Of the 15 roller-skaters circling the Olympic Community Centre, almost every one has fallen down at least once. The guy in racquetball goggles and a red tie-dye tank top might be the most adventurous, but the newly formd Halifax Roller Derby Girls are clearly the most skilled; there's a white-and-blue afro wig, a heavy-set gentleman with a thick white beard and a dead-ringer for Breakfast Club bad boy Judd Nelson. Watching from the sidelines is writer-director Andrew Bush, looking awfully tired, but still able to notice how much fun these skaters are having. "They should just open this up every Sunday," he says. But he corrects himself: "Actually, we're shooting next... Oh my god. Oh my god."
He's actually off by a day---shooting starts on Monday, not Sunday, for Roller Town, the debut feature film from local comedy troupe Picnicface. A parody of the short-lived roller-disco genre (see: Roller Boogie, Disco Godfather and Skatetown, USA, all from 1979), Roller Town tells the story of roller-skate prodigy Leo fighting the new-age threat of arcade video games. "We've taken elements from a ton of movies, and ideally you'll just see it as a parody of that style," says Mark Little, who plays Leo. "What's helpful for us is that nobody really knows that style."
September 5 was the second day of key extra auditions, a city-wide call for absolutely anyone with roller-skating experience. That's why tie-dye tank-top man---AKA Greg Richardson, 34---showed up in period-appropriate attire. He and his brother, Doug---AKA Judd Nelson's doppelganger---might just be the most authentic skaters at the Olympic.
"We used to roller-skate, like, kinda in the '80s," Greg says. "We lived in the States, and we'd always get out to the roller rinks with the church group." But when he and Doug moved to Halifax, they saw a decline in the sport's popularity; according to Greg, "We started playing candlestick bowling, and I think the N64." Neither brother wants to see roller rinks disappear completely: "The roller derby is definitely on its way back," Doug prophesizes. "Maybe this will do its part in bringing some roller-skating back."
But Roller Town might be too silly to seriously consider it as the prodigal roller-skate film. The day before these auditions, for example, Bush filmed Little roller-skating down the middle of Purcell's Cove Road in only his underpants during Hurricane Earl. "There's a shot where all is lost for me," Little explains. "So he got me in my underwear and my roller skates against the crashing waves, essentially commanding the weather with my bad mood."
Members of Picnicface are willing to do virtually anything to make this movie. *Roller Town* received the funding they requested from Telefilm Canada, but needed more money to include some of their favourite jokes. So they devised a series of outlandish personalized gags to fill the gaps. "We thought, 'OK, we'll raise money, and hopefully for each level of money we get to, we can keep a sequence, or keep a character or keep a gag,'" says Little. Their offers range from getting legally married for $500,000 to Little's and Cheryl Hann's sexy raps for $50, the latter of which had a backlog of 40 requests before they had to put a moratorium on it (donate at rollertownthemovie.com).
"The people have been really helpful, man," Bush says. "I literally lie awake at 4am, and I'm terrified. And I just think, 'I got so many awesome people around me,' that I can shake it."Roller Town Skater Auditions (all skill levels)
Thursday, September 9, 3-8pm Saturday, September 11, 1-5pm Olympic Gardens, 2304 Hunter Street
Skates and safety gear available | Full details at hennesseycasting.com