Adapt and Conquer - From Sea to Shining Sea


(Reading time app. 4 minutes)

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be chosen by Red Cinema Cameras, in conjunction with Outside Television, as one of 9 contestants in the REDIRECT 2016 competition. The competition terms were simple, shoot a 5 minute compelling outdoor adventure lifestyle story using one camera - - - the Red Scarlet-W. 

While I didn’t have any immediate projects that fit within these guidelines, the search was on. I went through a range of ideas that encompassed my passions including surfing in Nicaragua, a back-country heli-skiing strip, trekking through the jungles of El Salvador and snowmobiling in British Columbia. While any of these ideas would have been incredible, I decided on a more non-traditional route that had the potential of capturing beautiful imagery along with an inspirational, human interest  story of adaptive sports athletes accomplishing a monumental life mission.

On April 5th, my production partner Mark (who also happens to be my cousin), our driver George (who also happens to be my father), and myself, packed up our 40 foot RV, loaned to us by entrepreneur Mark O'donnel for this special project, and embarked on what would turn out to be the most challenging passion project of our production careers; documenting a 3,113 mile journey from California to Carolina following a group of wounded, disabled, and able bodied athletes as they cycled across the country to raise money and awareness for adaptive sports. Some were active and medically retired military and others were civilian, but each individual had more passion, determination, and sheer strength, both mentally and physically, than I could have ever imagined.

After more than 15 years in the industry, I'm comfortable with the fact that field production is always challenging. Regardless of how much pre-production and planning you do, some of the things that can go wrong inevitably will. What I wasn't prepared for, was anything that could go wrong actually going wrong. 

We hit more snags, bumps in the road (literal and proverbial), and problems than we could have ever planned for. Halfway to California we realized that our 40 foot RV had no running water making it a giant, mobile tent. On day 1 of production I woke up at 4am chilled and dripping with sweat due to a 101.2 fever that I had to pretend didn’t exist. Stormy weather, camera equipment issues, a work flow that we hadn’t mastered, dangerous road conditions making it impossible to shoot key moments, audio issues, equipment breaking, lack of sleep, and on and on… we were constantly faced with what seemed like an uphill battle and at times, an impossible mission to accomplish. I'd be lying if I didn't consider throwing in the towel multiple times within the first week...that was, until I met this incredible group of people who gave me the gift to save it all…PERSPECTIVE.

Robbie Parks, Sgt. Pam Kelly, Sgt. Aaron Harper, Joey Bashaw, Johnny Ragland, Bob Roberts, Lt. Col. Trey Smith, Kelsey Rae Insogna, Sgt. Jorge Toledo, Major Ed Moen, Jim and Jason Rogers, Congressman Larry Kissell.

This team of warriors, athletes, and hero’s showed us first-hand what a “challenge” actually was. They showed us that no matter what obstacle was placed in front us, the only limitations we had were the ones we placed on ourselves. Each  cyclist took a life altering injury and figured out a way to not only cope, but to persevere beyond the limits of what they ever thought possible. Whatever struggles my team and I were dealt paled in comparison to what this group of individuals endured daily. Our problems were simply obstacles that could be navigated around, over or through. This perspective is something I will carry with me whenever I'm up against the seemingly impossible, face an uphill battle, or need to dig down deep to overcome incredible odds. Nothing is impossible. And for that, I have this entire team to thank.

While this is a competition and one I'd certainly love to win, what I truly hope to convey from this story is a little bit of the inspiration I've felt working with such powerful individuals. I want to give insight into the importance of Adaptive Sports programs for our veterans returning from war severely injured, or to anyone with disabilities. Adaptive Sports saves lives, it's that simple, and that serious. 

To meet some of these amazing people, click on the link, Adapt & Conquer . And because this is a competition, if you enjoy it, please click the “like” button on the youtube page to vote for it. Not only will this help us in the contest, but it will go a long way to helping spread the very important message of adaptive sports programs for our severly wounded servicemen and women, and anyone facing a life altering injury. 

Jon Johnnidis 

 Director/DP Adapt & Conquer