Where is She Now?

Chainletter Filmmakers:

The Velvet Chainletter

Tana J. Johnson, My Breasts Are My Children
May 2, 2018

How did you find out about Joanie 4 Jackie and how old were you at the time?
Oh gosh, in 1995 I would have been early 30s working on my graduate degree in arts education when I received Miranda’s invitation via THE MAIL (remember mail y’all!?) to submit my film to the first Big Miss Moviola Video Chainletter. I still remember opening this cool envelope and a small zine fell out, it knocked my socks off.

What interested you about the project?
I was very interested in participating in Miranda’s project because it was completely grassroots, inclusive, and women focused. What a radical idea! Joanie 4 Jackie shattered the gender gap and promoted women-made films. By creating and self-distributing VHS tapes to the makers themselves, we were who would screen and share them with their friends and communities. It flew in the face of traditional film festivals that cost $$, were exclusionary, and dominated by males.

At the time you participated in Joanie 4 Jackie did you consider yourself a filmmaker? What was your relationship to making movies?
My Breasts Are My Children was my first film in the film/video medium so I would have been a new filmmaker. It was appealing to me to think that women all over the country might see my work through The Velvet Chainletter. I was into experimental documentaries so was in charge of the idea, shooting, editing, sound design, the works. Not until I made my third film did I hire a cinematographer.

Do you have any specific anecdotes or memories associated with your movie?
I chose to interview as many different types of women I could find–women with implants and reductions, women battling cancer, queer women, straight women, women of color, women with body issues, women with sexual issues, etc. What remains quite poignant to me, is that my professor during this time, Christine Tamblyn, passed away from breast cancer just a few years after I finished the film. And I, myself, went through breast cancer 5 years ago. The topic is not far from mind on any given day.

What did you think/feel about the Joanie 4 Jackie at the time? And now, in retrospect?
At the time, Joanie 4 Jackie was a courageous effort to promote and distribute women-made films, a movement in the culture that helped many of us get our movies out to a broader audience. I have deep respect for Miranda’s vision and labor of love and am so grateful to have been included in the first movie chain letter.

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 at Artists Television Access in San Francisco. It rocked!

What institutions, groups, people, publications and movements were inspiring you at the time of your participation in J4J?
Artist Television Access, Bay Area Video Coalition, Film Arts Foundation, Southern Exposure (I ran the arts education program), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (also worked there for 10 years), SFFILM, Big Miss Moviola, MadCat Film Festival, New Langton Arts, The Lab, the entire Bay Area arts community was and still is super supportive of makers.

What do you do now – professionally and otherwise? Are you still involved in filmmaking?
I am currently writing a television series and starting an artist in studio series to help Bay Area artists build a diverse collector base. Also studying to become a yoga instructor. I have not made my own films lately but love writing and hope to continue.

Anything you would like to see on the J4J site?
Short curated highlight reels from each of the tapes.