Sunderland film-makers have captured Usain Bolt on film for a fast-paced documentary about his rise to global stardom.
Production company Fulwell 73 - who are such big SAFC fans they named their business after the former Roker Park end and the club’s most successful year - spent two years keeping up with the world’s fastest man for I Am Bolt.
The resulting feature-length film follows the Jamaican runner as he performs on the world’s greatest athletic stages and also how he spends his time off the track.
Documenting the living legend’s life was a dream come true for Fulwell 73 - but they say their biggest goal is still to make a film for the Black Cats.
The company, made up of brothers Gabe and Ben Turner and their cousins and friends Leo Pearlman and Ben Winston, have such a passion for the club they’ve even named their editing suites in London after former players Niall Quinn, Kevin Ball and Julio Arca.
Their latest production is their latest in a string of successes, which has seen them shoot Brit Award-winning music videos for One Direction, as well as celebrated sports films including In The Hands of The Gods and Class of 92, which charted the rise of some of Manchester United’s greatest players.
Speaking about how I Am Bolt came about, Leo said: “We’d made a film about the greatest football team of all time - bar the Sunderland 1973 team - so we felt it was appropriate to make a film about the greatest athlete of all time, which is Usain by a distance.”
He added: “We’d worked with Doyen (a sports and entertainment agency) on Class of 92 and were talking to them about the next film project. They had a contact with Usain’s agent and pitched the idea to him and we met up. With athletes of this scale it’s all about timing. This is very much a legacy moment for Usain, it’s a time when his story should be told, so it was the right time.
“This is a film which his kids and grand kids will watch in the future, it will stand the test of time.”
As well as featuring self-shot footage by Usain, the film follows the nine-time Olympic champion and multiple world record holder during his time at the World Championships in Beijing last year and as he prepared for this year’s Rio Olympics.
Fulwell 73 joined Usain on the red carpet for last week’s premiere in London, which was also attended by A Listers including Mo Farah, Justin Bieber and Liam Payne from One Direction.
Sunderland-born Leo, who produced and edited the film which was directed by Gabe and Ben Turner, said: “The thing about Gabe and Ben is that they are brilliant at building access with the talent. So we always end up getting more access that is contracted, it gets to the point where the talent rings them and asks why they aren’t there.
“They became really close mates with Usain and he flew them over to Jamaica for the premiere in Kingston, where he is like a God.”
Leo says unlike some celebrities who create a public persona, the sprint champion is refreshingly down to earth.
“The thing about Usain is what you see is very much what you get,” he said. “That smile you get when he stands on the start line is a glimpse of his real life. He stands there with no doubt in his head that he is the greatest sprinter of all time and that he will win gold,
“And that follows through in the rest of his life. He stills trains in Jamaica with the guys he grew up with, then he goes to the beach or plays dominoes. “He’s most comfortable when he’s at home.”
The production company say they hope people will be uplifted by the film.
“The film is a very joyous, uplifting experience,” said Leo. “2016 has been a miserable year for a number of reasons, but this film just makes you smile because he’s such a happy character, his smile is infectious.”
Despite their huge successes, Leo, who used to stand in the Fulwell end with his dad at the old Roker Park, says Fulwell 73 still dream of shooting SAFC.
“We’d still love to make a film about Sunderland, that’s our goal, and this season would have been a particularly interesting one,” he said.
The production company is backing the City of Culture 2021 bid are heading to a match next year when they hope to corner SAFC bosses and pitch a film idea to them.
•I Am Bolt is out now in cinemas, on DVD, Blu Ray and digital download.