By Mike Ambs, November 8th, 2009

Amanda and I had already been struggling to get Pedal off the ground for 3 years by the time we released Episode One (in Dec of 06). Even at that stage in pre-production, the story driving the feature length film had evolved quite a bit since day 1 of planning.

The project was always growing, and always structured around a current understanding of our own personal experiences with long distance traveling.

Now it’s been over two years since following Larry McKurtis across the country, and Amanda and I have gone through several variations on roughly the same story during the writing and editing process. One of the most important changes has been the interview segments, which I wanted to talk about in this post.

During our 64 Days on the road, we filmed as many interviews as possible, with people taking their own bicycle adventures. We always expected these interviews to fit into the film as the driver for a reflective, post-trip narrative.

After two years of writing and editing and more writing, I’ve been more and more accepting, specifically the last 4 months, of the reality that these interviews don’t fit smoothly with the rest of the film. They don’t need to be in the film… they don’t bridge any thoughts or moments that otherwise feel rough. The only reason it feels that we would use the interviews is because… well, typically you see interviews in documentaries.

And that doesn’t seem like a very good reason to use them.

The other day, Amanda and I had a long brain-storming session over iChat, we did a full read-through of the script as it stands today, and discussed the few pieces of the film that are still just notes in an outline. One of the most important things we talked about was “whatFor Thousands of Miles has evolved towards.

We both agreed that FToM closer resembles a documentary like Earth, or March of the Penguins then it does Man on a Wire, or Dig!. I’ve always heard that documentaries really find their story in the editing room – I just hadn’t assumed that FToM would become the film it has.

I remember pretty distinctly, for whatever reason, watching Earth in the theater and thinking a lot about the basic format being used: visuals of different animals making great journeys, and an (all knowing) narrator talking about those journeys. Elephants traveling across great desserts… Birds migrating over some of the highest mountain ranges in the world.

And I started to really consider this format for the film… I wanted to treat FToM like a case study. Like we were learning about this species of animal; people, that sometimes would travel impossible-to-imagine distances for seemingly no reason. Sometimes alone, sometimes in small packs. A big focus of this study would be the after effects that these youthful adventures would have.

Pedal has never been a project about someone’s personal experience – it was never intended to tell stories from one person’s trip. And although visually we follow one person from coast to coast, there are many layers in the narration that feel more generalized… That these emotions aren’t unique to Larry’s experience – that most people go down a long and exhausting road internally after they’ve come home.

Also, one last thought before I sign off – I’ve never been able to explain Pedal as a *this* meets *this* kind of pitch. It’s been 6 years of working on this film and I just could never do it. But after talking with Amanda and really going over things – I think I’m finally comfortable with mashing two films together as a close’ish representation of what people can expect.

So, here it goes, you’re the room full of execs / producers and I’m the awkward, sweaty, unproven filmmaker pitching his film in 5 words or less: Winged Migration meets The Mirror. Now comes the part where I wait nervously for someone in the room to say something.

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Posted in For Thousands of Miles

Mike Ambs currently lives in Ypsilanti. He loves to film things and tell stories. And read on the subway. He's pretty sure blue whales are his power animal.

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