About the Director/Produce Lara
Lara has produced news and documentaries that have aired on NBC, MSNBC, TLC, AMC, VH-1 and The New York Times’ website. Her film Portraits of Survival, about coming to terms with the tragedy of 9/11 through art was selected for the Hamptons International Film Festival, aired on MSNBC and was awarded the Cine Golden Eagle.
For Swim Team, her first feature documentary film, she was named an IFP Documentary Lab Fellow, awarded the New York Women in Film and Television Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness grant and was provided with completion funding from the Karma Foundation. Lara has guest lectured on documentary production at NYU, served as a juror for the News and Documentary Emmy Awards and writes for the Huffington Post. She has a BA in Political Science from Columbia College of Columbia University and JD from Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.
About the Film
SWIM TEAM is a feature documentary chronicling the rise of a competitive swim team made up of children and teens on the autism spectrum. Based in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, the cast of SWIM TEAM is largely Latino and Asian, minorities that are underrepresented in competitive swimming and underserved in autism intervention and education.
The film follows three of the team’s star athletes, boys on the cusp of adulthood as they face lifetimes of exclusion and dependence. But everything changes when they come together as a team with parent coaches who train them with high expectations and zero pity. As the team vies for state and national Special Olympics championships, SWIM TEAM captures a moving quest for inclusion, independence and a life that feels winning.
Press release and bio is courtesy from Lara Stolman and the makers of her film Swim Team
Q/A With Lara
CALEY: Congrats, Lara, on directing and delivering this film! Documentary films on swimming are becoming popular with TOUCH THE WALL, THE LAST GOLD. What was your inspiration for the film? Do you have a swimming background?
LARA: I actually do not have a competitive swimming background but I have always loved swimming and being in the water. And I have children and I wanted my children to learn to swim. While searching for swimming lessons for my kids, I stumbled upon the Jersey Hammerheads, a team in formation at the time and they were recruiting kids on the autism spectrum. (Please see press kit info in Director’s Statement section about how kids on the autism spectrum are prone to drowning and how
important it is for them to learn to swim) When I met some of the families coming together for the team I was struck by how talented their kids were in the pool and how much they had to struggle out of the water. If you just saw some of these kids swim, you would have no idea they had disabilities. And yet every day out of the pool is a challenge for them.
CALEY: Your on the festival circuit. Congrats! Is that a big part of your distribution plan? Beyond festivals, where will the film be distributed?
LARA: We are hoping/ planning for a theatrical release, community screenings and TV broadcast eventually. We plan to launch community screenings next April, pegged to autism awareness month during which individuals and organizations including swim teams can host their own screenings – signing up at our website is the first step: www.swimteamthefilm.com
CALEY: What do you hope the audience will takeaway from the film?
LARA: I hope the audience takes away an understanding of how valuable including people with developmental disabilities can be on their sports teams, in school, at work and in other ways in the community. The boys (and one girl) on the Jersey Hammerheads swim team were able to grow so much as a result of their experience on the team. And a number of them had never been on a sports team before – an experience so many of us take for granted.
CALEY: Can you provide some insight into the production and how you captured the moments? What cameras did you use? How big was your crew? How long was the production?
LARA: We filmed for over a year with a primary DP, Laela Kilbourn who filmed underwater with a Canon C300 and even swam while shooting! We also utilized multiple cameras for swim meets and GoPros for more underwater coverage.
Courtesy of Lara Stolman, Director and Producer of the Flim: Swim Team