With the wide release of the movie 'Backwards' this weekend, row2k brings you another interview with one of the rowers from the film, Meredith Apfelbaum. Apfelbaum was an experienced rower who learned how to act for the film.
row2k - What was your rowing and acting background prior to filming the movie?
Meredith Apfelbaum - I grew up around rowing, watching practices from the launch with my parents, Burt and Stacey Apfelbaum, and climbing on the trailer (a travelling jungle gym of sorts?) during regattas. I finally started rowing myself in the summers when I started high school, and rowing competitively with Shaker Rowing Association my senior year, and haven't stopped since! As for acting, I haven't been involved in much more than middle school musical theater (which was really more theater than musical as my tactful director Mr. Edwards put it, I am "musically limited"). While I enjoyed both, I never imagined I would put them together some day!
row2k - How did you get the part?
Meredith Apfelbaum - Sarah Thomas was looking for high school girls with rowing experience to play the roles of Hannah and Susan and contacted several rowing coaches in the Northeast including my dad. His team was still training, but I was job hunting and thought the audition was worth a shot. I booked a Megabus last minute and never thought it would actually come to fruition.
row2k - To what extend did you have to learn to act for the film?
Meredith Apfelbaum - After the 'Backwards' team gave me the role, they set me up with a few lessons with an acting coach in NYC to teach me the basics. I did a few exercises with Alex and Sarah that really opened me up to what it takes to act on screen. They made it look so easy! It challenged me in new ways that I had never even thought of. Alex Metz was also a huge help in that respect. We helped each other out a lot throughout filming. On our afternoons off we trained at Vesper and I helped her with her sculling, showing her how to catch at full compression and keep her blisters clean. At night, she taught me about method acting and how to "get angry."
row2k - What role did you have in teaching folks to row?
Meredith Apfelbaum - I spent one of my last days in Philly teaching some of the cast and crew to scull. Sarah, James, Alex and I took a quad out for fun, and eventually brought up the rating for a few power tens. I don't think we'll be entering any mixed quad events but it made for a fun afternoon.
row2k - What are your impressions of the rowing scenes in the movie?
Meredith Apfelbaum - I think the rowing scenes came out really well! Rowing is such a beautiful sport to watch, and the Philly skyline and Boathouse Row make a very picturesque backdrop. While watching these scenes my eye inevitably goes towards my own technique and I check my posture at the catch, but overall they did a good job capturing the competitive nature of the sport. Glen Morshower did a great job as a coach too. Just watching the seat racing scenes from the theater made me anxious!
row2k - Are you planning to continue your acting career?
Meredith Apfelbaum - As of right now I am still studying engineering at Trinity, and trying to fit in an acting class, but who knows what will come of my career after 'Backwards.' If I get the opportunity to do more acting I would love to explore it more, but until then, I am putting my efforts towards rowing and academics.
row2k - Was there anything about making a movie that really surprised you?
Meredith Apfelbaum - What impressed me the most about filmmaking was the amount of work and attention to detail that goes into every shot, no matter how short. On screen everything looks just as you expect it to, but every prop and angle is carefully considered to create that realistic feel. The rowing scenes were especially complicated to film. Attaching all of the necessary camera and sound equipment to the stern deck of a rowing shell is not easy (and neither is rowing with 70+ lbs weighing down the stern!).
row2k - Coolest thing about acting?
Meredith Apfelbaum - The coolest part of acting was trying out different things on camera and stepping out of my own personality, 'getting angry' for example. Or, as our director Ben Hickernell told us for the last take of every scene, 'Just have fun with it,' and I definitely did.
row2k - Did your rowing background help with your approach to acting?
Meredith Apfelbaum - I used my rowing experience in acting out the scenes on the water and at practice. They are very familiar routines that I can easily identify with. Thinking back to practices building up to big races I was able to recreate that determination and intensity in front of the camera.
row2k - You come from a rowing family; did they give you any grief about the movie? What did they think of it?
Meredith Apfelbaum - As with any of my ventures, my family of course gave me grief. Their impressions of the film were very positive, although I'm sure they, too, were watching my handle heights on the drive. It was great sharing it with them at the premiere in Philadelphia, where I got to watch it with my parents, my sister Meghan, and my grandmother, Sue Gannon. They enjoyed seeing a movie made about rowing since there are not many out there; especially seeing such a credible group of athletes on screen rather than a cast of stunt doubles, or worse, poor rowing.
row2k - Any favorite stories of your out-takes or bloopers?
Meredith Apfelbaum - For part of the film Sarah had to have a uni-tan which she eventually attempts to fix with her own self-tanner. Given my own permanent uni-tan lines, Ben mistook me for Sarah from behind and complimented the make-up artist on the 'mock tan lines.' I told him it takes a lot of meters on the water to get lines this accurate and we had a good laugh about it.