Endless Abilities: Interview With Filmmaker Harvey Burrell

Posted By: The Ski Channel on May 14, 2012 11:39 pm

The Ski Channel caught up with Harvey Burrell (far left in photo) as he and the crew of Endless Abilities left a Filligar concert on Friday, the night before they set out on their cross-country road trip to shoot a documentary based around their friend Zach and his journey into the world of adaptive sports.  The crew left the band with a case of beer in support and appreciation of their willingness to supply the majority of the music for their new film. 

Read the story behind this group of impressive students and their film, here


The Ski Channel:  So how did the four of you meet?

Harvey Burrell:  Trip and I went to high school together outside of Boston and then Trip and Will were childhood friends growing up and met back in Rhode Island two years ago. He and Trip were working for the same business.

TSC:  How did the idea for the film develop and how long did it take you to get to this point, the night before the big road trip?

HB:  I’d say 20 months.  It started when Trip met Zach.  They were working together in Newport, Rhode Island.  Zach called Trip and said, “Hey.  I know you do film stuff. Would you mind coming out and just taking a few photos of me surfing for my mom and my family to see.”  Trip went out with Zach once.  Then they got back and Trip, Will and I…all four of us got together for dinner.  From there we all started talking about it.  We only with out Zach once.  From there, it just ran away from us. Although it started out 20 then 40 minutes, and now it’s a 90 minute feature-length film, and we’re driving across the country.  

A lot of those 20 months, we were shooting in and around New England and getting our bearings as far as what the adaptive sports community is like.  We were looking for things like who in charge of it, and what different organizations play different roles.  Then we went out to do fundraising as well.


TSC:  You raised upwards of $50,000.  Obviously Kickstarter was succesful.  What else did you to help fund the project?

HB:  Before Kickstarter, last June, we hosted a fundraiser with a 15 minute work-in-progress film.  That raised over $7,000 just by 300 people just showing up, getting tickets, and buying drinks and all that.  And in January of this year, we got a $10,000 grant from Hartford Insurance Company.  We’re one of the 3 finalists to get $10,000, and the grand prize winner will get two tickets to Paralympics in London in late july.  It’s pretty exciting.  We’re still in the running for that and will hear back at some point in late June.  And individual donations here and there.  No big corporate sponsors.  Just a lot of really great individuals who kicked in whatever they could.


TSC:  Your film focuses on Zach’s journey within adaptive sports.  May I ask what happened to him?

HB:  Zach can tell this better than I can, but the short story is that he was on his dirt bike with a buddy and was hit by a driver.  Zach was thrown and woke up paralyzed from the waist down.  In our research, we found that it’s a large percentage of young men who are paralyzed between the ages of 17 and 19.  Not being stupid, just being reckless.  Everyone is when they’re teenagers.  It happens. A lot of really innocent decisions with big consequences.  But Zach has always been really upbeat about it.  We’re really excited to be on this roadtrip with him.


TSC:  After meeting him and going through this whole process, have you learned a lot about the adaptive sports world?

HB:  Yeah.  We were pretty blind and dumb about adaptive spots 20 months ago before we met Zach.  I had an apartment in Boston.  I lived two blocks away from an adaptive facility–one of the best in the country–and I just had no idea.  I’d heard about the building but didn’t know the labor and time that goes into making it really successful.  It’s all fundamentally a lot of really great volunteers, able bodied and disabled, pitching in as much as they can.  It’s really great to see that.  New England Disabled Sports up in New Hampshire…  We crashed on them the whole ski season, and they were so good to us the whole time.  Really a sweet community.  Close knit.


TSC:  Speaking of skiing, how excited were you to interview Bode Miller for the film?

HB:  I was actually taking an econ exam while the rest of the crew was shooting that.  I would have loved to have met him. 


TSC:  Maybe he’ll come the the premiere!  What are your plans for the finished film?  Are you taking it to any festivals?

HB:  We’re going to try to do a big festival run and get the film distributed.  Our goal for it at the end of the day is to get it seen by as many eyes as possible even if that means giving it away.  We just want people to see it and know its out there, particularly newly disabled people waking up in a rehab hospital to be able to see something upbeat but grounded in reality.  And to know there are options out there.  There’s definitely a short list of festivals on a scrap of paper somewhere in our office, but between all of us trying to finish up exams and getting  everything ready for this road trip, we’ve been preoccupied to say the least.


TSC:  That was my next question.  How is it balancing your time, making a film of this magnitude and being in school?

HB:  I send a lot of texts and emails in class is really how it’s worked out.  Other than that…  There isn’t really a central location for us right now.  Which has been interesting for all of us.  We’ve gotten a lot better at communicating and sharing documents and just doing our best to keep everyone on the same page and moving forward.  Logistically, it’s a small crew; there are only four of us.  The guys went out and bought the bus for the road trip.  I didn’t even see it until I got back for Spring Break.  There was a lot of trust.  Yeah.  I saw photos.  It was like “It sounds good on paper.  You guys are there.  If it’s right for us, go for it.”  We just had to trust each other and make sure everyone was on top of their game.  It worked out really well.


TSC: Tell me about the bus you’ve bought for the trip.

HB:  It’s now technically classified as an RV.  Finding the bus was really difficult, because we need to find something that would accommodate four human beings and a lot of film equipment and was handicapped accessible.  We went through a ton of possible contenders.  A VW bus.  The tall, narrow sprinter van that FedEx uses a lot.  We though about maybe towing a trailer.  And we finally ended up with a 20 passenger minibus formerly owned by a  church in Rhode Island.  We came across it in beautiful shape and we got it for under $4,000.  It’s going to get us there and back, and that is what matters.  Then we had to rip out all the seats, put in shelves for equipment, and figure out the living space.  We’ve got a little dining room table that drops down into a bed good for one or two people depending on how snuggly we feel.  And probably someone else in the aisle.  Then we have a tent and sleeping bags.  And there are a lot of very generous people along the way who have offered to put us up for the night here and there…and hopefully let us shower, because we’ll desperately need it.

Our original plan had been to fly out west.  We raised the money and could have done that ten months ago.  But once we started thinking about it, we realized there’s so much we would have missed in doing that.  And driving is just way more fun.  And way more challenging.  So that’s where we are today…10 hours from now.


TSC:  Is there any stop along the way that you’re especially excited about?  Any particular interview?

HB:  There’s a lot of really great stuff.  A lot of great surfing on the west coast.  Zach is really excited to get back to San Diego where he learned to surf again.  He surfed as a kid with his father, but he had to learn again after his accident.  And we’re going to try to find more off the beaten path places in California. Other than that, we have a bunch of really great stops.  I’ve got a buddy out in Carbondale up by Aspen who’s going to take us paragliding.  We have some white water rafting.  Anything you can think of.  A lot of ideas came from people writing on our website of different things and places we should try.


TSC:  So do you each have a sport of your own, or are you just general outdoor buffs?

HB:  We’re all outdoor buffs.  We all kind of grew up near the water, so that’s definitely where are hearts are, so we’ll see how we cope with the Midwest.  Will is probably most athletic of the four of us.  He shot all of the skiing footage at Loon skiing backwards in terrible conditions for most of that.  At one point, he was the 7th best skier in the country under 18.  But he couldn’t catch a baseball to save his life.  We’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses.  We compliment each other well. 


TSC:  Is there anything else we should know about the film?  

HB:  Not off the top of my head.  The trailer and the website are the best place to go.  The trailer does a far more eloquent job of explaining it than I ever could.  We have a GPS tracker on the bus you can follow us as we go along.  And we’ll be updating Facebook and the blog!

 -End of Interview