Meet the stars of Spork: 4 kids with big talents who are also smart (& entertaining) cookies. The movie named 2010 TFF Virtual Best Feature opens Friday at the Quad Cinema.
Note: This interview originally ran as part of our coverage of the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. Spork opens on Friday, May 27, at the Quad Cinema in New York City, and at the Roxy Theatre in Philadelphia. It opened last Friday at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in Los Angeles.
From writer-director J.B. Ghuman Jr. comes the colorful and foul-mouthed musical comedy about a frizzy-haired, pink-cheeked, outcast named Spork, who is trying to navigate her way through the perils of junior high. When a school dance show provides a chance for Spork to show up a mean-girls gang, her trailer-park neighbor steps up to coach her with some “booty-poppin” moves.
Savannah Stehlin [Spork]: I will! Spork is basically about a 14-year-old hermaphrodite who is not really loving life. She’s kind of anti-social, introverted, and she doesn’t really get herself or get why people are the way they are. She lives in a trailer park with her older brother, Spit. And her next-door neighbor is Tootsie Roll and her mom, Mrs. Roll. Tootsie Roll was originally going to do a dance-off, but she hurts herself and Spork steps in. Spork is also bullied by Loosie Goosie and Betsy Byotch…
But at the end of the movie, she realizes that the person she was looking for to be was really just herself. You don’t have to like confine to the ways of the world kind of thing. That’s it in a nutshell.
Tribeca: That’s very good. [Laughter] Sydney, can you tell me what inspired you to take this part?
Sydney Park [Tootsie Roll]: Well, I just know so many Tootsie Rolls out there in the world, and so many girls at my school. It inspired me, because I just wanted to do it for those who want to pursue dreams and be somebody, but they’re basically like a broke superstar. They have this talent and they don’t really know how to use it, because they’re troubled, or bad in school, or their parents are divorced. It also just seemed like a really fun role to do, because I’ve never played that type of character before.
Tribeca: What was it like when you saw the movie for the first time?
Michael William Arnold [Charlie]: Well, we haven’t actually seen it for the first time. We’ve only seen clips. So we are really excited to see the first screening in the whole world in New York. God bless New York.
Tribeca: Can you tell me about Loosie’s transformation during the film, without giving too much away?
Oana Gregory [Loosie Goosie]: You guys have to go watch it. But Loosie Goosie is a follower at the beginning. She’s kind of mean, and she’s not herself; she tries to be somebody that she’s not. And by the end of the movie, she realizes who her true friends are, and that she just has to be herself, and that’s all that matters. And, you know, be nice to people and treat them the way that they should be treated.
Tribeca: Have you guys taken these lessons back to your own school?
Oana: Definitely. Spork has to relate to everybody’s school life. I mean if any child from school would come and see this movie, they could find one thing that they could relate to their school.
Savannah: Yeah. I’ve definitely taken the lesson that I need to be comfortable in my own skin, like Spork is. I don’t need to be anybody other than myself.
Sydney: And, you know, me being in this industry for so long, it’s hard to keep on going, because 70% of the time, it’s like ‘No.’ And so just to keep on going, and pursuing my dream as an actor, and being a person of color, and trying to help those out in the world and give back. I was definitely just inspired by Tootsie Roll, because she’s such a strong character in the film. And so I thought, “Why not just take on Tootsie Roll’s character without being too crazy?”
Oana: You just have to have individuality. And sometimes people like you for who you’re not. You act like you’re somebody else, and some people may like you for that, but you know they may be the wrong people…
Savannah: to hang out with.
Oana: So if you just be yourself, you’ll find who your true friends are.
Michael: When I told a couple of my friends about the moral of the story, they actually changed their whole lives, completely. My friends used to be bullied and everything, a little bit. And so now they’re sticking up to bullies, getting them in trouble. Well, like sticking up to them saying, “No, I don’t want to do this anymore,” or “Just stop it. Leave me alone.”
Sydney: Yeah. I have a crew in the film, and so I could have actually had them do the dance competition for me, but no, I actually helped Spork. I protected her from people, and stood up for her, and that’s exactly what I do at school. Because I remember in elementary school, a lot of people would like tease me and stuff, and call me a whole bunch of names, and I turned out fine.
Oana: She turned out just fine.
