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Hard Ship

Hard Ship

Great Big Story
2016, 24m, documentary

Three paralyzed men take up one of sailing’s most grueling challenges—a 750 mile race to Alaska through some of the most treacherous and remote waters on the planet. With no motors allowed and many miles from any help, the competition can be too dangerous for the world’s most fearless sailors. This team is out to prove they have what it takes to finish. A film by Great Big Films.

This Really Great Big Story was made in collaboration with our friends at CNN Films. It is one of 12 short films that we will be releasing throughout the year. Stay tuned for more!

Produced by: Great Big Films
The 3-week run for Hard Ship ended on Feb 9th, 2017. Thank you to all the fans that supported it!
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“Great story. Great film.”
- greg van horn

Fans of this film

  1. greg van horn
  2. michael kane
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Great Big Story

The Ten-Day Interview

5 questions with Hard Ship creators, Great Big Story at the half-way mark.
Sunday, January 29th, 2017
  1. 1 Thanks for being a part of our film festival! First, how did you guys hear about team Alula and what made you want to make a doc about them?
    We knew we needed to tell the story through a single boat and crew. Our initial conversation with Jake provided some hits: a father-son team, an america’s cup-style boat, but nothing was really calling out to us. Then. as the call was winding down, Jake suddenly remembered: “oh yeah, there’s this one team, they’re all paralyzed, that could be interesting…” We were immediately hooked and tracked down Spike and his crew because we knew there was something special there.
  2. 2 There are so many incredible films over at Great Big Story. What's it like working with that team and what are the types of films you look for?
    Making "Hard Ship” was as much of an adventure as the one Team Alula experiences in the film. A die-hard, never-quit team of producers took turns filming the crew in what amounted to a filmmaking relay that lasted more than a month and a half. No one ever doubted it was worth it. The story, and the heroes it depicts, changed their lives. When you start watching “Hard Ship”, you’ll meet a crew of paralyzed adventurers. By the end, you’ll only think them as what they prove themselves to be: sailors.

    At Great Big Story, we're always searching for an added layer of surprise or excitement so that the viewer walks away being wow'ed by the production. Our mantra is "tell me something I've never heard, show me something I've never seen," and it applies to all that we produce. Hard Ship was no exception.
  3. 3 It looked like pretty tight quarters on the ship. How big was the film crew and did the crew stay on their boat during the race? What were some the logistics involved with shooting a film like this?
    We only had one camera person at a time on the boat because of how small it was and the impact of total gear weight to optimal sailing speed. Kevin Steen was on the boat until Bella Bella, about halfway the distance to the finish line, and Andrew Lampard took his place for the remainder of the race after that. It was as if they were members of the crew; they cooked and ate with the crew, and stored their gear and slept in a cavity in the bow of the boat. There being a constant presence aboard made it so that the crew became used to their cameras, which, in turn, helped the production team capture so many unguarded moments. Logistically, the shoot was very demanding. Staying warm and keeping themselves and their gear dry were constant challenges. For their own personal safety, Kevin and Andrew had to remain vigilantly aware of their surroundings while also straining to capture scenes with good audio. The wind was howling, the boat was constantly pitching and tilting, the boom was swinging back and forth. When they moved along the rim of the vessel, they needed to be clipped into a safety line. All of these factors were constant strains on their ability to document the voyage.
  4. 4 The cinematography in this film is beautiful. You were also able to capture such great footage with almost no sunlight left. What camera did you use and did you use it specifically for that purpose?
    We used a Sony FS7 and high-aperture lenses and had a Sony A7S on stand-by. As a company, these are our go-to cameras for all of our productions, but their low-light sensitivity is one of the reasons we love using them. We were also aided by the long summer days of Northern British Columbia and Alaska, which gave us useful light as late as 11 pm
  5. 5 What's next?
    As for Great Big Story, we’ll always be connected to the crew of the Alula. We love those guys and are so grateful they let us share their story with the world. One of the coolest “next” things that probably came from all this is that the Northwest Maritime Center started the Race to Alaska Alula Fund, a fund to support adaptive sailing in the Pacific Northwest. These sailors are incredible people who change the lives of everyone they come in contact with, and this fund is just another example of that.
  6. About the Interviewer: Ben Hicks
    Ben Hicks is a writer/director and co-founder of Fandependent Films. Ben is currently working on making Fandependent Films awesome and is finishing up his first feature film entitled Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time which was selected for the 2017 IFP Narrative Lab.
    Ben Hicks

The film with the most fans wins $1,000

For 2017 we are moving on from screening feature films and will be showcasing shorts. For our Winter 2017 Festival, we are giving away $2,000 in prizes to the top three films.

Fan Award


The film with the most fans.

Audience Award


The film with the most views.

Jury Award


Our favorite film.

Festival Partners

Hammer to Nail Film Pulse Film Fervor