We first meet Doris Jenkins onscreen at the Topsail Beach Skating Rink, standing behind a counter, flanked by a shelf of roller skates and an old record player. She wears a loose white T-shirt with her name airbrushed on the front in neon colors. You know, the kind of souvenir you get at the fair—or the beach. But at the rink she’s owned and operated for more than fifty years, this is a uniform for Jenkins.
Durham filmmaker and Elon University professor Nicole Triche spent March through September of 2015 filming All Skate, Everybody Skate,
a short documentary about the rink and Ms. Jenkins. It premiered at the River Run Film Festival in Winston-Salem last week, debuting in Durham at Full Frame yesterday. The film is a glimpse of a very Southern, very beachy community through the daily lens of Jenkins, who lives next door to the rink, which she opens every night from seven to ten p.m. During the day she runs the post office downstairs until three p.m.
Triche honors the vintage visual aesthetic at the rink with a storytelling tradition focused on letting her character reveal truths little by little. She spent nights at the rink recording conversations—not interviews—with Jenkins. At one moment, Jenkins recalls a powerful moment in her past. Triche is lucky that the record player had stopped and Jenkins could tell the story in a serendipitous quiet moment. We spoke to Triche about the film and the choices she made to capture a slice of life on the Carolina coast.
INDY: How did you find out about Doris?
Her nephew had started a Facebook page
for the rink that year. I could tell from the posts that it wasn’t her. And Our State magazine did an article on her
. I started messaging him on FB and sending him emails to his work address. Eventually it got to where he was like, “Oh, OK.” He gave me her phone number.
She’s not on camera too much. Was that deliberate?
That was her general vibe overall. I never sat her down with a camera—the entire time I talked to her, it was while she was working. I would mic her up and record the audio, shoot around at the rink. It was never like, let me put the camera in her face. I was at first driven by the visuals. I wanted to shoot it. I really loved being there. That selfishness in documentarians of “I want to capture this.” That was my first inclination. When I started talking to Doris, seeing her, observing her, how she interacts with customers, with family. She’s an interesting woman, and we come in thinking "you’re an older lady in the South and you’re going to be this way, this way, and this way." But she’s not stereotypical. As a person who works for a living, I was interested in someone who did the same.
Do you think she ever thought about her lifestyle as the roller rink lady as being remarkable in any way?
She doesn’t think about it. She shows up, she does the work. She always shows up. She always does the work. It’s an impressive thing. She talks about when she was a kid and she had to do all this work, and she hated doing the diapers. She isn’t completely stoic—just do the work and it’s a noble thing. She enjoys rollerskating and having this rink. She’s not trying to martyr herself.
What does she do between three and seven p.m. besides visit her husband in the nursing home?
She eats. She says she eats a sandwich over the sink!
The approach you took to her voiceover felt like an oral history that comes to life.
I didn’t know it was going to be like that before I started recording. It was more of a chat than a formal interview. We’d talk for three hours. Then she’d be like, "can I take this thing [mic] off?" When they came out as stories, that’s what I liked.
Me too. And I liked this film because it wasn’t an issue-focused doc, but it felt like a subtle commentary on honoring the complexities of older people, especially women.
Definitely. When I was editing it, I was thinking about age and how we treat the elderly. I was thinking about work—doing a job. I’m interested what someone does for forty hours a week, what they choose to do for thirty-plus years of their life. I’ve grown up with women working really hard. Maybe someone will think more about the next time they speak to someone who is older, and not be condescending or think they are precious. They’ll think, “she’s a badass.”
How does owning a small skating rink on the beach make Doris's life different than another Southern story?
Well, the beach, as far as locals go, is very conservative. She gets exposed to people from all over the country and the world who come to see her. It’s almost like she gets to travel. You don’t necessarily get that if you live in Statesville.