Indiewire’s Springboard column profiles up-and-comers in the film industry worthy of your attention.Few films arrived at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival with more buzz than Anna Rose Holmer’s NEXT entry, “The Fits.” The feature, which premiered last fall at the Venice Film Festival, arrived in Park City already bolstered by solid reviews, as Venice critics and audiences alike admired its naturalism, passion and beguiling subject matter (it follows a young boxer who decides to eschew the sport that’s long bonded her with her older brother in order to join a dance team that soon falls into those eponymous fits), but the obvious star power of young lead Royalty Hightower is what has really pushed it into must-see territory for packs of Sundance-goers.
The film has already been picked up by Oscilloscope Laboratories for U.S. release, and Holmer will next screen the feature as part of the prestigious New Directors/New Films Festival in New York City in March. Buzz? It’s got it, and Hightower is the marquee attraction. The film is only Hightower’s first, but she slips with ease into the role of the scrappy young Toni, who decides to switch her athletic talents from the male-dominated world of boxing to the almost suffocatingly female-centric space of drill team dance. As Toni struggles to fit in with the award-winning The Lionesses, the team begins to crumble when some of its key members fall ill to so-called “fits” that may or may not be self-imposed.
Hightower sat down with Indiewire at Sundance to talk about the film, why she was scared about the audition process and why she’s always wanted to be on TV.
On her audition: I was actually nervous, because it was like, I didn’t know what they were going to ask me, I didn’t know what they were going to want me to do. I just went in there, I answered all the questions.
On bonding with her director: I asked Anna what she likes to do, she likes some of the things that I like too, and dancing was one of them, she likes to dance.
On improvising during her audition: [Anna] had us do improv with a partner, and we had to make the other person laugh while they were sad. And I made her laugh! It was fun and I was nervous at the same time. I was just making funny faces and saying crazy things, but I made her laugh.
On filming the movie: [Filming the movie] was hard. Some parts were hard, because we had to keep on doing them over and over. But some parts were really easy, where we just had to do one take. It was fun, because the whole team was there with me, so I wasn’t just there by myself. And Beezy (her co-star, Alexis Neblett), she was great company. She’s funny, too.
On the film’s choreographed “fits”: It was strange. Some of them were scary. Choreographing it was fun, but sometimes I forgot it. Most of them time I remembered the choreography.
On their Sundance premiere: I. Love. It. There were so many questions and it was a good crowd. They weren’t negative. It’s so beautiful here.
On her dancing career: [I’ve been dancing] since I was six. I used to always go to my sister’s practices because she was already on a team. They were doing a parade and their coach asked me to hold the banner, it was like a banner that said “Q-KIDZ” and we just walked down the street holding it, and I told her I didn’t want to hold the banner anymore. I said I wanted to dance, so she put me in the back of the parade and I was just dancing. After the parade, she told me to come back. I just kept coming back.
On the kind of films she wants to do: I want to do a scary movie. I want to do an action movie.
On her favorite thing from a recent scary movie: Chucky in “Child’s Play.”
On her acting dreams: I had [thought about acting] when I was littler, because I used to always want to be on TV. I always wanted to act, but I didn’t know it was going actually happen. I just wanted it to.