Last year, after racing the AT&T Spartan Stadium race in San Francisco, I took my wife and twin boys to a private screening of one of the only movies I saw during the entire year last year (I’m not much of a Hollywood guy).
Actually, this wasn’t even a movie. It was a documentary, a genre that I really only tap into when my assistant sends me an audio download of some documentary somebody tells me I “must-see” and then I listen to it while I’m walking through the forest and imagine what is going on from a visual standpoint (as a film nerd, my guest on today’s podcast would probably throttle me for this).
Anyways, I walked out of the screening incredibly impressed. I laughed, I was inspired, I was on the edge of my seat, my kids were howling with laughter, and my wife loved it.
So what did we see exactly?
The documentary is called “Rise Of The Sufferfests“. It’s all about the global obstacle course phenomenon, and in a highly entertaining and funny way, it explores the history of the sport, the psychology behind it, the personalities that drive it, and asks what it says about the world we’re living in. Here’s the trailer:
Director Scott Keneally is my guest on today’s show. This self-proclaimed “beta male” has been stuck in the mud since the fall of 2011, when he tackled his first Tough Mudder. Back then, the first-time filmmaker had no idea he’d be making a movie about any of this stuff. He went into it with a simple plan: to suffer and write a story about the suffering.
Keneally had previously confessed to things like bedwetting and sweaty pits in places like the New York Times Styles section, and figured the one about training up and tackling a paramilitary assault course would make for funny material. That essay was featured on the cover of his local alt-weekly, but more importantly, while researching the history of the company, he stumbled upon a “Social Network”-style scandal surrounding its origins. He quickly reinvented himself as an investigative journalist, and his story ultimately landed on the cover of Outside. The exposé received widespread media attention, opening doors to a consulting gig with 60 Minutes Sports, a speaking engagement at Stanford Business School and—by kismet or luck—an unlikely new career path as a filmmaker.
When he’s not running in mud, Keneally works as a treatment writer for some of the top directors in music videos and commercials. Over the past 15 years, he has collaborated on videos for Rihanna, Madonna, Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, as well as Paris Hilton’s infamous burger commercial. He has also been known to play didgeridoo with the criminally under-discovered rock band OURS, through which he has toured with Marilyn Manson and recorded on the band’s Rick Rubin-produced record, “Mercy.” He received his B.A. from Boston College (’99) and his M.F.A. from University of San Francisco (’04). He lives on a vineyard in Sonoma County, CA, with his wife and little boy.
During my discussion with Scott, you’ll discover:
-How raves, micro-dosing with LSD, and rebelling against being a preppie turned Scott from wanting to be the president of the United States to instead making music videos and eventually obstacle course racing…[13:45]
-The crazy, eccentric man named “Mr. Mouse” who inspired Scott to make the Sufferfests movie… [19:45]
-Scott’s take on why millions of people are suddenly paying to suffer through ice, fire, electricity, barbed wire, mud and more…[28:20]
-The concept of “The Strenuous Life” and why humans are hardwired to want to get out of our comfortable lives…[31:20]
-Why a shocking number of people are doing obstacle course racing to get a good profile pic…[35:20]
-The intriguing link between the “masculinity crisis” and obstacle course racing…[47:05]
-Why you must have some aspect of fear and discomfort in your life…[52:00]
-What were the craziest adventures you embarked upon while filming Sufferfest? [59:35]
-What Scott thinks is the next “big thing” in OCR…[62:20]
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for Scott or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!
Also published on Medium.