Saturday, June 3, 2017

Five questions for Michael Workman about From Parts Unknown

Posted By on Sat, Jun 3, 2017 at 4:27 PM

click to enlarge wrestling.jpg

In his upcoming documentary, Missoula filmmaker Michael Workman follows a group of Spokane's independent backyard wrestlers. The main focus of the story is Jesse Lawson, the founder of Spokane Anarchy Wrestling, who uses his wrestling character, "Madman," as one way to cope with PTSD and depression. It's a story about violence and camaraderie, performance art and nostalgia.

Workman is the program coordinator for the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and an artist who often explores violence, purpose and American dreams through the lens of commercialism and absurdity. The wrestling documentary, From Parts Unknown, is a project two years in the making, and the film's Kickstarter campaign comes to a close at the end of the day Monday.

What is this film about?
Michael Workman: From Parts Unknown follows Jesse "Madman" Manson, a wrestler who expresses his pain and trauma through wrestling. It's a look into how class frustrations of post-industrial America are expressed via professional wrestling. It examines the need for recognition, the allure of violence, and how self-expression in all forms creates purpose.

This project was initially supposed to be a fictional film about wrestling, right? What’s your interested in the subject matter?
MW: It was originally suppose to be a fiction film, but once I started meeting the wrestlers I realized their stories were more interesting and compelling than something I could write. I was interested in professional wrestling because it is really a form of artistic expression for marginalized working-class people. The storylines that play out in the ring reflect the fantasies and frustrations of the people who watch them.

At what point did you know this needed to be nonfiction—was there a particular moment for you?
MW: We knew this needed to be a documentary when one of our main characters first opened up to us, and we knew that we could get beyond the surface of wrestling and into something deeper.

What was your first impression of these backyard wrestlers, and how did your view of them change over the course of filming.
MW: Our first impression of Spokane Anarchy Wrestling was intense. Our first shoot was in December of 2015, and we really did not know what to expect. We were thrown backstage following one of the wrestlers who ended up spraying a fire extinguisher at his opponent, then was slid down the bar on his belly like a cartoon character, and finally was concussed with a broken nose when his opponent messed up a "super kick" that actually hit his face. We were all in shock from that night. It was by far the most over-the-top brutal day of shooting. From then on it was much less chaotic and no one was seriously injured.

How did the wrestlers first respond to you, and how did you get them to open up about what they do?
MW: Most of the wrestlers were pretty open to the idea of a documentary crew filming them. We found our main characters about six months after our first shoot because they were the most introspective and open people. I believe that good documentarians that work in observational cinema need to develop real meaningful relationships with the people in their films, because that is truly the only way for someone to feel comfortable enough to open up to you. After filming periodically for a year with someone, you really get to know them on a personal level, and they feel comfortable telling you things they would not tell most people.

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