AP: From your own personal point of view, do you think what these kids are doing now is a great sign of dedication or do you think it is slightly crazy that they are devoting so much of their childhood, which they will never get back, to something that probably won’t last or sustain them?
SB: I was just very pleased that my daughter didn’t have a talent like that (laughs) because then you have to, as a mother, even if you are thinking “it might not be what I want,” but you also can’t say that you aren’t going to help. These parents just dedicate their lives to these kids. And people just say that this could just be about pushy parents and I’m not sure that these parents are like that because you really can’t make a kid do that.
You know, the parents are intense, there’s no question, and they might live a bit vicariously through their children, but Julia for instance was taken there by her mother because she was painfully shy and she couldn’t speak. She would hide behind her own skirt. So they took her there to help her gain her confidence and it obviously worked because she is very confident now. You could never make these kids work as hard as they do unless they really wanted to do it and Rogen took her mother on the journey and little John with his five football playing brothers… he’s Billy Elliot. It’s interesting. I expected to find pushy mothers and they are dedicated and quite intense about it but it just wasn’t as simple as I would have expected it.
AP: In the final sequence of the film, it is very reliant on just the reading of the scores and you still make it really intense by just focusing on their faces. Were you ever dreading having to cut together that scene since it is based around such a complex scoring system?
SB: It was tough. There were various structural things with the film that were problematical and we knew that going into it. The key thing is unlike a movie likeSpellbound, they weren’t all there for one prize. They were all there for a host of different prizes and structurally it always meant that it was going to be a long haul at the back of the film. Then we looked at the scoring system and we realized that we didn’t understand it and that if we took half and hour to explain it, I don’t think the viewer would be any the wise. And as a viewer, you really can’t just tell who danced best. You are really kind of removed from any sort of involvement. I knew we had a hard task to keep people involved and caring or on the edge of their seat. Then we saw the rushes of the two wee girls faces at the end of the film and in a way we decided that it was all there and you could understand every emotion without even really understanding the scoring technique or judging criteria.
AP: You had so many people that you followed is there anything you wish you could have kept in but couldn’t simply because of time or because structurally it just didn’t fit in?
SB: I sometimes wonder if we had just one character too many. I think we were on the right side of it, but I think it was just on the edge, but then I think, “Well, what if we lost the Russians,” but there is just something so beautiful about people doing Irish dancing in Russia. I really think the film would be a lesser film if we had dropped one of the stories. I suppose in the film now, you just look at it as the best you can do because now you can’t say “Oh, I wish I had done that.” It’s too late.
Jig plays Hot Docs on Wednesday, May 4 at 4:15 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre. For more information, visit hotdocs.ca.
Top image: A scene from Jig. Courtesy Hot Docs.