Dave Carroll

Tribeca Exclusive Interview: ‘Bending Steel’s’ Dave Carroll Talks About His Debut

Making both his Tribeca and feature filmmaking debut director Dave Carroll explores, for the most part, uncharted territory with his documentary Bending Steel. A talent known for its odd ball nature and hard exterior, Carroll showcases the modern day strongman in Queens native Chris “The Wonder” Shoeck within the sport’s origin backdrop of Coney Island.

Bending Steel at first strikes the unassuming viewer with a daily routine for Shoeck, that routine is soon revealed to be significant the further Carroll familiarizes himself with the world of strongmen. His lens focuses on the original history of men practically moving mountains in performances on the boardwalk of Coney Island, as Shoeck reminisces learning about his strongmen idols as a boy. The stereotype which pairs the profession in the same group as bearded ladies and other subversive “freaks” slowly unfurls to reveal an impactful truth about a community of men that long for a human connection, and to overcome their own mental limitations.

At the center of this community is 43-year-old Shoeck; awkward in posture, his stature alludes that he’s a tiny bull in a china shop unaware of the strength he possesses. During a truly captivating moment, the camera frames his face, as he gazes in a trance at his latest two-inch steel obstacle, eyes ping ponging faster than his revelations about his own social inadequacies. A subject with a social crutch might have proved to be difficult to capture, but Carroll’s camera gets inside of the human spirit and tells a truly universal story.

Bending Steel’s director Dave Carroll spoke with The Inquisitr’sNiki Cruz about the experience making Bending Steel, and his own idea of mind over matter.


THE INQUISITR: Just for the readers, can you give a brief history of the strongmen in Coney Island?

CARROLL: There were guys like The Mighty Atom and Warren Lincoln Travis they would perform out there for crowds. The strongman culture was very popular in the vaudeville days, and traveling circuses and carnivals. These guys really had a standing in their community. There was multiple strongmen per city, but Coney Island was the place to go for amusement for a long period of time for New Yorkers. They definitely had a very prominent spot out there. Warren Lincoln Travis would have all kinds of challenges, and there was always a great spirit out there.

Bending Steel