A former championship wrestler is forced to face his past when he returns to the hometown he left in disgrace twenty years earlier. Can he become the hero his town expected… or will he remain a prisoner of his past mistakes?
Interview with director Glenn Withrow
THE LAST CHAMPION was the winner of BEST FEATURE FILM at the August 2022 SPORTS & RECREATION Film Festival.
1. What motivated you to make this film?
Our project prior to this one, The Mooring, was a harrowing suspense horror-thriller and this time around, we wanted to do something that was uplifting. We felt that, in the editing process, having to listen people cheering would be a welcome change from hearing repeated screams of terror. We decided to do a character-driven inspirational sports drama that focused on the main character’s path to redemption.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
With writing, storyboarding, about 6 years
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
The weather! We got hit with a seventeen-year snowfall in Eastern Washington. The first day of filming was 20 below. Cameras were freezing up. For example, the location of our first shot we had to trudge through snow drifts up to our ass. I had scouted the location and I knew where I wanted to put the camera. I kept shouting to everyone “we need to get this shot right before the sun comes up” – It was the shot where John drives up to childhood home for the first time.
Well, the camera crew was too slow, and we missed it. I said, “we are here tomorrow because I am not starting the film unless we get what I planned.” We got the shot the next morning.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
Humbled. I was very pleased that the feedback was so positive and that the viewers picked up on certain subtleties and the subtext that, as a filmmaker, you hope won’t be lost on the audience.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I realized definitively that I wanted to make films while I was working as an actor on the movies I did for Francis Ford Coppola. I did several films with Francis – The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, Peggy Sue Got Married, and The Cotton Club. He was a true master and he really inspired me. I also watched how he worked so closely with his family – his wife and children – and watching them work together creatively definitely made an impression on me and fueled my desire to create that kind of a creative collaborative dynamic within my own life with my own family.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
The Godfather, of course.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
Getting the word out is always nice. Also, I think it’s just great to connect with other people who are on a similar journey – to share war stories, to cheer each other on and support one another.
When you’re working on a project, it’s so wall-to-wall and you don’t really get out much! So, it’s nice to just get out and connect with like-minded people, other artists.
9. You submitted to the festival via Film Freeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
I’m actually very impressed with Film Freeway. I think the platform is very user-friendly – very accessible.
10. What is your favorite meal?
I like most things. Hard to pinpoint one.
11. What is next for you? A new film?
We have a slate of projects – all different budgets and genres. A Political Action- Suspense- Thriller, A Post-Apocalyptic Sci-fi Action Thriller, A Social Justice – Action-Suspense-Thriller, AComing – of- Age Adventure limited series, about courage and survival, set in the 20’s.