If you knew the late Alex Rust when he was a young man, you might not have expected he'd become the subject of a documentary. Rust was a farm boy from Indiana who became a day trader, working at the Chicago Board of Trade. By the time he was 25, he realized he had other fish to fry.
Rust quit his job, moved to Florida, and bought a small sailboat. He set out on an adventure, learning to sail along the way, as he headed for the far corners of the world. He was in pursuit of a meaningful life. Rust's unlikely story is the subject of a documentary screening at the Milwaukee Film Festival called Chasing Bubbles.
"Initially I thought, 'OK, this a story about someone who sails around the world.' And then as I was interviewing Alex I started to realize maybe it's a story about someone who sails around the world and then how they feel after," says director and producer Topher Cochrane.
"When (Alex) set out on this trip, he was always wanting to record everything that was happening...and when we came back he had all of this footage and he just wanted to share it with people and he didn't know how," explains producer Ross Gerber. Since he and Rust knew Cochrane personally, they decided to team up. "It just made sense to start meeting up and see what we could make," says Gerber.
They had plenty to work with - three years of sailing added up to over 200 hours of film collected from flip phones, mini cameras, photos, and audio interviews with friends and total strangers. Editor Chris Thompson says the filmmaking process turned into one of celebration and dedication.
"In a strange way as we've been making the film, from an editing perspective, we realized that he was actually one of the best untrained filmmakers that any of us had ever come into contact with," he says. "A lot of the fun of this project was celebrating this unknown, unskilled filmmaker in the sense that he wasn't trained, but he was a natural."
Everyone who knew or encountered Alex Rusk agrees that his thirst for life, his interest in telling his story, and his need to explore were deeply moving.
"Even though it seemed like Alex at times was lost, he was changing all of these people around him. He was changing their lives by asking them to imagine where could you go, what are you afraid of, what's holding you back?" notes Thompson. "That was the funnest reason to make this film - was we all need to be reminded of that, and I think he reminded everyone around him of that every single day."