“Our girls out in West Texas are tough.” "I don’t mind chopping off the heads of snakes; I will do that all day long.” So begins the newly released trailer for Miss Snake Charmer, the feature documentary about - you guessed it - a beauty pageant. Set in the town of Sweetwater, TX, the film marks the directing debut of Rachael Waxler. An editor at bicoastal Union since 2012, Waxler’s notable projects include Carl’s Jr (via 72 and Sunny), and the award-winning “Kate and Heather” Beauty Campaign for Walgreens, directed by Rachel Goldenberg, as well as Hilton Garden Inn, starring Judy Greer (both via GSD&M).

The film, which Waxler also edited, covers the true story of an annual beauty pageant held in Sweetwater, Texas. This is not just any beauty pageant: it is also the world’s largest rattlesnake roundup, in which the teen contestants must prove their bravery by killing, and skinning, a rattlesnake before showcasing their talents and evening wear. The winner then spends the weekend reigning over pits of live vipers. Waxler said the experience shattered many preconceived notions about life in a deeply red state: “We went out to shoot the story of this crazy pageant, but really tapped into the heart of the people of this town, their openness and warmth.”

Waxler, and her co-director, EmaLee Arroyo, grew up in Texas. They wanted to depict the strength of the women in their home state. Said Waxler, “The contest is about more than beauty and snakes: the girls are all competing for scholarship money and all of them are going to college to study engineering and communications. These are educated women.”

Getting to know each of the girls, Waxler saw a wide range of personalities. “There’s an outgoing, goofy girl who wants to go to New York and make her way in the big city,” she said. “Another is a beautiful, sensitive artist who doesn’t realize how special she is.” While Miss Snake Charmer is “not a political film or a message-y film,” Waxler noted, “those little indicators are there.” The filmmaker referred to a scene at a dress rehearsal, where the contestants talk about “The Wall.” “They were clearly repeating the talking points they hear at home. But at the same time, there’s so much potential for dialogue. I hope it comes across to people on all sides of issues as an appreciation and an illumination.”

Waxler’s commercial work spans high-profile campaigns for Ford (Team Detroit; Alex Gibney, director), and Diet Pepsi (TBWA\Chiat\Day; Tarsem, director), among others, and she acknowledged the influence of her prior collaborations in the field. “All the directors I’ve worked with have influenced me and helped me learn,” she observed. “Coming from the editorial side, I knew which scenes I wanted and where I wanted to go with the story.”

Ultimately, Waxler reasoned, “Different people will see different things. Some will see a fun, entertaining movie, while others will see a more delicately woven story about a town and its people.”

Miss Snake Charmer is gearing up for a festival season run. 

About Union
Union Editorial has offices in Los Angeles, New York, Austin, and London, where it maintains an alliance with Marshall Street Editors. The company also develops and produces original content, in partnership with Killer Content companies through its Union Entertainment Group banner. Other Union companies include Platform, a creative and advertising solution for the gaming industry; and Resolution, a visual effects boutique specializing in commercials, features and gaming.

Union is presided over by Partner/Managing Director Michael Raimondi in LA and Partner/Executive Producer Caryn Maclean in NY. The Union roster is comprised of Partner/Editors Jim Haygood, Einar, Jay Friedkin, Sloane Klevin, Marco Perez, and editors Christopher Huth, Nicholas Wayman-Harris, Rachael Waxler, Daniel Luna, Jason Lucas, Kevin Ray, Laura Milstein, Eric Argiro, Karen Kourtessis, Zach Kashkett, Andrew Doga, Paul Plew, Jinx Godfrey, Ben Longland and Nico Alba as well as select projects with Tim Thornton-Allen, Matt Chesse, John Mayes and the Marshall street roster.