OUTCAST E1: JOAN SUMMERS FOR OUTSIDER

BY: ZANAB J.S. 

EDITED: FIZZA JOFFREY

ZANAB: [00:00:01] So before we get started, could I possibly just ask how these past few weeks have been for you and just how you're doing overall? 

 

JOAN: [00:00:11] Oh my goodness. So I'm doing great today specifically. It's like my day off from work so I'm just kind of like sitting around the house drinking way too much coffee. The last couple weeks have been pretty crazy. I graduated college--I was going to say two weeks ago and I think it's been three. Oh my god. I'm losing track of time this year. I graduated college and the release of sisterhood kind of coincided with that. It was my thesis film and so the last month of my life has literally just been me locked away in a dark room just kind of like hammering and hammering away at it until it was like at a place where I was comfortable releasing it online. And premiering it on like a giant you know theater screen in San Francisco. It kind of had to work for both formats like you had to look good for a theater but then it also had to look good on people's computer screen. Oh my gosh that dark room man. I was in there must have been for like two weeks straight at the end of the semester and then I finally released sisterhood. It was a huge crowd. It was in a program with some of the other thesis films, and I set up this like huge premiere at a local theater. And I got them to, you know, give us some tickets for all of our cast and crew and the general public. So it was a really cool experience to get to kind of watch a theater full of people see your work. 

 

[00:01:34] And then coming immediately off of that I graduated and then everything was kind of over. So I've been kind of in a fugue state for the last like a week and a half not really having anything to do and just waiting kind of for the release of sisterhood to roll out in a couple of interviews I gave to come out on line and just stuff like that. So it's been weird having everything be crazy and busy and then really slow and so I'm just kind of trying to readjust to being a civilian again. 

 

ZANAB: [00:02:04] So I know you just mentioned that this was your thesis final project; was this the first time that you had released a film on such a large scale? 

 

JOAN: [00:02:12] Yeah completely. I always dreamt of doing something this big--and I mean I say this big--and it's really just you know I gave a couple interviews and some people showed it on their websites and then we got to show it to the theater. I mean on the scale of filmmaking it's a pretty small release. But for a student filmmaker I feel like I still kind of took this short pretty far. And so I dreamed of it being this day in the little scale of what we're talking about. 

 

[00:02:40] But I never expected the reception to be so positive. And I feel like growing up on the Internet we are all super connected and so we're constantly meeting people and making connections with people who will someday go onto become the writers and editors and working at various publications. And so I felt like it was kind of an easy transition to make it my first time. I definitely had to send out a lot of emails and really write behind the scenes to get as much press as we have. But it was also kind of easy in the Internet age because all the people I was e-mailing were people I've been online with since like live journal, you know back in 2007 or something. So it's was kind of like "hey you work at Nylon now and I made a movie. And let's talk." So yeah. I never dreamed it would be this big but I'm super super proud of where it stands so far. 

 

ZANAB: [00:03:35] Can you talk a little bit about the origins of this film for someone who might just be tuning in just now? 

 

JOAN: [00:03:42] Yeah. So I want to say that I had some huge grand plan for SISTERHOOD and that I've been dreaming of this concept for a hundred years--but I haven't. It kind of came to me really last minute; I applied for the thesis program at my school, there's only about 12 slots and about 150 people applt from within our program. And so I didn't really think I was going to get in. I knew I had a good pitch and I knew I gave a good application and I really hammered away at getting my professors to, you know, submit recommendations and stuff. 

 

[00:04:20] And so when I did get into the class, you kind of get a summer to think about what you're going to do. And I had just moved into a new apartment, I was living on my own. And one night I think I like saw a video on Twitter of The Hills and I just started watching all of The Hills that summer. This was summer of 2016 and it was like super late one night and admittedly I had totally smoked a bowl of weed, gone through some wine and I thought to myself; "this is so interesting. 

 

[00:04:50] If you think about where the hills sits within kind of television and media history, it was the first time on such a large scale people kind of faked a documentary about themselves as a bunch of girls and girls living in a city. And the events happening to them might have been scripted but they were real people. 

 

[00:05:12] And so I started thinking one night, "like that is so interesting and so much more layered than we give it credit for because these girls kind of just got to live their lives and stage an entire television series about themselves." They didn't have to play characters. I mean, they definitely got to play up certain characteristics about themselves but they weren't made up people. They were real people and the consequences within the show really affected them and the things that were happening to them were actually happening to them, but definitely into a controlled environment. And so I had about two three weeks left until the start of the semester last year and I thought why don't I just make a movie about me and my friends because we had such a crazy year last year. All of us moved and there was significant life events happening. Deaths in families, people leaving families, people getting kicked out of homes...moving to new states starting new lives. Just like every kind of significant 20 something year old event that happened to us last year and so I thought "why not just make a movie about that?" And we could just play ourselves and kind of stage the events of our lives based on reality. 

 

JOAN:[00:06:25] And so sisterhood was born. I kind of have a steel trap memory and I remember things that my friends have said to me and all I have said to them. So a lot of the dialogue was actually like real conversations which definitely played out for a camera. But yeah it just was like one night I was watching The Hills, really what it comes down to, and I said to myself "I want to do this." But it definitely, you know, my own aesthetic and my own taste level. 

 

ZANAB: [00:06:53] And so when you were looking to make this film what were some of the hurdles that you immediately came across?

