Interview with Filmmaker Neil Myers (CLIMB)

CLIMB is playing at the DOCUMENTARY INSPIRTATIONAL Film Festival on July 8th.

What motivated you to make this film?

At first, I was dead set against making a film. I didn’t want to make a doc about “me” — that seemed too self-absorbed.

Then, I was invited to attend Cottage Hospital’s annual fund-raiser for their trauma center. They made a short video about my story and showed it to the donors (about 300). The donors were visibly moved. When I left that night, they stopped me to talk … it took and hour to get out.

I realized that what moved them was seeing the benefit their donations had — how impactful the care I received was. I realized there was a story here that wasn’t so much about me, but rather about the value of community on a journey of recovery.

That excited me, and I realize that was a story I could tell.

From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make your film?

It took me 2-1/2 years.

How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Move forward.

But … if you give me THREE words I would say …

Never give up.

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

I have a full-time job – more than full-time. Doing a feature-length documentary in two years while running a business AND healing, rehabbing, and training was too much. I won’t do another feature-length documentary until I retire!

So, now I am looking for small stories – 10 minutes or so. I want to continue tell stories so I can hone my craft.

What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

It blew me away. In this pandemic year, filmmakers are starved for feedback. We work for years to tell our story, and then release it to film festivals. But in a virtual world, we live in a vacuum. Thousand of people have viewed Climb, but I’ve only been in the room with four of them (my wife, youngest son and my in-laws). Yes, it won a fair number of awards, and that’s gratifying, but I had no idea how people were reacting to the story.

Then I watched 13 minutes of real people discussing Climb and realized all the really difficult choices I made along the way (how to tell the story, how to film it, what to include, what to leave out, even lighting choices) were all noticed and appreciated. It was so gratifying!

I am so grateful this film festival exists. It has provided something that has been fundamentally missing.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when I was 12 (we lived 500 feet from a small theater). I fell in love, and watched that film 5 times that summer. That fueled my dream of becoming a filmmaker. But dreams are dreams, and real life is real life.

I ended-up starting a marketing company, which at is core, is telling stories. I made sure we pushed hard into making videos for our clients, eventually making more than 500 two-to-three-minute videos. That taught me cameras, lights, sound, music, how to interview people and – most importantly – how to craft a story.

Over time I realized I wanted to become a documentary filmmaker, not narrative. The reason is that I know how to tell stories, but I know nothing about acting, writing dialog, sets, etc. Telling stories is my passion.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

In addition to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I would add Casablanca, and (more recently) Biggest Little Farm. Biggest Little Farm inspired me. It set the bar. I didn’t reach that bar, but hope to some day.

You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I love FilmFreeway. It gives me everything I need as a filmmaker. I cannot imagine trying to submit films without this platform.

What’s your favorite meal?

Chop salad, New York steak and French fries. That’s why I have to do triathlons! Otherwise I would weigh a billion pounds!

What is next for you? A new film?

Eventually, yes. But I cannot do another feature-length film until I retire. Until then, I will do short films (10-15 minutes) so I can hone my craft.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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