The Making of Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable with Director Aaron Lieber

Aaron Leiber made the film Unstoppable about one of the world's best surfers: Bethany Hamilton. Listen to their story.


When she was 13, up-and-coming pro surfer Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm in a shark attack. That’s just the beginning of her story. Bethany bounced back a month later and never stopped excelling in everything she set her mind to. Today, Bethany is one of the best surfers in the world, a mom with two kids, a wife and she’s rewriting the rules on being a fearless athlete. There’s a new documentary about her story, “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable,” that hits theaters July 12th. This week, we’re talking to the film’s director, Aaron Lieber, about working with Bethany, and how he went from being an intern to making feature films. We also talk to Bethany Hamilton about what it was like to work with Aaron and what she hopes people will take away from the movie.

“Unstoppable” is Aaron’s third film about female surfers and he is committed to sharing Bethany’s story in her own voice. I was invited to witness Bethany surf “Jaws,” one of the biggest waves in the world and became friends with Bethany and Aaron during the filming process. Aaron has also given me great advice about this podcast. These two humans are incredibly motivating to be around and have made me feel unstoppable in my own career. On this show, I speak with Aaron about the process of making a major motion picture and how to create a documentary about someone whose story continues to evolve. We also talk about the importance of working with the best, so you can create your best work.

Listen to this episode if:

  • If you want to be a filmmaker.
  • If you’re a fan of Bethany Hamilton.
  • If you want to know how to make a Hollywood feature film.
  • If you want to hear from one of the best athletes in the world.

Key takeaways:

  • 2:40 – How Aaron got started making films.
  • 7:15 – Why Aaron makes films about women who surf.
  • 11:35 – How Aaron helped Bethany Hamilton tell her story.
  • 16:50 – The shark attack, from Bethany’s perspective.
  • 24:20 – A wave called “Jaws” in Maui.
  • 28:55 – Bethany’s thoughts on the film.
  • 33:00 – The funding and development of Unstoppable.
  • 38:00 – Aaron’s all-women production team.
  • 44:10 – Watching the film on the big screen for the first time.
  • 49:20 – When and where you can see Unstoppable in theaters.
  • 52:00 – Aaron’s parting advice for ambitious creatives.

Episodes to listen to:


Connect with Aaron Lieber:

Connect with Bethany:


  • I wanted to travel and be a pro surfer, but I was terrible at surfing, so a camera was literally the lens that let me do those things. @lieberfilms
  • This woman said, ‘Why are there no girls in your movies?’ and I didn’t have an answer. I was like, ‘That’s a great question.’ @lieberfilms
  • It’s important for young women to see themselves on the big screen, and the only way to do that is to make sure it’s an authentic, non-branded film. @lieberfilms
  • In life, you’re faced with two choices – do, or don’t do. Bethany’s choice was to do. @lieberfilms
  • What’s the point of working with people who aren’t better than you? That doesn’t make any sense. @lieberfilms
  • If you really love it, remind yourself, ‘Oh yeah, I’m doing this because I love it.’ If you don’t love it, don’t do it. @lieberfilms
  • I encourage moms to be the best moms they can be, but to remember to give themselves time to not lose their passions. @bethanyhamilton
  • I’m hoping to spread some light to people, and push them beyond. @bethanyhamilton

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