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INTERVIEW WITH MEREDITH HOLCH
Rocket Girl's Revenge
Series curator Kathy High conducted this telephone interview with Meredith Holch in May, 1997.
The first question that I would love to ask is how you came up with this idea, because it seems like an idea that many people would sympathize with. Was it something that came out of a real experience, or was it just a response to dealing with landlords?
Well, the whole idea really started with the last image first. I spent a lot of my adult life in Vermont. And when I moved here, if I'd feel down I'd look up at the watertowers. And maybe that's because watertowers were the only things made of wood in the city and they weather like barns, I guess. And I would just imagine that they were rockets and that I would be walking in Manhattan and imagine the whole city lifting off, just leaving the empty spaces. That always cheered me up. So I wanted to use that as the end of the film. So then I had to make up a whole film to go with it. And I knew that I wanted to do a film about a strong woman that didn't have anything to do with relationships, because so many people that I know are just into one thing passionately and that's kind of the core of their lives. And so at the time when I was making it and trying to figure out what this film would be about, it seemed like four out of five people I would talk to were having some problem with their landlord or they were looking for a new place because in one year their rent had gone up $200. And it just seemed like such a central subject at that time. So it just made sense, because I did also want to make a film that people could relate to.
Right. Let's see. It sort of seemed because I was going to be using
animation in the end, that this character was sort of a super hero comic
book type of character. But I didn't want to use the image like the male
comic-book-super-hero-woman-wearing-tight-fitting-clothes-type of person at
all, because that would kind of be expected. And I actually had Karen -- the
actor is Karen Sherman -- and I had seen her once reading text at a dance
performance and at that time because of her hair and the way she was, she
reminded me of a comic book character from this lesbian comic strip. I
can't remember the name of it now. And when I was living in the country, I
always thought that lesbians don't exist like that, like where is this
ideal world? So she had always reminded me of one of those characters.
And then I ran into her on the subway right when I was making the film, and
I asked would she be interested in doing it. So that's kind of how the
image of the character came about. And when I first started writing the
script, it had a lot more characters at the beginning, and then I didn't want
it to be very verbal, so I had to take out a lot of the characters. I
think that's why, one reason why, she ended up being alone a lot. And
I know that I spend a lot of time just by myself and I think a lot of
people do. I have had different ideas at different times of making a film
or writing a story about somebody who is basically alone and capable all
the time. And so part of the character came from that idea.
At that time my intent was definitively to work on it as a narrative. That was the task I had set out to do. I had done before a short narrative which was much more serious and I didn't feel it was very successful. So I wanted to keep working on a pretty straight narrative format and see if I could get better at it. And I think that's why I wanted to put a lot more humor in this time, because I think that was missing in the first one. So I wanted to work on a narrative and make it enjoyable at the same time, instead of just being a heavy, heavy story. And, at that time, I wasn't too into experimental work at all, and now that's definitely creeping in. And I'd like to do more animation. Before that I had done some animated films using little like cowboy and firemen figures, and they all danced and all sorts of things happened so . . . That's why I knew I could do the animation. It didn't seem like a problem.
A couple. One is, when it came time to, I wanted to get a permit to launch the rocket in Prospect Park, and it turns out there's no place in New York City where it's legal to launch a model rocket. There's some park where you can do those airplanes, but you can't launch a rocket. And so it crossed my mind, "Well, I'll just do it anyway," but as soon as you have a movie camera out you attract attention. People come watch, park rangers come by, and all this stuff. So I ended up -- I grew up in Connecticut and my parents live in town now, but we used to live where there were a lot of woods and fields. So I called up my father and he met me at the station and we went out to the field where I used to launch rockets with my brother and neighbor when I was a kid. And we launched it there. And my father just barely remembered that we had ever done model rockets at all. But then it turned out that the color of the grass didn't match enough for me, and it was very hard to shoot the rocket actually because you have to do tight close-ups, and you have to catch it. You have to know where it's going to be in the sky. I mean that was actually probably the hardest part of the filming. But so I didn't really like how that day of shooting had come out. That was in December, and then in March, a friend -- who was the assistant director -- and I went back to Connecticut, and this time I went to my old elementary school where people used to also launch rockets and we did it there. And that was the final shoot. And, actually, in the field we found an old model rocket somebody else had shot off recently.
Well, Karen was in Prospect Park, but then all the shots of the rocket were just cutaways, so Karen wasn't even there.
Yeah, it wasn't an obsession. It was really more something my brother did and that I thought was cool. He was a year older, so I would help him, and we'd go out with our neighbor and shoot off rockets. They were a lot more into it [than I was]. But I remember, I was a member of the Estees Rocket Club and put their iron-on patches on my T-shirts, and stuff like that. Oh, there's one other production story. Okay, so the scenes that are outside, except for the ones with dialogue, I shot silently and then put all the sounds in later. So I drove over two blocks from where I live to where we had shot some of the outside thing, the scene where she knocks over the real estate sign. And I wanted the traffic sounds from there, so I double-parked. I needed two minutes of sound. I got out. I recorded the sound. I got back to my car, which was right in front of me, and I had a parking ticket. I didn't see the meter maid come by, or anything. I was there for two minutes and there's this $55 ticket for double-parking. It was just the weirdest thing.
Well, the way that that came about was I took a class at the New School
in order to make the film, because then you can use all their production
equipment in your classes. So, before the first
class, we had to have a script and the weekend before the
first class and I still didn't know exactly what this film was. And so I
was walking down the street in Brooklyn, and somebody handed me their little
flyer. It was like Madame Sonya or something. I just all of a sudden
remembered that there are so many psychics around here. And it's something
that a lot of women that I know and older women are really into. And you
know how you'll be walking down the street and sometimes they'll beckon you
in and everyone's like, "I better go because she beckoned me," even though
it's a ploy. And so it just seemed like a theme that a lot of people are
interested in. And it's also sort of, I don't know if this is a
sexist comment, but it seems like more women I know than men are into it.
That may not actually be true. It doesn't matter, actually.
I've had my fortune read on the street and it seems
like that is always what happens. They tell you a few things that could
apply to anybody and then you're left not really either believing what they
said or not knowing anything more than before. So you're the same
person, and that really didn't help, and you're still left on your own. At
Halloween the year before, a friend had been reading Tarot cards and when
she read mine -- that's where the line "this deck is so hot" came from --
because this person said, "This deck is so hot.
You're very angry about something." And I was at that time, I was
just angry about many, many things, and she could actually feel that.
She was actually a beginner, and she was a great Tarot card reader. She
was amazing. And then also at the same time, it was funny.
Yeah, color is always really important to me. So, orange was obviously a main color. And then the blue of the table was just there, which I think is really nice. But the quality, the tone of the blue and the green of the car and the orange, all sort of were the same color tone. But the orange was also a visual thing. I just decided I want Rocket Girl to be in an orange worksuit.
And maybe also because I decided to use hand-drawn titles. I wanted it to have a little bit of a roughness to it rather than use, you know, those black and white titles that look so formal and everyone sort of gets into, "Wow, doesn't my film look professional now because of the titles." And I'm not into that at all, so that's why I did the hand-drawn titles.
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