A free screening of the film Raise Up: The World Is Our Gym is happening in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday, August 29th, as part of a day of Health and Hip Hop. The event is a means to raise awareness about how people can control of their health and learn freestyle calisthenics. Learn more about the event here.
The TriFilm Society talked with filmmaker Rain Bennett about the movie, how he made it, and what’s next.
Tell us about your documentary.
This film is a snapshot of a cultural movement that is building and strengthening communities on every continent by people using nothing but a bar and their bodies. A freestyle version of classic calisthenics, or bodyweight exercises, started in poor areas in New York as a social movement – binding the youth and the elders of the neighborhoods together in a way nothing had before. This underground creative fitness movement has since become a global phenomenon. By utilizing social media, these neighborhoods from all over the world have now united and organized in hopes to make Street Workout the next big sport.
What made you want to make this film?
I was introduced to the “bar world” or culture like most people – on Youtube. I began using this style of training in my own fitness regimen and incorporating it into classes I was teaching. However, the true catalyst was a PSA that I produced for Shaw University featuring the Bartendaz, a workout group from Harlem. Here, I saw the true social impact this culture was having on people and how it touched the communities. My interest was more than piqued and I began to follow the story of New York’s calisthenics community.
What’s your background in film / how did you get into filmmaking?
I’ve been in filmmaking/TV/video for 10 years now. I went to school at N.C. State University and began acting in local independent films while in college. After graduating, I worked with and studied under some documentary filmmakers and then started my first company.
How was your film funded?
Raise Up was funded in a variety of ways, like many independent films. We did have a successful crowdfunding campaign (a little over 10k) on Indiegogo. That money primarily funded the travel to about 15 countries to follow the international spread of freestyle calisthenics. I sold some equity in the film, once we had built up an audience and a little reputation, for finishing the film. But, most of the money (and time, obviously) has come from me. I’ve put almost everything I’ve made into this for the past five years.
How is it being distributed?
It will definitely be on a VOD site, whether it be VHX or Vimeo or something, but we are still shopping it around. My goal is to get it to as wide of an audience as possible (i.e. beyond just the people interested in fitness). We are sending it to festivals, and doing some screenings in the meantime.
How can people see the movie?
The next screening is August 29th at a free-to-the-public health event in Raleigh, N.C. We are going to do a demo of freestyle calisthenics and then show the movie to the kids in the neighborhood. Other than that, people can follow the movie’s pages online to find out the next screening and the official release date once it out!
What other projects are you working on?
I have several other projects in the works, as filmmakers must. Currently, I’m preparing to launch a podcast based off of the themes of Raise Up – community, health, family, etc. I have some documentaries and TV pilots in development, and plan to shoot a short in N.C. this fall.
If you could share one lesson learned for other filmmakers, what would it be?
Two things I’d like to share:
1. Don’t be afraid, just go for it. I like to think of the “worst case scenario” and if that scenario is NOT something like death, then stop being afraid.
2. Be organized and be diligent. Many times on Raise Up, after a long day of shooting, I’d be with my friends (from the calisthenics culture) in some awesome city across the world, and I’d get consumed and go out and party and be part of the group. There were many times in post production I’d wished I’d stayed and logged or organized my clips during those times. HOWEVER, many of those times created some of the most beautiful stories of my life. So, like everything, I suppose there is a balance.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’d also like to thank everyone for their support (and patience!) during the making of this film. Whether its a close friend showing up at some event I’m planning, or a kind comment from a stranger on Instagram, I really have only made it through because of constant little puffs of positivity into my system. Otherwise, I would have quit a long time ago.
About the Film
Raise Up is a documentary that captures the street workout world as it shifts from an underground workout regimen to a mainstream cultural movement. Starting in NYC parks, this style of extreme calisthenics is revolutionizing push-ups, pull-ups, and dips, as well as changing the way people maintain and protect the health of their communities.
What started out as a community building social tool, is quickly becoming a popular, and polarized, international sport – threatening to a loss of the authenticity of the culture. One thing that cannot be denied, is that it’s a movement that is touching people of all ages, races, and economic backgrounds across the world and unifying them in a way no other sport has done before.
Will commercialization kill the culture, or will this be able to ride the line between being a commodity and a tool for social change?
Rain Bennett is an independent documentary filmmaker who creates projects focused on cultural or social issues, food, music, art and health. Operating under his brand, Flying Flounder Productions, he writes, directs, and produces strong stories that touch the heart.
Since 2012, Bennett has been traveling the world telling the stories of the rapidly emerging Street Workout culture – a freestyle version of calisthenics that emerged in the parks and playgrounds of New York City in the early 2000’s. In the form of a feature documentary, he is the first in the world to introduce this global culture that is organized in over 80 countries, participated by millions, yet still unheard of by the average citizen. Through this journey, he has given public speeches in several countries, taught children the art of Street Workout, built workout parks for orphanages in developing countries, and produced video content for North American and European clients.
Rain Bennett resides in Chapel Hill, N.C., and is touring his film, Raise Up: The World is Our Gym, around the United States throughout the fall of 2015 and internationally in 2016.