Chris AKA “Schmidtee” from That Wrestling Podcast looked at the documentary about British Wrestling promotion PROGRESS Wrestling, entitled This Is Progress, from Exilir Media Productions.
How biased can one guy be in an article? Let’s tick a few things off the list.
A wrestling fan for 20+ years, now a pro wrestling referee, whilst also being a graduate of the international film school of Wales. With that in mind, I’m then asked to review a feature documentary called “This Is Progress”. How else was this going to go?
If you have ever been passionate about anything, whether it’s football, music, even magic – this is a film you can resonate with. It’s full of passion from all walks of life, truly living by Progress Wrestling’s motto of “Everybody Welcome”.
This Is Progress is a film following three mates – Jon, Jim and Glen. In Jon and Jim’s case, they didn’t admit to their passion for wrestling until after 6 months of knowing each other. Why? If you’re not a passionate wrestling fan you wouldn’t know that only a few short years ago British wrestling was in a dire place. Small venues with many empty seats due to various promotions not offering anything attractive to spend your hard-earned money on. However, the talent was certainly there.
With this, they decided to put on a show themselves in central London as nobody has successfully run the city in almost a decade. The rest, you could say, is history.
From this first show, the fan base was loyal and determined to help take this promotion to the heights it has become today. In fact, it’s thanks to these “Ultras” as they are known to each other, that this film has become a feature in the first place.
Originally, This Is Progress was a short 20-minute film made by director Dale Beaumont-Brown to tell the short story so far of the life that the ever-growing promotion had become. After such praise from the Ultras and peers alike, Elixir Media Productions created a kickstarter campaign to see if there was any interest to re-cut the film to a feature standard. An original £25,000 was set, and then it was smashed.
629 fans pledged to the cause, raising £32,970. Enough to not only re-cut this film but to continue the story for an extra year beyond the original cut.
The film shows what few get to see; behind the curtain – the day to day lives of everyone involved. Not from just the promoters’ side of things, not even just the wrestlers. This film includes some of the promotions oldest “Ultras” including Paul Lee, who travels nearly 12 hours each way for a Camden show from Middlesbrough. This is just one showing of how passionate these Ultras truly are.
We get an insight into what it takes to not only run shows, but what it takes to be a part of it. With this, Mark Haskins along with his family allow the cameras to follow them into their day to day lives. Showing all the traveling and sacrifices needed to make your mark in the business. We witness the highest of highs for this one career, whilst you get the lowest of the lows with some devastating news which could affect Haskins’ career forever.
The cinematography in this production captures the true art of wrestling, with mesmerizing slow motions and eye-pleasing filters which added for a more cinematic effect; no doubt keeping even the wrestling haters focused. The structure of the film also builds to such a crescendo of which you are totally invested, and then it simply ends.
For this reviewer, the story didn’t really have an ending, of which from both sides of the sword can leave you going either way.
For me, it had me wanting to see more from everyone. Luckily from my point of view (I attend PROGRESS regularly and I know where the story of the promotion currently is), gearing up for 3 days’ worth of back to back shows back at Ally Pally, on the way to the biggest show in British independent wrestling in many years at Wembley Arena. It does make me think of those who are unfamiliar with PROGRESS, and how they would feel towards the end. It just felt like something was missing, and that there could have been a lot more of the story told. An extra 15 minutes to recap everything we had seen and what was to come in the future would have been a perfect way to wrap.
With that being said, This Is Progress is a shining light into what over the last two years of my life has been a second home to me. A second family. A place where I feel welcome, and not scared to be who I truly am. This film is not an advertisement, but more like an invitation to be a part of this surge in popularity of British wrestling. If you had no prior knowledge of PROGRESS before this, you will be a fan by the end, and you’ll be eager to be part of what I like to call the “F5 club”. Refreshing the ticket page at noon on the first Monday after the last show, eager to get your first ticket to experience this live and in person.
This Is Progress is due to have screenings later this year, with the digital release already taking pre-orders. If you do one thing today, make a viewing of this a top priority. You won’t regret it.
Pictures courtesy of PROGRESS Wrestling, Elixir Media, and Rob Brazier.
Thank you to Elixir Media Productions and PROGRESS Wrestling for allowing us to review an advance copy. You can pre-order a digital copy here.