Every Monday at 6 am, criminal court judge Craig Mitchell leads a running group on a six mile run through the streets of downtown Los Angeles from Skid Row to Chinatown, and back.
Together, he and the residents of Skid Row’s Midnight Mission Shelter make up an unorthodox running club.
They train not just for the LA marathon, but to rebuild lives.
“Any perception that people who suffer from addiction or end up on Skid Row do not possess character traits to achieve great things in their lives is an absolute misperception,” asserted Judge Mitchell in the documentary trailer. “[The runners have] sustained way too much disappointment, too many dreams that have not come to fruition, and I’m not going to let this experience [of the running club] fall into that category.”
This is the focus of the upcoming documentary Skid Row Marathon, directed by Mark Hayes and produced by his wife Gabi Hayes. Both Mark and Gabi were fascinated by the judge and his running club, recognizing how important it was to tell this story.
“It intrigued me because here’s this guy that, as part of his day job and daily responsibilities, is sentencing people to long sentences and life in prison,” explained Mark, who’s been documenting the runners in this passion project for three years. “Yet, on the other hand, he’s reaching out to those same individuals to help them get back into society and be a part of the greater community. He believes in their potential.”
The film follows the runners over the course of three years as they battle with the ups and downs of addiction, and how the retreat of the club offered them a second chance.
“We’re trying to tell the story of these people as they reconnect with life, society, and their own dignity. The running club has given them this second chance at life and we’re following these characters as they either succeed or fail when given this second chance,” commented Mark.
But Mark and Gabi faced a few challenges while filming the documentary. Since it’s based on a running club, the subjects would move quickly from place to place, giving Gabi and Mark just a single opportunity to get the shot. The Hayes needed camera supports that were lightweight, set-up quickly and didn’t compromise on the quality of the movement. The solution was using Sachtler’s FSB 8 fluid head paired with the Speedlock tripod. Built for camera operators on the go, Sachtler’s tripods are lightweight and their Speedlock technology helps users set up quickly by having a single release per leg. Additionally, the FSB 8 fluid head has a versatile payload range that supports the wide range of cameras Gabi and Mark use, including the Canon C300, the Sony FS700, and the Sony a7S.
“Once the runners started their run, we can’t tell them to wait while we jump in the car to follow them, so we’d use Sachtler’s Speedlock legs every day. We’d collapse the legs, pop it in the car, put the quick release plate on, level the tripod while we were moving, and then 10 seconds later you’re shooting. The ability to move that around quickly and to drastically change your setups was really made possible by the ease with which we could raise and lower the tripod, balance the head, and then quickly start tilting and panning to follow these runners. It’s carbon fiber legs make it light and maneuverable, but strong and stable at the same time,” said Mark.
Another challenge is that the homeless community doesn’t appreciate being photographed – much less filmed. But Mark and Gabi would run with them every week, and had built up trust within the club and its members year after year. And despite the long production and low budget, their equipment, skills and dedication created a truly engaging story with superior quality.
“The story is about second chances, but as shooters know, you don’t get a second chance so you have to get the shot the first time around. Sachtler helps us get the shot so we can tell the story and capture that emotion. If we didn’t do that, no one would want to watch this documentary. And, for us, Sachtler’s made all the difference.”
To follow Skid Row Marathon go to skidrowmarathon.com.
For more information on Sachtler’s FSB 8, click HERE.