Two Directors, One Champion

Spiritual Cinema Circle

Patrick McGowan and Brett Garamella co-directed the short documentary The Champion on our June Circle DVD. We asked them to tell us about themselves and the experience of making the film:

We've both freelanced in the film industry for a few years and met while working at a commercial company. Brett has a background in not only film but also writing and photography. He has a knack for finding great stories and people like Estaifan and bringing a heartfelt and sensitive approach to storytelling. Patrick has worked as a freelance editor for companies like Vox and VICE. This experience led to meeting a number of great collaborators, including the cinematographer for the boxing sequences, Nate McGarigal, and motion graphics artist Noah Shulman.

We've both freelanced in the film industry for a few years and met while working at a commercial company. Brett has a background in not only film but also writing and photography. He has a knack for finding great stories and people like Estaifan and bringing a heartfelt and sensitive approach to storytelling. Patrick has worked as a freelance editor for companies like Vox and VICE. This experience led to meeting a number of great collaborators, including the cinematographer for the boxing sequences, Nate McGarigal, and Motion Graphics artist Noah Shulman.

· How did you discover Estaifan? Do you have a personal connection to him?

Brett originally met Estaifan while living in Chicago and immediately felt a strong connection to him. Estaifan seemed in many ways to have it all figured out. He had some success in sports, but his life, his family, and his job seemed to bring him so much joy, a joy that most of us search for in our lives.

· Why did you decide to make a film about him?

Estaifan is entertaining individual and there is so much that is unique and interesting about his life. We felt that if we were able to make the film short, very visual, and have the pacing feel quick, we could hopefully offer something to an audience.

· How much time did you spend with Estaifan and his family?

The film took about four years to complete; we were both working in New York City full-time and would travel to Chicago when we were able to film. Over that time we really began to feel like part of the Shilaita family. Sharing their story became sharing the life of people close to us; it really became a personal story.

· Did the film turn out as you expected?

We were honestly not sure what people would think of the film, but after playing at over 30 film festivals and winning several awards it went far beyond what we had expected. We are grateful to have distribution like Gaia to help Estaifan’s story reach an even greater audience.

· Do you think the film has a message for our audience?

We hope the film can connect with a number of different people. Estaifan is an athlete, a father, and an Iraqi immigrant who works hard to support his family. We hope people can relate to and be inspired by both his journey and his destination of finding happiness and fulfillment.

· What are you working on now?

Much like the process of making The Champion, we are both working our day jobs while pursuing more documentary and narrative stories.

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