Hellskate: A Roller Derby Horror Film

Posted December 13, 2013 in
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(L-R) Oksana Georgiu and Sahna Foley in Hellskate.

Nestled in Ogden’s Historic 25th street, you’ll find a variety of mom-and-pop shops, blast-from-the-past diners, and cute little boutiques. You’d also find a few historic (and slightly notorious) buildings transformed into fine drinking establishments, among others. I spent last Friday evening on the Moxie level of Alleged, the first to bring the rooftop bar to Ogden. It was also where Sahna Foley, known to some as Miss Disco Bliss, retired derby skater for the Salt City Derby Girls, decided to have the first fundraising cocktail event for her newest project, Hellskate. Hellskate is Sahna’s latest brainchild: a roller derby horror film. As SLUG’s derby correspondent, I don’t think you can imagine my excitement for this. I sat down to talk with Foley about Hellskate, what she hopes will come from the fundraiser, and her thoughts on derby and life in general.

SLUG: What made you want to make a roller derby horror film?
Foley: I played roller derby for almost three years, with the Salt City Derby Girls, but I was looking for something else. I was kind of over it. I love it, but it gets hard on your body. I actually stumbled into acting and filmmaking, so as I was leaving the roller derby world behind, I was transitioning into filmmaking and acting at the same time. I had worked on my first film ever, right in the middle of that transition, and it was a horror film. I hate horror movies, but it still is, to this day the funnest shoot I’ve ever been on. So when it ended, I was like, “Aw man! I want to do this again! I want to do another horror movie!” And it was staring me right in the face—roller derby horror. That was about five years ago, I had the script kicking around for that long, and finally, this last spring, I decided that the time was now, and I decided I was going to go for it.

SLUG: What got you into playing roller derby?
Foley: I was at that point in my life where I think a lot of women find themselves in the situation where you’re married, you’re working a 9-5 job, and you come home and you cook dinner, then you wake up the next day, and do that same thing over again. My husband has a wonderful outlet and passion for MMA and boxing, and I was really supportive about that and loved what he did, but I didn’t have anything like that for myself, so I felt very stifled and that I had lost all creative outlets. I was very athletic growing up, and so I just kind of lost myself. I had seen the Rollergirls reality show on A&E [A reality series that followed the private lives, personalities and drama of the Texas Roller Derby ladies.] probably 6-8 months prior to starting derby, and I remember staring at the TV thinking, “Oh my god!” It was performance, it’s a sport, and just total badass! I thought, “How cool would that be? I wish there was something like that in Salt Lake.” So a few months later, I had a friend call me and say, “Hey, they’re doing tryouts for Salt City, come on down.” I didn’t even think twice about it. I went down, it was their last open tryout, but I was sold on it the second I got there.

SLUG: How soon are you planning to start filming, and what is your budget like?
Foley: In a perfect world, I hope to begin filming around fall of 2014. My budget, I’m hoping for a range, and I have to say a range, because nothing is set in stone yet, but I would love to do it for $500,000–750,000.

SLUG: Are you going to have a crowdfunding campaign to help with the budget?
Foley: Yes, we will be doing Indiegogo, probably early spring, to not only raise money, but maybe even more importantly, help get the word out about [Hellskate]. I wanted to start promoting really early on to help create a buzz, and build an audience for it, so that when we do go to Indiegogo, and asking people to donate their hard-earned money, they kind of know a little about what we are and what we’re doing so they’re already on our side, rather than thinking, “Well, that’s kind of cool, but whatever.” I wanted people to know that I’m taking this very seriously, and it’s not going to be any kind of student film that’s going to sit on your mom’s shelf. It’s going to go beyond Utah. I have big hopes for it and would love to have it seen internationally.

SLUG: Are you planning on filming primarily in Ogden, or will you use the greater Salt Lake area?
Foley: It’s probably going to be a mixture, it will depend on budget and logistics and what is the smartest thing to do for what we’re going to film. I would love to film in Ogden, if I can, just to kind of throw a bone to my town here, but I would imagine we do quite a bit in Salt Lake and definitely in Southern Utah as well—a lot of exteriors in Southern Utah.

SLUG: Is that the kind of theme Hellskate will have? The kind of desolate, barren desert look?
Foley: I’ll give you a little taste of the insider scoop here, only for you. The two teams that are going to be in the film are the Dirty Beavers, out of Beaver, Utah, and the Monticello Mother Truckers, so we’re definitely going to be filming down in that area … I gave that information because of the vodka RedBull I’m drinking—Five Wives Vodka.

SLUG: Will this film push derby into the mainstream?
Foley: I don’t know if derby will ever be mainstream. I know that derby in general over the last few years has been gravitating towards a more professional sport, with less costume-y effects, less theatrics. They want to be taken more seriously, they want to be considered for the Olympics. I love that these groups of women are trying to do that, it’s an amazing thing to watch. This movie itself, because it takes place on Halloween, is more embracing of the debauched side of derby, definitely more old school, which means it was only five to six years ago! So not super old, but with the latest revival of derby, in the early 2000s when it came out of Austin, Texas, it embraces that underground, edgy, burlesque, punk rock feel, with the visuals especially. So I don’t know if it will speak to the masses and get derby into the mainstream, but I hope it makes people interested at least.

SLUG: What are you hoping will come from this fundraising event? Your hopes and dreams for tonight?
Foley: My hopes and dreams for tonight are to raise enough money so that we can move forward and make some really cool promotional videos and trailers so that we can show people a visual and the level of quality we’re going for for this movie, because without that, people are going to still be skeptical. But I really want to showcase the quality that I’m going to involve in this whole process and again just getting the word out, creating a buzz. This is also a celebration—we have a lot of artists that donated pieces, and I handpicked quite a few of them—fortunately they said yes! I picked quite a bit of them [because] I wanted to show their work in the film itself, in the set design. I hope lots of people recognize a lot of familiar art from Ogden, Salt Lake, Provo, the greater Utah area, actually. It’s a collaborative thing, and I wanted to show love to those artists.

SLUG: Showcasing the lesser known, “underground” artists, if you will?
Foley: Yeah, there’s a lot of unknown artists, and they need the exposure and there’s no saying or telling where this movie will go or how big it will be or if it’s going to be a failure—you have no way of knowing that. But I hope on some level that everybody involved, all these artists, can find exposure that they might not have had in their own mediums. I’m a big supporter of local art, music and local businesses as well, and I think you just have to show support to everyone around you. It takes a village, you know? It takes a village to do something on this level, and the more we help each other out, the better.

Ogden is slowly becoming one of my new favorite places, so I definitely encourage anyone to take a day and go explore what they have to offer. To keep up-to-date on what Sahna and the Hellskate team are up to as they continue their slow grind into movie magic, find them on the Hellskate Facebook page at facebook.com/hellskatemovie.