Drew Barrymore jumps in front and behind the camera for her directorial debut highlighting the true essence of girl power, bruises and all, in her film Whip It starring Ellen Page, Kristen Wiig, Juliette Lewis, Alia Shawkat, Marcia Gay Harden and Barrymore herself.
One thing we know about Barrymore is that she has been in the business her entire life and has a true passion for films. With all of her experience, it is about time that she finally made a film the way that she wanted to, without any cheesy love scenes and that deals with real issues in a real way. One thing is for she, she has created a film that beautifully and gracefully kicks ass.
Check out what she had to say about making her first film below…
Who took you to a Derby for the first time?
Drew Barrymore: I went there with Shauna [Cross] for the time after I’d gotten heavily, emotionally invested in the project and then seeing the world of roller derby just changed everything.
I think you’re going to have a lot of little girls wearing those skates.
Barrymore: I can only hope.
It’s an interesting time for you. You’ve got this movie which I think most people agree you did a great job directing. You got an Emmy Nomination for ‘Grey Gardens’. It feels like your pushing yourselves in ways and it’s kind of working out for you.
Barrymore: I’m trying to. I just want to not be comfortable and say, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s easy because I know how to do that.’ I want to do things where I say, ‘I really don’t know if I can pull this off or not.’ Living in that fear is very motivating. It’s very unsettling but it’s very motivating.
I chose for my twenties to be about different types of storytelling and starting my production company. This is the tenth film we’ve produced and it was just really a matter of me sitting around drinking wine, watching the Food channel, turning thirty and going, ‘I don’t really want my carbon copy aspect of life, I don’t want my thirties to emulate my twenties. How do I get into the fire?’ The way that I felt when I started Flower Films which was just terrifying. ‘Can I do this? Will I be able to?’ The definition of success to me is employment. If you get another chance to do something that you love again, that is heavy, heavy success. You can’t measure that numerically or anything. But by someone giving you another opportunity means that you didn’t screw it up too bad the last time. So you’re getting another shot.
I wanted to see if I would be able to get opportunities and doors opened up to me that I had not yet opened up for myself which was dramatic characters or directing. The jury is out and we’ve yet to see if I get a chance to do this again but it was an important first step that I took to really just feel like I was completely out of my element in every way possible. That said, all of this has been a lead up and an education and gathering and putting it all into this piggybank. So everything that I’ve seen and heard and learned and felt and experienced personally and professionally and culturally has all been wanting to be collected for something. my first film as a director or doing a dramatic part felt like the perfect places to put those into, a cathartic, healthy channel.
The underwater love scene is improbable but so wonderful. I think everyone wants to know where you got that idea and how do you decide to develop it?
Barrymore: Well, originally Shauna’s script, which she and I sat diligently with and rewrote for a year because there were some really wonderful aspects to it but there was some moments that were too easily resolved in my opinion. I don’t think that people come around as easily. I didn’t want to mock pageants and I really wanted to deepen the mother/daughter relationship and there was a loss of virginity scene. I asked Ellen [Page] to do the film before she did ‘Juno’. So once she did ‘Juno’ the loss of the virginity scene seemed improbable.
Then I was faced with, ‘Okay, what do I do with the love scene as a filmmaker?’ I just thought that as an actor having to do love scenes, they’re always rather uncomfortable and not as much fun to film and I think there’s a great shot in ‘Vicki Cristina Barcelona’ where Javier Bardem and Scarlet Johanssen are just captured making out in this beautiful way. It’s handheld and one shot. It’s just very, very cinematic and gorgeous and intimate. But they’re not always portrayed that way. Or you see some French new wave and it’s just so delicate or cinematic or interesting.
So I was just trying to think of, like, I didn’t want to show them having sex and I thought as an actor I would love to have something be unorthodox and more fun and more playful and then cinematically I just didn’t want to see two people in bed making out. So I just thought, ‘You know what, this is how I’m going to interpret the responsibility of having a love scene on my hands.’
What was the challenge of capturing the derby so effectively like you did?
Barrymore: I was much more drawn to a lower light sort of boxing style arena of lighting and crowd scenes. Derby has such an eclectic crowd that I really wanted to show the diversity of the people in the bleachers. I really wanted to do a lot of ATB and techno-crane and doggy-cam so that you were right there in the middle of all the action but I also wanted to do a lot of handheld and in field shots and three camera angles so you could cut it in a very traditional way, sort of more like a hockey movie.
That said, it’s hard and it was a great challenge for me to choose a sport where it’s not like put the ball over there or put the ball through the hoop or pass the goal line and you kind of know what’s going on. It’s a difficult sport to follow visually and to try and have the responsibility of keeping it fun and there’s all these things going on but trying to tell a little story that furthers the movie along with each game. So I just tried in the writing and the choreography and the jams to really combine all the elements and yet keep moving it forward and maintain action and comedy.
Some of the best action scenes of the year, but it was the mother/daughter scenes that I loved the most.
Barrymore: Thank you so much. That’s really what I wanted to make the film about because that’s something that I personally relate to. It’s so emotional to me because I know what we go through to try and get our parents acceptance especially when we don’t see eye to eye on our futures. So for me roller derby was a wonderful backdrop in an irreverent sports comedy but really the central reason that I wanted to make the movie was because I understand the emotions that come with trying to figure it out with your parents. So to me it’s a real balance and it’s a real family film. I hope that comes across.
Has that helped you in your relationship at all?
Barrymore: Not yet [laughs].
Sadly, due to her being quite sick and needing to leave early, that’s all the time we had with her. The beauty of her film is that it stands for itself and you can see it in theaters October 2nd!
Check out the Whip It featurette to hear more from Barrymore about her film and watch the trailer below…