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Meet Michael Rowley of Hurdle in Oak Cliff

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Rowley.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I was born and raised in the dusty town of Amarillo, Texas. Most people know it because of the 72 oz steak or the Cadillac Ranch – a few attractions for those passing through on Route 66. Despite its kind people and weird quirks, it is not a hub for documentary filmmaking opportunities. My wife and I picked up our tent and spent around six years zig-zagging from Tulsa to Phoenix to Washington DC and finally made a landing in Dallas a little over two years ago.

With my work as a commercial and documentary filmmaker, I’ve been extremely lucky to see many fascinating places, hear amazing stories and meet inspiring people. It is a privilege that I try my best to never take for granted. From the Middle East to the Navajo nation, I’ve found that we all have a lot more in common with one another than we do differently. At our core, we have the same basic desires for security, dignity and freedom.

It is this realization that inspired me to spend the past two years directing and shooting my debut documentary feature film, Hurdle. The film is set in Israel and the Palestinian Territories and was shot over the course of 2017.

Has it been a smooth road?
I think the only way to really grow is to put yourself in uncomfortable or difficult situations. It is in the hard times that you learn how to creatively overcome challenges and trust yourself to do so. With that being said, of course, the struggles aren’t always enjoyable!

With Hurdle, there were so many unknowns going into it. From safety issues and language barriers to fundraising and getting the film in front of the industry’s eye, it has been two years of needing heart, hustle and hope. Luckily I convinced a crack team of producers to join me, Andrew Brown and Remoy Philip (both Amarillo natives, but living in Dallas and Brooklyn, respectively). They have brought needed structure and momentum to the chaos of moviemaking.

Honestly, the biggest struggle is finding the balance between believing in yourself and that the story needs to be told while remaining humble and malleable in order to learn from feedback. In any creative endeavor, there is so much of who you are as a person wrapped up in the work. It takes a lot of vulnerability to put yourself and the work into the world for people to judge and critique. There are always going to be people who love or hate it – you just have to learn when to adapt and when to stick to your guns.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Fold Studios is my production company through which I create work, but I’m most excited to talk about Hurdle, our documentary feature film that is currently in post-production.

At its core, the film documents the resilience of the human spirit and investigates our ability to respond to injustices with creativity. Hurdle gives an inspiring look at the life of a new generation of Palestinian living in the shadow of the Israeli separation wall. Using defiant creativity, they prove that no matter the height of the obstacle, one can always climb.

From the separation wall to military checkpoints as a part of daily life, Hurdle’s characters lack basic freedom of movement. Using the gymnastics-based sport of parkour and other forms of creative expression, Hurdle documents the characters’ experience as they transcend the walls built to keep them contained.

I’m sure most people reading this have at least seen a video on the internet of someone doing parkour. The goal of the sport is to move through a complex environment as quickly and creatively as possible. The participants, known as “free-runners”, perform dynamic moves jumping from rooftop to rooftop, flipping off of ledges and scaling tall walls. So imagine my surprise at finding a parkour team in an environment where freedom of movement is close to non-existent.

Whether it is Sami, the coach of the Jerusalem Parkour team passionately teaching youth the sport of parkour, or Mohammad, living on the other side of the wall in the West Bank, using his camera to document daily life, Hurdle depicts their profound creative response in the face of injustice. You can check out a teaser trailer on our website ( We plan to complete the film later this year and premiere it early 2019.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
That is a good question. In many ways, Dallas played an instrumental role in my ability to pull off a first documentary feature film.

Obviously, the film was set halfway around the world and not in Dallas, but access to affordable international flights out of DFW was a huge help. Also, if I had been living in a city like Los Angeles or New York, it would have been difficult to pause my income-generating work for six months in order to get the film shot. Dallas (for now) is more affordable than those other cities and allows you a little more breathing room in terms of jumping head first into a passion project or start-up business.

The film community is smaller in Dallas than some cities, but it seems to be tight-knit and welcoming to new members. I’ve not only found great friends but valuable advice from other filmmakers interested in investing back into the DFW film community.

Don’t get me wrong. I have spent a good deal of personal cash and time traveling back and forth to New York and Los Angeles trying to make connections and progress for the film. The reality is that the film industry, as we all know, resides in NYC and LA and I’ve found you can make a month’s worth of e-mail progress by simply meeting someone for lunch in person.

My hope is that more Dallas folks that have the means and interest in championing local filmmakers will reach out to the community and get behind your local creatives. I know there are film festivals and other organizations here pioneering that kind of support, but there is always room to grow and important films to be made. The talent is here and ready to make some magic, but there has to be some work done to make sure and keep it that way.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Hurdle Film LLC, Michael Clouser, Mohammad Alazza

Getting in touch: VoyageDallas is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. C. Cypert

    May 13, 2018 at 1:15 pm

    Amazing and courageous story. Can’t wait for the film.

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