Published on July 20th, 2015 | by Guest Contributor0
A still from the film
Stronger than Steel: A New Derby Documentary
By Scott Almendinger, director of Stronger than Steel
Roller derby documentaries are not exactly the newest and hottest thing to grace your derby news feed ticker. Some might even dread the birth of a new voice in the arena. With so many aspects and perspectives crowding the flat track, what are the chances that such a film will spotlight something that will lead to an accurate and positive representation of the sport? Well, let’s start with what this film is not: it’s not about Snidey McSniper getting into a fight at practice because she threw up on her teammate’s sofa at the party last night. This film is about a team.
Enter Pittsburgh’s own Steel Hurtin’, the all-star team of Steel City Roller Derby. Let’s be honest… The Steel Hurtin’ have admitted to 2015 being a ‘rebuilding’ season. Does this speak of a decline in their commitment, talent, or ambition? Far from it.
The ‘rebuilding’ phase was brought on by the Hurtin’ losing a few key players after last year. Sometimes, a few players is all that it takes the define the identity of a team: a couple of really good skaters can define the style of their play, a couple strong leaders can define the tone of their voice, and a couple vibrant personalities can define the ‘face’ of the team. We all know that roller derby has no shortage of great skaters, strong leaders, and certainly no lack of vibrant personalities. But in our modern world of derby, the competition is so fierce, the talent so vast, and the athleticism so elite that there’s only one sustainable solution: being a team.
That’s where 2015 found our heroines… becoming a team. To rebuild, one must first be broken down. With this philosophy in mind, they starting laying the bricks of a new foundation…. bricks like Trust. Unity. Teamwork. Commitment. After scrimmages, players are asked to assign their team a ‘Unity Score’ and to justify it. When they are in a huddle, each skater can look across the circle and notice something very familiar about the person across from them: they’re wearing the same exact shirt because they’re on the same exact team. Thus, “I Wear Your Shirt!” has become a popular chant for the team.
You can see how the theme for this film has fallen straight into my lap. As is so often the case when making a documentary, the story will find you, if you’re willing to listen. When you talk to the team, you get the feeling that they are stoked to be with each other: sweating, slamming, cursing, laughing, and cheering. They are just as jazzed about learning and growing with and from each other as I am to tell their story about it. They know they stand a chance with twenty-three acting as one.
Will this trust and unity help carry the team to success on the track this season? Only time will tell. These ladies are strong of body, mind, and heart. But they’re starting to see that together, they’re stronger than steel.
Scott Almendinger is raising funds to produce Stronger than Steel on Kickstarter right now. He is a freelance filmmaker and videographer who specializes in narrative and documentary cinematography and editing. Co-owner of Ramming Speed Pictures and Man and Camera. He lives in the Pittsburgh area.