Warning: There are obviously SPOILERS ahead for First Match. So make sure that you have seen the Netflix drama before you read the below.
Olivia Newman knew that the conclusion to "First Match," her first feature film as a director, wasn’t working. The problem was that she had figured this out on the day that they were actually shooting the finale, a day that she told me was “the worst day of production” for her as a director.
“There were so many production hiccups,” she recalled to me over the phone. “The bus that we needed didn’t show up. It started to rain, so we had to find a cover set, which didn’t work. Then the sun was setting, we were running out of time. It was a nightmare. I knew the whole time that this wasn’t my ending. I couldn’t end the movie this way.”
In hindsight, since "First Match’s" conclusion was altered, she can look back at it as a “kind of a magical moment that happened.”
“We got given a pick-up day to shoot it all again,” Newman explained. “And in the time between I was able to edit together the rough cut, and I could see exactly what we needed. So I did a slight rewrite of that last scene.”
“I added in the moment where she gets back on the bus and then changes her mind and gets off. When we were shooting on the bus it would loop around the block and come back to the starting position so we could start shooting again.”
“But I told the DP to just keep on Elvire when we were going around the block, and as we were doing that I just started to do the team cheer from the film and everyone joined in spontaneously. Elvire was still fully in character, and she just started to join in.”
For Newman, this was the perfect way to leave Elvire’s character Monique. “We wanted to leave her in a place where we understood her heartbreak. But we also knew she was going to be OK, and there was hope.”
“That’s where I wanted to leave Daryl, too. Her giving him back the notebook, which represents all of his potential when he was at his peak. That was her most prized possession while he was away.”
“Her giving it back to him was a gesture that she doesn’t hold him on a pedestal anymore and is ready to live her own life. It also said to Daryl this is who you are and this is who you could be again. It was a gift to him and a reminder to him of all that is wonderful and great about him.”
But what about that original ending?
“The original ending wasn’t so different. She didn’t actually get on the bus. She starts to walk away from him, changes her mind, and goes back.”
“But I like that she actually sits on the bus. Because I wanted this moment where she thought she was done, but there has to be something that pulls her back. She can’t just walk away from him. She has to actually look at him and say goodbye. For me that showed a real maturity from her.”
“I also had a shot of her staring directing in the camera as she was about to take part in another wrestling match. To show the audience that she was now ready for anything. But that didn’t feel necessary.”
“Because her being back with the boys, at least when I was watching, I felt like she was going to be OK, and that was all I needed.”