Talking with director Maureen Bharoocha and her 'Golden Arm'
May 4, 2021
Maureen Bharoocha's Golden Arm is a laugh-out-loud comedy that centers on female friendship and arm wrestling (yes, arm wrestling).
The story is driven by Danny (Betsy Sodaro), a truck driver and ol' pro in the competitive arm-wrestling circuit, and her best friend Melanie (Mary Holland), a demure and down-on-her-luck baker with a failing bakery. After Danny injures her wrist in a bout with notorious cheater/champ Brenda the Bonecrusher (Olivia Stambouliah), she persuades her best friend Melanie to train to defeat the Bonecrusher and win a $15,000 cash purse in the Oklahoma City Women's Arm Wrestling competition, under the guise of taking a week off her work at the bakery to help Danny finish her route deliveries.
"It's hard to avoid tropes in comedy. Avoiding tropes takes finesse," says Bharoocha on the hilarious buddy comedy. "You need to find the surprise — the unexpected thing. whether it's punching up a joke on the fly or pivoting in a moment to make a location more authentic. You need to allow the comedic moments to stand out and I think that's how I avoid the pitfalls of comedy tropes."
"[Writers] Ann Marie [Allison] and Jenna [Milly] originally brought me the idea years ago and asked me to shoot a sizzle about the underground female arm wrestling circuit," she says. "Golden Arm has been a long journey I jumped on five years ago. A year later, we did a live reading with producers. Then, I went on to work at [Jimmy] Kimmel while [the writers] focused on obtaining financing. We were able to shoot it in 2019, and got in to SXSW which was then canceled. And here we are."
"You know, when writers have a vision, it's very apparent in the script, but Golden Arm did change a bit tonally, more to my style of comedy. We were trying to avoid broad and unrealistic characters, and grounding it in reality was very important."
Bharoocha comes from a long history of directing short films, which perhaps lends itself to the kernelled comedic structure of Golden Arm. Each scene is so memorable in itself, yet are tethered together by a well-developed overall story. Bharoocha says, "I love directing shorts — it’s how I find my tribe. I've done a short with everyone on this movie. And like a short, each moment of this film is really its own short film. As a director, it's your job to break down this fully developed script — a full story — into smaller chunks."
Bharoocha adds, "I was lucky because Golden Arm started with strong writers who developed this beautiful comedy with a strong spine. The rest just filled itself in."
Written by: Vanessa KingVanessa King is an NYC-based producer, screenwriter, and professor who has worked in development with top-level industry talent for nearly two decades. Her work as a writer has received numerous awards, having earned her recognition from industry bodies including AMPAS/Oscar’s Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship (feature) and Sony Worldwide Entertainment’s Emerging Filmmaker Program (TV Series). In 2005, she co-founded the New York Screenwriters Co-Op, New York’s only free-to-the-public screenwriting workshop with over 2000 active members. Vanessa is faculty at Gotham Writer’s Workshop (NYC) and Staffordshire University (UK), where she teaches both television and screenwriting to students, beginner to post-graduate. She recently was Showrunner of the TV pilot “Two Roads”, a concept she co-created and co-wrote for Sony’s VUE Network. Vanessa is passionate about diversity and inclusion within the industry and was a consultant on Final Draft Screenwriting Software’s Diversity and Inclusion product build. She’s a board member of the Diversity List, amplifying top scripts written by female-identifying and BIPOC writers. She is a judge for the Hip Hop Film Festival, The UCLA Graduate Screenwriter’s Showcase and The 24 Hour Film Festival. She was named one of The Huffington Post’s 13 Women To Watch and for three consecutive years, has been named to Vanity Fair’s “Downtown 100”, a list that recognizing New York’s top networkers in the entertainment industry. Originally from Canada, she lives in New York City.