TIFF 2018 Interview: Roney
“It occurred to me that life was hard for a lot of people, and watching a show like SNL for an hour and half was a break from that reality. I wanted to be a part of that, I wanted to make people laugh.”
Director Roney describes Glitter’s Wild Women as a magical realist comedy, but I don’t know if you could ever put an accurate label on this film. One part coming-of-age drama. One part surreal fantasy. One part supernatural mystery thriller. A blend of dark, absurd, and even stoner-like comedy. A healthy dose of “what the fuck did I just watch” cinema. I could go on, but I don’t want to ruin the genre-defying experience of this not-to-be-missed flick.
Living on eighty acres of Northern Ontario farmland, sisters Hannah and Sophie have grown up in near solitude, their only connection to the outside world a weekly delivery boy and a collection of old psychotronic films (their favourite being the incredibly misogynistic, but oddly empowering Angels’ Wild Women).
After discovering bioluminescent glitter in a nearby forest, harvesting it, and smoking it with abandon, the girls discover they have unexpectedly gained super strength. With Sophie capturing every moment on an old broadcast camera, they go about testing their newfound powers in every way they can think of.
Soon convinced that they can make their own film, the sisters decide to host a ‘film festival’ on their land in order to show it. The only problem? Their invitees (the residents of the nearest town) are hesitant to attend… and for good reason!
Starring Grace Glowicki (2016 TIFF Rising Star, 2016 Sundance Special Jury Prize for Outstanding Performance for Her Friend Adam, Cardinals, Suck It Up) and performance artist Cotey Pope (her work has been featured at the Art Gallery of Ontario, XPACE Gallery, LA Contemporary Archive, Gallery 1313, and more), Glitter’s Wild Women is an explosive debut for director Roney.
A North Vancouver native, Roney originally came to Toronto to play for the Ryerson University Women’s Basketball team. Shortly after her first season, she retired from the sport, began taking classes at Second City, and entered into the Television Program at Ryerson.
After graduating, she gave birth to a semi-autobiographical web-series project, Cheap Whine. Glitter’s Wild Women is her debut short film.
With plans to tell stories through many mediums, Roney aspires to make “accessible, yet subversive and most importantly honest work for an audience that becomes more intelligent (and critical) every day.”
You can see the World Premiere of Glitter’s Wild Women at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, screening as part of Short Cuts Programme 06 on September 9th at 9:45PM and September 15th at 9:15PM. GET YOUR TICKETS HERE.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with filmmaking.
Roney: I was born and raised in Vancouver, B.C. and moved to Toronto when I was 18. I spent most of my life in Vancouver playing basketball and really didn’t have time for anything else. I’d play almost every day, and on a lot of Saturday nights I’d stay in and watch Saturday Night Live with my parents. I think watching SNL made me realize I wanted to be in the entertainment industry. It occurred to me that life was hard for a lot of people, and watching a show like SNL for an hour and half was a break from that reality. I wanted to be a part of that, I wanted to make people laugh. I was pretty set on becoming a cast member for the show, but it never occurred to me that I could be a director or a writer or a million other things besides an actress until much later in life.
I moved to Toronto to play for the Ryerson Women’s Varsity team. I was in some random program that I had absolutely no passion for, and this sport went from being the love of my life to a full time job that was steering me down a path I didn’t understand. I lost my love for the game, because I really lost my identity playing it. I retired after my first year.
My grades were shit and I had zero experience in the entertainment industry at that point. So I took a year to get my GPA up, and I started taking classes at Second City for comedy writing. A year later, I was accepted into the Radio and Television School of Media at Ryerson.
The best part about my first year in Toronto were the friends I made that were in the Film Program. Those friends became best friends, who went on to make incredibly successful films of their own. They made up the majority of the crew of Glitter’s Wild Women.
With the help of the program, and my friends, I was able to grow as a filmmaker and I realized I had a talent for writing and directing. I also realized there are so many things that correlate between playing a team sport like basketball, and making a film. I think the biggest similarity for me is the hunger. I’m hungry for opportunities to make good work, as hungry as I was playing for a damn CHAMPIONSHIP, BABY. LETS GO.
Tell us about GLITTER’S WILD WOMEN. Where did the idea come from?
R: So the property we shot on belongs to a friend of mine’s family. That friend was also the script editor of Glitter’s and a centre of peace for me during the production. Charles cast me as one of the leads of his short film, Kemosabe, and he was really adamant about reminding me that I needed to direct one of my own. I went to a lot of family events up there, and we’d drive around in the same Jeep that’s in the film and yell, “We NEED to shoot something here!” I think we both decided it had to be supernatural and it had to be funny and it had to include the jeep.
I also knew I wanted to play around with very minimal dialogue, I wanted the characters to be completely disassociated with society, and I wanted to use special effects. Because fuck it, why not?
The bioluminescent glitter hit me during a fever dream. I came up with the entire premise front to back during said fever dream and wrote a first draft.
What was your casting process like? How did you know these two women were the right fit for the roles you had created?
R: The casting process was so fun. Grace and I knew each other through our partners and while I was writing Glitter’s I had her in my head the whole time. It was really about finding the right person to bounce off of Grace’s energy. I stumbled upon Cotey on Instagram. I thought she was so strange. She didn’t have any formal acting experience, aside from her own performance pieces, and I loved everything about her. I think there’s something really special about casting an actor with no formal experience. You’re really casting their raw spirit.
