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Live Q&A with Marshall Curry and Annabeth Barnes

In February 2012, director Marshall Curry and racer Annabeth Barnes took questions from viewers about the film Racing Dreams.



POV: This live Q&A with director Marshall Curry (Racing Dreams, If a Tree Falls, Street Fight) and Racing Dreams driver Annabeth Barnes will begin at 2 PM Eastern (11 AM Pacific).

POV: Leave your questions and comments below and we'll queue them up for our guests!

POV: We're just about to get started. We'll be moderating your questions and comments, so they won't appear immediately. We'll get to as many as we can!

POV: First, let's say hello to director Marshall Curry! Welcome to this live chat with POV viewers.

Marshall Curry: Thanks so much for having me!

POV: And hello, Annabeth Barnes!

Annabeth Barnes: Hi everyone!

POV: Our chat today is happening at distant corners of the map. Annabeth, please tell us where you are.

Annabeth Barnes: I'm at Daytona, Florida, right now. We have been here since Tuesday, going to the races and doing a lot of media work!

Comment From Diane
Marshall, wonderful film. I wonder if you see any parallels between your journey as a filmmaker and the journeys of the racers? Did you know as a child what you wanted to do or that you wanted to be a filmmaker?

Marshall Curry: I actually took a very zig-zaggy route to being a filmmaker. After college, where I studied comparative religion I did lots of different jobs. I taught HS students, I worked in public radio, I made interactive museum exhibits and websites. Finally, when I was around 30 I decided that I really wanted to try making documentaries (I loved them.)

Marshall Curry: So I bought a camera an learned how to shoot and made my first film Street Fight. It went on to be nominated for an Oscar and aired on POV, and I've been lucky enough to make films ever since.

POV: It's interesting that you bring up the Oscar. Can you tell us where YOU are now?

Marshall Curry: I'm in LA, getting ready for the Oscars this weekend. I have a documentary called If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front that was nominated for an Oscar this year.

POV: Who are you wearing?

Marshall Curry: Kirk Miller with Gucci accents. (Gucci/Tribeca was a supporter of the film.) :)

POV: :) We're all very excited for you!

Comment From Kim
What do all your friends and family think of the film? Have people at your school seen it?

Annabeth Barnes: My friends and family, they all really like the film. They thought it was very well done and tastefully done. They enjoyed it a lot.

Annabeth Barnes: People in school saw the film at the middle school I was attending while they were shooting the film.

Comment From Sara:
Marshall, how did you find this story and meet the kids?

Marshall Curry: I was interested in racing but didn't know a lot about it. I read an article about a karting series where kids drive 70 mph and it seemed pretty amazing to me.

Marshall Curry: I went to a few races and met Josh Hobson and he was so great: like an adult in a child's body.

Marshall Curry: So I decided to do a film that looked at their lives. We went to the awards ceremony for the previous year which is next door to a big karting convention.

Marshall Curry: I met Annabeth there-- she was signing autographs for her sponsor, Ultramax.

Marshall Curry:The first scene of her in the movie is actually the first conversation I ever had with her. It was the test footage. But she's so smart and funny so I decided to include her.

Marshall Curry: And later that night I met Brandon. We decided to just focus on those three kids and really dig into their lives.

POV: Annabeth, do you remember meeting Marhsall?

Annabeth Barnes: Yes, they came over and asked if it was alright to talk to me, and of course, we said yes.

Annabeth Barnes: We talked to them for around 20 minutes maybe, and that was it. They told us thank you for talking to them, and actually called us two weeks after if we wanted to do the documentary.

POV: We have a number of questions from viewers about what's happened since the filming of Racing Dreams. Can you give us a recap of the last few years?

Annabeth Barnes: The year after they filmed us, we ran go-karts again and won 2 national championships that year. From there, we moved into a Bandolero Car and ran that in Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Summer Shootout.

Annabeth Barnes: Then, we moved into a Legend Car and ran a few races. After, we ran a first full season with a full-sized stock car.

Annabeth Barnes: We will continue to race those this year.

Comment From Ama
Annabeth, what's the most challenging race you've competed in?

Annabeth Barnes: Well I don't know about the most challenging race, but definitely the most frustrating race has been the last race of the last season, where we were running third and taken out on a restart by the fifth place car.

Annabeth Barnes: That resulted in a lot of damage for our car, which ended our season early.

POV: Annabeth, what do you think of Danica Patrick's crash yesterday?

Annabeth Barnes: That was very hard for her. We were actually at the racetrack watching the race. I felt bad for her because it was her first time at the Daytona race.

Comment From bill m
Hi Marshall, First off congrats on your other film's Oscar nominations! It seems that both of those were more like social issue films - Did you set out to make something similar with Racing Dreams? or was it always supposed to be something different, like a classic sports doc?

