Where is She Now?

Chainletter Filmmakers:

The Velvet Chainletter

Mary Billyou, Women’s Punk Art Making Party (also Horsegirl on Me and my Chainletter and Flow on The Cherry Cherry Chainletter)
February 24, 2016

How did you find out about Joanie 4 Jackie and how old were you at the time?
I found out about Big Miss Moviola aka Joanie 4 Jackie through my photographer friend Cynthia Connelly in Washington, DC. I figure she must have picked up the flyer (it was a quarter-page black & white xerox) through other friends, probably at the Dischord House where she lived. I have heard that Bikini Kill had been handing them out at shows and they were living in DC at the time too. I believe I was about 25 years old.

What interested you about the project?
After considering the endeavor closely, I realized that this was exactly what I had been looking for – distribution of some kind, aligned with a politics and an audience I believed in. I had been researching other organizations, but they all seemed such remote possibilities for me (these were New Day Films and Women Make Movies). I hadn’t actually shown my work in the first place to a wide audience of any kind, so the idea of distribution was secondary anyway. I had been used to very small group situations like Riot Grrrl meetings and small screenings like I AM EYE, and installations at the Washington Project for the Arts, i.e. mostly one-time-only screenings at non-profit or alternative spaces DC. Word of mouth kind of things. So Joanie 4 Jackie/Big Miss Movioloa seemed to dovetail easily into what I had been doing anyway, in that I could imagine the audience as being like the one that I already was in, except across the United States. The xeroxed handout offer was something I was used to, similar to invitations to punk shows at houses, which were handed out at punk shows at clubs. It appeared to be a network, similar to Riot Grrrl letter writing activities, in which individual, seemingly isolated young women wrote to us (another imagined audience) at a post office box number. We read these letters aloud to each other in meetings, and then dispersed them to be responded to by each of us at a later time. There is always people like Andy Defrancesco that one can trust when it comes to running and managing anything.

At the time you participated in Joanie 4 Jackie did you consider yourself a filmmaker? What was your relationship to making movies?
Yes I did consider myself a filmmaker. I had made two films or was in the process of making my second film. I also was working as a camera assistant on commercial productions. I was a projectionist too and later I worked at a video rental store.

Do you have any specific anecdotes or memories associated with your movie? 
Well I have so many associations with Womens’ Punk Art Making Party. There has been a lot of interest in it throughout my career. It started from a similar situation of a flyer that announced the event (although I personally knew many of the women involved), and it directed us to bring whatever art supplies we had, and I brought my videocamera.

Also, I’d like to dedicate it to Dara Greenwald, who added such a wonderful section to it (Puppet Girl), and who I continued to be close friends with under different circumstances and in different cities (Chicago, New York) until her recent death from cancer.

It was a very exciting time for me and for the other women involved, there was a lot of emotion going around, along with inspiration and upset.

I’ve made other videos using the materials from that original piece as well, so it has certainly been a generative piece for me.

What did you think/feel about the Joanie 4 Jackie at the time? And now, in retrospect?
I was proud to be a part of it and I continue to be so. I tell colleagues about it sometimes and if they don’t know about it then they’re usually super interested. I’m also friends with other filmmakers and writers through being associated with it. I’m glad that it has taken place and its one of those things where you say to yourself, “Of course! This should be.” I also liked the project’s reference to Coppola’s comment about girls with video cameras and how there would be a revolution because of this technology. That had inspired me as well. I always felt aligned with the spirit of the project.

If you attended a screening, can you tell us where and when it was and anything else you remember about it?
I attended a screening in Washington, DC ages ago downtown, in Chinatown. I don’t remember that much about it, except that I introduced myself to Miranda and I think she seemed a bit overwhelmed because she had just performed, so I left. I had wished that I had more time to talk with her however, but I didn’t know exactly how to go about it, as I didn’t know where she was staying etc. and I felt really insecure at that time anyway so it was a big effort for me to go to the event in the first place, even though my work was screening and I went with a friend.

What institutions, groups, people, publications and movements were inspiring you at the time of your participation in J4J?
Riot Grrrl, Dischord, the Pirate House, Slant 6, Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hannah, Joe Lally, Femme Flicke, New German Cinema, Kaja Silverman, Constance Penley, Feminism and Film Theory, The Beehive Collective, soul food, vegetarianism, veganism, intentional communities, zines, records, record shops, punk flea markets, thrift stores, old cars, Cynthia Connelly’s photographs, Dick Hebdidge and Stuart Hall’s book “Resistance Through Rituals,” Dick Hebdige’s book “Subculture,” pixelvision, Sadie Benning, Meltdown, The Boredoms, Ian Svenonius

What do you do now – professionally and otherwise? Are you still involved in filmmaking?
I teach filmmaking, write for the blog Screen Slate and other publications on digital media and practice. I’m finishing a series of five short 16mm films, for which I received funding for from The Jerome Foundation, NYSCA, and Outpost. I am an independent curator/programmer and I do work for hire for other artists and institutions (Anne Wilson, Martha Rosler, Marie Losier, Redmond Entwistle, Robin Rhodes, The Drawing Center, Art in General). I’ve collaborated with videomaker Sabine Gruffat on a Riot Grrrl-inspired performance project called The Free Translators.