Jack Toye spoke to Evi Tsiligaridou (director), Verity Susman (soundtrack) and Ania Urbanowska (cinematographer”, the co-creators of ON YOUR FEET WOMAN, screened at this year’s BFI Flare, the London LGBT Film Festival.
Jack Toye: How long did the film take to make? Are we talking months of wrestling prep? Or was it a one-take wrestle?
Evi Tsiligaridou: It was one take for the film, but there was real wrestling happening some months before that, randomly on a drunken night; so that triggered us at a later point as the event to use for this project.
JT: So you shot the film, and then I assume the editing happened before you came on board with the soundtrack, Verity?
Verity Susman: Yes, it was all pretty much done beforehand. It had been screened without a soundtrack.
ET: It was screened in a silent version as part of an exhibition. It was on a loop. It was about fluidity and body and space, but then to make a short film out of it, we changed the edit a bit after a discussion with Verity. She said to me, “what you’re telling me about the film is not corresponding with this edit” so we needed to go a little bit back and forth.
JT: It’s very interesting to hear that it was completely silent before, because I found the film had a Buster Keaton/ Harold Lloyd comedic physicality to it, and I think the audience were on board with that too. Other than the short film about the lady who is a gay pornographer, this was the screening that got the most amount of laughs from the audience. Ania, were there multiple cameras used in the shoot?
Ania Urbanowska: Yes, when Evi explained the initial concept I thought to keep the energy up, the flow of energy. If there is a process, a journey from start to beginning, I wanted to capture that without resetting and stopping the action of the fight. So we used four cameras: I set microphones around the so-called ring, and it was one take that lasted 15 to 20 minutes. I operated one of the cameras, and we had a few other operators too.
JT: Was there lots of deep heat on set? Particularly for you, Evi, as you get bashed about a bit more? You’re the sub, but you’d like to be the dominant, right?
ET: I don’t know, that’s to be judged. I think it’s more about flexibility, technique, and power. There are different forces happening in the film, and it’s more about the expansions of the space that I was looking for. It’s not a fight that has a “winner” or a “loser”, in my view.
JT: It seemed quite a friendly fight.
ET: Yes, it’s a game. Learning about your strengths, and it’s a metaphor for women being allowed to do that in reality.
JT: The last time we met you, Evi, was up in Edinburgh. Ania and Verity, you’re both based in London. How do you make a film like this then when, Evi, you’re at the other end of the UK? Did you meet in Birmingham? Somewhere halfway?
VS: For the soundtrack, you don’t necessarily need to be where the filmmaker is. We talked a lot on the phone. I made a soundtrack for a French film, and the crew and everyone were in Paris whilst I was still in London. It’s totally possible to be in another place, at least for the soundtrack.
JT: Did you make this version of the film with BFI Flare in mind? To submit to the festival?
ET: No, it started as a response to a call from this exhibition in Edinburgh, as a silent. Then I thought if Verity could do the soundtrack, it would be amazing to see it as a short film as well. So it started as a video art project instead of a short film, let’s say.
JT: Any plans to develop it further into a feature-length wrestling film?
ET: No, ha!