Wrestlers is a high-flying, action-packed look at the struggles of the legendary indie organization Ohio Valley Wrestling. The seven-part documentary, which was released on Sept. 13, is currently streaming on Netflix in its entirety. For a behind-the-scenes look at what it was like to be on set, we spoke to Emily Keenan, who worked as a camera assistant during production. Keenan spoke about how nice the pro wrestlers were, how she got into filmmaking as a career and the most challenging part of her job.
Louisville Film Society: Wrestlers is an intense look at Ohio Valley Wrestling and follows people who are really interesting both inside and outside the ring. What was your experience like working on set, working at Davis Arena and working with OVW?
Emily Keenan: It was actually really cool. We got to know the lay of the land really well there, and now, watching the show, I think it’s really funny to look at how I’m like, ‘I know my way around there. I know where that is. I’ve been in that room.’ The wrestlers are all so nice. Everyone there is so inviting, so welcoming. It was just an awesome work environment, honestly. Everything about it was just… it was exciting to go to work. And I didn’t really know anything about wrestling going into it, and I had no idea that I was going to enjoy it as much as I did.
Was there anything that sort of surprised you about Ohio Valley Wrestling? Maybe something you weren’t expecting.
Honestly, a lot. Like I said, I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. There’s a lot of showmanship to it, and a lot of creativity to it, and a lot of almost-acting to it, in a theatrical sense. So much athleticism is involved with it, as well, so that was probably one of my bigger takeaways. I didn’t realize how intense it really was.
How did you get into filmmaking as a career?
I started as a [production assistant]. And when you’re a PA, a lot of people ask you, ‘What are your interests?’ And I mentioned camera was an interest of mine. And then it kind of snowballed from there. I learned how to run batteries for people and then kept learning and learning and learning, and then eventually I would get hired as a second [assistant camera], and then I firsted for a while, I’ve been able to camera operate a lot more lately. But, yeah, I knew an [assistant director] in town, and she was putting on a class for set etiquette and I went, and I guess I was one of a few people who showed up. I was there to just kind of network with her, and learn more about the lingo. It was pretty educational. And then, after that, I got my first call to be a PA on a movie, and it just has been kind of going, going, going ever since.
What’s the best part of your job, and what’s the most challenging part of your job, and how did that apply when you were on the set of Wrestlers?
So, I think one of the most challenging parts of my job is also one of the best parts of my job, which is that I’m in a new place with new people on every single job. So, it’s really unpredictable, but I love that I get to meet new people all of the time and work on new projects all of the time. And Wrestlers was one of those where I had no idea of what I was getting into when I got into it, and it really showed me that world so much, and I really enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would.
You already touched on this a little bit, but what were all of the wrestlers like behind the scenes? What was the OVW crew like?
Everyone was pretty hilarious, and they all were so inviting, and it was just a really great environment to be in. They’re happy to strike up a conversation with you at any moment, and, even all of the workers who are there, putting on the show, are super nice and everyone is super happy that we are there and are capturing their moments. Even off-screen, everyone is so nice. I remember watching Wrestlers and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I remember that guy. He is so nice. He said this to me, he said that to me.’ And watching them on screen after, it’s like their characters in real life translate to the show so well.
Do you have any upcoming projects, or anything you would like to get involved with?
I’m hoping, if there is a next season of Wrestlers, it would be so cool to go back and check it out, but not really anything else coming up. I know that, ever since the writers’ strike has happened, things have slowed down a little bit, but nothing too big coming up. I really enjoy the reality documentary style that was Wrestlers, so I hope to get more projects like that. It is a completely different world than a feature film. It’s a different process, but I really like the variety, so going from a movie to a documentary style to stuff like that is really nice for me.