This week I am attending the Zonta Film Festival in Kitchener-Waterloo, a festival showcasing films that matter and are inspired by women. 9 films are being screened between November 8-10th, some of which have Q&A’s with the director afterwards. I had the opportunity to interview Lisa Lightbourn-Lay and Rhonda-Marie Avery, the director and the star of 8% No Limit, before their opening night screening.
8% No Limit follows Rhonda-Marie Avery, a woman with 8% vision who sets out to run the entire Bruce Trail. The Bruce Trail is 885km and Rhonda plans to run it in 20 days, with the help of approximately 50 guides. Keep reading to see the full interview!
K: So, first of all, how did you two meet?
Rhonda-Marie Avery: We have a mutual friend involved in running, and she said ‘hey, do you want to meet my friend, she makes films’ and I said ‘okay’ and we had coffee. That’s my side of the story.
Lisa Lightbourn-Lay: I was out for coffee with my friend Kate, she does obstacle racing kind of stuff, and she said ‘I know this girl and she’s legally blind and she’s going to run the Bruce Trail’ and I’m like ‘what?’. She said she was at an event, she saw this girl and was asking someone ‘hey, is she blind?” and they said ‘oh yeah, that’s Rhonda, she’s blind’ and my friend said “oh, that’s cool’. So they got to talking, and she (Rhonda) said she wanted to run the Bruce Trail and she goes “I thought she wanted to run ON the Bruce Trail, not the whole Bruce Trail’. So when she clarified, Kate said ‘so, how long is it?’ and Rhonda says ‘8 or 9’ and she goes ‘8 or 9 what?’ and she says ‘you know, 100 kilometers.’ So when Kate told me this I was like ‘I kind want to meet this person’, so were introduced and kind of went from there.
K: When did you make the decision to make 8% No Limit? And when did you start production?
L: We met in December of 2013, and then in August of 2014 is when she started her run.
K: How long did it take you to run the trail, and make the documentary alongside that?
R: 20 days.
L: 20 days to run, and I was filming before and after. So, I would say it started February of 2014 and finished December of 2014.
K: What was the biggest challenge about running the trail? And what was the biggest challenge in the filmmaking process?
R: Trying to stay optimistic was the biggest challenge. I had fifty different people come out to help guide and they needed to know that I was there, and I was present, and I was focused. But that’s hard, everyday you’re more and more tired, and more and more cranky, and more and more in it.
L: And with new people coming in all the time, and some of these people hadn’t even met her before. So, there were new people that were guiding, there were people that we didn’t even know at places we were staying at, because it was just organically people were opening up their homes to us along the way. When you have new runners coming in, they’re kind of like ‘yeah! I’m so excited’ and you know, at the end of the day, which is translated into possibly a fourteen hour day, Rhonda is just done. So, she comes back, and her goal is to eat, take a bath, and go to bed. That’s it, and hopefully get some sleep, which I know is hard day after day because your body doesn’t actually know how to stop. But the people would come with a lot of enthusiasm, and she kind of had to answer that one way or another. It was interesting to see all the people in terms of being able to be there for her, without sort of letting their own enthusiasm take it over.
And your own biggest challenge, Lisa? How was making this film different from any film you’ve made before?
L: It depends. In terms of filming it, it was just a matter of twenty consecutive days. I remember Rhonda and I had a conversation beforehand and she said at some point ‘well, what if I don’t finish it?’ and I said ‘well, actually that doesn’t matter to me because the story is still there no matter what’. So it wasn’t so much that I was counting on this big finish. I think the biggest challenge afterwards was being able to string the story together in a way that was inclusive to all the really incredible moments that happened along the way into an hour-long film. So, that was tough.
K: I saw online that there was an 8% No Limit series and then the 8% No Limit film? Those are two different things?
L: So, I did a web series first, which was a twelve-part web series for Get Out There magazine and created that with the idea that this was going to be sort of a promotional tool and get people interested. The web series includes parts of the film, but definitely is different from the film.
K: Rhonda, how has the reception of the film been for you? Showing everyone your story, what has that been like?
R: I think people are intrigued because they want to know ‘how did you do that?’. It seems like an implausible idea to go nearly 900km in twenty days having someone describe every route, rock, tree, crevasse, cliff edge, right? But that’s good because instilling curiosity means that you’re going to start a whole new branch of awareness for disability in sport and that’s the only reason this happened to begin with.
K: Where can readers find the film outside of the Zonta Film Festival?
L: It’s going to be seen on AMI over the next year, and there will be select dates they choose, three dates over the next year.
K: Is there anything else you want readers to know about 8% No Limit?
L: One of the questions they were asking me in there was the idea of the approach for translating a film for someone who is legally blind, and what that looks like as a filmmaker, and how you would put that out. I think that when I first thought about the film, I didn’t want to be heavy-handed with the idea of ‘this is how she sees’. The thing that most stood out for me was her voice. So, I know that for Rhonda, he mission in it was that thing had to be bigger than just her. So, her mission in it became the guiding mission for the whole film, and the idea of her competing something that was completely stepping outside of what people would expect of someone with a disability.
Thank you again for speaking with me, Rhonda and Lisa! You can see 8% No Limit at the Princess Twin Cinema on November 9th at 6:30pm as part of the Zonta Film Festival. To find more information, you could also head over to the 8% No Limit website.