Looking On the Outside with Steve Lindsay

When cinematographer Steve Lindsay was contacted by Shape Your Life (SYL) co-founder Joanne Green in hopes of enlisting his talents for a documentary about the program, she was appealing to his sensitivity and talent. He was quick to agree after learning about SYL and its purpose. The DP confirms, “I knew this film was important for the SYL program. I knew how much work went into starting the program and how hard it is to continue to find funding year after year to keep the program going. It was obvious how important the program was to the participants going through it. The documentary’s ability to bring attention to SYL was important and something I felt quite strongly about.” Also serving as producer allowed Steve to bring a strong and distinct voice to Outside the Ring.

It was clear that the message of the film was important but projecting it in the proper manner would require a unique approach. Outside the Ring would give a glimpse into the lives of women and transgendered survivors of violence and the impact Boxing has had in their healing. After speaking with the organization’s founders and the creators of the project, Lindsay offered a minimalist approach that would place the ownership of telling each individual’s experience completely on themselves. The story is told entirely through interviews with SYL participants, coaches, and founders. No narration or music was used. This meant the visual presentation would be even more responsible.

Shape Your Life (SYL) is a free, trauma informed, non-contact boxing program for self-identified women who have experienced violence. Since the program began in 2007, more than 1,600 women and trans- identifying persons have participated in Shape Your Life. No one could convey the emotion of these individuals better than themselves. The entire reason for creating Outside the Ring was to raise awareness of these lives and the fact that the program exists for those who might need it. The background for the interviews was dark and quiet (filmed at Newsgirls Boxing Gym in Toronto). Lindsay relates, “The stories these women shared were powerful and compassionate. I felt it was important that the viewer hear these stories unbiased and uninfluenced by lighting or music. These kinds of devices can have a great impact on the emotions of an audience but I wanted the viewer to make their own decisions based on their own feelings and emotions as they listened and watched the interviews. The ample use of darkness focuses the viewer on the person being interviewed. For the scenes of the women training, I used mostly available light and let the character of the gym play out. This is where the viewer sees the sweat and emoting that goes into this program. Sometimes the best style of production is simple. Letting the simple and honest truth of the stories come through required a light touch. Restraint was key in achieving the right emotional tone.”

Outside the Ring premiered in New York City at the Shadow Box Film Festival where it was selected as a finalist. The film also received great praise at numerous other film festivals throughout North America, including the 2014 Inside Out Toronto LGTB Film Festival. Critical acclaim can sometimes be overshadowed as in the case of this film which is now being used as a Pedagogical Training tool at Bridgewater State University. Joanne Greene, Steve Lindsay, and all involved parties can rest assured that with Outside the Ring they have truly created a film that has made a difference in society.

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