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Film crew begins tracking Unity bikers

The 2018 Unity Ride cyclists Andre Block and Jonathan Williams passed through Selma this past Tuesday on their way to Montgomery and ultimately toward Toronto, Canada.

The theme of the cross-country tour is “Exploring Freedom.” Block and Williams wanted to use their mutual love for cycling to illustrate that despite their several differences in opinions and background, people can still come together to achieve a common goal.

They are spreading awareness about their trip as they ride from city-to-city, but they also have a film crew documenting their experiences along the way.

The crew will produce a full-length documentary of the 2018 Unity Ride like they did for the 2017 “Explore the Gray” ride, but this year they’ve added some new members to the team.

Monty Ross, co-producer of hit-films “Do the Right Thing,” “She’s Gotta Have It” and “Malcolm X,” joined the Unity Ride team to explore something new in his film making career.

Despite being behind the scenes, the journey and the conversations it has inspired has had its impact on Ross as well.

Just in the first six days that it took to reach Selma from New Orleans, the stops at the St. Charles Hotel in New Orleans, the city of Natchez, Mississippi, and other historical landmarks of the South provided him with a new perspective of the country.

“Each city we’ve been through is unique to the experience,” Ross said. “We’ve gone to some very interesting places where slavery actually has its roots… It’s definitely eye opening, but it’s also beautiful. This is a part of America that a lot of times doesn’t get seen unless there’s a major sporting event or something like that, but to really see the Deep South and the vast open spaces, industry, trade and all the things that are going on. It’s awesome.”

Filming two men riding bicycles can get repetitive, so Ross’ challenge as the producer is to find the shots to keep things interesting. The scenery of the South provides a natural beauty to work with, but the crew does have to find other unique ways to capture the moments along the way.

Matt Momany, who is in his second year filming the Unity Ride, is the drone pilot for the crew.

Operating the drone isn’t as simple as it sounds. He learned the hard way during the 2017 Unity Ride when he tried to operate the drone between two cliffs and a wind current sent the drone tumbling towards the ground.

“A lot of the drone was all learned last year, but this year we definitely learned from the mistakes,” Momany said. “I have a lot more confidence in what this film is going to be this year. It’s been awesome to be able to go into these cities along the Underground Railroad.”

This year, the now experienced drone pilot, is ready to capture the unique angles and enjoy the trip without fear of possibly losing his equipment.

Another first-year member of the crew is David Bratnick. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Bratnick, lead camera for the Unity Ride, studied film at Bowling Green State University and joined the Unity Ride to pursue his career in film making.

“This is my first official job, outside of graduating college,” Bratnick said. “Literally a month after graduation, I’m going out on the road for 30-plus days with really awesome guys telling an awesome story.”

He didn’t expect that his first project out of school would involve working with someone as notable and experienced as Ross.

The camera crew has the luxury of riding along in a car while Block and Williams pedal all the way to Canada, but they are just as much a part of the experience. They have shared silly and serious moments along their ride, and there will be more as they press forward.

The documentary is set to air Summer 2019. For more information on the Unity Ride and the film crew, visit gounityride.com.