The Beer Mile World Classic isn’t an event for those with weak-will or an easily upset stomach. ‘Four beers, four laps, for the helluva it!’ It is the ‘World’s Premier Drinking Race’ and it is far from easy.
Directed by Alex Michael, “More than a Mile” follows the journey of elite athlete Charlie Blanch over 6 months as he trains to represent Team Australia during the 2016 Beer Mile World Classic in London.
An endearing portrait of friendship, athleticism, and the power of beer to unite, “More than a Mile” is the first feature documentary by Alex Michael and will give you a whole new perspective on endurance and what makes an athlete an athlete.
Alex took part in a Q&A with Documentary Drive recently and tells us about what went into the making of the film.
Documentary Drive: How did you learn about the beer mile and what inspired you to make a film about it?
Alex: Charlie and I have been friends for too long. And I knew he was an accomplished distance runner. 100 km a week good. The first beer mile I witnessed was in 2014 and it was on the backend of a Melbourne half marathon. I was floored not only by his ability to back up his efforts from the half marathon but the idea of drinking and running.
It kind of reminded me of eating challenges that you see on YouTube but this had an edge to it. The athleticism needed was what separated an everyman and people like Charlie.
Once Charlie told me a little about his background of running beer miles and the upcoming Beer Mile World Classic, aka The Olympics of the Beer Mile, I told myself, ‘How could I not film this’.
Documentary Drive: A few years in the making, how (if any) has the documentary evolved from your original idea?
Alex: The production was supposed to take place in 2015 at the first international Beer Mile World Classic, which involved USA, Canada and Australia. But I wasn’t ready in regards to budget, backing and organising. So Charlie went with the team and had a ball, so much so we penciled in the next year.
This decision saw the narrative of the ‘first international beer mile’ to the ‘first true international beer mile’ due to the Beer Mile World Classic (BMWC) team moving the event to London for the first time to engage European competition.
Amongst this, Charlie’s personal story was always going to be at the heart of it, but what was added was the narration by Nick MacFalls. His insight and passion for the beer mile I believe leaves the audience so much more invested in the event and Charlie. His input was invaluable.
Documentary Drive: Can you tell me about one of the challenges you faced while making the film?
Alex: The editing process and narrowing the documentary to have it as tight as it is now was one thing I needed help with. Some could argue you could slim some sequences, but it’s just too hard to cut out the nuggets of gold Charlie creates on screen. Multiple test screenings were needed and helped get the documentary to where it is today.
Documentary Drive: Would you say “More than a Mile” is mostly a lighthearted documentary or are there more serious undertones or messages you hope viewers pick up on too?
Alex: In our current somewhat isolated society so much of me wants to say lighthearted. It truly is inspired by an individual that led a pair to go out of their way, to put their life on hold for 6+months just because. Carpe Diem (not to sound too corny).
Though commentary on the sub cultures such as; track and field, alcohol consumption and identity are definitely conveyed to the audience.
Documentary Drive: What did you enjoy most about making the film and do you have a favorite memory from your time during production?
Alex: I’ve got a soft spot for beginnings and endings. When I watch trilogies or series I look forward to the lasting impression of the closing sequence or conclusion of storylines. So I’m going to go with the London Beer Mile scene that ends with the character statement of Charlie. I’ve got no shame in saying after all this time that the narration gets me reflecting inwards and about our journey and makes me so happy that we, along with everyone that helped with the production/project, finished what we started.
Documentary Drive: Looking back at the production process, what’s one valuable thing you learned that you’ll take with you into your next project?
Alex: The importance of organisation and preparation. So many times I needed a spare set of hands, extra batteries or a proper call sheet that I wish I had during the production of MTAM. As a first feature length production, I learnt so many things but this is one that I should of been on top of, as I am kind of a last minute plan kind of guy and I should of squashed this from day one.
Documentary Drive: What do you enjoy most about documentary filmmaking?
Alex: Spontaneity. The arc was easy to set out during the process in regards to dates but the reaction, the consequences from each event were so unpredictable that it made post-production such an exciting challenge in regards to building a narrative around them.
Documentary Drive: Lastly, if you could describe “More than a Mile” in three words what would they be?
Alex: Beers, Running, YOLO.
See “More than a Mile” screening at the special Melbourne Documentary Film Festival online now through August 2nd. For more information, visit: mdff.org.au.