A BYU journalism student debuted his biographical documentary in the Harold B. Lee Library on Wednesday night to a crowd of smiling and frequently emotional faces.
“For me this project is not just academic, it’s personal,” said Daniel Andersen, creator and subject of the documentary, at the beginning of his film titled “I am Limitless.”
Since birth, Andersen has lived with a form of muscular dystrophy which makes it nearly impossible to move without the help of a motorized wheelchair. He pursued his dream of telling untold stories and creating an inclusive environment for those in the disabled community through creation of the film.
Originally conceived as a music video where disabled artists would be shown singing “This is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Anderson said he quickly realized his message would be better conveyed through a longer-form medium. His journalism capstone project evolved into a 20-minute long documentary.
“I am Limitless” recounts his journey overcoming obstacles to complete the project and what he learned from others in the disabled community along the way.
Andersen’s narration showcases individuals who, like himself, have adapted to physical hardships in pursuit of their artistic dreams. It tackles questions about the underrepresentation of disabled artists in entertainment media, while maintaining that those with disabilities should not feel limited by the stereotypes society applies to them.
“You are more than your limitations and you can do more than you think you can,” Andersen said, explaining the film’s intended message.
He learned this message first hand during the filming and production of the project. “This experience was probably one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done in my entire life,” he said.
At times the strain of long-distance flights and a rigorous filming schedule caused Andersen to doubt whether or not he could continue. He said there were several points where he thought, “I can’t do this anymore.”
Andersen’s persistence in accomplishing what he set out to do despite its difficulty is an inspiration, according to those involved in the project.
“The thing that inspires me most is his faith in himself. He will not give up on himself or his dreams,” said Alan Neves, The Daily Universe production manager and one of Andersen’s mentors. “He has a vision that is not thwarted by his disability.”
Andersen described this vision during his introductory remarks before the film’s showing, saying if even one life was changed because of the project, it will have been worth it.
Caleb Litster, a BYU senior who was featured in the film, said he thought Andersen’s vision was accomplished through the documentary.
“I’m just amazed at the hope that he has,” Litster said. “I feel like he’s given me a little bit of that with the film.”
At the closure of Wednesday’s event, Christopher Wilson, associate director for undergraduate studies with the School of Communications, awarded Andersen the first ever “Share the Light” award. He said Andersen embodied the school’s new mission statement “to share light and hope with the world.”
Andersen said he hopes to find a job creating inspiring content after he graduates. He likes the idea of eventually becoming a professor, providing the same kind of mentorship he received here at BYU and continuing to share the same light that filled the library auditorium Wednesday night.