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Though remebered best as a wrestler, Francesca Zappitelli has since gone on to become an actress, filmmaker and producer. Her latest film, Ballerina I’m Not, chronicles the history of female wrestlers – and boy is it a marvelous watch.
When did the documentary get up?
The idea started in 2010. I wanted to get into filmmaking and thought the best place to start was to tell a story about a world I knew.
What span of time does it cover?
I have footage from the 1930’s all the way up to the present day.
Were many of the people in it folks you worked with when you were a wrestler?
Yes, it was these women that made me want to make this film. I wanted to celebrate women from all walks of life who dare to dream and in this case dream of careers as wrestler/fighters.
How hard is it to script a documentary? I imagine it’s much different than scripting a standard feature?
I found it most challenging to script the documentary because of the fact you can’t script non fiction. A standard feature you look at your script, you know what you’re going to shoot and how you’re going to edit it. In a documentary you go and shoot and then I’d be at an impasse scratching my head on how to edit it together. My editor and producer Rico Lowry was most helpful, I couldn’t have done it without him!
And I imagine it’s also harder to put together a project like this, where you’re wearing so many hats, to the bigger films you’ve produced?
One of my favorite sayings is, “Team work makes the dream work.” When you have a larger crew and budget it is definitely easier. Although, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having to wear many hats and gain more experience in physical production.
What does the movie have to say about women’s wrestling?
The progress women have made in wrestling and the fight world is something to marvel at. In the 1950’s women weren’t legally permitted to fight in stadiums along side men. To now, in the present day women are the top grossing main event in the UFC. I hope as women transcend in one field, it empowers and encourages women to branch out in other sectors where they are still a minority.
What message did you want to get across through it?
I wanted to encourage ALL people to follow their dreams no matter the obstacles.
Whose story in the film do you find particularly interesting?
I can’t just pick one. I love how all the women, Stacy Kiebler, Shelly Martinez, Christie Ricci and Julie Ginther grow and evolve through their journey.
How different is wrestling today to, say, ten years ago? Has it changed much?
A lot of progress has happened,10 years ago women weren’t even allowed in the UFC. WWE also has progressed with such additional platforms like Total Diva’s giving their female talent a place to shine out of the ring.
Any other projects you’re producing?
Yes, I just finished SYN a female driven TV pilot premiering on Amazon in October. A short film I produced, Nightlight is an official selection at Shreikfest also in October. I have a few other projects in development including a science fiction TV series, a short film based on real events and a feature set in Beirut.