As part of my Documentary Workshop class with Professor Ben Crane, I have learned not only that I have the ability to stay awake until 6 a.m. editing but also that working out is the best way to form a connection with someone.
The documentary I worked on, “Cornered,” which premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday in Park Auditorium, is about UMAR Boxing, a gym in a rough part of Baltimore, Md., that emphasizes education as much as it does boxing. When we first pitched our idea to Professor Crane, we were met with tepid interest — a step up from his usual immediate refusal.
Three members of the group and I traveled to Baltimore in early October. After a day in the gym we had met an 18-year-old fighter named Antwain Robinson, who had returned to boxing after two years of what he told us was “bad stuff,” but our interaction had only lasted a minute or so, and we hadn’t made a connection with any other boxers at the gym. We stood in a grungy stairwell and wondered if we had wasted our time driving six hours to Baltimore.
The next moment a large group of boxers walked by us, and someone said something about going for a run. Making a split-second decision, I asked them if I could join and quickly handed my phone and wallet to my partner as I went out the door to run with people I had never met in a dangerous neighborhood I had never been to before.
The boxers seemed to eye me warily as we ran. Understandably so — I was just some skinny guy in jeans and a button down shirt who wanted to run with them for some unknown reason. We arrived at Frederick Douglass High School, where the boxers and I went through a series of pushups and wind sprints followed by hill sprints. After I was able to keep up with the fastest among them with relative ease, I seemed to earn some respect from the group.
As we walked back to the gym I began to talk to one of the boxers out on the run, and he turned out to be the same Antwain we had met earlier. He was much more relaxed than when we first met him. He asked me how I liked college, and he told me he wasn’t interested in college because he planned to move up to professional boxing.
When I got back and told my partners about the run, we pretty much knew that Antwain was the character we were looking for. Although I was not able to meet Antwain again, he opened up to my partners and gave our documentary the depth and personal feeling we hoped for after the shared connection formed by a run. I realized that no matter the circumstances you come from the language of running is universal.