Interview with Burn The Ships directors
Danielle Miller and Julia Thorndike
EMERGE: First of all, thanks for letting us show your film. I was glad that I was able to catch the premiere at CIFF and it was the best reaction I’ve ever seen in a theater. Let’s start with a little background. What drew you to this story?
JULIA: The thing that drew us to telling this story was meeting one of our lead subjects, Joey Arrietta. She’s the gm of the Akron Racers and was so fired up about her league. She lives her life for this game. Really, we wanted to get her story out into the world. It matters so much to her, it started to matter to us.
EMERGE: How long did it take to complete the film and what were some of the obstacles you faced while filming?
DANIELLE: We started production in October 2015 and added post-production final touches March 2017 with production accounting for about a year of that timeline. The biggest challenge was definitely coordinating with an entire team of players who were coming from all over the country at drastically varying points in the season. They’ve only got the summer to play the game to the best of their ability, so that’s where their focus had to be. We were certainly working on borrowed time.
EMERGE: Currently, the film is playing at Chagrin Documentary Fest, what other festivals has it played at? And what has the reaction been?
JULIA: Our movie played in the Cleveland International Film Festival this year. The reaction was so great. We had 3 packed screenings and we won the ReelWomenDirect Award for Excellence in Directing by a Woman. We couldn’t believe it. There’s a video floating around on the web of our reaction. We were floored!! We’ll also be screening at the Tuscarawas Valley Film festival this month & a special screening at Oberlin college. During CIFF17 we were lucky to have Gravitas Ventures view Burn the Ships. They are now distributing our film and its available on itunes, googleplay & amazon.
EMERGE: Congratulations on the award. When submitting to festivals, do you feel that it gets pigeonholed as a softball film, even though it’s much bigger than that?
JULIA: I don’t think it gets pigeonholed as a softball film necessarily, I think we do a pretty good job of making it clear that its about something bigger than that. However, we are aware that a large part of our audience is young female softball players, so if softball is what pulls them in, then thats not a bad thing.
EMERGE: After the premiere, there were a lot of audience members who wanted to do something to fight the inequality shown in the film. Has there been any progress in this regard? What can people do to help?
DANIELLE: The biggest thing that people can do is show up to a game if they’re lucky enough to have a team nearby. Otherwise, I think the most important thing is continuing to keep the dialogue going about the difference in pay and opportunity for pro female athletes, especially in team sports. The simple fact is that many people just don’t know that pro softball exists, or that these athletes are the best in the world, yet they can’t make a living playing the sport. Luckily, since the release of the film, Joey Arrietta has said there has been a visible difference in the amount of fans in the stands, so we’re grateful to the folks who followed through with their commitment to contribute to a solution to the problem.
EMERGE: I think everyone who sees the film will be able to relate to Joey and will want to support her and the team. What are some benefits about working in Northeast Ohio and what resources do you feel may be lacking?
JULIA: One of the greatest benefits was the access we had to down to earth / willing people who care about what were doing. As far as lacking resources, we didn’t have a huge problem with that. We are lucky to work for a great production company. This allowed us to connect with a ton of great crew and gear. Also thankful that Think Media Studios values these creative opportunities, so we were able to devote time to this even during our regular work schedule. Not a lot of people can do that. But if we had to say there was one lacking resource… it might be good weather. This movie takes place majorly on a softball field… if it rains, theres not a whole lot to shoot.
EMERGE: Since we focus on film & music, I’d like to know what role music plays in your filmmaking. Finding music for the films, or using it as inspiration while writing, editing, etc. Who worked on the score for Burn The Ships? Is there anything particular that you listened to while working on it?
DANIELLE: Music is critical. Most of it was chosen during editorial dependent on what the scene required and how we wanted the viewer to feel. However, I definitely had a Spotify playlist that included songs that inspired specific scenes and the way they were shot long before production even began. A few of those songs made it all the way to the final cut, which we’re really happy about. Also the first time I stumbled upon Until We Go Down by Ruelle, I knew we needed it for the trailer.
EMERGE: What’s next for you two?
JULIA: Ideas are brewing. Excited to see what might happen with the future of Burn the Ships. Also interested in exploring more the idea of women’s equality. Telling stories of women fighting for what they believe in.
DANIELLE: I think we’re both interested in using the this medium to try to contribute something positive to the world, whether that means keeping people informed, inspired, or asking some tough questions that may hopefully prompt a little bit of introspection. I hope to continue to grow as a filmmaker and maybe help someone who watches my work to grow a little bit in some ways as well.