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The second half of my life

Updated: Mar 29, 2021



Open Guard is a project that I've wanted to do for a long time. I have always been fascinated by combat sports, especially MMA. While realizing my capacity to achieve greatness in the sport is limited, mostly due to my age, and subsequently my skills, or lack thereof. I decided to approach MMA as a tourist, someone traveling the world through the sport in order to understand the culture and lifestyle of fighters. Open Guard is a video documentary project that dives into the world of professional combat sports and highlights the skills, lifestyle and culture of fighters and the people close to them.



On November 2nd, 2021, I will turn 40. It is a very symbolic milestone for a lot of people, myself included. The year 2020 was challenging for everyone all around the world. Early in March of 2020 I got COVID-19 and back then, little was known about the virus and it was very scary. No doctors wanted to see me, nobody really knew the signs of severe complications, and my fever was not going down. It took me two weeks to feel better, and about three months before I could resume physical activities. According to scientists, you may lose 10 years of life expectancy from covid... Whether that is true or not, I decided not to waste anymore time, and I set a goal to bring my project to life before I turn 40. I am also a bit intimidated by the big number. No matter what, I want to preserve as much youth, fun, naive creativity and childish behavior in my mind as possible and hope my body will follow. Since I needed to find a name for the LLC producing Open Guard, the thought naturally materialized to name it "Never 40 Production".


I've wanted to do something like Open Guard for a while but never did, always pushing it back and conveniently making it a lower priority so I never had to do the work. Maybe I simply needed more maturity to be able to develop and execute this project, or maybe I was simply making excuses for myself as starting a new endeavor is always scary. 40 years is about half of your life, if everything goes well. What did I do in the first half? I went from childhood to adulthood, doing all sorts of martial arts from Karate and Judo to Aikibudo. I studied molecular biology, married a wonderful woman, had my first child, moved to the United States, and since then had two other children. I learned photography and filmmaking using all different kinds of free online resources and a shit ton of practice. I trained Muay Thai pretty seriously for about three years but was forced to stop due to knee surgery in 2015. That was the last time I went to the gym. More recently, as I was reflecting on who I wanted to be in ten years, I realized I needed to make some changes as I slowly started to become out of shape. I have been interested for a while in how different communities and cultures embrace combat sports, this is how the idea of Open Guard came about. I would travel, and discover people and cultures behind the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. MMA is violent and how fighters deal with it fascinates me.


Challenges.

Open Guard is an ambitious project with two main personal challenges:


The first challenge is that I will be both the host and the director of the show. Directing is something I have done multiple times, but being a host is something I have never done. It is possible I will totally suck at it, but until I try I will never know. I will appear on screen, speak in English with what I find to be a strong French accent, being that English is not my first language. Most importantly, being the host means training and sparring with fighters before interviewing them, this part is essential. This is how the show will differentiate itself from other shows. By spending time on the mats with athletes, I hope to create a unique connection that can lead to better interviews where fighters would open up and engage in more personal discussions. In order to be ready, I need to get back in shape. My training and physical preparation is part of the preproduction. To improve my boxing skills, I installed a double end bag in my apartment and started routinely punching it for 45 minutes to an hour, every two days. It is good for precision, speed, and cardio. There will be other posts on the blog that will provide more insights as to what my preparation looks like as I move along.




Note on double end bag: Double end bag I installed at home so I can train my speed, cardio, footwork and head movement anytime. I discovered the double end bag to be an amazing tool for practice. It is challenging, requires precision, speed, and rhythm. It is an excellent exercise I recommend to anyone who enjoys boxing and punching and wants a good workout. This bag is easy to set-up and takes less space than a free standing heavy bag.


The second challenge is the pre-production of the pilot. This involves a lot of research, planning and logistics. Thankfully, I have some connections with MMA fighters in New Jersey and New York so it helps me to secure some gyms and academies. Without too much personal experience in what pre-production really means in the industry, I had to learn about the film industry standards that I will have to apply to make this project successful. One of the books I recommend for anyone interested in producing content (any content, especially low budget) is Producer to Producer by Maureen Ryan. This book describes all the key steps from development and pre-production to production, it also includes the basics of what you need to know regarding budget, insurance, logistics, etc.


Support.

As you start a new project, it's almost like preparing for a fight. You may doubt yourself, your ideas, your strengths, your weaknesses. There are ups and downs. Some mornings, you wake up excited about the simplest idea and two hours later you get punched in the nose by a new guy at the gym, you think you suck and your project is not worth doing. Self-confidence is extremely important, and unless your ego is disproportionate, you will often doubt your capacity to lead a project. At least this is how I sometimes feel. Being surrounded by people who support you is essential, and I am happy to say I have that. My family is supporting me in every way possible. My son, who has been wrestling since he was 6, makes me work on my takedowns, my daughters select the photo of daddy they think I should post online, and my wife not only assumes the role of producer, photographer and videographer, but also that of my personal doctor (when I come home with a bloody nose). The support I receive from fighters, coaches, and friends, every small word of encouragement, response to an email or a text, is so incredible to me; it makes me feel like I am an undisputed champion.


As I am writing this post, Open Guard sounds like an exciting and great project and I hope we will all know a lot more about it soon. Maybe it will work out, maybe not. The most important thing to me is to learn some valuable lessons as I go. You only learn when you are in a challenging position, where failure is a real possibility. As long as I keep going, I will improve. Samuel Beckett said, "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." This is what I want to keep doing for the second half of my life so when it is time to throw in the towel, I have no regrets and can leave the ring in peace.






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