Over ten years on: the film is finally done! Interview with David Bitton.

After over 10 years of working on his film documentary on chessboxing, the film director David Bitton has eventually finished his work and we are looking forward to watch it soon (you can watch the trailer, on this page, at the end of the interview). Here below is an interview that Volfango Rizzi has had with him to be published here in SPQeR.

By rook or left hook

Hello David, first of all: congratulations! You finally made it!

I never doubted you would get there but I know that the way, lasting over ten years, was long and full of obstacles.

And almost eight years have past since your interview for SPQeR that was done also with the intention to help you raise funds for your crowd funding campaign! Not that after than we forgot about you but we have followed with interest the updates on your film-documentary in the making.

So, how do you feel now?

docedgeFirst of all, thank you for helping me promote the campaign back then…I bet you didn’t expect it would take this long to get to the finish line – it was definitely a marathon and not a sprint.  But to answer your question I feel very good!  There have been a lot of ups and downs (not unlike during a chessboxing match!) but I’m extremely happy with the way the story came together and how the film turned out.  I’m also glad that it got into one of the first festivals I submitted to – Doc Edge in New Zealand – and I’m excited for people to finally see it.  I have a feeling that it will be different from what people might expect from a film about chessboxing, (in a very positive way).

I said that you have finished your work, but that is not actually true as, if the 103 minutes long film is done, you are still working on shorter versions of the film; aren’t you?

Haha – can’t you let me sit back and enjoy this moment for a few days??   But yes you’re correct – while the feature-length version of the film is finished, in order to sell the film to certain broadcasters who only have hour-long slots available for documentaries, a shorter version (called a “cut-down”) needs to be produced, which is between 45-55 minutes long.  You can imagine that it could feel like a completely different movie since about half of the footage will be removed!  The trick is trying to shorten it while maintaining the essence of the story, and when you consider that I originally had over 450 hours of footage to work from, what’s another 50 minutes?  I’ve currently got it down to around 63 minutes, so getting close…

There have been changes during these years, as the surprise of having a new title for the film. Can you tell us more on this and also on other changes such as a new producer, a distributor …

Yes, so when we did our last interview, aside from the cinematographers who accompanied me on filming trips, or who I hired to film independently when I couldn’t afford to fly out myself, (who did great work by the way!), I was doing everything else myself.  Since this was to be my first feature film, I was aware of the fact there were a lot of things I didn’t know, and I didn’t want my inexperience to harm the film’s chances of success, so I sought out a producer or executive producer to help fill in the gaps or act as a mentor.chessboxing

My favourite documentary is a 2006 film called The King of Kong, which is about someone who is trying to wrest the world record high score for Donkey Kong from the person who had held it for many years and was regarded as a God in the retro video game universe.  It’s an amazing film about an underground cult sport that is viewed by outsiders as weird and nerdy, but is taken very seriously by the people in that world.  What I like about the film is that it doesn’t mock the subjects – it treats the subject matter in an earnest way and as a result you relate to the characters and feel for them in the end.  The producer of that film is Ed Cunningham, (who also co-produced the Oscar-winning film Undefeated), and since I drew many similarities between that world and chessboxing (also seen as weird or silly by many outsiders), I thought he would be the perfect fit to help me get the story to where I wanted it to be.  Thankfully I was able to get in touch with him and he fell in love with the project and came on as Executive Producer.  He has been an incredible support in a multitude of ways and I can say very honestly that the film would never have gotten to where it is without his help.


The documentary is also the story of the friendship and rivalry between Iepe Rubingh and Tim Woolgar.


As for the title, Ed had been pushing me to come up with something snappier than “The King’s Discipline” which is a phrase that Iepe Rubingh (the inventor of chessboxing who died suddenly and tragically last year) used to describe the sport.  I finally landed on “By Rook or Left Hook – The Story of Chessboxing.” It is a play on the old English phrase “By hook or by crook” essentially meaning “By any means necessary,” which is what the main subjects of the film are willing to do to make chessboxing a success.  I think it’s a better reflection of the story and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on it so I’m happy I made the change!

And regarding distribution, the film hasn’t been sold anywhere yet, but I have partnered with a sales agent called Journeyman Pictures, who are representing the film.  They’re a great group of people who I’m confident will get the film sold and out into the world so that everyone can see it!

Your documentary is now entering some film Festivals. Do you have a say on which Festival to enter or are these decisions taken now by others?

Journeyman have provided me with some guidance on festivals, but ultimately the decision on which ones to enter is up to me.  I have been sending it out to a large number of festivals in order to increase the chances of it getting accepted and thankfully as I mentioned above, it got into one of the first ones I applied to. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a great festival run.

Is there a chance to see the film on main channels in Europe or India, places where most of the chessboxing fans are located? Where will we be able to see it?

I would love for it to play everywhere!  My goal is to have it be available to watch worldwide, and we will be pitching it to distributors, broadcasters, and streaming platforms with the hopes of making that happen.  Ultimately where the film is shown will come down to which platforms decide to buy the rights to show it.  I will be announcing any updates on the Facebook and Twitter pages for the film, so if you follow those you should get the latest news on when and where it will be available.

Now that you have (almost) finished working on this project that has taken more than ten years of your life, what are your plans for the future? On what other projects will you be working?

Good question … first thing would be to take a hot bath, followed by an uninterrupted nap for a couple of weeks. Once that’s done, I’ll get to work on my next project.  I have a few ideas in mind but haven’t yet decided on which one I want to focus on.  It most likely won’t be a documentary however, since the process is a bit…lengthy.  The one I’m leaning towards in an animated television series, but we shall see what the future brings!  One thing for sure is that I didn’t think I would spend my entire 30s making a film about chessboxing, so who knows what the future will bring.

Is there anything you would like to say to those people who have been waiting to see the fruit of your hard work?

A big thank you to those who supported the crowdfunding campaign, not only for the financial support, but for being excited about the updates and for their patience in sticking with the project for eight years.  It took a long time, but only because the subject matter was so rich and I did my best to do it justice and make this much more than just a film about that wacky sport called chessboxing.

It’s the story of the people behind that sport – a deeply human story which I hope people will relate to, learn from, and be entertained by.  Most of all, I hope you enjoy it!


Here below you can watch the new trailer of the film:


Previous articles:

Si aggiunge un secondo produttore per il film sul chessboxing. Tutte le novità.

Il regista canadese David Bitton ha lavorato 3 anni al film sullo scacchipugilato.

David Bitton cerca altri sostenitori alla sua campagna fondi per terminare il suo film sullo scacchipugilato.


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