Stories are a universal connector. Regardless of country, culture, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation—stories are a language shared by us all. A lot of our beliefs about the world, our morals, our religious beliefs, our traditions—all came in the form of stories.
But what exactly is the common denominator when it comes to a good story? Filmmakers Eriksen and Soren Dickens believe they know the answer.
“The most human story wins. Always,” Eriksen Dickens, 25, says. “People get behind stories about real life humans because they’re the most relatable. This is why we make character-driven films.”
The Dickens Brothers recently released a documentary called Magic in the Lane on American swimmer, entrepreneur, and magician—Chuck Katis.
“The goal of the film was to tell a very human-driven story about one man,” says Soren Dickens, 23. “We wanted to find out what his motivations were. What made him tick. How did he become the unique person he is today?”
Unique would be an understatement when describing 27 year-old Chuck Katis.
Katis swam collegiately at both Harvard and UC Berkeley. He came close to qualifying for the Olympics in both 2012 and 2016, but just fell short both years. His goal was to try again in 2020, but obvious unforeseen circumstances have sidelined that goal. However, Chuck remains busy with other activities.
“Chuck is a real entrepreneur. He sees a problem and then produces a solution to that problem. He told us that being an entrepreneur didn’t mean he was working for himself. Rather, he saw it as working for people,” Eriksen Dickens says.
Shortly after the Olympic Trials in 2016, Katis found himself obsessed with trying to get better in the pool.
“I locked myself away in my apartment trying to find a way to improve. I was obsessed. In fact my friends were concerned about me at this point. It was during this time when the idea of the BodBox came to me.”
The BodBox is quite literally a robot designed to help athletes master their form. Katis spent months learning how to code, and eventually hand built his own artificial intelligence. The patented product is now being sold worldwide to athletes of all backgrounds.
“It’s like a portable coach,” Katis says. “It tracks your movement based on color, and then analyzes your form. After analyzing your form it gives you feedback on ways to improve that form for maximum results.”
“What makes Chuck so appealing is his drive to act on his talents. Humans reach their full potential when they work relentlessly to cultivate their talents to create something larger than themselves. Just look at the world around us. Everything you see, every product you use, is a result of someone’s efforts to maximize their talents,” Eriksen Dickens says.
As if being a world class swimmer and successful entrepreneur aren’t enough, Katis is also an accomplished magician. The swimmer claims he got into magic when he was a child after witnessing a street performer in London.
“Magic got me through a lot of really difficult times,” Katis says. “I wanted to use magic as a way to bring people joy. For that brief moment when you’re watching a trick, you forget about all the bad things going on in reality.”
When he was still in high school, Katis founded a non-profit called Magic for Miracles targeted toward children with cancer. In addition to performing in hospitals, Katis can also be seen frequently on the streets performing for the local homeless population.
“I actually did a show at a homeless shelter once with David Blaine. It was such an incredible experience,” Katis says.
For those that don’t know, David Blaine is one of the most accomplished magicians in the world.
“Speaking with Chuck, you would never know how accomplished he really is because he’s so modest. He’s very mild mannered and humble—yet inquisitive,” Soren Dickens says.
The Dickens Brothers spent over two years filming and editing Magic in the Lane, keeping a camera on Katis from Berkeley to Santa Clara, and even Colorado where Katis trained at the U.S. Olympic training center.
“We specialize in telling stories for businesses and personal brands. We examine all the different facets of a person’s life—all the things that make them who they are—and then tell a story that humanizes them by exploring those different facets,” Soren Dickens says. “No one likes one-dimensional characters.”
Chuck Katis is the pinnacle example of a life well lived. Despite certain obstacles stacked against him, he remains relentlessly dedicated to living a fulfilled life. His humanity is reflected in his various pursuits, as he seeks to not only improve himself, but to also improve the lives of those around him.
As Katis puts it, “If you want something, you’re going to have to go work for it. Whether it’s in the pool or in the business world, there’s no shortcuts, and you’re going to get knocked down. So it comes down to whose the guy that’s going to get back up one more time.”