Up next on Season 7 of Reel South: "Florida Woman" from Catie Skipp. “Florida Woman” is a documentary portrait that peels back the curtain on the media’s portrayal of Mary Thorn, an ex-pro wrestler in Florida battling the state in order to save her pet alligator. Prior to the film's Reel South premiere, digital media producer Heather Leighton-Nunerley connected with Catie for a behind-the-scenes look of the creation of "Florida Woman" and what Catie's doing now.
Heather: What do you hope people learn from Florida Woman?
Catie: I hope that people learn to not judge a book by its cover, or in this case not to judge a person by a headline. There is depth and complexity to every person, and I think if we can all empathize with people a little more, the world would be a better place.
Heather: How do you think your film acknowledges stereotypes in Florida? How does it challenge them?
Catie: When someone hears the name of this film, they immediately think of all of the headlines they see about people doing crazy things in Florida. My hope is that by the end of the film, the audience’s initial expectations are flipped on their head, challenging them to reconsider their preconceived notions in all contexts beyond Florida.
Heather: What were the challenges you came across during the filmmaking process?
Catie: In every step of the way, from learning how to obtain production insurance (we were filming around an alligator after all) all the way to festival and distribution strategy, I had to navigate new and often unforeseen challenges on my own, which was frightening but also ended up becoming the greatest reward. While I feel like we have a long way to go in the documentary space to support first-time filmmakers, these challenges led me to lean on friends and acquaintances and ultimately build an incredible team of collaborators that made overcoming each challenge a bit easier. With that said, I am also so grateful to Reel South and PBS for allowing me the opportunity to share this labor of love with so many.
Heather: Was there any part you wish you captured for the film? Any behind-the-scenes moments to share?
Catie: I wish that I had been aware of Mary’s story earlier on while she was in the process of fighting for Rambo. If that had been the case, the film would have then taken on a more active vérité or observational feel.
Heather: What is your personal favorite part of the film?
Catie: I personally love when she is reminiscing on all of the paintings and memorabilia found in Rambo’s room. I think this scene really exemplifies all of the care and love she had for Rambo and the other alligators over the years.
Heather: What life or career update can you share with us?
Catie: I am currently in production on my next short documentary and working in development at a production company in LA. As for Mary, she and Rambo are still together and doing well. She is currently looking for land to homestead on so that Rambo can be in a more natural habitat.