Viewer’s Guide: “The Fittest”
Yesterday afternoon, the “Buttery Bros,” Heber Cannon and Marston Sawyers officially announced the early release of The Fittest documentary, their latest film offering, on March 24. It’s safe to say the movie can’t come soon enough. At a time when the world continues to swirl from the COVID-19 pandemic, the collective CrossFit community could use a nice distraction in the form of their favorite athletes in a feature-length movie.
Full disclosure: I was one of the subjects interviewed as part of the documentary, I recorded voice-overs for the movie, and the filmmakers are close friends and coworkers of nearly a decade. I’ve also been fortunate to have had a front-row seat for their journey of making the film, and have witnessed their creative life cycle along the way.
The film debuted a few weeks ago in Miami in front of a single theatre crowd the night before the Wodapalooza CrossFit Festival kicked off. More screenings were planned recently in Las Vegas and San Diego but recent developments have nixed those. As one of the lucky few to have seen the documentary in its entirety in Miami, there are a few contextual things to keep in mind (without spoiling anything) when watching The Fittest once it finally releases to the public on iTunes.
It’s more rugged than past films.
This is actually a good thing given what transpired last season. Past films had the benefit of a multi-faceted media team to pull from if need be, including some tremendous resources onsite during the Games. This led to beautifully cinematic shots and visuals that gave even the casual fan goosebumps. Without the same firepower as years past, this required a formidable effort to pull off, but as Plato said, “necessity is the mother of invention.”
This film was largely built by Cannon and Sawyers, with help from a select few individuals. There was not an intricately laid out plan for a feature-length film throughout the season, in fact the documentary really only became a distinct reality the week prior to the Games. Instead, they scratched and clawed their way through the season to get to Madison, and assembled things as they could along the way. There are still plenty of goosebump moments and beautiful cinematography — including two action sequences that could stand as two of the best they’ve ever done — but in the absence of resources, there’s more down-and-dirty storytelling that was much more representative of the 2019 CrossFit Games season. Which leads to……
They don’t shy away from anything.
This might be the most important aspect of the film. The official trailer revealed that pieces of the 2018 CrossFit Games and the enormous swath of change that took place afterward would be touched on in the film. There was plenty of controversy in 2019, and all of it is fair game here. Without giving anything away, the questions posed by the film are indicative of the many questions that surrounded the season and the Games on behalf of fans and athletes alike.
If you have any investment in this space whatsoever, it’s more than likely you will find your voice portrayed somewhere along the line in this film. Somewhere between incendiary and apologetic lies a fairly wide strike zone of opinions that the film could have taken towards the events that took place, and ultimately the product put forth in Madison. Like Greg Maddux in the ’90s, the film does a solid job of working that strike zone.
Last but certainly not least…
It is a grassroots product.
An element that’s not a primary focus of the film, but is touched on briefly, is the fact that this is a film for the community, by the community. After the massive CrossFit Inc. layoffs, the powers that be put the kibosh on the 2018 Games documentary, which left many in the community yearning for a type of content that had been wildly successful, and stood as a hallmark of each Games season.
A lack of funding and employment meant the filmmakers had to get creative (pun intended) with how to make the next venture possible financially. The nice part about the new Sanctionals system is that the direct involvement of community members outside of CrossFit HQ in the Games season was increased fifteen-fold. Suddenly, a much larger pool of people had direct economic influence in “official” CrossFit Games matters, and that influence trickled down to content creators like the Buttery Bros. The success of their YouTube channel and the ability to cover events and athletes is a direct result of the community’s support at both the Sanctional and individual levels.
Note: The Fittest documentary is available for pre-sale at a special discount now on iTunes, and charted as the number one movie worldwide on iTunes pre-order list. It officially drops on March 24.