It all started with a flyer in Lauren Hadaway’s mailbox during her freshman year at SMU: “Join Novice Rowing. No experience required. “
Hadaway’s love-hate relationship with sport sparked four years of mental and physical angst – much of it self-inflicted – and peaked more than a decade later in the novice, his first semi-autobiographical feature.
“Writing this was cathartic on many fronts,” said Hadaway, a Red Oak native who arrived on campus in 2007 in search of a new activity that would satisfy her hyper-competitive drive.
“I didn’t even know what rowing was. It sounded harsher than intramural, and I still like challenges. The next four years consumed my life. It almost destroyed me, but this resilience that I built really helped me when I moved to LA ”
She voluntarily endured a diet that included waking up at 5 a.m. six days a week, often training twice a day, majoring in film and business, taking an internship or part-time job each. semester and actively participating in several clubs on campus. and honor programs.
“I was extremely overloaded, but it felt normal to me,” Hadaway said. “I thought everyone was going through the same thing as me, but looking back, I don’t think everyone was.”
For the film, Hadaway condensed her experience at SMU into a single year in the life of Alex (Isabelle Fuhrman), a difficult freshman at a fictional school who joins the rowing team under similar circumstances. His decision turns into a global quest for perfection, even if it means endangering his social life, his studies and his physical and mental health.
“There is a romantic story in the movie, but the real romance is between Alex and the sport,” Hadaway said. “After I got to know each other, they started falling in love, and then there was this kind of slow, toxic breakup. When I was a rower in college, it was like that too.
“My whole body is probably messed up for life,” she said. “You do the same movement over and over again, staring at the back of someone’s ponytail for hours.”
After college, Hadaway moved to Los Angeles and built a successful career working in the sound department of major films, including Whiplash and The Hateful Eight.
Hadaway wrote the first draft of her screenplay in 2017, while in London as a sound editor on Justice League. She called her former teammates to ask them what they remembered from those years. “Everyone thought you were psychotic,” they told him.
The deeply personal project caught the attention of producer Ryan Hawkins, a former SMU classmate. Cameras were filmed near Toronto in late 2019, Hadaway edited much of the film in his kitchen during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Führman (Orphan) had six weeks of intense training before filming, often waking up before dawn for a cold ride to the marina.
“I had never rowed before, so I had blisters so quickly. I fell in the same pattern as Alex, but I fell in love with the sport at the same time. I really felt Alex’s psyche, ”Furhman said. “At the end of the day, I took a bath in boiling water. I fell asleep so quickly and didn’t wake up until a few hours later, so excited to do it again. I have found the exhaustion to be incredibly energizing.
After an award-winning festival, the novice opens this week in theaters and on digital platforms. He was also nominated for five Independent Spirit Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress.
Hadaway’s film is not meant to disparage rowing or its alma mater, but rather to offer a raw and intimate perspective on the college experience, both in and off the boat.
“I loved rowing and tried to capture the beauty of it. On the water, I’ve seen more sunrises in four years than most people see in a lifetime, ”she said. “Making this film is a dream that I have had since I was 15 years old and that I saw Kill bill for the first time. It was brutal, but it was worth it.