Maureen Bharoocha Talks “Golden Arm” and Centering a Buddy Comedy Around Women Athletes

When Maureen Bharoocha isn’t directing for “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” she’s on a feature film set. Her two features,
“I Am Watching You” and “Fatal Flip,” recently aired on Lifetime. Her acclaimed short “Hairpin Bender” premiered at the 2017 Santa Barbara Film Festival.

“Golden Arm” hits theaters and digital on April 30.

W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.

MB: “Golden Arm” is a road trip buddy movie about finding yourself again and remembering who your true friends are — wrapped in a funny, dirty arm wrestling sports comedy.

W&H: What drew you to this story?

MB: Arm wrestling! There are not many sports comedies that center around women’s sports, and I wanted to show that women are competitive, tough, dirty, rough, and feminine all at the same time.

W&H: What do you want people to think about after they watch the film?

MB: I would love for people to watch and immediately want to watch the movie again. My dream is for this be a cult classic. Mary Holland and Betsy Sodaro are a comedy duo for the ages. You can’t fake the magic they have on-screen.

W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

MB: Not ruining takes with my laughing. I have never laughed harder on set in my life.

It pained me to edit out so many funny moments. My director’s cut would easily be 15 minutes longer. I want to start a grass roots movement to add back in funny moments!

W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.

MB: I have to give all the credit on how this movie got funded to the writers, Ann Marie Allison and Jenna Milly. I came onboard five years ago, before the script was written. They pitched the idea to me and I made a sizzle on that idea. Jenna and Ann Marie then took my sizzle, along with my creative statement, out on the road with their script to investors.

When our producer Geeta Bajaj came on she was able to bring an investor with the last chunk of money we needed, so really, Geeta is ultimately why we got to make “Golden Arm!”

W&H: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

MB: I always thought I was going to be an actress growing up or an artist like my mom. I was always performing and putting on shows in my living room starring my brother and cousins. Then in high school I was always organizing my friends to shoot music videos or silly skits at sleepovers. Before I knew I wanted to be a director I was directing!

It wasn’t until freshman year in college, when I took my first film studies class, that I realized movies incorporated all the arts: art, acting, photography, composition, music, design, lighting, and storytelling. I also realized I could watch movies and write papers and get a college degree! So I got my undergrad degree in film studies and later got my MFA in film production at Boston University.

W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?

MB: Trust your gut and tell stories from your unique life perspective. Oh, and wear comfy shoes and drink water.

W&H: What advice do you have for other women directors?

MB: Don’t get caught up on how hard it is to be a women in this biz. Focusing on those thoughts on the regular won’t service your creativity. Just focus on what you can control. Just keep grinding, doing great work, and help others up. When you can, move the needle — don’t forget who helped you up and just keep making cool shit!

W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.

MB: Penelope Spheeris’ “Wayne’s World.” It is just one of my all-time favorite movies, and it has been since before I realized it was directed by a woman. It is a movie that doesn’t have the caveat of being a woman-directed movie. It is a great movie and one that stands the test of time.

I owe a lot to Penelope in developing my comedy sensibility in how she directed that film.

W&H: How are you adjusting to life during the COVID-19 pandemic? Are you keeping creative, and if so, how?

MB: Oh man, it has been a fog of year, but I came out with a new feature film I co-wrote with Mary and Betsy. Writing a movie with those ladies saved my life. We met every week during the pandemic to create and throw ideas around. It was the thing that got me excited and gave me a reason to take a shower! And this month I directed two episodes of a Nickelodeon series called “Drama Club.” I just finished directing an eight-episode narrative podcast series from Crooked Media and Qcode called “Edith” starring Rosamund Pike. The writer/creators, Gonzalo Cordova and Travis Helwig, have been a dream to work with.

W&H: The film industry has a long history of underrepresenting people of color onscreen and behind the scenes and reinforcing — and creating — negative stereotypes. What actions do you think need to be taken to make Hollywood and/or the doc world more inclusive?

MB: I think it is vital to keep pushing people to think of people outside your normal circles. One thing I have heard is, “We tried to find a person of color for ___ job/role and we couldn’t.” My answer to that is the problem might be you. Maybe your circle of creatives is lacking and it is your job to dig deeper and meet more people. They are out there — you just have to do the work. Being a person of color myself who passes under the radar, it is my job to make sure I check myself and practice what I preach. There is no reason for cast and crew to be limited any longer.

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