Of all the Santa Barbara Filmmaker features in SBIFF this year, none feels more “Santa Barbara” than Climb, a documentary by avid cyclist and triathlete Neil Myers, who was nearly killed in a bike-meets-windshield crash on Gibraltar Road. Instead of withering away, Myers tackles his recovery like an Olympian, and this doc — featuring interviews with family and medical pros and tons of iconic views of the Santa Ynez Mountains — recounts his odyssey to get back in the saddle and compete again.
Myers recently answered some of my questions via email.
You must have decided early on to turn this near-tragedy into a film. When did you decide that, and why did you feel that this was the best format for telling this story?
In those first few months, I told the story of the accident so many times. Invariably, people would say, “You have to write a book; you have to make a movie.” But I was dead-set against that — creating a film about yourself seems cringe-worthy.
But then Cottage Hospital did a short video about my accident for their annual trauma center fundraiser, the Tiara Ball.
I was amazed by the reaction. The room was full of hundreds of generous donors who had helped build the trauma I level facility. The donors were visibly moved by the video. When I left that night, it took me 45 minutes to get out the door because donors were lined up to talk to me.
I saw how the story moved donors. I realized the story wasn’t about me, but rather it was about the amazing community that got me back to the finish line. I realized that a film could inspire other donors to help improve trauma centers — here in Santa Barbara and in other communities as well.
So I made the film as a way to give back: to help build better trauma centers and to provide money that could allow people less fortunate than I am to get the same kind of care.
After we finish the film festival circuit, I plan to take the film on the road and hold fundraisers around the country. I have no idea how much I can raise, but my hope is that it will help.
Was your family immediately supportive of turning their lives into a documentary, or was there any reluctance to opening up so much on camera?
They were very supportive. It is a huge commitment, but they made it willingly and enthusiastically.
Do you hope to inspire others with your story? What else do you hope that viewers will take away from your film?
Honestly, I just want people to enjoy the film. It is a story; I hope they enjoy how I told that story.
This is very much an ode to Gibraltar Road. What makes that so special for cyclists?
It is a true, Tour de France–level climb. It is a tough test of your ability. You have to concentrate. For that reason, I find that no matter how much is on my mind at the start, by the end I am clear, happy, and Zen.
How often do you ride up Gibraltar these days?
I’ve paused so I can finish the documentary, but in general I try to get up three to four times a week. I have more rides on Gibraltar since the accident than before!
Every day, the staff of the Santa Barbara Independent works hard to sort out truth from rumor and keep you informed of what’s happening across the entire Santa Barbara community. Now there’s a way to directly enable these efforts. Support the Independent by making a direct contribution or with a subscription to Indy+.