Derby through the eyes of the Derbyverse *

Preliminary ramble and intro: Todd Bradley is one of the best chroniclers and documentarians in the world and in the sphere that we call Derby. I know of two or three in Canada who dedicate themselves to capturing Derby on video. Todd Bradley is the first American we have encountered in the field, so we can appreciate the travails and ordeals to come up with an end-product that pleases not only themselves but their toughest critic and fan, the participants in Derby.


Todd Bradley
Todd Bradley having a private moment with Team Bionic

We met each other at the Blood and Thunder World Cup in December of 2011 in Toronto. He was carrying an impressive array of camera gear to The Bunker all the way from his home state of Colorado. His background in Derby includes contributions to Derby News Network [DNN] which was linking his lead-up videos of Team USA to World Cup, and volunteering for Denver Roller Dolls. More impressive was his tremendous way of keeping a smile and his cool throughout the World Cup, grabbing his vignettes of the experience. Somewhere in his wardrobe may be a certain TCRG Thunder t-shirt. Through his company Exploding Corpse and facebook pages, he has ably and humorously demonstrated a passion for Derby and Food or even better Derby with Food. Since he has an assured eye for the camera and knows moviemaking, he was asked in the light of Derby Baby! having just been released  to convey his feelings about the world of Derby and film. These are Todd Bradley’s words. Let the exploding begin.

In 2009, the modern resurgence of women’s roller derby made it to the mainstream in the form of Drew Barrymore’s film “Whip It”. Thousands of girls and women saw the film and rushed out to buy roller skates and try roller derby for themselves. Now, over three years later, it is the only significant dramatic motion picture about the modern version of the sport. But there have been several documentary films about the sport, some good and some bad.

I am a movie buff, a film maker, and a roller derby fan. To me, the two best documentaries about modern roller derby are “Derby, Baby!” and “Brutal Beauty”. Technically, they are the only ones that look, sound, and feel like a real big-screen movie. And they both work well from a storytelling perspective.

“Brutal Beauty” came out in 2010. It was directed by Chip Mabry, and looks into Portland’s Rose City Rollers over the course of about a year and a half. It showed in some indie film festivals, but never was picked up for any significant distribution. It is now available for rental on Netflix. “Derby, Baby!” came out in 2012, with a much wider scope to show a lot of different leagues and people involved in the sport. The filmmakers took an unusual distribution route with this one; they teamed up with individual roller derby leagues to host screenings around the world and split the proceeds. Eventually it will be available on DVD and, I think, Blu-ray.

In addition to these films, there are several other roller derby documentaries, with probably a dozen more in some stage of production. Most of these films suffer from the same weakness. Some guy with a camera becomes a fan of roller derby, starts following his local hometown team, and then decides to make a documentary about them. I have personally met about six filmmakers who are trying to work on different films of this type, which means there are probably more than twice that many.

The fatal flaw of this type of film is that the market is almost non-existent. That is because of two things. First, any film that is about specific players making their way up the ladder—as many roller derby documentaries are—has a limited lifespan. The average career of a roller derby skater is only about three years. So by the time the film is finished being shot, and then edited, and then sold, and then shown in theaters, most of the people who are in the film are not even involved in roller derby anymore. And because the sport is changing so fast right now, the best you can get is an unsatisfying snapshot of what it used to be like a few years ago. The second—and much bigger—reason there is no market for this type of film is that only the fans of a local team are really interested in a documentary of that local team. As much as the guy with the camera thinks his local team is unique and exciting and interesting, nobody in Atlanta wants to watch a documentary about a roller derby team in Vancouver.

This brings up a bigger issue that I should back up and explain. There is not a significant audience for roller derby documentaries of any kind—even the really good ones. First, in most of the world, there really isn’t much of a market for documentaries of any kind. In addition, even though derby is the fastest-growing women’s sport in the world (so I’ve read), it is played by only around 10,000 skaters worldwide, and watched by an audience of probably 50,000 to 100,000 real fans. That is about 1/50th the size of lacrosse. And how many lacrosse documentaries have you and your family seen at the local cinema this year?

I have given a lot of thought to this issue because I used to be one of those dozens of filmmakers working on a roller derby documentary. I even had a pretty unique angle that most of the derby films never took. Instead of focusing on my hometown league, I was looking at the roller derby community as it varies around the country (the USA, which is where I live). I was not so much interested in the history of the sport, or roller derby rules and strategy, or how my hometown league came to be. What excites me is the unique culture that has grown up around the modern version of the sport.

