GALO: Samantha admits at one point that during these races you have to be self-reliant because you won’t always be rescued by someone else. Do you think that in this day and age, especially with technology, independence has gone by the wayside somewhat and people depend more on others?

JS: I think there’s a certain degree of assumption that you’re being looked out for, and I think in the film that was the thing that everybody kind of had to realize. You can’t count on that. We are out in the most remote places in the world, and we’re all going to help each other as much as we can, but at the end of the day, I’ve put myself here and need to take responsibility for myself. I think it’s nice that people count on each other, so I don’t want to say that that’s a problem. I think it’s more about the importance of understanding what it means to take responsibility for yourself when you put yourself in those tricky situations, and not blaming it on someone else when something goes wrong.

GALO: What did you take away most from filming the experience these runners had? Did you learn anything about yourself in the process or about people in general?

JS: Oh God, so many things. I just love them all so much; I feel like they are my idols, and like they really rubbed off on me. It really made me question my own self-imposed limitations that I may have put on myself in the past, which I try not to do anymore. I’m also really proud of what we did out there filming it. When I look at the movie on the big screen, I can’t believe it was made by these two people running around in the desert. I’m really proud of us for working as hard as we did and doing what we did. I know we were affected by [the runners’] energy out there. Because they were working so hard to finish those races we had to work just as hard to film them. We felt like we owed it to them and to ourselves to put it all out there. I feel like I got so much out of it. We got to travel to all seven continents in one year. It was an amazing adventure. I got to push myself creatively in the editing room when I got back to really tell their stories. I felt I grew as an artist and as a filmmaker. The thing that really gets through in the end is the power of the mind game and believing in yourself. I try to bring that into my life every day.

GALO: What was the editing process like and how did you go about filtering through all this footage and deciding what was best to keep in and leave out?

JS: It took a long time and it was really hard. We probably had over 100 hours of footage. Like I said before, I wish I could have told more stories because I had lots of great people and stories in there. In the end, I felt like the strongest stories were these four people and their personal journeys in how the process of doing the Grand Slam transformed them in their lives. I had to focus on that material and bring that to the forefront. I’m sure you’re familiar with the old editing term “killing your baby.” There was a lot of that.

People are so exposed to reality TV these days and that format of storytelling, and I wanted to stay away from that as much as possible. It’s interesting because when I think about some of my earlier cuts, they felt more that way and I realized how influenced I am by it in our culture. A good friend of mine said to take a bunch of that out and make it more cinematic. That was the best advice I’ve ever gotten. When I really let myself get into the footage from a more cinematic perspective and started to play with all the landscapes, local people and great flavor that we had in every country, and let the scenes play out longer without people talking, it made me fall in love with movies more and I tried to go more in that direction with the edit. I tried to let the landscapes and experience speak for itself and not feel the need for people to be talking the whole time.

GALO: That’s really interesting that the influence from today’s television crept in.

JS: It creeps in and you don’t realize it until you have wall-to-wall talking heads in your cut, and it feels like a television show and not a movie. A movie doesn’t need that. A movie, the experience, speaks for itself.

GALO: Your first feature-length documentary, Motherland, is about six American women who have experienced loss, and volunteer with children in Africa who are battling AIDS and trying to find some form of inward healing. How does this glimpse into the grieving process and the overcoming of loss compare with the stories of those in Desert Runners?

JS: I think their personal stories are different, but I do see a similarity. Both films have a conversation about this camaraderie that happens between people and how hard times can really bring people together; how we all have a lot to learn from each other — especially cross-culturally. That was a really big theme in Motherland. It’s one of the reasons I love to travel. I feel there is so much to be learned from other people in other parts of the world, and both films have that in it. We have so much to learn from other people and it can only be a good thing to expand our horizons.

GALO: Currently, you are working on two feature film scripts and a short film. Can you tell us a bit about these projects?

JS: They don’t have names yet. They aren’t that far along. I’ve been writing a script that hopefully I’ll finish in the spring, and that’s something I would love to produce and direct in the future. I need someone really rich to come along and help me make it [laughs]. I would love to do a feature film and I also have a couple of new documentary ideas that I’m going to be pitching in January. I’m definitely looking for my next project right now. I love directing, and I have lots of ideas in the works.

“Desert Runners,” which premiered on November 21, will be released digitally and on DVD on December 17. For further information concerning the film, please visit

Trailer Courtesy of Jennifer Steinman.

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Featured image: Jennifer Steinman, the film director of “Desert Runners.” Photo Courtesy of: © 2009 Bart Nagel.