The following is an excerpt from Associate Producer Ari Abitbol’s on-location production journal for the new series Amish: Out of Order:
I flew out to Columbia, MO on June 8, 2011. I arrived not knowing what to expect. Okay, I’m here to produce a show about the Amish and the ex-Amish but I wasn’t even really sure what that meant and how to approach the subject matter. In my head, I played out countless scenarios so I could be best prepared for what came my way—I really had NO idea what I was getting myself into.
Upon my arrival, I went with our field producer Christie W. to meet one of the cast members, Chris L., an ex-Amish who is training to be a cage fighter.
A WHAT? Yes, A cage fighter.
I have never seen a spar or a brawl up close, in fact, like the Amish, I consider myself to be a pacifist. For this young man to have ended up here, at Hulett House MMA Gym, to be in training for a cage fight, I could only imagine what led him to this point.
I watched Chris L. train on that first night and, no exaggeration, blood was everywhere! I couldn’t understand why someone would put himself through that? How could an ex Amish could end up in this place, beating someone for a competitive thrill?
July 9th was the night of Chris L.’s first match. The arena at Boone County Fairground reeked of cheap beer and sweat but no one seemed to mind. The crowd was intense, shadowing the moves of the fighters in the ring, screaming at the ref, smacking tables, etc. I knelt by the ring to take photos and I felt out place, out my element. Chris L. was called into the ring for his fight. The ex-Amish crowd went wild. His competitor was matched up in size with Chris L. so I knew it was going to be at least a fair match.
They began their spar. I continued to take photos, move around, get some angles. But something weird happens; I’m looking through my camera taking these photos and then I, for the first time, actually SEE the fight. I never thought I’d be one to be enthralled by sparring or cage fighting, but something came over me. I stood up, started shadowing Chris L., screaming at the ref, and smacking the table to get my point across. How did this happen? What am I doing?
At the end of our very long shoot day, I poured myself into bed and passed out instantly. BUT in that brief moment of twilight before sleep, I smiled because I knew that I had made the right decision.
Welcome to Columbia!
AMISH: OUT OF ORDER, a new series from the producers of “Devil’s Playground,” premieres Tuesday at 10PM et/pt on National Geographic Channel. Watch the trailer: