of equality for people with disabilities. Just because someone only has one leg or can’t see doesn’t mean he or she has any less desire to be a strong competitor. I hope this documentary will show how rowing has developed a way to be inclusive and will reach someone who is seeking a way to become active despite whatever limitations they perceive they have. I also hope the film will inspire all people, regardless of ability, to get out, be active, and strive to achieve their dreams.

I’ve tried throughout the production phase to update people outside the film with what is happening both on the set and throughout the rest of the adaptive community. Through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we've posted photos of anything from race results to practices as well as sharing some of the positive things being done across the globe which benefit the adaptive community. I think awareness is important in building up a sport like pararowing, and if people can see what others are doing in communities like Boston, DC, Tuscaloosa, and Inverness, they too will see the positive impact a sport like rowing can have on the lives of others.

Here's where you can find Power 10 Films on the web:
Website - www.Power10Films.com
Indiegogo - igg.me/at/rowingdoc
Facebook - Facebook.com/power10films
Twitter - twitter.com/power10films
YouTube - youtube.com/power10films

Thanks very much to Daniel for the interview!

Coming up tomorrow on RR: NCAA and IRAs recap and review—to be the best, you have to beat the best. 

-RR

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