Tulsa filmmaker Jason Connell’s latest documentary is “GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.” The film revisits the lives of female wrestlers of the 1980s and will air on the Logo/MTV channel in early February.
The year was 1986. President Ronald Reagan ruled the White House, while shows like “Growing Pains” and “Magnum P.I.” ruled the tubes. The Space Shuttle Challenger had a tragic demise, “Top Gun” and “Aliens” were box office hits, and a gallon of gas put you back 86 cents.
But there was something else brewing in 1986. The unique, unforgettable and completely bizarre phenomenon of female wrestling was gaining momentum with the introduction of “GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.”
The TV show featured beautiful women, crazy costumes, inventive characters and outlandish comedy sketches. Though most of the women weren’t wrestlers by trade, the show was a way for models and actresses to break into the industry.
“GLOW” lasted four seasons, filming at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, before it withered away into a few look-a-likes and spinoffs. Now, a Tulsa native has brought the ’80s phenomenon back into mainstream pop culture with a documentary of the same name.
Producer Jason Connell attended Edison High School, Tulsa Community College and Oklahoma State University before forming Connell
Creations in Tulsa in 1999. The company is now Los Angeles-based and is the recipient of numerous rewards.
Connell’s resume includes the documentaries “Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians,” “The Rock-afire Explosion,” (the story of the animatronic band of Showbiz Pizza Place — similar to Chuck E. Cheese’s) and “Strictly Background,” which is about movie extras. “GLOW” is the company’s latest project.
“Having produced six documentaries, the common thread is that you’re capturing a story about actual people and events,” Connell says. “Through the filmmaking experience, you often develop a bond with the subjects and that is by far the most gratifying aspect of each doc; ‘GLOW’ was no exception.”
So, what exactly is the appeal to this ’80s TV show? Connell explains: “In short, it was reality television before there was such a thing, complete with bright neons, bad hair, cheesy music and female wrestlers.”
And that is why it was such a phenomenon. The documentary revives many of the ’80s-famous wrestlers and profiles their current lives. Some had acting careers post-“GLOW,” some battled illness and others never tired of the fun. It is an emotional, beautiful walk down memory lane as well as a way for new generations to experience the curious marvel.
The film took home the prize of Best Documentary at the Comic-Con International Independent Film Festival in 2012. “GLOW” also was selected for various showings such as the Austin, Sidewalk and Newport Beach film festivals.
“After an incredible film festival run, we are currently winding things down and preparing for the film’s upcoming release,” says Connell of the documentary’s next steps.
“There are also things lining up internationally due to GLOW’s strong fan base.”
What is next for Connell? He remains involved with United Film Festival, which he founded here in Tulsa. The event has expanded into larger cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago and London, but recently celebrated its 10th year in Tulsa with what Connell calls its strongest lineup to date. He says he’s still developing documentaries and working to expand the United Films distributing division, which is more than 60 films strong.
Locations for the film’s theatrical release have not yet been announced. However, Connell brought “GLOW” to Tulsa’s Circle Cinema in October for an early screening and Q&A session. If Tulsa doesn’t make the formal theater list, viewers can still catch the film on iTunes and on DVD in March, as well as on the Logo/MTV channel in early February.
The ex-Tulsan also has advice for those who would like a taste of the filmmaking success he is experiencing.
“Learn your craft, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and surround yourself with other equally driven people,” he advises. “It’s not a race, so prepare yourself for a long, sustainable career over a short burst of fame.”