LOS CABOS, Mexico — Sundance nominee and National Board of Review grant winning short filmmaker Charlotte Glynn is preparing her fiction feature debut, “The Gymnast,” and met with Variety to discuss the project at the Los Cabos market and festival where she is participating in the Films in Development section.
A Pittsburgh-raised New York transplant, Glynn has made waves with her highly regionalized short films, set in the rust belt city which hosted her formative years. Her short film “The Immaculate Reception,” was a festival hit which caught the eyes of Showtime’s “Billions” writers and producers Michael Harrop, Brian Koppelman and David Levien who are producing “The Gymnast.”
Set in Pittsburgh, 1993, nearly 10 years after U.S. gymnast Mary Lou Retton’s historic Olympic games, Monica (14) a gymnast on her own path to the Olympics tears a ligament in her knee just five weeks before what would be the most important competition of her young career. The girl’s father, Rich, is a gruff, single steel-town dad who has dedicated his life to supporting his daughter’s ambitions. Although before the injury things seemed good in their world, once Monica’s future is cast under a shadows of doubt, the delicacy of the life they have created is revealed.
“The reason I set it in 93 was that I wanted to set the story with the first generation coming of age, graduating high school with no Steel industry,” Glynn explained. “For past generations the steel industry created this middle class existence for people in the city, then Rich graduates high school and it’s not there anymore.”
Much like Glynn’s previous work, “The Gymnast” will ask questions of identity and the roles her characters play in their own lives. The city of Pittsburgh and the diaspora which followed the ‘70s collapse of the steel industry there cast a heavy shadow over the film’s characters.
What’s left when a city and a people lose the work that defined them for so long? What’s left when a young girl has dedicated herself to a sport that she can no longer compete in? What happens to a father who has given everything to help her achieve those goals?
“I was talking to a psychologist who works with addiction and trauma,” said Glynn. “And she specifically looks at the rust belt. There is this generation of men and people whose identities were tied to their jobs and almost overnight it collapsed.”
She went on to explain, “Rich’s dreams for Monica are connected to the fact he has never figured out who he is, his identity. ‘The Gymnast’ is a loss of identity for both the father and daughter, for the city they live in. Across the board.”