Savannah: And also just being there for your friends, as well. Spork was there for Tootsie Roll, and Tootsie Roll was there for Spork. And being kinder maybe to other people you’re not normally kind to, and seeing them not for what other people tell you they’re like, but as you find them to be. If you just hang out or talk to—like, the nerd—maybe she’s really funny, or really stylish…
Oana: You don’t want to treat people for how they look. Just like Spork… She obviously wasn’t the best looking in the film. But she was a great person, and that’s what we find out through the movie.
Sydney: Definitely, hanging out with the cliques, like I don’t understand it. Like, I’m in middle school and everyone’s like in these groups and gossiping about people. Dude, just—I admit it. I’m a loner. I hang out with a whole bunch of different people that I love, and that’s ok. And instead of gossiping about people and listening to what other people say, and saying, “Oh, I don’t like her. She wears these types of clothes. She did that.” It’s like you don’t know a person until you really get to know them.
Tribeca: Awesome. Ok, I have some kind of wacky questions to ask you. Ready? If you could have dinner with any filmmaker, alive or dead, who would it be?
Sydney: Because, I saw Lady in the Water, and you know, directing, it just tells so much about a person. There’s this scene where it was underwater, and it was just amazing the way he shot it. It’s just so beautiful, without overdoing it. In the film, there wasn’t a lot of speaking; it was just kind of expressions. And for someone to actually have a vision to see a person’s life like a fantasy, it’s amazing. I would definitely want to have dinner with him.
Savannah: Also, the lady that directed The Hurt Locker. The name escapes me right now.
Michael: Yeah, Lee Daniels. It was such a good movie, and such a good moral, and that’s what’s in common in these two movies. They both have good morals that could change your life.
Sydney: Yeah, wasn’t that a great film?
Michael: Yeah, it was so good.
Oana: Love it. It made me cry.
Tribeca: Me too. So good.
Savannah: It’s like, how can a person be treated that way?
Tribeca: If you had to make a biopic… do you know what that is?
Michael: Like a movie about my life?
Tribeca: Yeah, what would your biopic be called if they made a movie about you?
Savannah: Simply Savannah. That’s what it would be called, because it would be me taken away from the movie and Hollywood world—you could see me for who I am, and where I was raised, and my morals and values.
Sydney: Mine would be called Broke Superstar. Yeah, because it’s just like there are so many kids out there who have so many problems financially, or physically or mentally, but… it doesn’t matter what type of person you are, as long as you just go for your dream and just push your way to the end and keep on holding on. Just believe that something is going to happen to you. It’s a really cool feeling.
Michael: Mine would actually be called, No One’s Normal, because no one is.
[All agree]: No one is.
Savannah: Everyone has a little bit of Spork in them.
Tribeca: What’s the one thing, besides Spork, that you’re telling everyone about right now—could be a book, or movie, or a TV show? Anything that you’re like, “You’ve got to see this, or listen to this, or read this.”
Sydney: I would love for everybody to see the movie, Charley. And read the book, Flowers for Algernon, because I actually had to do that for a project and I had to write a summary on it. Every page that I went though, the whole book was wet by the time I finished it. Because not only was I sad, I was also happy too, because… you know, I’m not going to tell anything but it’s just amazing how people can try to make you something that you’re not. Instead of accepting you, they try to make you into this robot and make you smart, and make you beautiful, and it’s like that’s not what life is about. It just matters what you’re like on the inside. And, sure, looks are great, you know, they’re fabulous. And clothes, and shoes, but it just sends a really good message that no matter how you look or what type of person you are, it’s like you can just do anything. And yeah, Flowers for Algernon was just a really good book.
Savannah: Oh, I have one. It’s called Do Hard Things. It’s written by two 18-year-old boys. They’re brothers. And it’s about increasing your expectations about yourself, whether or not people have low expectations for you. It’s about setting high expectations for yourself, and not letting other people do that for you.
Sydney: Oh, and I suggest that everyone reads the book The Lovely Bones, because some people think, “Oh, my parents don’t love me, because they tell me to do this, or they get on me about projects and homework.” It’s like, that’s not it. They’re telling you these things because they love you and they want you to succeed, and go to a good college, and be a good person in life. Because, you know, the moral is you never know how much a parent, or a father or mother loves you.
Oana: And this is for the future, but you guys have got to go see Spork.