Marshall Curry: On the surface, Racing Dreams is a totally different film from Street Fight or If a Tree Falls. (In a way they are all different. Someone said to me that the three films sort of make up an American Trilogy. Everything you need to know about America you can learn from looking at inner city politics (Street Fight), radical environmentalism (If a Tree Falls) and NASCAR (Racing Dreams)).

Marshall Curry: RD is not about a specific political issue, but it does touch on larger issues. It's a story about struggling to pay bills so your kids can pursue their dreams and about adolescence-- figuring out what romance feels like, and figuring out your relationship with you parents, and who you are. I think those stories are as "important" as any political issue. Maybe more important.

Comment From Fran
Marshall, can you talk a little bit about the process of developing trust with the people in your film? I felt privileged to be let into the family financial conversations and the budding telephone romance, for example. Maybe Annabeth has thoughts on that too...

Marshall Curry: We spent a lot of time with the families over the course of a year and a half. Over that time we developed a real friendship with each other.

Marshall Curry: And we are still close today.

Marshall Curry: When shooting we always kept a very small "footprint"-- usually just two people. I would shoot and someone would record sound or vice versa.

Marshall Curry: We didn't set up lights or make too much of a production out of it. I really wanted people to be comfortable so that we could get those intimate moments.

Marshall Curry: It wasn't that we wanted to disappear. We just wanted people to feel like there were a couple of other friends in the room, and over time we developed that, I think. The film has some amazing, magical moments. My favorite scene in the film is probably when Brandon and Annabeth are on the phone-- that was just a completely magical moment.

Annabeth Barnes: Like Marshall said, it was a very small crew that was filming us, which made it easier to open up and being more honest with them. They were also very respectful of our time, and really everything that we were doing, as far as racing goes. It was a definitely enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

Comment From Joe
Do you still compete with and see Brandon and Josh?

Annabeth Barnes: No, we do not compete. I haven't really seen or spoken to either one of them since the theatrical release of the film.

Marshall Curry: I still stay in touch with all three. Brandon and Josh are seniors in HS, about to graduate this spring. Annabeth is in the 11th grade.

POV: I know that Josh wanted to join the chat, but he's actually wrestling right now with his high school wrestling team. He's shared a video with us - We'll add the link at the end of the chat.

Comment From Ty Preyer
Did you ever take a spin in one of the karts, Marshall? If so, did you get to see him try, Annabeth?

Marshall Curry: After the last race the kids did let the crew take out their karts. I got suited up and went out and it was really intense. I was flying around the corners-- in my head it felt like I was going to flip and I knew I was breaking the track time record.

Marshall Curry: But when I pulled in Annabeth and Josh and Brandon were laughing. They said I was going as fast as the 7 year olds.

Marshall Curry: It's harder than it looks.

Annabeth Barnes: That's about right.

Comment From Cathy:
Annabeth, Are you missing school to be in Daytona!?

Annabeth Barnes: Yes, but it's okay because it's a vacation.

Comment From Ramona
Annabeth, have you ever been injured in a race?

Annabeth Barnes: I have been taken away in an ambulance before because I was knocked out, but not seriously injured before.

POV: Welcome to our late additions! We're talking with Marshall Curry, director of Racing Dreams, which was broadcast on POV last night on most PBS stations, and Annabeth Barnes, one of the three racers we met in the film.

POV: We're seeing all of your questions and comments and we'll get to as many as we can in the 15 minutes or so we have left with our guests!

POV: We have another question for Annabeth:

Comment From Susannah
Annabeth, I'm wondering if the documentary has changed your racing career in any way? Has it changed the way you think about racing?

Annabeth Barnes: Yes it has changed my racing career completely I think because we got so much exposure from it. That exposure led to us actually doing a reality show last season.

Annabeth Barnes: Those two things, the documentary and the reality show, has opened so many doors for my racing career.

Comment From Griff
Marshall, great film. I also saw If a Tree Falls on POV last year (congrats on the Oscar nom) and I like that both of these films paint a pretty complex picture of the subjects (both the people and the issues). On the surface Racing Dreams seemed like an uplifting, hopeful film, but I can't help but feel like the message is, "Follow your dreams...so long as you have enough money." To both Annabeth & Marshall - was it tough to see Brandon have to abandon racing because of financial concerns?

Marshall Curry: The film doesn't really have a Hollywood ending-- usually in movies everyone gets what they want. In reality, though, life can be a little more difficult.

Marshall Curry: People should definitely pursue their dreams-- no matter what they are-- but as honest observers of the world, we should understand that it is not always easy.

Marshall Curry: Hopefully understanding that will make us a little more empathetic with each other.

