Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Beware the Sled Dog Film "Documentary"

Musher Patrick Beall with his team at the Start of Iditarod 2016
Willow, AK  March 6, 2016
It's come to the attention of the mushing world that a self proclaimed "expose" of the "horrors of dog mushing" documentary is getting set to debut. They've been making waves for the last 24 hours. Naturally Iditarod and mushers alike have come out against it, but the sad fact of the matter is with the Country of Canada BACKING THIS FILM. It is not going away.

However, they seem to have misjudged how the mushing community would respond. I'm not sure if they thought they'd stay silent, or if they would come out looking like the blood thirsty monsters that the "documentation" (I hate using that term when referring to these people) no doubt believes they would be. Nope, instead they are calmly and intelligently refuting the accusations being levied at them.

For me this is not a shock. I've known quite a few mushers for years now - from all levels of the sport. Most are the salt of the earth kind of people who would do anything for their dogs (and DO). I could probably film them all and turn it negatively if I was such a person, but unlike Fern Levitt (the "documentation") I don't see the need to be a fiction writer.

One of the mushers supposedly featured in the "film" has spoken out via social media. Patrick Beall trains and runs out of Mitch Seavey's Kennel in Seward and Sterling, Alaska. Patrick was part of the Seavey puppy team in Iditarod 2016 and was told by the film makers that they wanted to follow a rookie in the race. They had to get permission from the ITC. From what I can tell they lied and provided false information on multiple levels. This is not surprising, we see this all the time with the Michael Moores of film making. But it's no less disgusting.

Here's what Patrick had to say this afternoon:

"I want to make a statement to the social media realm currently reacting to this anti sled dog propaganda. The film "Sled Dogs" will be coming out soon, attached below is the brutal trailer portraying the sport in an extremely negative light. If you don't read anything else, please know I was lied to and the intentions of the film completely misrepresented. I am a person that goes through life with complete trust in people and will never give into the prying urge of cynicism. Please feel free to share with whomever you see fit.
Last fall was one of the most exciting of my life. On top of having qualified for Iditarod the prior seasons and working so hard to get to the starting line. Things were just plain good. I was training an amazing group of two year olds at Mitch Seavey's kennel and had been a Seavey handler for a good spell by then. I was confident in my know-how and my drive to conquer the goal of reaching Nome. I remember it vividly, I received an email from Fern Levitt asking me if I would be interested in participating in a documentary. I, of course, thought this would be so cool and accepted. She explained she wanted to do a film on what it takes for a rookie to run The Last Great Race. Again, I was nothing but excited to share my love for the sport and the amazing dogs involved. We set up times for her and her crew to come join in the fall. They took me to dinner and were way cool people. The next day we filmed. I was four wheeler training at the time so they hooked up go pros and you name it. It seemed so neat that I was being granted this opportunity to share my life with others. After the first filming session was over they interviewed me and asked basic questions you would imagine any tourist asking. And naturally like I always do shared my passion with enthusiasm and pure love. They were ecstatic with their footage and before they left gave me hugs and told me how much love they see if have for the dogs. So it goes...
They came up for another training session. Same results. Same enthusiasm. Same praise for what it was I was doing and how well I cared for my wild pack of sled dogs. After this they interview me again. It seemed again like a normal interview explaining what it was I was doing and how my dogs were. So, they decided after the fact they wanted to follow me through the Iditarod. I said, something along the lines of "hell yeah!" Naturally they needed permission from Iditarod, which they received. Again, because they duped me and they were able to dupe ITC. As it may be...
They followed me during Iditarod. They were there at the ceremonial and re-start. Just as excited as I was. I saw a glimmer in their eyes of how intriguing and glorious the atmosphere at this event can be. They gave me high fives and like they always had during filming been so impressed with everything that was going on.
The film crew first met me in rainy pass. I was a little down because I had added a 50 mile run to my Iditarod by taking a wrong trail. However, the film guy and sound guy were trying to cheer me up. They seemed like friends I had known for ages. I truly enjoyed their company and good attitudes.
I saw them next in McGrath at my 24 hr layover. They were so impressed with the fact I was passing people and making up time despite my wrong turn. I remember them saying to me how amazed at my good attitude in times of adversity they were. They loved the fact I whistled to my dogs when I booted them. They were having so much fun doing what they love "filming" what I love, taking care of high end athlete sled dogs.
Again, I saw them in Galena. By now I was rolling, my dog team was doing the best they had been the whole race. I was in the zone of efficiency and had no other thoughts but "man I can't believe I'm doing The Iditarod Trail" and "man my dogs look amazing, im so unbelievably proud of these guys." In galena we pretty much slapped hands. Next, I was on my way to Nommmme!
I got to Nome in 11 days 23 hours. On the sea ice outside of the burled arch I had an overwhelming since of joy and love for everything. I cried. I cried like a mother and father would cry seeing their new infant for the first time. I had to get it out before getting to the finish line because hey I'm a tough guy 😎and I didn't want the camera to catch tears of joy on film....
What might have been the best day of my life, I came down front street, every dog pulling in harness. I could see the arch. I could see the cameras. I could see, My Mother. My mom was able to see me finish the race. I don't think she had missed one important day of my life. It was the most special day I can remember. She was balling tears of un seen emotion and love. I just hugged her. Man it was amazing. I then hugged my amazing lead dog Magnus and just lay there on the ground with him. I was so damn happy. All of this was of course filmed by this crew. Pure life in the moment joy. The kind that you can't stage, you can't fake, you can't ask even the best actor to accomplish. And guess what, they were there witnessing all of it. With their cameras and their false agenda. Behind their fake smiles and congratulations.
I later sat with them for a beer. They bought me several and just talked to me. With no cameras or sound equipment. They were amazed. They gave me so many compliments and I found them genuine. It's amazing to me it was all in vain. For some dumb film that misrepresents everything sled dogs stand for.
I can only say one thing... what they did is far worse than any claim they try to make in their "documentary". They took someone's genuine love for the world and his passion for something and turned it negative. For that, I feel sorry for them. I will not stoop to their level and fall prey to the inaccuracies. It is a shame we live in a world where you have to question everyone's intentions. But I will not allow them to steal my joy and love for this world and the sport of dog mushing.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have regarding the film. I will share with you everything I have learned and all the truths I know. I love you all."

1 comment:

  1. Good for you and thank you for not only sharing your experience but also enlightening us to the facts behind this documentary prior to its release. I grew up in the film industry that has become conniving and a group with such a desire to force all people to believe, eat and breath as they do. The development of the "stefford people" is what I call it. The film industry needs to stick to fiction since that is the only thing "most" of them are capable of producing.

    CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR THRILLING SUCCESS!!

    ReplyDelete