Andrew Shelley, lives the American Dream. He leads a successful life as an engineer and single bachelor. Unhappy with his day job Andrew wants more from his life, so he sets out on a backpacking journey across the world to find out.
For Andrew this is a seemingly impossible task. Andrew has Muscular Dystrophy. He weighs a frail 90 lbs and is all but confined to a wheelchair. His only aid and odd companion will be his all-terrain monster truck of wheelchairs.
Beyond the Chair is a 90 minute documentary that tells the story of one man’s mission to see the world.
We asked Director Dustin Duprel 10 questions about the film.
1. How did you meet Andrew Shelley?
Andrew and I were roommates before the documentary was even a thought. At that time Drew told me that he quit his job to travel the world. I was already very accustomed to Drew being an adventurous and spontaneous person. His desire to travel the world didn’t strike me as something unusual.
I slowly began to think about all the challenges he would have to face. I was curious how people would respond to him in places like India and Cambodia. The idea of traveling the world alone (able bodied or not) seemed like a very brave thing to do.
At the time, I was raising money for a feature film. Each day I became more fascinated with Drew’s story and I slowly realized his story is the one that I should be telling.
2. What was your understanding or notion of people with disabilities before you met Andrew?
I think that I use to be overly sympathetic, which I discovered was a disservice to a person with disabilities. I think when someone is overly sympathetic they can quickly and unintentionally become patronizing. This held me back from developing a sincere relationship with a person who had a disability.
3. Why did you choose to do a documentary about someone who has a disability?
I love stories that enable the audience to challenge their preconceived notions and perspectives of people. I thought back on my own personal relationship with Andrew to see how my own perception changed over the course of our friendship. I went from viewing him as someone with a disability and in a wheelchair, to my friend. It was a change in my own perspective that enabled me to see past the wheelchair and weak body to the strong person on the inside.
It was my goal to capture his amazing experience in a documentary about Andrew’s journey around the world. It gave me the opportunity show the rest of the world the Drew as I know him: Beyond The Chair!
4. Give us some insight into Andrew. His life, his ups and downs etc.
Drew is a guy. Like any other guys he has girl problems and that is probably his biggest low. There were a few ups and downs in his trip tied closely to looking for true love,
To be honest, Drew has lived an amazing life because he doesn’t make excuses for the things he wants. He just goes after the things he wants in life and that is very inspiring.
In terms of his disability, a major low that turned into an ultimate high was when he got his wheelchair. Andrew could walk and carry on with his day to day life without the need of the wheelchair until about the age of 27. Due to the nature of his condition, Drew’s body is slowly deteriorating. His muscles continually get weaker and weaker, until the point he needed a wheel chair for his own safety. It was a tough thing for him to accept, because to him it meant giving up on his body. It meant starting down the slippery slope of Muscular Dystrophy.
The up came once he got the chair. He realized he was able to do a lot more and visit a lot more places. His chair became a key to freedom for him. It was ultimately what allowed him to travel the world.
5. When you started filming what was the one thing that surprised you the most?
How the people responded to Drew. I think I had become jaded, mostly in the sense that people are self-centered. As we traveled the world, I saw time after time people open up to Andrew. I witnessed people go out of their way to help Andrew when he needed. All over the world, I saw locals,foreigners, backpackers and everyone in between open their hearts to Andrew.
6. What was one of the most difficult times in Andrew’s travels
I think the challenges of traveling in a wheelchair in places like Cambodia and Thailand was very difficult, India was also very difficult because it’s a country that has no consideration for people with disabilities. It was very difficult for Andrew to get people to help.
7. What was the biggest lesson that you learned from making this film?
Value relationships more than anything else, put your friendships before everything. There were stressful times, challenges and setbacks. Overcoming these challenges is much easier when you have friends you can count on, plus you have someone to celebrate your successes with.
8. What was the most hilarious experience of the journey?
For me, it was watching Drew try some of his pick-up lines across the world.
9. What is Andrew up to these days?
Andrew is working in graphic design, as well as doing a lot of traveling to speak at various events, especially Muscular Dystrophy Association fundraisers. He talks about his travels, his life, in a sense the end of this trip was the start of bigger journey of sharing his experience with others in the hope of inspiring people, disabled and abled bodied alike, to live their lives.
10. If people wanted to learn more about BTC where should they look?
You can purchase the DVD on Amazon.com