Gary McCurry chats with director and co-writer of The Fits Anna Rose Holmer…
The music behind the action creates a constant state of unease, when did that come into the project?
Anna Rose Holmer: The concept of the music actually started with our sound designer. We brought our sound designer on before we started shooting. Going into production we knew that dialogue wasn’t going to be a significant part of our narrative in terms of sound. We talked a lot about trying to create an internal tableau of sorts using sound and once we got into post we wanted to go even further with that tension so we brought in the composers after the first assembly of the film and I gave them some very crazy references, including more extreme kind of noise jazz. We wanted to focus on breath, wanted to make sure you could hear the breath moving through the instruments to point towards that quiet storm that’s brewing inside Toni before the fits even enter the film. The end track was important to me that the human voice enter into the score in that final sequence.
We do see many short and snappy scenes throughout so in terms of the shooting, how long was the shoot for The Fits?
We shot 19 days during principal photography and a couple of days for pickups so in total about 22 days. Many sequences were about telling stories through movement and body motion so that was our key style.
Let’s talk about your craft. During writing how long do you write for at a time? Is it a few hours a day or more when inspiration hits? Also, in the case of The Fits was there multiple drafts or did you have a sense of what it would be when you first sat down?
Well, this was interesting as I wrote with my Editor (Saela Davis) and my Producer (Lisa Kjerulff) so we had different writing process. This film was also done very, very quickly and from first draft to world premiere was about 11 months so it was like a kind of sprint through the whole process. It was constantly being worked on even as we were in the shoot. I like to do a daily practice of writing if I can, even if it seems very slow or that you’re not making any progress but doing it day in, day out works. I then have burst of productivity when I have two or three days when I get a ton of stuff done but it takes going through the motions everyday to get there.
Leaving unanswered questions and open pathways in terms of the story is something that makes watching The Fits so interesting as an audience member to watch, what do you think that brings to the movie?
What I like as an audience is to be engaged and to participate in the construction of the story until I can appreciate that my audience can find the path. You don’t have to hit the nail on the head every single time. Also allow for some wonder, you know as we were trying to bring the audience into the perspective of an 11 year old girl. She doesn’t know all the answers and doesn’t have all the information, she’s still trying to figure it out. Bringing people into her perspective meant that we had to leave those pathways open as she is discovering on her own and therefore the audience doesn’t get ahead of her.
It was clearly important to you in regards to the casting to have these newcomers to acting in the feature, what was that process like and eventually the actual shoot?
We cast the team conceptually, that was the first step. We found a clip of them on YouTube and then we rewrote the script to fit that dance style and that location. We had casting in Cincinnati and it was just amazing to work with young dancers and young boxers because they’re so aware of their bodies and are professionals in a way and can take really fine direction. These are kids that have a craft and know how to use so that was very comfortable to have that collaboration.
Finally, was it always the plan in terms of distribution to release first on VOD and then target a wider release after that initial step ?
This is a film that needs champions and needs word of mouth in order to grow so it has actually been increasingly released in the US since last summer and so the VOD was the next step after that. We have just released in France and now we’re going to the UK so it’s kinda building and that’s the power of the film. Actually even after we released in VOD in the US we had one of our biggest screenings weekends the next weekend in Detroit and I think it’s a movie that people want to see big and hear big. I’m kinda in awe of it really. Yea, so it wasn’t really a plan by design but more its natural path towards a bigger audience.
Many thanks to Anna Rose Holmer for taking the time for this interview.
The Fits is set for release in the UK on February 24th.