Friday, November 5, 2010

ESPN2 will air documentary Nov. 8 about mixed martial arts amputee wrestler Kyle Maynard

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

As a congenital amputee who rose to become a successful wrestler and compete in the brutal, take-no-prisoners world of mixed martial arts, Kyle Maynard is used to overcoming odds.

When ESPN2 airs “A Fighting Chance,” an hour-long documentary about his controversial quest for an MMA match, tonight it will mark another unlikely success in his life. The film was made on the cheap by Maynard and two friends with only a camera, a laptop and the faith they'd figure out how to make it work despite their lack of experience as filmmakers.

A chance meeting with sports businessman Ted Leonsis, who Kyle impressed over lunch by sending texts on his Blackberry with no hands, led to Leonsis’ producing credit and the ESPN slot.

Maynard and the film's director, Takashi Doscher, sat down at Maynard’s Buford townhouse to talk about capturing this unconventional story.

Q. Making this film in the real time Kyle was struggling to find approval and an opponent to get in the cage, did you worry how it would end if he didn’t?

Doscher: Kyle has a way of always coming through and always surprising people when they say he can't do something. No one knew how the film might end, but as filmmakers and storytellers, we had to have faith that we could find the story inside of life.

Q. With the camera on you all the time, did you feel any extra pressure?

Maynard: I would have never have done [the film] if it hadn’t been done with two of my closest friends [Doscher and co-director Alex Shofner]. I’ve done a lot of media stuff before, but that only hit on slightly more than surface.

Q. What were the biggest challenges of making this film?

Doscher: It was being such good friends with Kyle. When he’s in his closet getting dressed and explaining some of the struggles he had as a kid putting his socks on and zipping up his pants, that’s pretty private. There were some magical things that came out on film from being so intimate.

On the flip side, there was a lot of negative backlash [about an amputee fighting]. Obviously you want your best friend to win, but people were saying some pretty bad stuff about him. During the match, I was too nervous watching him fight; I couldn’t even hold the camera. Keeping that impartial eye was difficult.

Q. Do people call you an adrenaline junkie?

Maynard: I’ve gotten that before. I’m more interested in the psychological aspects of athletics than the physical. Before the fight, I was in one of the most confident, calm states I’ve ever been in. I’m studying Zen and meditation now. It’s crazy stuff, but it works. For the fight, I visualized what it would feel like when I saw my opponent. ... I had already lived through it in my mind.

Q. That match seemed like your white whale. What things do you fear now?

Maynard: Getting bored. Not following my passions. Going after your dreams is hard. You don’t know what to do all the time. But I really believe that the pain of not doing it is bigger than the pain of doing it.

“A Fighting Chance.” 7 p.m. Nov. 8. ESPN2. Rebroadcast 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Nov. 11 and 5 p.m. Dec. 25 on ESPN Classic. A 90-minute version is available at