g The Film Panel Notetaker: NewFest "Pop Star On Ice" James Pellerito Interview

Sunday, June 28, 2009

NewFest "Pop Star On Ice" James Pellerito Interview

Interview with James Pellerito

Co-Writer/Director/DP/Editor/Producer of the documentary Pop Star on Ice
June 11, 2009

By Kelly Deegan

Kelly Deegan interviews James Pellerito. Photo by Brian Geldin.

We had a few more questions after NewFest’s closing night Q&A with the cast and crew of the very entertaining documentary Pop Star on Ice. Luckily, filmmaker James Pellerito was kind enough to talk to us as we walked to the super fun NewFest closing night party.

Deegan: You originally were making a documentary on Figure Skating. Was there anyone who was upset about the focus being switched to Johnny(Weir)? Did you have any contacts that this became a problem with?

Pellerito: Not really. This was an unusual experience, because everyone who spoke to us was happy to speak to us. There are a lot of people we interviewed who weren’t in the film because the material wasn’t related to Johnny specifically. Who knows, maybe we’ll do something with that. It won’t be in the documentary but we can do something with it.

Deegan: How is filming going on the new series (Be Good Johnny Weir for Sundance Channel)?

Pellerito: We have all the footage that exists from the Worlds (World Figure Skating Championships) in March 2008 forward. So we continued filming with him, and all of that footage will probably go into the first two episodes of this eight part series with the focus of it being this coming (figure skating) season, which starts in October. So it’s really about whether he makes it to the Olympics or not.

Deegan: How did you approach the editing? Being that you did it on the fly, you must have had tons of footage, and then at the end there’s the “What do I do with everything?”

Pellerito: Absolutely.

Deegan: Where did you even begin to make a structure or outline?

Pellerito: It was really, really hard to be honest. We had between 100 and 110 hours of footage and we cut it down to 85 minutes. We knew what the highlights were. So we really just tried to use the highlights and structure the film around them. We had already started following him without knowing it. (We filmed) the national championships, when he made all those comments about drugs, and when he was in the swan costume, so we already had that footage and we knew that was going to be a highlight. So we chose our highlights and worked around them.

Deegan: Working with Johnny and Paris, please tell me about it.

Pellerito: Paris and Johnny were great to work with. So when we felt “we need something here” we sort of came up with it, like the bathtub scene. It was collaborative. We thought it would be funny to have him interview Paris as a Russian journalist, and then it just evolved into why don’t we do it in a strange place, like a bathtub? They were totally comfortable in it.

Deegan: I love Paris’ lines that really sum things up, like about the skaters wearing makeup. And really, why is it such a scandal that a figure skater is “gay?!” To me its mind boggling that it would be such an issue. You remained unbiased when showing the clearly bigoted people in the film.

Pellerito: A lot of that footage is not edited. They just said it themselves and we let the camera roll.

Deegan: It’s so offensive. Anyway, so you used the highlights as the skeleton of your film.

Pellerito: Yes, Then we knew that we needed to explain what the skating season was like to people who don’t follow figure skating. (Referring to the timeline visual used in the film)

Geldin: The music was great in the film how did you find the composer?

Pellerito: I worked with him before and I knew he could do a lot of different things. We wanted to have someone who could do classical music but also poppy music.

Geldin: I loved the techno version of the Canadian national anthem you use.

Pellerito: You should have heard what we didn’t use. We had about 25 versions of Oh Canada. It’s techno, it’s classical, its marching band! It was really fun to work with him because he’s so talented. You give him a task - he does it, and gives you many, many versions. Working with the graphics guy Greg was also amazing; he really took our info and ran with it.

Deegan: Who did the editing?

Pellerito: We did. It wasn’t by choice, we didn’t have enough money. It was basically just the two of us doing everything other than that so we got very lucky with the people we worked with.

Deegan: Well you did a damn good job.

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