Marshall Curry: And will prepare us, as we pursue our own dreams, to meet the real challenges that face us.

Comment From John
Annabeth, how expensive is racing?

Annabeth Barnes: Racing is a very expensive sport, probably one of the most expensive sports. Definitely to make it in racing, you need to have the finances to do it, whether you pay for it yourself or have sponsors pay it for you. It's hard to find sponsors.

When you can't find sponsors, you have to decide whether you can continue with it or not. In the case with Brandon, he wasn't able to do so. It's sad and no one wants to see that, but it's the reality with the sport. A lot of it comes down to sacrificing you and your family, to do what you love when it comes to dealing with the financial aspect.

Comment From Ty Preyer
Marshall, how did you first hook up with The National (also used to score If a Tree Falls)?

Marshall Curry: Matt Berninger (the singer in the National) and I used to work together at an internet company in the years before he started the band (and before I started making documentaries.) Scott Devendorf from the band also worked there. In fact their first concert was at a company party.

Marshall Curry: I love their music so when I was editing the film, it was natural that I would use theirs. They gave us a generous break on licensing music and even did some recording of new stuff for the film.

POV: Annabeth, some of our viewers are concerned about how much time you have for school.

Comment From Rhoanna
Annabeth, Does racing effect your studies?

Annabeth Barnes: Racing affects my studies somewhat. We have considered home-schooling, but education is really important to me and I want to stay in a public school.

Marshall Curry: Annabeth is too modest to say it, but she's a great student. So I don't think she's cutting TOO many corners there.

POV: Now's the time to get in your last-minute questions or comments! We've got just a few minutes left...

Comment From Guest
Why was it so difficult for Brandon to find a sponsor being he was the Senior National Champ?

Marshall Curry: Brandon is a great racer, and a really smart, charming kid. But they just didn't have the connections that you need to pitch yourself to a sponsor.

Comment From VegasNisie
I have to agree with the other comments that it is just heartbreaking to see Brandon not racing at this time. He has natural racing abilities but was unable financially to pursue that dream. Isn't there a sponsor out there for him!?

Comment From Stewart Copeland
This film had an enormous impact on me. I watched it again the other day and the scene with Brandon on the front porch asking his dog to stay with him still gave me chills. It's great to know the kids are doing well.

POV: This will ahve to be our last question...

Comment From Christian
Marshall, are you working on any documentary projects right now?

Marshall Curry: have been spending most of the last year preparing for the POV broadcast of Racing Dreams and also working on the theatrical release and POV broadcast of If a Tree Falls.

Marshall Curry: But I have started shooting a new doc about the former heavyweight boxing champ, Lennox Lewis.

POV: We'll have to end our chat here. Thanks so much for spending time with us today!

Annabeth Barnes: Thanks for having me today!

POV: Annabeth, Can you tell us how people can follow you?

Annabeth Barnes: We answer quesitons and take messages at both my Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/annabethbarnesracing and my website at http://www.annabethbarnes.com.

POV: Josh Hobson also wanted to pass along his regrets for not being able to make this chat, but you can watch an interview he recorded for POV here http://www.pbs.org/pov/racingdreams/film_update.php. That page also has links to connect with him.

POV: Brandon also sends his regards to everyone. We're sorry he couldn't be part of this chat as well.

POV: Marshall, tell us how people can stay connected with you and the film.

Marshall Curry: The film has a website www.RacingDreamsFilm.com and FB page, and people can follow me on twitter (though, honestly, I don't tweet TOO often...) @marshallcurry

Marshall Curry: I also wanted to put out a pitch for the DVD of Racing Dreams. It has the theatrical version of the film that is about ten minutes longer than the PBS cut and has deleted scenes, follow up footage with the kids, a Q&A with me, and more. It's for sale through the Racing Dreams website: www.RacingDreamsFilm.com

POV: Goodbye, Marshall and Annabeth! And good luck to you both!

Marshall Curry: Thanks so much for chatting with us!

Annabeth Barnes: Goodbye, everyone. Thank you so much for the questions and comments. I hope you all enjoy the film!

Annabeth Barnes: See you at the races!

POV: If we didn't get a chance to ask your question or post your comment, the conversation continues on POV's Facebook page at http://facebook.com/povdocs and POV's companion site for Racing Dreams at http://www.pbs.org/pov/racingdreams, where you can also watch the film again online - but only for a limited time!

POV: If you haven't seen the Oscar-nominated(!) IF A TREE FALLS, you can also watch that online at http://www.pbs.org/pov/ifatreefalls/.

POV: We'll be updating everyone about news from Hollywood this weekend on our blog, Twitter and Facebook.

POV: Thanks again for your questions and comments.

POV: This chat will be archived so you can replay it at anytime.

POV: Bye!





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