5Point Film Fest: Local filmmakers share Max Grange’s inspirational story
April 20, 2017
If You Go
What: ‘Big Air Max’ at 5Point Film Festival, Program IV
When: Sunday, noon
Where: Carbondale Rec Center
How much: $25
More info: The program, themed ‘Changemakers,’ features 12 short films and will be hosted by Paddy O’Connell.
Max Grange is a skier, musician, artist and animal lover. Which is to say, the 30-year-old Snowmass native is a lot like his mountain town peers.
But as the new short documentary "Big Air Max" makes clear, the rest of us have a lot to learn from Grange.
A childhood accident left him with spastic quadriplegia. He is confined to a wheelchair and speaks through a computer system. Yet those limitations don't hold Grange back from much, nor do they dampen his bright smile and buoyant, brave spirit. The 10-minute "Big Air Max," which has its world premiere Sunday at the 5Point Film Festival in Carbondale, offers an inspirational profile of Grange, his family and his friends.
"It was really scary when he had his accident," his mother, Katie, says in the film. "We didn't know if he would survive more than five days or 10 days or what would happen. … When I accepted him for who he was, that's what changed everything."
The film follows Grange onto the mountain, where he skis with Challenge Aspen, in which he was one of the first participants after its founding 22 years ago. We see him play music with Mack Bailey, with whom he wrote the original song "Big Air Max," and singing with the Aspen Noise Choir. And we see him working with animals – assisting with adoptions in a shelter.
"He's one of the most inspirational people I've ever met," said "Big Air Max" co-director Rachel Mayoral. "He just has this incredible attitude about life and tackling obstacles. He doesn't let the little things get in his way. … Max does so much with so many obstacles in his way — he doesn't even view them as obstacles."
The film is the first by Mayoral and three of her classmates at Colorado Mountain College (CMC) students: Danny Feria, Ben Hunter and Than Kan Sian Khai.
The quartet met at the Isaacson School for New Media. They had been in search of a story that could carry a documentary — a project outside of school assignments. When Grange gave a speech on leadership at CMC last year, the filmmakers found their match. Co-director Khai was deeply affected by the speech and went to his classmates with the idea.
"He brought it to us and said, 'Guys, we have to tell this story!'" Mayoral recalled.
When they proposed the idea to Max and his family in November, they signed on immediately. The filmmakers raised $1,750 via GoFundMe, began shooting in late January, spent a total of 20 days filming, and had finished a rough cut by the end of March.
"That sounds like a decent amount of time, but we're all first time filmmakers, so it was intense," Mayoral said.
They split duties — all of them handling cameras, directing, editing and producing, with Feria taking the lead on sound editing and audio.
"It was a huge collaboration," said Mayoral.
Mayoral is due to graduate in May. She plans to head to Los Angeles, in the hopes of breaking into the film industry. While the "Big Air Max" creative team members are all leaving school and beginning their professional careers, Mayoral said they hope to collaborate again.
All four of the filmmakers have been to 5Point as attendees and as volunteers. Having a film on the big screen at the festival is a dream come true for them, made all the more meaningful by bringing Grange's powerful tale to 5Point's global community of artists and adventurers.
"Just to be up there with some of these great filmmakers is quite an honor," she said. "And to share Max's story with that many people is exciting for us. We're hoping it inspires everyone that sees it."