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Interview With Catherine Gund: How To Become An Extreme Action Hero


Among the promising documentary films gaining momentum on Kickstarter, we found Director Catherine Gund’s “How To Become An Extreme Action Hero”, a documentary exploring the artistic style of dancer and master of movement, Elizabeth Streb. Streb has pushed the limits of artistic movement and influenced others to follow in her brave footsteps. We had an opportunity to talk to Catherine about this film and her influences.

Q: Where did the inspiration for this documentary come from? What was it
about this project that called to you?

Catherine: I’ve actually known Elizabeth Streb for quite a few years now, and one of my kids participates in the trapeze classes at the STREB Lab for Action Mechanics (SLAM) in Williamsburg. After completing my last project (What’s on Your Plate?), I went through a few project ideas, including an international road movie, but then it hit me. Streb!

Flying through the air, climbing up walls, flipping around; there’s nothing like it out there. There are films and documentaries about dance and dancers, but I knew this would be more than a performance movie; it would be an intimate and inspiring exploration of bravery, danger and personal limits. Streb set out to become a dancer and learned that she was an extreme action hero. That’s something we can all aspire to.

Q: Who do you expect your audience will be? Who are you trying to reach out
to with this documentary?

Catherine: The STREB company performs outside and inside, but always open to
the public, wherever they can find a wall to climb up or down. Their work is for everyone. By the same measure, our film will be for everyone. STREB inspires. And by hinting at the possibilities of physical and emotional bravery, we hope our film will too.

Q: What is the draw for your audience? What makes your documentary unique?

Catherine: HERO is going to be a mix of hand-held HD footage, archival footage and comic-style animation… maybe a little disorienting, but definitely exhilarating. What’s going to draw people? Have you ever seen a STREB performance? Once you get a glimpse of those bright colors and graceful but strong moves, you can’t help but want more. Our film is about bravery, danger, aging, dance, community, fear, beauty, physics, queers, bodies, and the thrill of being alive.

Q: Did you draw influences for this documentary from other films? Which
ones? Are there any specific directors you draw inspiration from?

Catherine: Man on Wire and Pina definitely helped to inspire this project, but we plan to go in a different direction. As you may know, we were lucky to have Albert Maysles come on as a production consultant and cinematographer for our recent shoot of STREB’s performance of “One Extraordinary Day” in London. Working with him and observing his intimate camera style has definitely influenced the path our production will take in the coming months.

Q: What specific locations or people are featured in your documentary? What
is their significance to the project?

Catherine: We’re going to follow Elizabeth Streb all-over for the next year or so… we’ll be in STREB Lab in Williamsburg and other parts of NYC; London… But who knows? Streb is always about surprises. Our film will also feature interviews and performances from Philippe Petit, Anna Deavere Smith, Trisha Brown, The Espana Brothers, and more. These are all people who Elizabeth Streb counts among her own extreme action heroes.

If you are interested in donating to this project, you can visit its official Kickstarter here: