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Interview: Paul Basagoitia on his Upcoming Film, Rehab & the Future

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It's been over three years since Paul Basagoitia’s life-changing crash at Red Bull Rampage. This weekend, the Red Bull Media House documentary that showcases his journey post-injury makes its world premiere at SXSW. We reached out to Paul to find out more about the upcoming film and how his life has changed after his spinal cord injury.

When did you decide to start documenting your day to day progress after your spinal cord injury?

I started documenting my whole progress when I was still in the ICU. I was in a hospital bed looking at the popcorn ceiling and super depressed, not knowing what to do. I looked to the side of my bed and there was a camera. I had bought this camera literally a week before I got injured. So I thought, “what better way to learn how to operate this camera then when here I am in ICU?”

Why did that feel important at the time?

It didn't really feel important at the time. It was literally just something to do when I was in the hospital. I was so bored and felt so lost. I just wanted to document something and I wanted to learn how to operate that camera, so I started using it. Next thing you know, I was shooting footage every single day as a way to kill time until I was able to get out of the hospital.

What was the first thing you filmed?

The very first thing I filmed was pointing the camera straight to my face and talking about my situation, about what was going on, and what I thought my future was going to be like.

How much of this film did you record yourself?

I ended up filming about half of the film, by myself. Everything from the hospital to even the earliest stages at the house when I got home, was all shot on my camera. I would set the camera up on a tripod and hit record then do my day-to-day things. My fiance works a nine-to-five, so I was pretty lonely here at the house and I would just capture everything that I was doing. The footage also served as a tool. I wanted to see my progress, so I would always film my exercises and trying to take steps. Then I would literally, look at the footage to see if I could notice any improvements in my recovery.

When did you get a dedicated filmer?

About one year after my injury Red Bull Media House reached out to me about joining forces on this project. They knew that I was filming my recovery and they came on board to help tell the story. It was really awesome that they were willing to do that. This is definitely not an action sports film, so for them to be involved and to bring awareness to spinal cord injuries is a true honor. I don't think I could have tackled something this big on my own, that's for sure.

When did Red Bull Media House come on board and how did ‘Any One Of Us’ become a feature-length film? 

I never thought about this as a full-on documentary when I was working on my own. I was thinking that this footage could become a short film to raise funds for all the medical bills I was dealing with, or something. When Red Bull Media House came on board it was a huge relief. Never in a million years did I think it was going to be a feature film.

What was it like to work with Director Fernando Villena and the rest of the Red Bull Media House team on showcasing such a personal story?

With something like this you have got to trust your team to document the worst situation of your life. When you are at very, very rock bottom and you have a film crew documenting you on a day-to-day basis, you have got to trust the crew and you have to get along with them. I couldn't have asked for a better crew to work with, from Fernando, the director, to the main filmer, Twoner. Twoner essentially lived with me for a few months and he never told me what to do. He would just sit in a corner and have the cameras rolling on my day-to-day life. I couldn't think of a better crew to work with.

How big of a role did you have in deciding what would be shown and the storyline?

I had 100 percent control over everything. If I didn't feel comfortable putting it out to the world, then it wasn't going to go in the film. I came in as an executive producer and helped with the creative side of things. I filmed a lot of it and I was heavily involved even on the edit side of things. I was hands-on pretty much from the beginning of this documentary to the very end, and now here I am about to go out and share it in person with the world.

Who are the other people in the film and how were they chosen?

The director and producers found a bunch of people with spinal cord injuries, who volunteered to share their stories in the film. This was really a blessing because most of the people that are in the film didn’t know who I was, or my story. So it was really an honor for them to be a part of it and to have them speak so freely about their situation.

As a professional athlete, you give fans a glimpse into your personal life via videos, social media and interviews. How was this different?

I'm actually quite boring on social media and I'm not very active. I don't really talk about my life and personal things on there. With this film, you will know everything about me from my childhood growing up, to all the complications that I had to deal with around this injury. Basically, you'll know everything about me: Good and bad.

What was it like when you and Nichole watched the film for the first time?

I don't think that we have sat down and watched it together. So SXSW, we’ll be the first time that we watch the entire film together. We've seen bits and pieces together, but we have yet to see it together fully from the beginning to the end.

What are you most nervous about with sharing this film for the first time?

Oh man, a lot of things. A lot of things. I can't even pinpoint one thing because there's so many embarrassing moments that I had to go through with this injury that were documented. I look back and I can't believe that I filmed everything, but at the same time, I'm so happy that I recorded it because that stuff does need to be shared to fully educate people about spinal cord injuries. Then, on the personal side, I’m nervous to share the parts of the film about all of the stuff that I had to deal with growing up. And I'm hopeful that we have the message correct. The whole purpose of this film is to bring awareness to this injury and to educate the people that don’t know much about it. And my grand hope is that there will be a kid, who will watch this film, and be inspired to become a scientist and find a cure for paralysis.


What do you hope people take away from watching the film?

Every one of us has some kind of challenge in our life regardless of our situation. Hopefully people who watch this film will leave feeling good about themselves, and inspired to overcome their own challenges, whatever those are. If I can do it, I think anybody can do it, no matter what the challenge is.

When did filming for ‘Any One Of Us’ end? 

Filming officially wrapped on my second return to Red Bull Rampage following my injury in October 2017. But we ended up filming more to clean up some sections and capture voiceovers. So, field production completely wrapped two and a half years after my injury, and then we went fully into the edit.

What is your day to day like now? 

Day-to-day, I’m continuing to do rehab. I have a gym here at the house and I, literally, spend an hour and a half every day in that gym still trying to get better. My main focus remains trying to recover as much as possible, so I spend a lot of time in the gym every morning. Then, if the weather's nice, depending on what time of year it is, I'm out riding my bike as much as possible.

What are your hopes for the future?

That’s a broad question, so I’ll break it into a few sections. My hope for this film, is that it brings so much awareness and funding for spinal cord injury research that we find a cure one day. If we can find a cure for spinal cord injuries that would be so awesome and maybe my sharing my story can help to create a movement toward that. Along those lines, all of the proceeds from this film will go to the non-profit Wings for Life, which funds research and clinical trials aimed at healing spinal cord injuries. Personally, I would just want to continue living life to the fullest and to be happy. Whether it's going on a bike ride or going to the beach with my girlfriend; I just want to be happy. That's my goal for the future, just to continue to be happy and of course to avoid any more injuries.