I have been writing about international film for various print and online publications for the past decade, and currently edit bi-monthly UK film mag movieScope. Dedicated to the craft of filmmaking and the art of cinema, it's a must-read whether you're a movie maker or film fan.
I have loved films ever since I saw Gone With the Wind on TV one Sunday morning, and while studying cinema at Leicester University I became a reviewer for the student paper, Ripple, taking over as Film Editor in my final year.
After graduating I got a job at the UK's longest running movie mag Film Review where I worked my way up from producation assistant to becoming the first female Editor in its history. I have written about film and culture for a variety of magazines and websites, including BBC Online, Little White Lies, Filmstar and Kodak's In Camera, and am a member of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists and British Society of Magazine Editors.
I am currenly in the process of updating and streamling Roll Credits; apologies for any out of date content and thank you for your patience!
Nikki Has Just Watched...
Written by Judy Sloane Thursday, 01 October 2009 20:37
We catch up with Ellen Page and first time director Drew Barrymore to chat about their new roller derby movie Whip It
Marking actress Drew Barrymore’s debut as a film director, Whip It stars Juno’s Ellen Page as a reluctant beauty queen who finds there’s more to life when she gets involved in the world of womens roller derby. But, as the pair explained when we caught up with them, the film is so much more than rough and tumble…
Drew, this is your first movie as a director. Why did you chose this project?
DREW BARRYMORE I think there are two aspects of this film that are the most central themes, which is the roller derby and the ‘find your tribe and empower yourself and be your own hero’, but also the mother/daughter love story. I just wanted to find a film that I could really make personal for me. I didn’t want to be like a director telling a story, I wanted to be a person who could have taken all the emotional experiences, the cultures I’ve learned, the music I’ve loved, the films I’ve studied, the nature of learning how a film works through being a producer for 15 years, and really just apply that into something that could be something that my heart. This story really fit the bill because my heart is something that doesn’t like just heaviness. I like comedy, but I find when comedy has heart it’s all the more funny and poignant to me.
And I really related to the metaphor of pageant and Hollywood. I was very surprised when I did so much research on pageant in film, dating all the way back to the sixties, it’s always parodied, it’s always made into a joke, and I thought, ‘It’s really not that, it’s a rite of passage, it’s a door opener, it’s a way of life, it’s just not right for this character’. And I feel the same way about Hollywood, there’s a lot of aspects of it that I just don’t think are wrong necessarily, but they’re not right for me. You’re supposed to act or be a certain way [and] I found, I’m more of like a derby type of girl. I want to go out there and kick butt and have a sense of humor and enjoy my life and not be afraid of what other people think.
So this was a very personal experience for you?
BARRYMORE I don’t work with a monitor, I work right next to the camera, so I can see everything. I’m a very performance-driven director and I just really wanted this to have a lot of different gritty emotions and tones. I wanted it to be a celebration of life and I worked really hard to not make it a Hollywood ending. I think in my 20s I was obsessed with like a happy ending, which was great, and a great fairytale aspiration for me, and I liked telling those kind of stories. But in my thirties I’m like a good day is a good day!
Would it have been easier not to act in the film if you already had the demanding job of director?
BARRYMORE On some levels, because trying to juggle pre-production while training and doing all of that or directing the performances while you’re in the scenes themselves would have been easier! On the other hand, I felt for me it would have been more difficult because I’m not a sideline dictator, I like to know what the girls are going through. I know the value of a training camp from having to produce the Charlie’s Angels’ movies. I wanted to be in the trenches with them. I’ve never really related to those directors who seem like they’re at the top of the pyramid. I like directors who may be coaches to the team, but they’re a team.
Ellen, did you know how to skate before the film?
ELLEN PAGE A little. [The training] was fun to be honest. I trained for three months and worked with an awesome derby trainer and simultaneously worked with a physical trainer. Just worked hard and ate well.
What it was it like to work with Drew Barrymore as a director?
PAGE Working with Drew was amazing. That's all I know and that's who directed the movie. She was just tireless in a way that was inspiring. Here was someone who was in pre-production for their first feature film also training to be a roller derby star. And she was just always there, always available, always present and always emotionally present with the material and really guided me through the story.
Was it this role or Drew that made you want to do this film?
PAGE I decided to do this way before I shot Juno. First of all I read the script and loved it and was really fascinated and excited about this resurgence of roller derby and what that represented for women and the fact the Drew Barrymore was attached to direct was really thrilling. And, when I finally met Drew, I was like 'Oh wow! I definitely want to do this'. I was so lucky. Obviously, this was before Juno so she saw something in me that she liked and I'm honored to be a part of her first film.
Your character of Bliss gets involved in both beauty pageants and roller debys. What was it like to play both of these environments?
PAGE Yeah. And what I liked about it too is Bliss was by no means evilly forced into the pageant world. She loved that that allowed her connection with her mother and she'd like to make her mother happy. It just obviously wasn't what was igniting some sort of passionate fire within her. Then, when she discovers derby, that's the thing that she connects with and that's the thing that allows her to come out of her shell to establish a sense of confidence and to develop a sense of sexuality and really be in touch with herself in a way she'd never felt before. That was a really nice transition to explore and what I really loved about how Drew handled, for example, the pageant aspect of it, is she didn't do that kind of overly tacky judgmental way of approaching it because it's what a lot of people like and probably a lot of people feel about pageants the way Bliss feels about derby. I didn't want it to seem like we were being really "judgey" about it. I wanted to show respect towards that.
When Bliss finds roller derby she finds her place. When you found acting was it like that for you?
PAGE It was something I fell in love with and I'm still very, very in love with. I don't attach myself with it so much. I mean I adore it and I'm so grateful to do it as my job but there's other things that I really love and I don't want to become unhealthily attached to what I do. I'm grateful for what I do but I also want to be able to be okay when I'm not doing it.