A violent assault forces a 30 year-old bartender to reexamine her life and place in the world.
Interview with Writer/Director Amy DePaola
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Thank you! AMYDEE was technically my MFA thesis project at Emerson College but in truth, it was much more than that. Personally, I made the film as a form of therapy from trauma while aiming to inspire others to find what brings them strength during tough times. Writing, directing and acting in my own project has also been a personal goal of mine since I saw the film WAITRESS by Adrienne Shelley in 2006. I went on to work for the producers who helped Shelley develop that project and have admired her ability to wear multiple hats since. In general, I am attracted to filmmakers who develop narratives from a personal place and wear multiple hats on their work. I believe this is where the most authentic storytelling comes from.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Do you like boxing stories? YES! Are you interested in seeing a strong female character on screen? YES! Are you interested in supporting women behind the camera? YES! If you answered yes to one or more of those questions then this film is for YOU!
Further, if you have ever felt alone in any struggle you have faced, this film is for you.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
RE: personal: The film is based on my reasons for taking up the sport of boxing. After I was assaulted during a robbery walking into my home in Boston’s South End neighborhood, I realized that I was unhappy with myself and the life I was living. I felt purposeless and alone. I tried a ton of things - therapy, dating, yoga, partying with friends and boxing. Ultimately, boxing was what made me feel the most empowered. So, as far as themes go I would say empowerment, themes of recovery...
RE: universal: I struggled during the writing of the script to make the film relatable to every one. Ultimately, what worked was to keep the film quiet. We have all felt fear, and we have all felt alone. We also all want to have something in our lives that builds us up. Although not the specific intention there is the theme of woman in this film. However - that point is never discussed or overtly presented its just as the real story and situation was - it included a lot of women and what it means to feel safe and confident as a woman in our modern society.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
Oh my goodness, this is a loaded answer! The film was originally solely a narrative film - but then I saw a film produced by my friend Rob Cristiano called “Bob and the Trees” at IFFBoston. The director of that piece chose to base his protagonist and supporting characters off of their real lives. He even followed two of them to work as tree loggers in Western MA and captured 60 foot pinewoods dropping to the ground. Knowing Rob and the budget of the film I was like “how did they pull this off?!” During the film’s Q+A there was this moment where the secret was revealed and audience members were having this debate on whether it was documentary or narrative filmmaking and I loved it.
This lightbulb went off in my head. I immediately texted my co-producer and my boxing coach and I said - "if I am going to play a boxer in this film, then I am going to really fight.”
I had done some behind the scenes filming for an organization called Haymakers for Hope and their Belles of the Brawl event, a charity that puts on amateur boxing matches to raise money for cancer treatment. Before AMYDEE even existed they made a joke that I should film myself training for that fight specifically so it was easy to get into the 2015 class of those badass female fighters.
Once we got into filming with our new approach to make a hybrid narrative/verite documentary film, it was clear that some of the script had to go - this became even clearer in post production. Since we were filming in real time with my training, I was not fully aware of the intense amount of physical and emotional change that I was going to embark on. I wanted to properly represent the experience in the final cut, so a lot of things I anticipated and wrote scenes for, just kind of hit the cutting room floor.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback has been so very positive. I am very touched! I’ve had survivors of all sorts of trauma come to me and thank me. I had a Dad at the Provincetown Film Fest screening approach me and tell me he wanted his daughter to see the film. I’ve had 13 year-old girls tell me that they loved it. I believe the authenticity of the piece is very apparent and I also think the quiet nature of the film and lack of dialogue allows the viewer to create more meaningful relationships in how they relate to the film. There have been a few negative comments, mostly from folks (always men) who can not separate the story about an athlete from the idea of “action” - there’s action in a sense but its far from a boxing tale and more of a tale about self-empowerment.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I’ve been a little surprised on those who need “more action” but not that surprised - I’ve been combating the issue of expectations of women on screen since my first job in this business. Meaning, the production company I worked for was a non-profit creating stories and media to change the view of women on stage and screen. However, for the most part the film has received a lot of feedback, especially since audiences have that argument of is it a narrative film or a documentary? At Provincetown I screened alongside doc films, whereas in Woods Hole, I screened with narrative. It’s been thrilling and interesting to be accepted by both genres.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I want to get this film in front of more audiences. In particular, young women and survivor groups. One of my lead actors, Ernest Anemone is an educator. He and I have developed a curriculum and conversation around the film and want to get it through as many colleges, and possibly high schools as we can over the next year.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
All of the above!