I cancelled that film project about halfway through production. But from the ashes of that film came something new and unique, a weekly online video series. It is called Derbyverse, and each 6-to-10 minute episode focuses on a single person involved in modern roller derby. Most of the episodes are about skaters, but it is not just famous players whose names are known to everyone in the roller derby community. I am trying to show the full spectrum of people in the derby universe—the “derbyverse.” So there are some skaters you have never heard of, plus officials, fans, and volunteers. You can watch the series at http://youtube.com/Derbyverse and we have a Facebook page at http://facebook.com/Derbyverse. Come check it out. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Derby through the eyes of the Derbyverse

Preliminary ramble and intro: Todd Bradley is one of the best chroniclers and documentarians in the world and in the sphere that we call Derby. I know of two or three in Canada who dedicate themselves to capturing Derby on video. Todd Bradley is the first American we have encountered in the field, so we can appreciate the travails and ordeals to come up with an end-product that pleases not only themselves but their toughest critic and fan, the participants in Derby.


Todd Bradley
Todd Bradley having a private moment with Team Bionic

We met each other at the Blood and Thunder World Cup in December of 2011 in Toronto. He was carrying an impressive array of camera gear to The Bunker all the way from his home state of Colorado. His background in Derby includes contributions to Derby News Network [DNN] which was linking his lead-up videos of Team USA to World Cup, and volunteering for Denver Roller Dolls. More impressive was his tremendous way of keeping a smile and his cool throughout the World Cup, grabbing his vignettes of the experience. Somewhere in his wardrobe may be a certain TCRG Thunder t-shirt. Through his company Exploding Corpse and facebook pages, he has ably and humorously demonstrated a passion for Derby and Food or even better Derby with Food. Since he has an assured eye for the camera and knows moviemaking, he was asked in the light of Derby Baby! having just been released  to convey his feelings about the world of Derby and film. These are Todd Bradley’s words. Let the exploding begin.

In 2009, the modern resurgence of women’s roller derby made it to the mainstream in the form of Drew Barrymore’s film “Whip It”. Thousands of girls and women saw the film and rushed out to buy roller skates and try roller derby for themselves. Now, over three years later, it is the only significant dramatic motion picture about the modern version of the sport. But there have been several documentary films about the sport, some good and some bad.

I am a movie buff, a film maker, and a roller derby fan. To me, the two best documentaries about modern roller derby are “Derby, Baby!” and “Brutal Beauty”. Technically, they are the only ones that look, sound, and feel like a real big-screen movie. And they both work well from a storytelling perspective.

“Brutal Beauty” came out in 2010. It was directed by Chip Mabry, and looks into Portland’s Rose City Rollers over the course of about a year and a half. It showed in some indie film festivals, but never was picked up for any significant distribution. It is now available for rental on Netflix. “Derby, Baby!” came out in 2012, with a much wider scope to show a lot of different leagues and people involved in the sport. The filmmakers took an unusual distribution route with this one; they teamed up with individual roller derby leagues to host screenings around the world and split the proceeds. Eventually it will be available on DVD and, I think, Blu-ray.

In addition to these films, there are several other roller derby documentaries, with probably a dozen more in some stage of production. Most of these films suffer from the same weakness. Some guy with a camera becomes a fan of roller derby, starts following his local hometown team, and then decides to make a documentary about them. I have personally met about six filmmakers who are trying to work on different films of this type, which means there are probably more than twice that many.

The fatal flaw of this type of film is that the market is almost non-existent. That is because of two things. First, any film that is about specific players making their way up the ladder—as many roller derby documentaries are—has a limited lifespan. The average career of a roller derby skater is only about three years. So by the time the film is finished being shot, and then edited, and then sold, and then shown in theaters, most of the people who are in the film are not even involved in roller derby anymore. And because the sport is changing so fast right now, the best you can get is an unsatisfying snapshot of what it used to be like a few years ago. The second—and much bigger—reason there is no market for this type of film is that only the fans of a local team are really interested in a documentary of that local team. As much as the guy with the camera thinks his local team is unique and exciting and interesting, nobody in Atlanta wants to watch a documentary about a roller derby team in Vancouver.

This brings up a bigger issue that I should back up and explain. There is not a significant audience for roller derby documentaries of any kind—even the really good ones. First, in most of the world, there really isn’t much of a market for documentaries of any kind. In addition, even though derby is the fastest-growing women’s sport in the world (so I’ve read), it is played by only around 10,000 skaters worldwide, and watched by an audience of probably 50,000 to 100,000 real fans. That is about 1/50th the size of lacrosse. And how many lacrosse documentaries have you and your family seen at the local cinema this year?

