Paralyzed in a domestic violence incident in her twenties, Erika Bogan races to complete her goal of climbing the largest free-standing mountain in the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro, as she pursues the climb to spread awareness about suicide in the disability community.
Mission StatementPeople with disabilities are often forgotten - their voices silenced in society. MEANDERING SCARS hopes to provide a platform to amplify the voices of people with disabilities, like Erika Bogan, with the goal of sharing her story while changing societal attitudes around what it means to be disabled.
About The Project
In Tanzania, Africa, thousands of miles away, sits a dormant volcano -- Mount Kilimanjaro. Known as the largest mountain in Africa and the largest free-standing mountain globally, Kilimanjaro has become a tourist attraction, a place where people from around the world have come for generations to tackle the 19,340 foot climb.
MEANDERING SCARS follows a group of survivors who prove -- each and every day -- that all you need is more heart than scars to accomplish any feat.
WHO ARE THEY
Erika Bogan is a working, single mother of three, who was paralyzed in a domestic violence incident. When she was just 21-years-old, Bogan’s then-boyfriend threw her into a vehicle and sped off at a high rate of speed. Within minutes, he overcorrected and lost control. The car flipped six times. Bogan was ejected -- her body hitting a tree. Her back was broken in three places; she would be forever paralyzed.
Bogan spent years trying to come to terms with her new reality but quickly fell down a hole of depression and sadness. Years later, she got involved in beauty pageants to try and boost her self-esteem, even winning Miss Wheelchair America in 2010. But still, she hurt inside, feeling like she was living in a world not meant for her. During some of her darkest moments, Bogan contemplated suicide. Over the years, friends of hers with disabilites died by suicide, and she thought that may be the only way out of her pain.
But then, in 2019, after a nervous breakdown, More Heart Than Scars came into her life. It's a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities through challenging physical experiences like Spartan Races and Tough Mudders. Bogan got involved, fell in love with the sport, and fell back in love with her life.
Zackary Paben is a mental health and recovery counselor for adults and teens with Autism. He's also the co-founder of More Heart Than Scars, a group that empowers people to say that they have "more heart than scars". His mission is to transcend visible and invisible wounds, proving that no matter the physical or mental scars one may have, they too can accomplish anything imaginable. His own traumas happened at a young age. Zack is an amputee and lost his fingertips in an accident as a child and battled depression and substance abuse during his life. But through obstacle course racing, he has helped lead a team through adversity.
Joey McGlammory is the adventure guru of the MHTS team. He began guiding events for adaptive athletes in 2013. He has completed more than 610 obstacle course races, many with athletes with disabilities.
These core three will also be joined by an Army veteran, fitness trainer who hosts goat yoga, a massage therapist and two others, to accomplish the incredible feat.
Bogan, Paben, McGlammory, and five other members of the More Heart Than Scars team will try to accomplish their most significant obstacle yet: Mt. Kilimanjaro. They set this goal specifically to raise awareness about suicide in the disability community -- something that happens often, but an issue with limited statistcs or information.
For the next several months, the team will spend countless hours physically and mentally training to attempt the climb to Kilimanjaro's summit. The filmmakers will document their journey to Kilimanjaro and up the mountain.
Will training during a pandemic be feasible? Will their fears and scars get in the way of their goals? Once they are on the mountain: will they cower under the weight of uncertainty? Will their disabilities allow them to get up the mountain safely?
DIRECTORS' NOTE FROM ALLISON AND KODY
Our mission as documentary storytellers is to elevate the voices of historically powerless, disenfranchised, and underrepresented people. We believe MEANDERING SCARS can do that. This story caught our eyes from the moment we heard about it. Why? Because it showed (1) how humanity can perservere over life-altering trauma and (2) how society 'others' people with disabilities.
Erika set her ambitions high in order to accomplish a difficult feat to raise awareness about suicide within the disability community. It's a topic with little scientific data, but known as an prominent issue within the disability community. Erika thought about ending her own life; she's lost friends to suicide. It's an issue we believe should be discussed more broadly within society. But through their training and climb, Erika and members of More Heart Than Scars hope they can save more lives, get more people active, and enjoying the wonders of life again.
