Filmmaker's New Documentary Making Rounds

By Gloria Osoba

"Row Hard No Excuses" is Luke Wolbach's latest documentary. The film chronicles the voyage of Tom Mailhot, 41, and John Ziegler, 51, as they row across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to Barbados. The film generates thoughts on what it means to be successful, as well as how people gauge success in life.

Wolbach collaborated with his father, Bill, and his brother, Ben, on the film. The idea of the film came from Wolbach's father, who was a rower in college. Ben helped write the grant letters, in addition to doing research on masculinity.

"Working with my father was very rewarding as I got to learn more about him while making the film," Wolbach said.

So far, the film has entered 30 film festivals including the slamdance. In spite of all its success, the film faced major obstacles, including the need to fundraise to produce the film. As well, the inability of the director to follow the crew while filming hampered production and there was the challenge of working on a film within Wolbach's family dynamics.

While working on "Row Hard No Excuses," Wolbach met his future wife of more than four years, Alexandra Altrocchi Wolbach. Alexandra also works in the film industry as a visual effects producer.

She has worked on films such as the "Matrix Revolution," "Blade" and "Fantastic Four." She is a graduate of Colgate University, where she studied German and photography.

"Luke is a patient, loving, funny and participatory father. He helped take care of the children while I was breast feeding them. Luke would help soothe the babies as soon as I nursed them," said Alexandra.

The 37-year-old film director is an avid cycler and traveler. He has traveled to Burkina Faso, London, France, Guinea, India, Australia, Ireland and Senegal. He cycled from Annapolis, Maryland to Seattle, Washington. Wolbach is originally from Boston, Massachusetts. He went to Brookline High School and Tufts University for one year before transferring to Boston University to study history. He has been interested in film since he was 12 years old.

At Boston University, Wolbach took a lot of film classes.

"I think film is an interesting way to combine history with visual effects," Wolbach said.

The tall, soft-spoken director with a patrician beard has lived in San Francisco for 10 years. He lives in the Richmond District on a quiet part of Third Avenue. Wolbach said he loves the diversity of the restaurants on Clement Street and the artist community in San Francisco.

"San Francisco has one of the strongest documentary filmmaking communities. The City is a progressive, eclectic and colorful community."

"Row Hard No Excuses" is Wolbach's second documentary. His first, "Seeds of Tibet: Voices of Children in Exile (1997)," was broadcast on PBS affiliates throughout the country and was awarded an Earthwatch Award, a Cine Eagle Award and a documentary award at the Philadelphia International Film Festival.

Wolbach's next project is a documentary about his friend in Berkeley, who gathered trash in his house for a year.

"Row Hard No Excuses" will be shown at the IndieFest and Tiburon International Film Festival in March.