Now that we’ve announced our first documentary to be screened at Burning Hammer Film Festival, Bozzers sat down with This. Is. Progress documentary film maker Dale Beaumont-Brown to find out more about it…
If you've been to a Progress Wrestling show in the last year or two, then odds on you've seen Dale Beaumont-Brown running around, capturing the action. The 35-year-old independent documentary producer and director has been following the promotion, armed with his camera, to find out more about the people that make it tick. That's meant following fans, talent and the management team as they prepared for their huge Brixton show in September 2016 and beyond.
So it only felt right, then, that I do the same to him. With the documentary making its UK premiere this September (14), I caught up with Dale to ask how all of this came to be.
"In early May 2016 I was actively looking for another project as we'd just finished post-production on my debut feature documentary, GrassRoots: The Cannabis Revolution. I had made a six minute documentary-short in 2016 called The Pro, based on the concept of one man's passion for ten-pin bowling, and I wanted to repeat the formula of a beautifully shot, yet passionate story communicated through a mix of live action and interviews."
And that's when Dale found PROGRESS. A friend sent him a link to the company’s YouTube channel, and being a fan of wrestling since his younger days, Dale knew he'd found what he'd been looking for.
"For almost 10 years I had wanted to make a wrestling documentary, one that is inherently British, in terms of geography and sensibility. I loved documentaries like Beyond The Mat for it's ability to put a human face on the seemingly indestructible wrestlers I remembered from my youth. It's a seminal piece that I think holds up all these years later as perhaps the finest documentary about wrestling, I always wanted to make my own mark with a wrestling documentary, then PROGRESS came along and I knew what had to be done."
Within two weeks, Dale found himself in a meeting with all the owners of the promotion.
"I wasn't nervous in the slightest as I excitedly pitched my idea, pooling in years of film and wrestling geekery. I also mentioned my involvement in a backyard wrestling federation I helped to run some years previously called ENBW (East Norfolk Backyard Wrestling). We were even profiled in THE indie backyard wrestling documentary called The Backyard. I'm the chap being interviewed as I was known then: Big D Smith!
"The PROGRESS guys agreed to have us along to their event that weekend, SuperStrongStyle16, my first live wrestling show in 15 years. We watched the professionalism unspool in front of us; the camaraderie of the crowd and the quality of the wrestling. I got it. I'm in. I started filming two weeks later at Chapter 31: All Hail The New Puritans in Manchester."
So what can we expect from the documentary?
"You can expect a documentary that isn't necessarily about wrestling per se; more about the people that keep the engine ticking over. This is about PROGRESS and how they came to fruition, but also how they've been able to ascend to the heights of the UK's indie wrestling scene too.
"Along the way I learned that it is bloody hard work being a wrestler. I went on the road with Mark Haskins. We started at the Haskins household in Malvern with his wife Vicky, two young children, two cats and a pug. My intention was to follow Mark through his usual weekend mixture of being a family man first, wrestler second.
"We went on the road to a show for Tommy End's final match at a wXw show in Cologne, Germany. This meant filming Mark all day with the kids, going to sleep late, getting up early, travelling to the airport, travelling from Dusseldorf to Cologne with two other wrestlers (in the form of Zack Sabre Jr and Marty Scurll), wrestle in Cologne and then back to Malvern at stupid o'clock. We then had to be up early for the PROGRESS show in Manchester the next day, which Mark was on the card for.
"I don't know how wrestlers find the time to work out and stay fit, eat, travel, not sleep much and still have time for a family, every single week. I was shattered just trying to keep up with Mark, and I didn't even have to wrestle! What wrestlers go through to give you 15 minutes of entertainment is beyond the call of duty. They put their lives and bodies on the line sometimes three to five times a week, something I just could not do, but have built a great respect and admiration for those that do."
"Having THIS.IS.PROGRESS. play Burning Hammer just seems like the right fit, for both the festival and for the film. It's a British film made by a Brit about one of the world's largest indies: a British company! I'm so, so proud to have my work screened as a part of our festival. I don't think words can quite describe what it means to me."
To see the documentary yourself, get tickets now.