Clare Kramer may be best known to fans as Glory from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Courtney from Bring It On, but she's been on both sides of the camera since the '90s. She's produced, written, directed and acted in films like Hard Love, but now she's climbing back into the director's chair (alongside actress and producer Bianca Kajlich) to take on her first documentary: Joyrider. The film isn't in Kramer's typical wheelhouse of geekery and horror, but the story touched her heart in a way that she knew she had to take it on.
Joyrider tells the story of a wheelchair athlete who fought to be the first solo hand-cyclist to compete in the 3000-mile Race Across America. Read on for more about the film, Kramer's directorial efforts and her time on Buffy.
BMD: What inspired you to want to tell André’s story?
Kramer: Joyrider is, for those who don't know, the story of André Kajlich who is a double amputee and wheelchair athlete. He lost both of his legs in an accident in Prague in 2003. He's spent the last couple of years trying to qualify for this race called Race Across America. This year he did qualify! So, we packed up a crew, and followed him and his team as he hand-cycled across the country from Ocean Side, California, to Annapolis, Maryland, in twelve days. He slept only ninety minutes a night, set course records, world records, and broke every barrier down that you could imagine! I wanted to tell his story partially because I've known him forever. His sister and I (Bianca Kajlich) were in Bring It On together, which is how I know the family. Bianca came to me and told me about this race and what they wanted to do and I was immediately like 'I'm in!'
To me it’s not just a story about sports, or a story that’s just inspirational or just about an athlete who is breaking barriers. It’s really a metaphor for anyone who’s had to overcome what theoretically could hold them back in their life. The race is really a catalyst to which we tell André's story.
BMD: This isn’t your first time directing. Could you talk a little bit about your other projects and what inspired you to start making that transition into this new role?
Kramer: I’ve done a ton of stuff for GeekNation online. I also directed theatre when I was in New York, and I always knew that I wanted to transition into it more. This was just the right time and the right story for me. I brought in Greg Grunberg as a producing partner, and Jonathan Woodward (who also happens to be a Buffy alumni) to produce as well. It was just the right moment to take that jump into feature directing.
BMD: It can be harder for women to break into directing. Do you have any advice for women who might have those aspirations, despite the fact that their circumstances may be a bit different than yours?
Kramer: I’m trying to raise my girls the way I was raised, which was really not seeing gender as an obstacle or something that differentiates. It is there, of course. Our society does differentiate, but I really try to live my life as if I can do anything. I try not take the 'woman' label into account so much. It’s worked for me, but it hasn’t always worked in business. I will write a book one day of the many experiences, even on this film, that I went through as a woman in the industry. I had a great call with this major company that I thought, 'Wow! This is going to be amazing, they’re going to come aboard,' and then I was told on the phone that if I was directing that they wouldn’t be a part of the movie. Thankfully people like Greg and Jonathan, who were on my team said, 'you know, eff ‘em. You’re directing.' There is a tendency and a pattern in the entertainment industry to lift men up and give them opportunities. When those same opportunities are asked for by a woman, there’s a tendency to for people to say 'no.' For me it’s about surrounding myself with a team that believes in my abilities as an artist, and doesn’t see me as a woman, or a mom of four, or a girlfriend or anything like that.
BMD: You created lifelong friendships on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Are there other projects where you feel like you’ve found those connections or emotional bonds with other people?
Kramer: Absolutely! A good example is Greg Grunberg, who I did Big Ass Spider and Tales of Halloween with. When this project came to me I knew I wanted to bring him in. I knew he was someone who had a different skillset, different experiences, and was someone I could trust. It’s always great when you meet those type of people. If you look on my Instagram you see a lot of people from Buffy. You’ve got Julie, Charisma, Emma, Amber, even Summer, Eliza and all the other girls of the Whedonverse. We’ve really stuck together. And it’s not that we don’t like the boys, we love them, too! But the girls have formed a community that means more than just 'hey we’re actresses and we’re hanging out.' We’ve formed a support system amongst ourselves that is similar to the support system that the Whedon fans have created for themselves. It’s a very special community.
BMD: You’re working on Joyrider now, and you’ve found that first step into feature directing. Are you, career-wise, looking to stay on that path despite your other upcoming projects as an actress?
Kramer: I will always take an interesting acting role if one comes around, but I am definitely interested in transitioning half and half. It’s hard to put a percentage on it, but I am certainly going to use Joyrider as a catalyst to further my directing career.
BMD: Is there anything about the Joyrider project that can't be found online that you want people to know?
Kramer: That’s a really interesting question. Often times, when I’m describing the project, it sounds like it could potentially be like a Tony Robbins inspiration story, but it’s more than that. André’s a real person. He’s not someone who's flawless. He has flaws, he wears them on his sleeve, and that is more the tonality of the story. It’s not just meant to be inspirational.
BMD: I saw on your old Kickstarter that you guys actually mention that the accident happened because he was drunk. It's refreshing that you were so straightforward with that.
Kramer: Think about that! You and I make a mistake, or party too much and we lose our car keys or have a fight with a loved one. He lost his legs. That’s something that he has to deal with for the rest of his life, and he overcame it. Like I said, he’s not without flaws. That what makes it an organic and genuine story.