Courtesy of Katie Leimkuehler
A couple of years ago, locally based filmmaker Katie Leimkuehler wrote a screenplay about her late grandfather Paul Leimkuehler’s quest to create ski outriggers so that disabled people could ski.
The man has an undeniably remarkable story. A World War II veteran who lost his leg during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and built his own artificial leg, Leimkuehler went on to open a prosthetic business in Cleveland which is still run by his family today.
His outriggers got him into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, the U.S. Disabled Snow Sports Hall of Fame and the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
While looking for someone to direct her script, Katie Leimkuehler eventually partnered with the production team TFA Group hat helped her bring the documentary film, dubbed Fresh Tracks
, to fruition. It'll premiere on May 17 at the annual Vail Film Festival
in Colorado. The festival has pivoted to an online format, and viewers will have the chance to rent the movie and watch it online that day
“I don’t have a background in filmmaking,” admits Leimkuehler via phone. “This has been a learning process. I interviewed about 50 filmmakers and talked to them about the process and learned there was no straightforward path. Everyone had a different way of going about it. That was really helpful. I was fortunate that people wanted to talk to me and that gave me guidance in terms of what direction I wanted to take.”
After Leimkuehler locked in with a production company and director, the movie started filming last June and went into editing in December.
Since Leimkuehler’s grandfather died when she was only 8, she didn’t know him very well.
“That was part of the reason I wanted to tell his story,” she says. “I just learned about him from letters he had between him and my grandmother during the war. I learned more about his story as I made the film. He learned how to make prosthetics when he was in the hospital and made his own leg there. He used to be an engineer. He started making legs and even started giving advice to the doctors there.”
Her grandfather had never skied prior to losing leg. As the story goes, he was filming people skiing one day. The ski instructor told him he could ski too, and there was a film he could watch that would show him how. He watched the movie at the Cleveland Public Library and started making the outriggers. He and his friend, who was also an amputee, went up to a golf hill in the Metroparks and skied for the first time on the outriggers and loved it. Leimkuehler intentionally didn't patent the design; he helped people make them and sent the dimensions to people across the country that wanted to make their own.
In the end, Katie Leimkuehler hopes her grandfather’s story inspires others facing obstacles.
“I decided to make this film because my grandfather’s story reminded me that a challenge could be an opportunity,” she says. “He took advantage of a disadvantage. I want people to watch this film and think that they could overcome whatever challenge was in front of them.”
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