There’s a specific reason for why we are interested in connecting with each. I am a rare and good kind of director because of my background in producing. I have ideas for several ways AMYDEE can be developed further and exploited into a business. One of them, my team and I are already working on, and that is to develop this story into a narrative series.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I want to see anyone who sees this film, man or woman, to do whatever it is that they’ve always been intending to do but never found the strength. I want young women to be inspired to define what confidence and safety means for them and I want everyone to know that they are not alone - not ever - call me. I”ll chat.
Further, I want to see a narrative series about a woman who boxes and has all the issues of life surrounding her. This is true for all the women I know who fight. I also believe that by doing this I am continuing that mission to change the image of women on screen. I think what Jenji Kohan has been doing is great but there is a heightened reality in the tone of all of her shows. I want women and strong women, who yes, also struggle, to be based in realism. We put so much stake on what we see in our films and television because it is a reflection of our society. If we start promoting and telling the stories that prove that we are all the same despite gender, race, sexuality, religion and whatever else divides us - then maybe, there will be change.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Is this narrative or documentary? What is the actual difference between the two? What does drive one’s own feelings of confidence and safety?
Would you like to add anything else?
Please visit www.amydeefilm.com as well as www.Facebook.com/AmyDeeFilm and on Instagram @AmyDeeFilm - growing our audience brings us closer to the next phase of this project! We are currently a semi-finalist for the Sundance YouTube New Voices Lab and will be applying to others like it as well.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I am currently line producing a documentary for Amazon with Malka Media. I am also tossing around another short film idea surrounding the issues of women, pregnancy and motherhood.
Interview: Augus 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 violent assault forces a 30 year-old bartender to reexamine her life and place in the world.
Length: 15 minutes
Director: Amy DePaola
Producer: Amy DePaola, Christopher “Crickie” Thomas, Katie Shannon
Writer: Amy DePaola
About the writer, director and producer:
Amy DePaola spent much of her youth in audition rooms and on local stages, later, performing with The Atlantic Theater Company, The Labyrinth Theater Company, The American Repertory Theater, New York Film Academy and The Moscow Art Theater.
She joined WET Productions as a Producer in 2008, inspired by the non- profit’s commitment to creating women-centric media and advocacy of gender equality. During her time at WET, Amy worked with writers Sarah Treem, Melissa James Gibson, Annie Baker, Brooke Berman and performers Debra Messing, Alysia Reiner, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Carla Gugino, Rosemarie DeWitt, Keri Russell, J.D. Williams and Andre Royo amongst others. Her time at WET gave Amy the confidence to direct and produce films independently; credits include Ordinary Man (for which Amy was nominated Best Supporting Actress at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival), Chocolate Chip Cookies, 617 The Series (S1/S2), The Day After the Company Party, A Life Not to Follow, The Rookie Bartender (S2), UNSURE/ POSITIVE: A Series About Life with HIV, The Blue Corner, Fated to Repeat, AMYDEE, to name a few.
Amy’s latest acting and directing credit, AMYDEE., a narrative-cum- cinéma vérité film based on her discovery of boxing following a physical assault she experienced in 2013, is currently in the festival circuit and is a Grand Jury Prize Winner of the 2017 Film Invasion LA Festival and was an Official Selection of the 2017 Garden State Film Festival, The 2017 Provincetown International Film Festival and the 2017 Woods Hole Film Festival.
Key cast: Amy DePaola, Derek Shea, Andrea Gurecki, Kerri Sohn and Ernest Anemone.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): We are most interested in Film Fest Directors, Journalists and Producers who work in the episodic narrative space.
Social media handles:
Twitter: n/a but you can follow me @TheeAmyDee
Funders: Kickstarter, Charlestown A/V, personal finance.
Made in association with: indieMEDIA, Charlestown A/V and Thompson Films.
Where can I watch it in the next month? The film won’t be available online till early 2018 but you can enjoy our trailer! https://vimeo.com/219151000