I have given a lot of thought to this issue because I used to be one of those dozens of filmmakers working on a roller derby documentary. I even had a pretty unique angle that most of the derby films never took. Instead of focusing on my hometown league, I was looking at the roller derby community as it varies around the country (the USA, which is where I live). I was not so much interested in the history of the sport, or roller derby rules and strategy, or how my hometown league came to be. What excites me is the unique culture that has grown up around the modern version of the sport.

I cancelled that film project about halfway through production. But from the ashes of that film came something new and unique, a weekly online video series. It is called Derbyverse, and each 6-to-10 minute episode focuses on a single person involved in modern roller derby. Most of the episodes are about skaters, but it is not just famous players whose names are known to everyone in the roller derby community. I am trying to show the full spectrum of people in the derby universe—the “derbyverse.” So there are some skaters you have never heard of, plus officials, fans, and volunteers. You can watch the series at http://youtube.com/Derbyverse and we have a Facebook page at http://facebook.com/Derbyverse. Come check it out. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Fergus Roller Derby Presents Francey Pants – August 23, 2012

Preliminary ramble : For the second time we were heading to Fergus Derby country [after a bit of a adventure which will not be mentioned here]. After a more than a scintillating day with Bonnie D. Stroir, Fergus stepped up to the plate once more with Francey Pants. We had seen Francey Pants at full speed at Blood and Thunder World Cup in Toronto. Now she returned to this part of the world in a busy schedule. Bouting with the Vicious Dishes against Rideau Valley in Ottawa [where apparently she owns a home which she visits, in lieu of playing with Ridea this time she decided to roster with Tri-City to keep it more fun], then coaching amongst Toronto Roller Derby and CN Power on a Tuesday, Tri-City on Wednesday, then Thursday with Fergus and partcipants who were invited and jumped at the chance to partake of Francey Pants’s skills. The Fergus facebook page listed some of Francey Pants’s accomplishments to date.

“Check out her awesome credentials:
• Currently skating for Denver, Team Bionic, Team France, as well as pick-up teams such as Atom all-stars and Vagine Regime
• MVP for Team France at the World Cup in Toronto
• Short-track speed skating in Canada
• 9 seasons on the ice hockey French national team (played in 5 World championships and 2 Olympic qualification tournaments)
• 7 seasons on the roller hockey French national team (played in 7 world championships)
• Volunteer on the WFTDA rankings committee as West ranker
• Bachelor’s in kinesiology
• Master’s in sport psychology”

So Gentle Readers out there: here is Fergus Roller Derby in the words of Sonia Pitbull Bomber Maiorano herself.

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he founders of Fergus Roller Derby (Stephanie Goodchild a.k.a. Ivanna Slappa, Sonia Maiorano a.k.a. Pitbull Bomber, and Cynthia Waldow a.k.a. Waldow) decided to start a new league up in Fergus Ontario, to spread the word of derby and make a mark by opening with a big BANG! With a group of great people and a vision, they were able to have Francey Pants come up to run a clinic not just to their league, but to the surrounding areas; to spread the word of derby and have a legend in her own right come and give some of her time and expertise! With two and a half hours, Francey Pants was able to give two and a half hours of jammed packed information and drills that made everyone sweat with derby excitement! Yet, another accomplishment in such a short time of this new league’s beginnings in only May of this year!

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hat are Fergus Roller Derby’s hopes for this new year? Potentially another guest coach (but you’ll all have to wait and see!) To see more people encouraged to participate in one of the most fastest sports that is forever growing, encourage women of the Wellington County and surrounding areas to join in this sport with us, and to be able to play, make their mark, and still be themselves out there.

We’re here to practice, we’re here to play, and we’re not going anywhere …our motto is Skate, Sweat, Sport , and we mean it.

F

ergus will play under that motto and for anyone interested in coming up to be a part of our league, you can contact us at info@fergusrollerderby.com

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Fergus Roller Derby Presents Francey Pants – August 23, 2012, a set on Flickr.

Final Double Header 2012 – Thames Fatales vs. HCRG Eh! Team – August 18, 2012

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It was the best of times it was the best of times. Arch-frenemies the Thames Fatales from Forest City dropped into the venue in Dundas to square off against the Eh! Team of Hammer City. The night was the Final Doubleheader of 2012 for the Hammer City league. On the billing were Thames Fatales vs. WFTDA ranked Eh! Team which was to be followed by the ever-rostering Belles of the Brawl from Brantford against the league team Hammer City Harlots.The Shake and Bake and the Anya Face lippy balm were in full flight and fight mode literally. For Mirambo of Thames Fatales, it was a return to Dundas and the first bout of her Derby career. It was where it all started.