It's a film with a known MacGuffin from the onset: climb to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro. But between the COVID-19 pandemic, minimal funds, and a difficult climb, it's one without a known ending. Maybe even without a known middle, too. To the group, getting to the peak isn't the end; it's a bonus along the way. They believe by just getting to Tanzania, they will have already accomplished more than they could hope for. It's the beauty of humanity; the willpower to overcome life's more strenuous obstacles for one moment of bliss.
For us as filmmakers, we couldn't pass up this opportunity to tell this story. We knew if they climb Kilimanjaro, we would need to, too. No helicopter shots. No flying in midway through the climb, then leaving. We would be on the ground with them the entire trip, accessing their pain, their struggles, their joy, their hope, their accomplishments.
STYLES AND THEMES
MEANDERING SCARS will follow and chronicle as Erika Bogan, and the More Heart Than Scars team train to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. From filming a training hike in the backwoods of North Carolina, where gun protection is needed because the climb will be off the beaten path and in bear territory to filming at Spartan races and in the story subjects homes and lives, we get an all-access look into the lives of adaptive athletes. This documentary will show the good, the bad, and the work that goes into preparing and completing these races and climbs.
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
Our proposed budget is nearly 30 times the amount we are asking in this $25,000 campaign. As we work to secure larger, private donations, our ask is to help fund our flights to and from Tanzania. BirdMine, our production company, is bringing about three additional crewmembers. The three have similar, yet different life-experiences than us (journalists, filmmakers, directors, videographers, drone operators, etc.) that we believe will benefit filming the climb to Kili's summit, Uhuru Point.
The $25,000 ask will cover land and airfare for five crewmembers and donations for porters safely guiding us up and down the mountain. Any additional funds will be spent on climbing gear (think base layer, mid layer, outer wear clothing, boots, hiking socks, gloves, hats, etc.) There are five ecological zones with temperatures beginning around 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit and dropping between -20 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit at night as we get to summit. It's unpredictable. At the end of the climb, we will be donating all of our clothing gear to the local porters and to houselessness shelters in our hometowns.
As well as financial support, please follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, as well as our website, and please help us spread the word about this film. We will continue to keep you updated throughout production and post-production of MEANDERING SCARS.
Thank you all in advance. Your support means to both to us!
- Allison and Kody
Covid Safety Plan
A note: BirdMine and The More Heart Than Scars team are following best practices and CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of our crew, and film participants. Currently, we wear masks during shoots, social distance, work to ensure distance between camera and subject, and get tested before and after video shoots. We will continue to follow guidelines during our journey to and up the mountain.
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About This Team
Allison Norlian and Kody Leibowitz started the documentary production company, BirdMine, to share untold stories about underrepresented populatons of people. Their goal is to amplify the voices of people who have been typically marginilized by society.
About Allison Norlian
Allison Norlian is a three-time Emmy-nominated journalist with almost a decade of experience in media who has covered major national stories like the aftermath of the Charlottesville ‘Unite the Right’ rally and President Trump’s “travel ban” in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Allison became a journalist to speak for the voiceless, like her severely disabled sister. She has used her platform to shed light on important issues impacting people with disabilities and other vulnerable and disenfranchised communities.
She won a Catalyst for Change award from the ARC of Virginia for the impact of her reporting and an Emmy nomination for an investigation exposing neglect and abuse at an assisted living facility.
Allison's goal as a journalist is to leave the world a better place by spreading hope and ensuring the truth is always told, and wrongdoing is exposed.
Allison is passionate about this project to show the world the abilities of people with disabilities while inspiring the public to realize anything is possible with hard work, determination, and when you surround yourself with likeminded people.
About Kody Leibowitz
Kody Leibowitz is a co-founder of BirdMine and a multi- award-winning investigative journalist who specializes in long-form stories and documentaries, most recently working as an investigative reporter at FOX13 in Memphis, Tenn.
Kody began his reporting career at 47ABC in Salisbury, Md. in August 2012. He has worked across the country for more than seven years as a local television news reporter.
As a political reporter, Kody extensively covered the 2018 California gubernatorial primary race and Trump vs. California lawsuits, including the federal government's suit over the state's undocumented immigration laws.
In Johnstown, Pa., Kody investigated the scheme how several Pennsylvania dioceses settled clergy sex abuse cases.