Q & A
Chip Hale – Director, Producer, Writer
What inspired you to make Sweethearts?
The Rangerette organization inspired me. Their story hadn’t been told to this degree in over 40 years (Beauty Knows No Pain, 1972), and because the average American probably doesn’t realize that the halftime entertainment for their favorite sports (football and/or basketball) began with the Rangerettes. Kilgore is only 13 miles from my home town of Overton, and the story of the trail they blazed for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the Los Angeles Lakers Girls and every dance/drill/pom squad at the high school and collegiate level needed telling. How could I not be inspired?
Why now? Well, timing truly is everything, and Sweethearts is a perfect example. Five years ago the Rangerettes wanted an updated museum film of 16-18 minutes, but trying to constrict the story into such a short time didn’t do justice to the organization. I was finally in a place in my career to give them not only the museum film, but a documentary feature as well. Also, because in March of 2012 Michael Wayne hollered across his house at me with, “Hey Chip! What’s up with the Rangerette documentary you’ve been going on about? Where you at with that?”
How was directing your first feature documentary different from your other projects?
Well, first was the amount of content we captured, over 130 hours. Second, is rolling camera and sound on subjects and settings you have no control over. And third, the amount of time spent on on the projects. From getting approval in 2011, to pre-production in 2012, to principal photography in 2013 and post-production in all of 2014. It’s November of 2014 and we’re finally finished.
Any homage paid to other documentary films and filmmakers in Sweethearts?
First and foremost was Errol Morris’ interviewing technique known as Interretron. I watched Morris’ “The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara” repeatedly for months. There was something about McNamara looking right at me while watching The Fog of War, as if he were telling me and only me the story. I loved it that feel and wanted to use it on Sweethearts.
How did you juggle the roles of director, producer, and writer?
It was tough. There were struggles along the way, but there was really no other alternative. We didn’t have the budget to keep a full-time production crew, so when things had to get done, they had to get done. Creatively, I enjoyed the juggling. I hit a bump regarding the story structure early in 2014, but thankfully the team was supportive and patient, and let me get past it.
Which chapter of the story was the easiest to create? Which was hardest?
The hardest was Sign Drop; no question. There’s not enough space for me to describe why it was the hardest, but the biggest reason is we only had one shot at capturing the emotion of that moment. Knowing that it was the climax to the story made it as stressful as it was difficult.
The easiest were the First Liners at the little restaurant downtown and the Choreography Round Table in that beautiful dance studio. Both settings were easy and enjoyable. I gave them a couple topics and let them go. Once they got going all I did was direct traffic. The crew enjoyed these as well, because both groups were engaging and funny.
Is there an overall message the film conveys?
Yes. The Rangerette organization and dance/drill team world in general, is a great thing for a young lady to become a part of. It’s an experience that leaves positive and indelible memories with these young ladies forever.
Michael S. Wayne – Executive Producer, Line Producer
How was the experience of making your first movie?
It was interesting but very hard because I had to learn so many things as I went. I have a full-time job and professional career outside of entertainment, and what I learned was doing both is incredibly difficult and time consuming.
How did making a movie compare to your “real” job?
The movie making process felt no different to me strictly on a business and operations level than any other industry. Some of what I did for the project was pure instinct, using management skills learned in the military, software engineering, and energy sectors. My wife is a choreographer and college dance professor for over twenty years, so I understood the artistic side as well.
Are you a fan of movies?
I grew up as the oldest of six children, and we all loved books and movies because they provided an brief escape from everyday life. I’ve seen every movie John Wayne made from 1945 until his death, some dozens of times, but my favorite movies are the ones where an actor playing the part disappears, and the character is all that remains. To me, that is worth watching, even if the story isn’t very good.
Mikaela Addison – Producer, Editor
How was the experience of working on your first feature film?
I was lucky to have the opportunity to work on this film, and the experience was special because it’s about an organization that I was a member of. I’ve been able to work with some very talented filmmakers and learned a great deal from them all. The process forced me to learn many new things immediately, and the length of the project allowed me to become proficient at those new skills. It’s been a wonderful experience.
Did being a former Rangerette present any problems with your creative perspective?
In the beginning it may have given me a few creative blocks, but I caught on pretty quickly that there’s a difference between being a Rangerette, and creating a documentary for the rest of the world. Things that current and former Rangerettes simply take for granted had to be explained as part of the story for a viewer to have context. That might seem easy, but it’s hard to separate what you know about the organization versus what you think other people may or may not know. The average person would not have understood many things from our original story line, so we had to take several steps back and see the story as “outsiders” see it. We wanted to tell a story that appropriately represents the organization, but we also want people to get it.
What new skills did you pick up during production?
When I started on this film, I had only very basic knowledge of still photography and editing, and I had taken some film marketing and screenwriting courses in college. I’ve become a fairly proficient editor and know a lot more about workflow and media organization. I recently took an advanced digital cinematography course, and I really fell in love with the camera. For me to have gone from basic still photography to advanced cinematography in such a short amount of time makes me feel good about what Sweethearts did for me. Apart from the technology, I learned how to put a story together and the process it takes to make a film.
As a former team member, do you think this organization demeans women or is anti-feminist?
Absolutely not. I think Rangerettes is unique in that the experience transforms the young women that go through it. What I mean by this is that these girls become incredibly mature in a very short period of time. The transformation is pretty amazing, and stays with them for the rest of their lives. The organization emphasizes respect, poise, confidence, leadership, teamwork and many other positive character traits that employers look for. There are too many positive aspects of Rangerettes to be able to say that it’s anything but a wonderful experience, and I only wish every girl could experience it.
Shelley Wayne – Rangerette Assistant Director & Choreographer
How important is the story of the Rangerettes?
The Rangerettes were the first performing group of its kind in the world and brought entertainment and show business to the football field at halftime. They set the stage for other groups to replicate, and in doing so created an industry worth $8.5 billion per year. The group is uniquely American and continues to represent the “All American Girl” image with grace, poise, discipline and a work ethic like none other.
Is an organization that has what many would label as old-fashioned values still relevant in today’s world? Why?
Values are values. Society should not dictate, stereotype, or place an expiration date on the importance of values or a moral code. Being a positive role model with respect for yourself and others while conducting yourself with proper comportment should never be considered old fashioned or irrelevant.
What is it about this organization that has empowered so many women?
Rangerettes teaches young women the power of dedication and the importance of teamwork. You learn to put the team before yourself, and how to be a positive influence on your peers. You learn that life is not always fair and that failure is only when you make the personal choice to not rise after falling. You leave Rangerettes prepared to face the challenges that life throws at you with confidence, dignity, and grace.
It’s about a personal choice. It’s okay to be part of something you believe in, and it’s okay to fight for it as well. You have to fight for a spot in the performance. You have to fight to be in the line. You have to be willing to stand up and fight for what you want and you have to be accountable.
Rangerettes are students first and we want students at our college to be passionate about things, to be engaged in conversations about social issues and things other than dance. As directors we often worry that the girls may be too focused on the dance side, and not always do enough in their academic pursuits. It’s one of the reasons for a minimum GPA to be eligible (2.5), and that a minimum amount of hours are required per semester (12).
We always want strong, confident women who are not afraid to work hard and strive to become anything they want to become, from medicine to law, from education to politics.