Where is She Now?

Chainletter Filmmakers:

The Underwater Chainletter

Fiona (Fingerface) (Saunders) Helmsley, Best Friends (also Princess and Lois on Joanie 4 Jackie 4Ever and The Silence of the Barettes on U-Matic Chainletter)
September 3, 2017

How did you find out about Joanie 4 Jackie and how old were you at the time?
Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill. We met her after a show at Gilman Street. My boyfriend at the time had recorded Bikini Kill playing and wanted to give them a copy of the tape. When we told Kathleen we also made short films, she said we should contact Miranda and gave us her address. I was 19.

What interested you about the project?
My boyfriend and I had a public access show, and had making been a bunch of short films with friends. (He was much more technologically savvy than I was, and still works in film.) I did a zine then, and the project seemed really similar to that: sending off something I had made to a person I didn’t know, but suspected I had something in common with, living in an unfamiliar destination. I also loved Kathleen Hanna, and since the project had her blessing, I was curious.

At the time you participated in Joanie 4 Jackie did you consider yourself a filmmaker? What was your relationship to making movies?
I considered myself a writer. My boyfriend at the time had been making short unscripted films for years, but the films we made together always had some kind of script (whether or not it was actually honored), or at least some loose idea of plot and theme. My magic is not spontaneous. My magic benefits from both forethought and planning.

Do you have any specific anecdotes or memories associated with your movie?
Associations I make with the movies: Silence of the Barettes (the spelling error was not intentional) was made in Berkeley; we were staying there at the time. Before the internet, writing letters was really important. So were classified ads in the back of magazines. It was how you made connections with people who shared your interests in the outside world. My boyfriend and I were really into punk rock, and most of the cast were people from bands we liked who we came into contact with through writing letters, trading zines, and buying records. Princess and Lois was filmed at my mom’s house. There is a scene in my old bedroom; you can see my posters on the wall. I think one of them is a Big Miss Moviola poster. The scene on the railroad tracks is down the street from my mother’s house, we had done a lot of the graffiti you see.

What did you think/feel about the Joanie 4 Jackie at the time? And now, in retrospect?
I thought it was awesome. I still think it’s awesome.

If you attended a screening, can you tell us where and when it was and anything else you remember about it?
Oh gosh, I’m pretty sure I went to more than one, but the one I remember most clearly was at CBGB. Maybe it was 1996? Miranda had set up a video camera in a little closet and there was a question people were supposed to answer and their answers were recorded, and played back to the audience. It was the first time I met Miranda. We had been writing letters back and forth. I still have some of them! I was about to move to New York City and she gave me a lot of advice about different things and people to look into. She was always really supportive. I had a crush on her for sure.

What institutions, groups, people, publications and movements were inspiring you at the time of your participation in J4J?
Punk rock and riot grrl. Maximumrocknroll was huge, in part, because of their classified ads. Erick Lyle did a great zine called SCAM (it’s actually still around–he just released a 25th anniversary issue.) I loved Film Threat magazine: In the 1990s, they were a great resource for learning about underground films. I was a big John Waters fan. I was also interested in the films Lydia Lunch was making with Richard Kern (though that influence might not be so obvious. I think the John Waters influence is pretty obvious).

What do you do now – professionally and otherwise? Are you still involved in filmmaking?
I am a writer. I’ve written two books. My second book Girls Gone Out just came out in August.

Anything you would like to see on the J4J site?
All of the movies. Maybe we could publish all our old letters to each other?