For Lauren Hadaway “write what you know” was the best advice for her first screenplay and the former college rower did just that. “The Novice” is about obsession set in a very specific, watery world.
“Of course it’s drama, but everything you see — the injuries, the breakdown, all of these things, they happened to me and I saw them happen to other people” she told Deadline’s Tribeca Studio of the film she also directed. “It’s about how it feels to be trapped in that mindset … even if you don’t know a thing about rowing.” She was joined by Isabelle Fuhrman (Esther in Orphan, Clove in The Hunger Games) who stars as Alex Dahl, an obsessively driven freshman rower, and model Dilone, who plays Dani, Alex’ more grounded love interest, in her first film.
Hadaway wrote the first draft in 2016 over three weeks on a reshoot of Justice League, where she was Supervising Dialogue /ADR editor. She’d been doing well with a career in sound and asked herself what she wanted next — “to be a writer and director.”
Furhman said she was “floored” by the script. Isabelle is so driven that she majors in her weakest subjects to prove she can and threads obsession into every aspect of her life, including making the top varsity boat despite brutal workouts, bleeding hands, a smashed face and jealous teammates.
“I really connected with the intensity of having a goal and being driven to achieve it,” Fuhrman said. As a teenager, “I felt disconnected from people my age and everyone I went to school with because I was so set on achieving a certain place in my career.”
Dilone, who made her acting debut as supermodel Pat Cleveland in Halston, Ryan Murphy’s limited series on Netflix, was looking to break into film. “I didn’t just want to do anything, and when I got the script I felt that it was everything I wanted. I got to play this really cool lesbian, who is intelligent, who is in a band, who is caring and ambitious but in a healthy way.”
The Novice was filmed in Canada at Trent University with the local Peterborough Rowing Club. It was an odd place, Hadaway said, in the middle of nowhere, kind of Southern Gothic and Brutalist 1960s architecture. But “the water was magnificent. It was so cinematic. The fog! So we embraced it and worked it in.”
The Novice premieres today at the Tribeca Film Festival
Deadline Studio is presented by Verimatrix.