Filmmaker Grant Barbeito remembers being doubtful at first about shooting video of his friend's 14-year-old swimmer daughter, Missy Franklin. But after seeing her impressive skills in person, he became an immediate acolyte, going on to persuade friend and fellow filmmaker Christo Brock into shooting video of Franklin. Brock himself was skeptical until meeting Franklin.
"We weren't looking to shoot a swimmer, but we got extremely lucky when an older professional by the name of Kara Lynn Joyce decided to come train in Colorado, and then all of a sudden we knew we had a story," says Block.
That story became the blossoming friendship and cameraderie between Franklin and Joyce, which is the subject of the new documentary Touch The Wall. Co-directed by Barberito and Brock, the film opens this Friday at the Regency South Coast in Costa Mesa.
Joyce, an established swimmer who had by then already placed silver in the 2004 Olympics, was looking for new training ground after her Fullerton swim team had fell apart. She talked to people around her swimming circles and fell in with the Colorado Stars, Missy Franklin's high school training team. "I had been on national teams with them in the past and it just seemed like really good energy," says Joyce. "At that point in my career at 25 years old going for my third Olympics, it was really refreshing to have that younger perspective with people who were going for their first Olympics. It refreshed my love for the sport again."
Of all the Stars, Joyce bonded most with Franklin, and the two formed a sisterly bond over time through their mutual love of swimming.
In the film, Brock and Barbeito capture much of Franklin and Joyce's lives and friendship, from the arduous to the mundane: waking up at 4:30 every morning for practice, lengthy training schedules, school, prom, and family time for Franklin, while Joyce manages her adult life and living situation with then-boyfriend (now husband) Casey. The two directors gain near-unlimited access to the two swimmers' worlds, but make a point to focus on their personalities–and that's the element that gives Touch the Wall its magic. Franklin's sweetness and humility shines through, as does Joyce's tough perseverance and grit, making you love and admire these two athletes and root for them all the way through.
But while Franklin's rise to fame is meteoric after winning numerous national championships, Joyce's arc is laden with more setbacks. Joyce is a veteran Olympian, and the point is made by Joyce and her coach Todd Schmitz that her speed is beginning to wane. Joyce's body begins to experience stiffness in her legs that makes swimming difficult, and prevents her from qualifying for essential funding for training professionally; additionally, she struggles to focus on her own personal development from supporting Franklin in her journey.
After leaving the Stars and joining SwimMAC in North Carolina, Joyce is back on track; she eventually ends up wins second in the 50-meter freestyle challenge at the trials for the 2012 London Olympics. She remarks how from watching the film, "its a cool gift to be able to relive that year; I say that knowing how things ended up. But either way if I made the team or not it was a special year and sharing that with Missy and Todd was pretty incredible all around."
Although Joyce made it into the Summer Olympics, it marked the end of her Olympic career, by choice. Meanwhile, Franklin began hers, earning the title 'The Missile' from the press and stunning the sports world by turning down thousands of dollars in sponsorships and professional offers. Franklin, after all, wanted to keep intact her love of swimming and her dream of swimming in college.
While Joyce and Missy learn so much from each other, Brock confides that he learned a lot from the two as well. "There's a beauty and genuine care that these women have for each other that is extremely rare in the world, and extremely rare in sports. I hope this film is on the way of a kinder, gentler way of competing." says Brock, " Part of that is bringing more women into sports and making that more mainstream."
Adds Barbeito, "We realized that these girls are role models to a lot of people, and we wanted the film to reflect that. We were just there to capture their life, so we wanted to make a film that honored all the hard work and perseverance they put into it."
Touch The Wall opens Friday at Regency South Coast. For ticket and showtime information, visit www.regencymovies.com For more information on the film, visit the official website at www.touchthewall.com