Cotey and Grace quickly became sisters after our first couple of rehearsals.
Max, our Delivery Boy, also had no acting experience. He was my co-worker at a coffee shop, in fact. I think he absolutely crushed it.
What inspired you to use ANGELS’ WILD WOMEN as the sisters’ cinematic interest? Were any other films considered?
R: I got really into psychotronic, softcore, nose-candy-fueled, indie films from the seventies for a minute. There was a time where they were all up for grabs on YouTube, so I binged for a couple of days. It was around the same time I was writing the short. Angels’ Wild Women was one of the films that particularly got me thinking. Angels’ Wild Women is highly offensive. Like, you couldn’t write a more misogyny-filled, stinky diaper of a movie. It’s about a group of women that ‘belong’ to a bike gang that get kidnapped by a hippy commune run by dudes. It was a real sign of the times, I think. However, they did this thing that really stuck with me: close-ups of these women delivering super kick-ass one liners. I remember thinking: ‘holy shit, why do I feel so good?’ I was cheesed that these people were probably given a lot of money to make a really offensive film, but that total of thirteen seconds of female heroism really stuck with me.
I drew a pretty substantial conclusion. I was going to make a film that had the same ‘holy shit, why do I feel so good?’ feeling in EVERY scene, AND I was going to do it for a fraction of the cost, AND it was going to be good. I used Angels’ Wild Women as the character’s cinematic interest in the film, because it felt like I was truly rewriting that film’s wrong.
Can you talk about the challenges of using practical special effects for this film?
R: There are so many challenges that come with practical special effects when you have zero experience using practical special effects, but you confidently tell everybody you know what you’re doing when it comes to practical special effects.
I drew inspiration from the director duo, The Daniels. They’re responsible for my favourite short film, Interesting Ball, and one of the funniest physical comedy features I’ve seen since Weekend at Bernie’s, called Swiss Army Man. I found a tutorial on their Vimeo page that explained how they used dry ice to create surreal super-power explosions. Kelly (producer), Aidan (assistant director), and I once got caught by the Ryerson campus police for blowing up water bottles with dry ice in first year, so we all agreed it was the right thing to do to continue that legacy and use that tutorial.
We cross referenced with the wise words of a professional practical effects editor and the conclusion was to use a green screen and layer on shots of our actors pretending to blow shit up with shots of dry ice literally blowing shit up. It was difficult, and stressful, but so much fun.
Can you tell us about some/all of the other amazing women who worked on this film?
R: Oh, yes. Yes, I can. Obviously, we can see just how amazing our leads are in their performances. I barely had to direct Cotey and Grace, they just showed up. They really held their own, and they spoke up when things weren’t working, and I’m grateful for it.
My best friend, who is also my co-star in a web series we make called Cheap Whine, last minute showed up to do craft. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever done craft, but it’s a huge responsibility. It’s so hard. You have to please so many people and make sure they’re fed, and Thalia just did the damn thing. And she made everybody feel good and laugh in the process.
Paige, our producer, signed on the moment I asked. What’s weird is that I had been dating her brother for over a year at that point and we had never met before. So, when we had our first meeting it was a mix of ‘Oh my god, it’s so nice to finally meet you!’, and ‘Where are we going to find $5000?’ Paige had a full-time job, and she was attending night courses for a business diploma, all while producing our short film for no money. Lazy, to say the least.
Zoe, our hair and makeup stylist, is the most mature, poised, twenty-year-old I have ever met. She was the queen of reminding me that everything was going to be okay. I think there’s a massive responsibility that the hair and makeup department has that filmmakers’ take for granted. That responsibility is to make sure that the actors feel comfortable enough to go back out there and pretend to be a someone else. That’s really hard. Zoe is a gentlewoman and scholar.
Hazel, our second camera assistant, stood in the Bay of Quinty in order to keep a stand in place for like two hours in the middle of November. She never once complained. That’s really cold water. Every time I looked at Hazel she was doing something, and she never quit. She’s good at what she does.
Who are your favourite women working in the film industry?
R: I can’t think of my all time favourites, that’d take a bit of time. Rachel Morrison is for sure on the list, though. She shot Black Panther, Mudbound, and Dope. She just wrapped a feature at 8 months pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl a couple of days ago. I’ll quote her for you: “Pregnancy and motherhood in general is not a disadvantage and the craft doesn’t suffer as a result. If anything the added experience and enhanced empathy has made me a better cinematographer and filmmaker.”
I really, truly had a mentality of thinking I needed to get all of these things accomplished in film before I decided to have a child. That mentality has since changed. Definitely not having a kid for a while, but stoked to know I can do it at any point in my career.
What are you working on now/next?
R: I’m working on a couple of things. I’m writing a feature and a short that both have the same theme of magical realism. I think magical realism is where I’ll stay for a while. It’s really nice here.
And now for some fun ones! If found a way to gain super strength, how would you use your power?
R: If I gained super strength, I wouldn’t tell anybody. I’d find a way to sit at the same table as Dwayne the Rock Johnson, and I’d ask him to arm wrestle me in front of all my best dogs. And then after he’d lose, I’d whisper, “Go home, Dwayne,” and gently kiss him on the forehead.
What mythical creature do you wish actually existed?
R: A savings account with money in it.
If someone narrated your life, who would you want to be the narrator?
R: Bernie Sanders, but he’s black-out drunk.
Finally, recommend one #MUFFApproved film for our blog readers!
R: Mustang, directed by Denis Gamze Erguven.