February 12, 2017
How did you find out about Joanie 4 Jackie and how old were you at the time?
I don’t remember the details but I vaguely remember receiving an inquiry in the mail or by phone from a very nice stranger named Vanessa Renwick. She said she liked Transeltown and would it be okay if it were included in a video chainletter/distribution vehicle she and someone named Miranda July were putting together. I said hell yes. I think it was in the mid-90s which means I was in my late twenties/early thirties.
What interested you about the project?
What interested me about this project was that it was by, for, and about women and that it had an underground, DIY esthetic and ethos: the things I love and live by as a filmmaker. Plus Vanessa and Miranda were offering me a channel of distribution for Transeltown! Cinenova Distribution in the U.K. had already approached me to have Transeltown in their roster of films but I hadn’t gotten any formal distribution in the U.S. — other than in the wicked fun and welcoming LGBTQ festivals and community, which I so much appreciated and loved.
At the time you participated in Joanie 4 Jackie did you consider yourself a filmmaker? What was your relationship to making movies?
Hell yes I considered myself a filmmaker! I’d been making videos and films since 1988 on my own and through a couple of evening and summer classes. Then I went to NYU Graduate Film/TV School and got an MFA in 1994. I’ve always shot and edited (and written, directed, acted in and produced) a lot of my own work, and have been hired to shoot for others. I love making video and film. It’s like breathing for me. When I don’t do it, I’m sad. When I do it, I’m thrilled.
Do you have any specific anecdotes or memories associated with your movie?
Oh so many! One that stands out is this: I’d hired a cheap and nerdy Special FX make-up kid to create the smooth, no-genitalia Barbie look on Dina Emerson, the actress playing the role of Coitella in Transeltown. We were getting ready to shoot the scene where Pootie tries to revive and have sex with Coitella, who’s in a sort of pod state. We were shooting in a friend’s loft and suddenly I got a call from the Special FX guy that he couldn’t make it to the shoot. I was totally distraught; I needed that Barbie look on Coitella! Fortunately, my pal Shinichi Tanaka who was P.A.’ing on the shoot stepped in without hesitation and said “I do it.” He and Dina disappeared into the bathroom and when I would check in on them over the next hour or so, Dina was prostrate on the floor and Shinichi was happily applying layers of liquid latex from her mons to her perineum. It was a lovely sight.
What did you think/feel about the Joanie 4 Jackie at the time? And now, in retrospect?
I don’t think I had much thought or feeling about the Joanie 4 Jackie other than deep gratitude that these wonderful ladies were taking it upon themselves to distribute Transeltown.
In retrospect, I feel the same gratitude and also respect and admiration for Miranda for coming up with her novel, fun, generous idea of encouraging more girls and women to make media work, and getting that work seen and distributed.
What institutions, groups, people, publications and movements were inspiring you at the time of your participation in J4J?
At and around the mid-1990s, when J4J contacted me about Transeltown, some of what I was liking to watch and listen to and think about were Sadie Benning’s videos (especially It Wasn’t Love); the short films of David Kaplan (especially Little Red Riding Hood and Little Suck-a-Thumb); the work of actress Ruth Maleczech and Mabou Mines, the theater company she co-founded; Rap and Hip-Hop especially Public Enemy, Missy Elliot, Queen Latifah, Salt n Pepa, A Tribe Called Quest, and MC Lyte; and some of the Riot Grrrl movement and 3rd Wave Feminism; and the films of David Lynch, Claire Denis, Roman Polanski, and Agnes Varda.
What do you do now – professionally and otherwise? Are you still involved in filmmaking?
I’m still very much involved in filmmaking. I’ve co-founded and co-own two video production companies: Casa Madre Films (now defunct), and SLAP Agency, both located in Berkeley, CA. I teach undergraduate and graduate screenwriting at San Francisco State University. I write and direct and sometimes shoot my own films, i.e. digital videos. I’ve made many, many short-form and long-form pieces since Transeltown, including my feature Searching for Paradise which Sundance Institute supported with screenwriting and directing fellowships, many short films including Girls Night Out with Rosario Dawson, and my recent web series, Bad Muthaz. I’m a resident at the San Francisco Film Society’s FilmHouse with my psycho-horror feature screenplay, BITE, which is in development with producer Jonathan Shoemaker. I still love film and video: making it, viewing it, talking about it, reading about it, and teaching it.