A bittersweet fairytale about a tough girl in the world of 1950's dirt track racing.
Interview with Writer/Director Brenna Malloy
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I made Rocket because I believed in the story and wanted to share it with people. To me, racing has always been about the senses. The roar of the engines, the smell of the gasoline, the taste of the dirt in the air, and the spectacle of danger. My perspective of racing has always been as a spectator, never as someone behind the wheel. Not many young girls have had the opportunity to race. This was my opportunity to explore the complex emotions of not only a driver, but of a woman racer in the 1950's. It is my hope to share this cinematic experience with others and encourage this new generation of women to go further than experiencing what they love as a spectator.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Racing movies are a real risk for filmmakers. It's a challenge to make one that appeals to a general audience without alienating the racing community and vice versa. If you make it too specific, the general audience won't stay interested. If you make it too vague, the racing community will call BS on what you're doing. Ask any movie fan what the worst racing movie every made is and they will tell you Le Mans. Ask any race fan what the best racing movie ever made is and they will also say Le Mans.
Neither are wrong, which is why that movie was a real example to me of what happens when you only cater to a portion of your audience. The racing in Le Mans is one of the best ever portrayed in film (if not, the best), but the story lacks what most audiences buy a ticket to see; a character they can emotionally connect with and root for. That movie is an epic race on film, not a character's journey. My goal was to try to tell a compelling story while at the same time make the racing feel realistic to the violence of the sport.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
One of the major themes in the film is self-identity. The main character, Annie, searches for a self-identity she can comfortably wear while at the same time grappling with inheriting her father's legacy. One finds their self-identity through being challenged, just like she is in the film.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
The script evolved a great deal. Like most screenplays, the shooting version was much different and much shorter than the first draft. Co-writer Ian Hock and myself worked very hard over the course of about eight months to tighten the script so it wasn't the meandering mess that draft one was. We cut characters, smaller storylines, and unnecessary scenes to make sure we were only shooting what we needed to tell the story.
Even though it was a period piece racing movie we were still operating on a student budget and schedule. We had to be honest with ourselves about what was needed and what was extraneous, no matter how much we loved it. The audience wasn't going to miss what we cut, because they wouldn't know we had cut anything!
What type of feedback have you received so far?
I've been blown away by the positive feedback from both race fans and non-race fans. A lot of people have responded positively to our main character, Annie (Lizzie Clarke) and the relationship she has with Wes (Cameron Diskin). Without giving too much away, their relationship doesn't go where you think it will. A lot of people have responded positively to the fact that it doesn't tie itself with a bow at the end but it's still satisfying. Race fans have commented on the realism of the race scenes, especially the sound of the engines and the way the cars are driven. It means a lot to receive positive feedback from both groups. Without a doubt, the best feedback has been from kids.
Early on, before we even fully finished the film, a crew member brought their niece to a screening. When the movie was over she said to her mom, "I didn't know girls could be race car drivers!". That little comment made all of our blood, sweat, and tears put into the project worth it. No award or accolade compares to your message being felt by the exact type of person you were hoping to reach.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Of course. I've been able to attend about a third of all the festivals that Rocket has screened at and at every single one of them I was asked a question that made me think about my own movie in a new light. For example, Rocket screened at a wonderful little festival in Arkansas called the Ozark Foothills Film Festival. (highly recommend to indie filmmakers!) They screened Rocket as part of a program called Reel Rural, for films made in rural environments.
Even though we filmed practically the entire movie on a ranch, I never took a moment to realize it was a rural story. As I took part in an hour-long talk at the festival about rural filmmaking, I got asked so many questions about the challenges and rewards of making a rural film. It lit a fire in me to tell stories that don't take place in high rises and mansions, rather ones that are grounded on the American landscape and connected to the land.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I hope to connect to a wider audience, and make this film known and available to anyone who is interested. I also want to showcase the fantastic work of the other key creatives who made the film with me including producer Sarah Hulsman, co-writer Ian Hock, cinematographer Nick Ramsey, editor J. Cooper Arbios, production designer Rahma Farahat, sound designer Jensen Chen, costume designer Jeff Solis, stunt coordinator Jen Caputo, and the incredible original score by Andrew Scott Bell. I also want to share the stellar performances by our leads Lizzie Clarke and Cameron Diskin.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I'm open to talk with anyone who would like to speak further about the film's future.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I think any movie should at the very least be interesting, and at the very most be moving. I always hope to achieve the latter.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Who shows up in act III and how is she/he connected to one of the main characters?
Would you like to add anything else?
Thanks for reading this! Sharing this story with others has been a real gift. Also, thank you so much to everyone who supported us throughout our journey with this film especially Andy & Jen Armstrong, David Ward, Martha Coolidge, and all our families.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I'm working on my first feature film. The rest of the excellent cast and crew have moved on to some exciting new projects as well.
Interview: July 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
A bittersweet fairytale about a tough girl in the world of 1950's dirt track racing.
Length: 29 Minutes
Director: Brenna Malloy
Producer: Sarah Hulsman
Writer: Ian Hock & Brenna Malloy
About the writer, director and producer:
Brenna Malloy, Director & Co-writer: Brenna Malloy is a Student Academy Award® winning filmmaker whose work has been honored at festivals all over the world. Born and raised in Long Beach, California, Brenna is a graduate of the University of San Francisco and received her MFA from Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.
Sarah Hulsman, Producer: Sarah Hulsman hails from Santa Rosa, California. She is a producer with a bachelor's degree in media studies from The University of San Francisco and a master's degree from Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.
Ian Hock, Co-writer: Born and raised in Southern California, Ian Hock is an Indie Filmmaker and horror buff with a bachelor's degree from Cal State Fullerton.
Key cast: Lizzie Clarke, Cameron Diskin, Danny Downey, Lexi Sullivan, Lacey Hannan
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): All
Social media handles:
Made in association with: Dodge College of Film and Media Arts
Where can I see it in the next month?
Woods Hole Film Festival
Long Beach International Film Festival
Jerome Indie Film & Music Festival
South Dakota Film Festival
Go to www.RocketTheFilm.com/screenings for information on all future screenings.