g The Film Panel Notetaker: NewFest 2009- "Pop Star On Ice" Audience Q&A - June 11, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

NewFest 2009- "Pop Star On Ice" Audience Q&A - June 11, 2009

Pop Star on Ice
Screening and Q&A
June 11, 2009
New York, NY

David Barba, James Pellerito, Paris Childers and Johnny Weir. Photo by Brian Geldin.

The audience responded with great enthusiasm for NewFest’s closing night film, the documentary Pop Star on Ice. After the screening, directors David Barba and James Pellerito as well as Johnny Weir and Paris Childers came to the stage for a Q&A. The discussion was moderated by NewFest’s Documentary Programmer, Cameron Yates. Audience members included Johnny’s mother Patti, Aunt Diane, Johnny’s Angel Sue Anderson, and fashion designer Richie Rich.

Q: In the film people point out that you have internal struggles holding you back. Do you agree with that? Are you any closer to resolving that?

Weir: I hope so. (Audience laughs)I think that every person has this sort of jumble of people inside them, as crazy at that may sound. I think there is a struggle especially in my sport because it’s a very technical very athletic sport. I’m a little more free-spirited, a little more artistic. To harness one side to match up with the other side its very difficult but I have a very strict coaching regimen at the moment, as you can see in the movie how to the point Galina (current coach) is. I don’t have a lot of opportunity to double think something or go to one side or another. She just says exactly what I need to do, and that’s what I do because that’s what a coach should do. By the end our relationship Priscilla (former coach) and I were very close and I knew how to push her buttons and she could push mine so it was difficult to have a good strong coaching relationship. But with my new coaches it’s taken a new direction because they can harness in all this crazy. (Audience laughs)

Q: Audience member asks about the homophobia in the US compared to Europe.

Weir: There seems to be an internalized homophobia in the North America, whereas in Europe, they have more of an open mind. They appreciate when you can make something beautiful. Here, they worry about the image that surrounds that beauty, they worry about this is going to mean to them, or to the people watching them, or to the children. (Audience laughs) It’s difficult to be different in this federation but if I’ve done nothing else I want to make it easier for people to come up and to be crazy, and to be artistic, and go on the ice and do something that they feel and that they love, not just doing something for points.

Q: Audience member asks about masculinity and figure skating, and the public criticisms directed towards Johnny.

Barba: There was an article in Canada talking about how they needed to make male figure skating more athletic and particularly more masculine. This came out quite recently and it was after we had locked the picture. I think it’s a situation in figure skating where ladies skating is really the focus of skating. And differentiate themselves from the ladies the men want to be seen as athletic. I think what Jamie and I love about Johnny is that has both, and he isn’t afraid to have both. I hope Johnny never stops having both. (Audience claps.)

Childers: I think that it should all be blended together. There should be nothing that defines us really. What is masculine? What is feminine? Someone tell me. Seriously. (Audience claps) Figure skating is not masculine or feminine so who the fuck cares?

Weir: These comments came from a man who I once saw on television wearing purple pajamas and ice skating - with karate chop moves - to the Bruce Lee story. (Audience laughs.) There were gold frogs on his costume and all of that business. That’s who made these comments. What people perceive about masculine and feminine is their own perception. I clearly am not the most masculine person that you’ve ever seen before…but my style is mine and that’s something that I’m proud of. I’m not like anyone else like purple pajamas. Purple pajamas there have been thirteen of them. I’m the one, that’s me. How boring would figure skating be if there was no music, there was no sparkle no razzle dazzle? Nobody would watch it, not that we have the biggest audience at the moment – so everyone needs to watch please. (Audience laughs) Figure skating is what it is…masculine, feminine, beautiful, athletic…that’s my sport and that why people love my sport. There’s all this talk about masculinity and making men into jumping machines and all these manly man things. I mean I am not throwing a football. I will not have a can of pork and beans on the ice, I go out there and I wanna be pretty. I will fight to the death to be pretty. (Audience laughs and loud applause and a “Yes!” from FPN’s Kelly Deegan)

Q: Was it difficult making this film with the national skating association? Did you have any trouble?

Barba: Actually we didn’t. The American Federation have been incredibly generous to us, as well as the International Union. It was a process.We were nobodies we kind of crept in and tried to prove ourselves…we slowly built trust. We showed them what we were trying to do was top bring more people into figure skating. I think that’s what Johnny does is he brings other types of people into figure skating. It’s always been positive.

Q: How did the project come about did you approach Johnny and if so what was his initial reaction?

Weir: So they were filming a documentary about figure skating because it is a very interesting world. There are so many different people in it. It’s kind of like a crack house with rhinestones and glitter. They were following it and they fell in love with a beautiful young boy from Pennsylvania whose name was Johnny and they approached this said Johnny. That was ridiculous just now…they approached me at my home rink and they called me into a meeting and wore their little jackets and they were very business like and prepared. They told me they wanted to follow me around and show what it is to be a real figure skater, a real athlete. So I talked about it with my mom, because my mom and I go over everything together and we decided why not? We were fast friends.

At this point Weir asks the filmmakers a question.

Weir: Can I ask you guys what you’ve learned? It’s been a long time, I want to see what you’ve learned about first of all your jobs and careers, and just about life in general. (Audience Laughs)

Pellerito: Honestly we learned to pace ourselves.

Barba: I think what we learned was that the wrong approach was to say to Johnny ‘we’re going to move into your bedroom with you and sleep on the floor and shoot you every minute of the day.’ I think we would’ve burned out after a day and we never would have gone here. I think we tried to understand what was important to show, we tried to build a relationship with Johnny, his family, and Priscilla (his coach at the time).

Pellerito: and Paris

Barba: And Paris of course. We loved Paris from the beginning and he loved us from the beginning, so that wasn’t hard.

Weir: Beautiful, thank you. (Audience laughs)

Q: How much pre-production went into this or did you just find him and start going? (The FPN’s Kelly Deegan)

Pellerito: I feel like the whole thing was on the fly.

Barba: There was no pre-production. Other filmmakers might have this experience, you just start doing it. I guess we were doing the figure skating documentary. Then we saw Johnny and we said ‘that’s the documentary we should be doing.’ Thank god Johnny said yes. So we just kind of went, and we just kept on going. We never stopped we just kept doing it.

Barba concluded that Weir’s road to the 2010 Olympics will be portrayed in a new 8-part documentary series on Sundance Channel that will premiere next January. It is currently titled Be Good Johnny Weir.

Be sure to check out our One-on-One interviews with filmmaker James Pellerito, Johnny and Paris, below!

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