Warrior One, a locally produced Naples documentary recording the transformational story of 11 Southwest Florida teens, premiered at the recent 2014 Naples International Film Festival.
The feature length documentary chronicled the story of a five-month training and leadership program called the Wellfit Girls Challenge. The program took the teens to Machu Picchu, Peru and provided the participants with a challenging path to personal discovery.
The Naples Herald was invited to a private test screening of Warrior One and had the opportunity to ask producer Jill Wheeler a few questions about her work. Wheeler is owner of Wellfit Institute, a therapist, speaker, writer, yoga instructor and adventurer specializing in the creation of empowering and transformational experiences. As a climbing guide and outdoor educator, she has led high impact, life-changing adventures for more than 20 years. This is her first venture bringing it all together on camera.
NH: How do you feel about the Warrior One documentary? Are you pleased with the finished project?
JW: I love the message and the overall feeling of the (nearly) finished product. I am proud of the girls’ positive growth and transformation. They certainly enjoyed seeing themselves and how they were portrayed on screen.
NH: Was there a point at which you were able to step back from the project, relinquish it to the crowds and wait for the feedback, or are you still perfecting it?
JW: We are still in the final editing process. I appreciate the audience’s perspective; it was important to get feedback from people not intimately involved with the project. At the recent test screening, we received great praise and accolades and were able to gather a few gems to better the film.
NH: Will you make more films? Are you interested in pursuing other genres?
JW: YES! I will be making more films. I am hooked. The project I am currently looking into is not a documentary (my preferred genre), but does have an eco-education theme. I will only work with ecological and psycho-spiritually empowering projects.
NH: Making a feature length documentary must be an arduous process. How much time would you estimate that you spent on seeing this project come to fruition—from concept to finished project? Would you consider it a labor of love?
JW: Yes, it was definitely a labor of love, as well as time and money. I shudder at the thought of enumerating my time; the initial vision was created more than two years ago. It wasn’t just a photo-journalistic journey, following the girls, I had to create the partnerships, write the curriculum and plan the five-month journey prior to getting the cameras rolling. I can’t even imagine the amount of time I put into making the film. I should have logged it. Just in the past 15 months, I would guess at least two thousand hours! I often joked that I am glad I was not getting paid, because I would be very resentful of my hourly rate.
NH: What was the monetary cost to produce this movie?
JW: $260,000 (and counting), including the expedition costs for all the girls and mentors to travel.
NH: Why did you choose Machu Picchu? Have you traveled the globe extensively? If so, what places did you personally feel empowered by visiting? Have you taken your daughters on adventure travel journeys?
JW: We chose Peru, not specifically because of Machu Picchu, but because of the great program the Peaks Foundation (www.peaksfoundation.org) offered us in that region, which included a variety of opportunities for growth—service, cultural immersion and physical challenge.
I have traveled to Europe, Australia, Asia, Central and South America and all over North America, but I would still like to go to Africa. I spent the majority of my twenties rock climbing throughout the west coast of the US and British Columbia, and have to say some of the most magical, inspiring and empowering moments I have had, have been on incredible rock formations in Yosemite and Joshua Tree in California, The Diamond on Long’s Peak and Squamish in British Columbia. There is nothing like setting out in the morning for a 12-hour rock climb, or even a multi-day climb on a big wall to scare the pants off of you and fall in love with your grit and grace over and over. We have some of the most incredible rock in the world right her in the US. And, yes, my girls rock climb, surf and hike. I cannot wait to get them kite-surfing!
NH: What’s on your bucket list?
JW: A shortlist includes traveling the world to kite-surf with my daughters, climbing Ama Dablam, traveling to Bhutan, dancing and drumming in Mali, Ghana and Senegal and scuba diving with Beluga whales.
NH: Who is Jill Wheeler—in only one word?
Tenacious teenage girls who wish to join an empowering adventure travel experience can still join the next program starting in Jan. 2015. Online applications are available here.