Where is She Now?

Chainletter Filmmakers:

The M.I.A. Chainletter

Lara Odell, Diver (also Grandma Baba & Little Boris on Who Stole My Chainletter?)
March 26, 2013

How did you find out about Joanie 4 Jackie and how old were you at the time?
Sara Cooper, a friend and collaborator, had a CD from Kill Rock Stars, or K Records? I forget. It contained the Big Miss Moviola ad inside. She encouraged me to send in one of my videos. It was 1998 or so, so I was 27.

What interested you about the project?
The chainletter tape idea made me realize that there are women video artists and filmmakers scattered around the U.S. whose movies I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise. There seemed to be a lot of possibility. It felt empowering and exciting, the idea of a low-budget mix tape that wasn’t edited or curated, and was easily accessible to anyone who wanted to participate in the project.

At the time you participated in Joanie 4 Jackie did you consider yourself a filmmaker? What was your relationship to making movies?
I was an undergrad at The School of Art and Design at Alfred University, in Alfred, NY, studying video art and printmaking. I think I considered myself a video artist, or felt that I was on my way to becoming one. At Alfred we learned to treat video like a malleable material — that the video signal could be manipulated like paint, or clay. The materiality of it was emphasized rather than it’s narrative potential, although I was drawn to its narrative possibilities too. Back then I was experimenting with image processing, running both appropriated material and new material that I shot through the diverse and unique processing tools that Alfred had. There was also an emphasis on sound, and we were encouraged to build soundtracks with similar audio recording and processing tools at Alfred.

Do you have any specific anecdotes or memories associated with the project?
This is a personal anecdote and maybe not so interesting to this archive, but in retrospect I don’t know why I didn’t submit “Iris Pupil,” the movie I made with Sara Cooper, who introduced me to Big Miss Moviola. That video seemed more in line with the general feel of the Joanie 4 Jackie project. I think I wanted to submit something I made alone, which was “Diver,” which I think was possibly my first video. I had been inspired by Bill Viola’s “Reflecting Pool” for that one.

What did you think/feel about the Joanie 4 Jackie at the time? And now, in retrospect?
In some ways it doesn’t feel that long ago! But it was, in a sense, considering where I am in my life now, where my art is, and especially how technology has changed video and filmmaking and its distribution. I think I have the same feelings toward J4J then as I do now. It was a different context then, though, before YouTube and so much social media. I felt then — and now — that the idea behind J4J was “freeing” because it gave women filmmakers an opportunity to share their work/see other work in a context that wasn’t dictated by a professional art world. You didn’t have to compete to “get your work in.” J4J gave validity to the basic fact that you had the gumption to make a movie in the first place.

What do you do now – professionally and otherwise? Are you still involved in filmmaking?
I have a three year old, and I’m working as an artist and illustrator, making the occasional stop-motion animation.