Rise Of The Sufferfests

Scott Keneally

Scott Keneally is the sweaty and passionate Director of the film.

Scott Keneally is the writer/director behind Rise of the Sufferfests, the first feature documentary about the global obstacle course racing phenomenon. The film explores the history of the sport, psychology behind it, personalities that drive it, and asks WTF it says about the world we’re living in. Specifically: why the hell is everyone suddenly paying for pain?

The 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 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 Ruben-produced record, “Mercy.”

Keneally 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.

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Hugh Arian

Hugh Arian understands the value of communication and is the Executive Producer.

I played in the sandbox long before I started Echo Entertainment. An avid jock from my diaper days, it was a sad day when I realized I wasn’t going to be good enough to play sports for a living. But if I couldn’t get paid to play, I could certainly tell stories of those that did. Now that I’ve done that for 30 some years, it’s clear that my “really good, but not great” skill set was a blessing in disguise. From beautiful beaches to majestic mountain tops, I’ve traveled the world producing television at every sporting event imaginable. And then I saw OCR! What? How? Why? Rise of the Sufferfests was my reaction!

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Erik Swanson

Erik Swanson has the skills to chop up video and is the Editor of the film.

I fall squarely into the camp of people that Joe De Sena and Will Dean are trying to "get off the couch." And to a certain extent, that comes with the territory. You'll read lots of interesting stories in the other bios of treks across the globe, OCR battles, and larger-than-life personalities... none of that here. As the editor of this film, I stared into a computer screen for days, weeks, months ... and I wouldn't have it any other way. You see, I like to think that post-production is where the real magic happens.

Although I've edited everything from UFC to poker, reality shows to car commercials, nothing I've ever worked on has had the scope and ambition of this project. Sculpting over 12,000 assets into a coherent story was an exciting challenge, but what really intrigued me about this doc was uncovering intimate moments and personal stories buried in all of the mud and mayhem. If I've done my job, hopefully you'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll learn something. And maybe one day you'll be the one trying to drag me off my couch.

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Brendan Harty

Brendan Harty is an aggressive task master and is a Producer on the film.

Two years ago I was approached by my executive producer, Hugh Arian, about producing a documentary detailing OCR's success. My first thought was, "what the hell is OCR?" After doing some research, I was instantly curious about the idea. Next, I jumped on a flight to the U.K. where, after planes, trains and British taxis, I met Scott Keneally on a cold January night in the north of England. Despite it being 10pm, Scott was dressed in his signature 'full battle regalia' and greeted me with a smile and his contagious enthusiasm for the sport and his film idea. The following day I witnessed the 2015 Winter Tough Guy race. It was a beautiful mix of chaos and culture that was every bit as frightening as it was impressive. I was immediately interested and the decision for us to help Scott complete his vision of a feature length documentary on OCR was made. I've been working in action sports production for nearly 18 years and this is easily the most ambitious and interesting project I've ever been a part of.

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Keith Lancaster

Keith Lancaster hangs tough in any situation and is the Director of Photography.

I think my involvement as Director of Photography and Producer of this fine film came about by being literally the only filmmaker Scott knew when he decided to take this crazy story off the page and onto the screen. You'd think (as good as he is at making friends) he'd have more to pick from, but I'm certainly not complaining. See, Scott and I met in the music world, not the athletic. I was certainly not an athlete. In fact, I lit a cigarette at my first Spartan race shoot and realized just how out of my element I was when a few participants started heckling me.

The whole thing looked so darn fun that I went home, quit smoking, started running, and have finished top couple percent in almost every race I've run since. Even as I write this, I'm recovering from my 14th consecutive day of hot power yoga AND aggressive rock climbing. If this OCR space could change me into someone so... active, I feel like it could change anyone. The benefits of OCR also came in the form of confidence and drive in the rest of my life. These crazy effects have stayed with me as I've adventured 3,000km across India in a 7-horsepower rickshaw, traveled through China on a college lecture tour, backpacked through Patagonia with James Appleton and made bits of films in many more remote locations around the country / globe. It feels so strange, yet so right, to have this movie to thank for being such a positive influence and introducing me to such great people.

I'm still afraid of winter Tough Guy.

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