Erica Tremblay is not just one of roller derby’s pioneers. She is also one of the sport’s best storytellers. Her documentary film In The Turn profiles roller derby through the eyes and experiences of the team known as The Vagine Regime. Along with depicting roller derby both off and on the track, the film –which screened on both sides of the Atlantic this summer– also introduces Crystal, a 10 year old transgender girl who discovers derby while struggling with her own identity and the basics of growing up.
Originally from Oklahoma, Tremblay started playing derby with No Coast in Lincoln, Nebraska in the summer of 2005, taking the derby name “GoGo Gidget”. Thereafter Tremblay also played for the Omaha Roller Girls, where she was a league co-founder, and then joined the powerhouse Angel City Derby Girls after moving to Los Angeles. Just last year she joined the Boston Derby Dames upon moving to Beantown, before retiring this summer.
Prior to her work on In The Turn, Tremblay produced and directed a feature documentary called Heartland that aired on PBS, and a short film called Tiny Red Universe that aired on the Independent Film Channel.
(Photos by Mercy Shammah.)
I really wanted to make a different kind of documentary about roller derby. I had this desire to see my friends reflected on the screen in the same way that I saw them at practice or at tournaments. I wanted to tell the story of derby from my vantage point and that happened to be from the eyes of a queer girl that had found herself and her second family on skates. I am enamored of these people and I wanted to showcase the celebration of queerness that is derby for me.
We discovered Crystal months into filming and the project took a very different direction. We had already filmed several of they key stories already, but her willingness to be in the project and her journey were really reflective of the changes and conversations that were happening in roller derby at the time. This is definitely one of those cases in which we started out making one film and it ended up being something totally different.
Meeting Crystal, for me, was terrifying because I wanted her to think I was cool. I probably came off as the biggest dork on the planet. Luckily, she has chosen to remain my friend.
The Vagine Regime to me isn’t just a pickup derby team. It is a place to hash things out and dance with your pants off. We are not perfect and and by opening up the conversation to those that have had different life experiences, we all gain a better understanding on how to be better allies to each other and how to create a better organization. We are currently having some really important inclusion discussions and they aren’t easy but if we don’t get through this tough stuff together the scrimmages and the PODOs (“pants-off dance-offs”, the parties VR hosts) are just not as rewarding. It needs to be fun for all. We are also always striving to be as intersectional as possible and support other groups like the Black Roller Derby Network and Skate Safe because for us it isn’t just about celebrating queer roller derby; it is also about advocating for our allies.
Presenting “In The Turn” in London at the British Film Institute was a dream come true. I had taken a trip to London when I was sixteen and had walked past the British Film Institute. I remember thinking how special it was to be walking outside such an important institution. I would not have believed that years later I would be presenting a film inside to sold out crowds.
A behind the scenes look at In The Turn.
So, how does someone in film end up in Boston? Let me tell ya. It was the coldest and snowiest Boston winter ever. I followed my partner out here but haven’t regretted it.
The Boston Derby Dames are the real deal and I have grown quite fond of clams.
One strange thing I do when I work is sweat. I am just a sweaty person. By the time I am done interviewing someone it looks as if I have played an entire bout. It’s kind of gross.
I officially retired from skating and coaching in July. It is sad to say goodbye to something after a decade of service but my body and my mind need a little derby vacation. Luckily, I have the documentary and all of my best friends to keep me connected.
Since retiring from the game, I’ve figured out that I can grow toe nails after all.
GoGo’s general feeling about talking to strangers at airports.
Some of the films that inspired me to do film are She-Devil, Grave of Fireflies, Marwencol.
Some of the people who inspire me Daunasia Yancey, Scarbie Doll, Sarah Deer, Injure Rogers, Ms Dr Joseph L Simonis, Evie McSkeevy, and my mom.
The greatest things about the people of roller derby is their athleticism and generosity. Thank you for creating this amazing thing that I love so much!
Film is great. But, secretly, I am a fan of Dungeons and Dragons. I just recently got into it and I can’t stop playing!
One of my biggest talents is embroidery and needlework, and I just recently took up beading and quilting.
If this were a test
I would cheat off of the person next to me because I have no idea what I am good at.