director of "Joanie 4 Jackie: A Quick Overview"; J4J retrospective curator/assistant for "The Way That We Rhyme" at YBCA
May 15, 2013
How did you find out about Joanie 4 Jackie and how old were you at the time?
When I was 18, in 2001, I went to film school at New York University. While I was, for the most part, inspired by my curriculum, I felt a lack of women made films and female protagonists. I would eventually meet other students who shared similar frustrations and hopes and we made some cool and always sort of awful student films together but as a freshman, J4J was a big “aha!” discovery. I would conduct these very rudimentary internet searches with search-words like “woman”, “filmmaker”, “independent”, “punk”, “riot,” etc. and it didn’t take long for Joanie4Jackie to pop up because it was truly one of the only things out there filling the void. Miranda’s call to action blew my mind. I was so excited she was out there — that the chainletters were out there — and by proxy, all these other women were out there making things!
What interested you about the project?
At 18, in my school’s computer lab, I was drawn to J4J more as an idea and a philosophy to live by. Miranda’s language, her beautiful rally cries, the community she had fostered, and the DIY willfulness of it all comforted me. When I was a little older, and started working with Miranda, and was tasked to archive and document the project, I came to appreciate it on a much bigger level. Joanie for Jackie defined a moment in time before the internet took over when an access-way to art made on the margins had to be created and shared person to person. Like zines, the chainletter tapes were this physical proof of a network and community just finding itself and solidifying. And J4J dared to suggest that as filmmakers, women didn’t need to rely on the mainstream system that hadn’t warmly welcomed us for so long. We could exist outside of it. We could shift the power to us. Also, the films themselves were always interesting, bold, and from so many different voices. The work itself was really the most interesting.
At the time you participated in Joanie 4 Jackie did you consider yourself a filmmaker? What was your relationship to making movies?
Yes. I was just starting to make films, and now, 12 years later, I’d still consider myself a beginner in many ways. I was and am more of a writer than a shooter. But going through all these pages and remembering the project is getting me inspired to go make something right now!
Do you have any specific anecdotes or memories associated with the project?
My favorite memory is erecting the retrospective of the project at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. It was so rewarding to get to share the films and ephemera anew with a different generation and a larger group of art lovers. I also will never forget watching sooo many hours of lady-made cinema in my dark little cave of a studio by myself and wishing so much I could time travel and be there when each film was made and meet the filmmakers responsible for so much inventiveness.
I also cherish getting to discuss the history and intent of the project with Miranda while we were preparing the exhibit and making the documentary. She wanted so much for this project and for the women involved and for her own artistic journey. Her passion and vision continue to inspire me.
What did you think/feel about the Joanie 4 Jackie at the time? And now, in retrospect?
I think at the time, J4J was absolutely necessary and a revolutionary, loving, and positive way to unify what felt like a very disparate group of artists (from all over the USA) who needed recognition, support and community.
It’s hard to know whether something like J4J is still needed now. We all have so much more access to distribution, so many more ways to find each other. I know even with everything the internet has to offer, that I still feel isolated sometimes as a woman filmmaker and still yearn to find others like me and build a stronger community of support. I work in Hollywood, and I don’t have an answer anymore, or I have a very complicated, personal answer, as to whether I think platforms like J4J, where women artists are unified as something separate from our male counterparts, are what we need anymore. I do feel even within the system, where women are still a minority, that gender power dynamics are shifting, equalizing, though slowly. I wish they would speed up. I so admire those independent and experimental filmmakers who work outside the system rather than bend or change to fit into its very rigid and often close-minded ideas of art and entertainment. I am working professionally from within that mainstream trying to broaden its scope from the inside and… it’s hard. Sometimes, I hope we are moving toward a time where we are no longer classified by our gender because while it can gather us and bolster our efforts, it can also be manipulated as a means to limit us. And at the same time, I appreciate the differences in tone and language and message in art made by women and I think such differences should be valued and discussed and encouraged.
What institutions, groups, people, publications and movements were inspiring you at the time of your participation in J4J?
In college — Sleater Kinney, le Tigre, Elisabeth Subrin, my gender studies classes, this one cinema studies teacher I had who showed us a lot of sexploitation movies and films with radical female characters from the 60s. Sunita Prasad and Sharon Mashihi who were the ones I found at film school who made me feel less alone.
Working on the YBCA show — All the filmmakers completely inspired me and many continue to do so. It’s such a crazy roster of talent and vision. And of course, Miranda July. The Echo Park Film Center which is the closest thing to the J4J spirit of community-building in filmmaking that I’ve been a part of while living in LA.
What do you do now – professionally and otherwise? Are you still involved in filmmaking?
I’m a comedy writer on a sitcom. I perform stories. I work as a non-profit administrator on my free time. I need to make more movies. I’m going to put some film in my super 8 right now.
Anything you would like to see on the J4J site?
A community board and calendar in the spirit of the original project, advertising events, web projects, screenings, filmmakers we should know about, films, and other art so that we can continue to network with each other and learn from each other.