/… more to come

Embrace the shiny! Bonnie D. Stroir returns to Ontario

Bonnie D. Stroir at Fergus, Ontario.

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Up early on a Sunday morning of July 8, 2012 —  made the proverbial dash to the Greyhound and literally just caught the bus in time to the fair city of Guelph again for the second time in two days. The night and day before on July 7,  the Sleeman Centre was the venue for the doubleheader featuring the Royal City home teams of Our Ladies of Pain and the Violet Uprising vying for the final spot in the league championships. This in turn was followed by the RCRG all-star team The Brute-Leggers up against the travelling team Bay Street Bruisers from Toronto Roller Derby. Pain won, Violet lost and The Brute-Leggers gained a painful lesson from the veteran Bruisers, although the Bruisers did suffer their own share of pain on the track. Afterwards, it was back to Toronto, just in time to pack gear again and reshuffle off to bed, before heading back to Guelph in the morning.

With Guelph beneath our feet, the friendly connection was made at the parking lot of the Guelph GO station, and we were driven up to Fergus through lovely farm country while learning a bit more of the history and goings-on of Fergus Roller Derby.

It was an afternoon of awe and words of wisdom from the teacher to the disciples circled around her at her feet as she gave incisive life lessons imparted in a friendly manner, her students reverentially embraced the shiny.

But what can we really say about Bonnie D. Stroir that the veteran derby expert and the co-founder of Fergus Roller Derby Cynthia Waldow herself can say best? Naught, so here are the words of Cynthia Waldow.

“Fergus Roller Derby was so excited to be able to host Bonnie. D Stroir as our first event. Our league hadn’t even been made public when we saw that she was looking for leagues to host her during her Cross Canada tour but we knew it was too good an opportunity to pass up on and we emailed her immediately. Within minutes of posting the event on facebook, it was almost sold out. We opened it up to other leagues because there are plenty of small leagues like ours that would never be able to afford to have a coach of this caliber come to coach us; the funds just aren’t there. But we feel that every time we share derby knowledge and resources, our sport gets better and the level of play increases.

“Bonnie was gracious, sweet and knows her shit. Wonderful coaching, she has so much to share! One of the things that she spoke about, ‘How to treat your puppy’, really touched a number of skaters. We seem to have a significant number of people in derby that don’t believe that they are good enough and don’t give themselves credit for [their] accomplishments. Instead of kicking ourselves or our ‘puppies’, we need to spend more time praising them and loving them for each time we progress. That was important for a lot of the group to hear.

“We’ve been extremely lucky since starting in May with three high level coaches coming through our area. We’ve been able to open up all of them to other leagues and we’ll continue to do this to progress our sport.”

Thank you again so much Fergus Roller Derby! Looking forward to Francey Pants in your neighbourhood soon! [note: August 23 on your derby calendar. Details on facebook! Fergus Roller Derby presents Francey Pants

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One year ago 

The nurturing mother of Derby ladies everywhere, the players at her bootcamp hanging onto her every word, bonding and making the most of the moments, jotting down notes and pearls of wisdom during her sessions.

It was about a season ago [November 26, 2011 actually] up in Tri-City that we first met the Bonnie D. Stroir.

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The rink was proverbially Tri-City shivering but just right for a whole day of exercises and demonstration jammer juking and blocking drills. The end of the session was everybody huddling around Bonnie D. Stroir and demonstrating one new thing they had learned that day. Then the fun Black and White scrimmage with the referees who had their own zebra bootcamp that day, 90 Degree Johnson from QCRG and others leading sessions and going over rulesets and doing the test in the classroom, and more skating finesse on the track.

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Battle of Rogue Jam – Rogue Warriors vs. Jamazons – August 11, 2012 – set 2

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The last game of the season for Peterborough Roller Derby at Millbrook Arena.It’s always a good day when you get to be the truck with the estimable 3 Beers – the most travelled referee – in southern Ontario. A WFTDA Officiating Clinic brought many of the persuasion to the Toronto Roller Derby hosted clinic. Hence 3 Beers and T-Ref in town then back to Millbrook which is outside of Peterborough to hold the only bout in any part of Ontario that weekend./.,.. more to come