About a month and a half ago, I was eating dinner at Curia, a vegan restaurant northeast of UF's campus, when I noticed an advertisement in the center of the table for the Gainesville Roller Rebels (GRR). I knew roller derby existed, but I had no idea there was a league in Gainesville. Immediately I took a photo of the ad and told myself this would be a great story.
Fast forward a couple weeks later when it was time to pick our individual project ideas, and I reached out to GRR via email. I was looking for someone who I could follow home or to work, someone who had a story about more than roller derby. So I attended one of their practices to search for my character. She wasn't there that night, but the group put me in contact with Cat Clifford, a wife, mother of two, and overnight labor and deliver nurse.
The next practice, I drove an hour south to Ocala on a Monday night, where GRR was practicing at Skate Mania. Instantly I noticed how poorly lit the rink was, with florescent bulbs of every color casting less than appealing light on the entire floor. But I mic'd her up and got to work. I used the DSLR to shoot the entire practice, making sure to get sequences, nat sound, and quickly learning how difficult it was to focus on such a fast moving sport. If at any other point this semester I've said "this was one of the most difficult stories I've every worked on," this one has it beat.
Later that week I followed her home. We sat down for the interview without issue before I jumped in her car and tagged along while she picked her kids up from school and daycare. I shot video of her throughout the whole process, and when we got home, I got more of the three of them playing outside, going for a walk around the block, and going inside for a quick snack and video games. It was nat sound heaven. The next day was GRR's last bout of the season, and I got more video of the event, again trying hard to make sure my shots were in focus as the players zoomed by me.
I decided the Q&A portion of the project would focus on the organization, its camaraderie, and its impact on women and the community. The video portion would concentrate on Clifford's journey in balancing life, work, and roller derby. During the editing process I found that I had to scrap quite a few shots for being out of focus, but nonetheless I had some great content to put together.
Watch her story: Cat Clifford: Balancing Life on Skates.