 

JOAN: [00:07:00] Oh my gosh this is such a good question. I love this question because there were a lot. 

 

[00:07:06] Going into my program--I was one of two women in the 14 people program--and I was the first trans woman to ever be in the program. And so immediately out of the gate I was already kind of at a disadvantage amongst my peers because the majority of them are straight and male and so, you know, going into the program and going into the class structure and critiques and stuff; just at that level I encountered a huge amount of resistance from my classmates and professors because everyone kind of told me that this was a movie that wasn't going to work and that...no one wanted to see this movie. And it was kind of hard at first because I knew people wanted to see this movie. I'm not an isolated case. I know, usually, when it comes to my tastes, if there's something that I enjoy there's probably a lot of other people out there that also enjoy the same thing. And so I was like "no, there's already an audience for this. It's just not in a class of filmmakers who are all men at a state school." It's online. It's teenagers. It's these queer teenagers on the Internet consuming media primarily through the Internet. That's my audience, not these people I'm in class with. And so having to overcome that initial criticism was a huge step for me in making the movie. But then on top of that funding was a huge issue. 

 

[00:08:30] I don't come from any amount of money. I didn't really have any family members to ask money from. A lot of kids in my program come from money. And so a lot of them, you know, just got like three or four grand from their parents and made their movies with that. And you know I didn't have that luxury and so I went into it thinking I was going to make a movie for $10. And turns out I made a movie for almost $7000 because I had this crazy idea one night to do a real press release, sort of, for a Kickstarter. And I was like "What is the most professional, cool looking Kickstarter I can make." And so I drafted up new fonts. I even got down to nitty gritty like making gifs that we could post on tumblr with links to the Kickstarter. I made a really cool Kickstarter video for anyone who wants to see it. It's just SISTERHOOD Kickstarter. If you google it it's the first result. And so I kind of put a lot of work into that Kickstarter and I tried to make it as aesthetically pleasing as possible. And once that hurdle was over and the funding started coming in, it was crazy. We thought we were going to hit our goal $5000 but once we saw that you know we were twenty seven hundred dollars over that. I just couldn't believe that. But definitely like the criticism from my peers and the funding were the first huge hurdles to overcome and they were big ones. Maybe they downplayed it a little bit but my program really didn't want me to make this movie. 

 

ZANAB: [00:09:59] So this is probably just my naivety talking but it's still so difficult for me to understand why your program was so reluctant to let you make this film. 

 

JOAN: [00:10:11] Yes, so what it started out as is, I came into class with this script and this script that I came in with was not the movie that ended up being edited together because I knew how I wanted to edit the movie and I knew how I was going to structure the movie in post-production because that's really where movies get made. But the script couldn't look like that because of how cyclical and how looping back and playing and on itself the movie was. So the script was each of the scenes in the movie just kind of play out very linearly, and there's no cross-cutting. And so in the script it's these 5 very isolated vignettes and a lot of the jokes and a lot of the humor and the storytelling was based not just in trans womanhood but in the way that me and the community around me talks. And so there's like jokes that I think didn't land amongst my peers because they probably have just never hung around the gay community or the queer community at all. And so jokes, like for instance my favorite - there's a line in the movie where one of the characters says maybe you shouldn't do anal on the first date. That's something I've probably said to like five or six of my friends probably in the last like three weeks right. But the guys in my class had never heard anyone talk like that before. And so they were like that's so vulgar, that's so disgusting, why would you have that in your movie. Or I would say it was about trans women, but I wanted to not - I didn't want their trans-ness to be in the movie. 

 

[00:11:42] It was just them as people and they were trans in their trans-ness was motivating the plot but it wasn't the plot. It wasn't a coming out story. And they had trouble with that too. They didn't want me to just make a movie about trans women if they thought it needed to be something else, it needed to be them coming out or them struggling against something or them, you know, fighting to be recognized as people, and I was like we've already made that movie a thousand times. That movie is not interesting anymore, the conversation has moved on. You know, trans women aren't - young trans women aren't just sitting around talking about coming out. We're talking about destroying concepts of gender, what gender actually means, where womanhood and trans-ness intersect in everyday lives, thinking beyond just coming out. And so you know people had a hard time coming to grasp with that. And I think a lot of trans misogyny kind of showed in the criticism. Latent, obviously, nothing super overt, but just kind of threaded throughout all their comments was just you know, me recognizing that they literally had no idea what trans women were really like or just you know the gay community as all because in San Francisco gay community and the trans community are basically one and the same just because of how close they've come up. And so yeah you know it just goes to show that they were living in very isolated environments. 

 

ZANAB: [00:13:05] So that would actually bring me to my next question. Can you talk a little bit about your cast and how you got to know Rashida Renee and Lotus Lopez and just what they're like as actors, and as people. 

 

JOAN: [00:13:20] So, I know Rashida from Tumblr. We both kind of ran in similar circles on Tumblr. And last year, I actually was friends with another person and through a crazy set of like coincidences, Rashida and I crossed paths one night and we just hit it off; we started talking afterwards - texting, messaging on tumblr, and then I found out you know she was local and we started hanging out more. And it was really just kind of an organic thing. We always joked that the circumstances around us meeting were so interesting and coincidental, it was just like, you knew this person and we're here at the right time and I was there at the right time and that kind of thing, and so we started hanging out a lot and she's super super talented, super into fashion, super knowledgeable about pretty much everything. And her taste is beyond, and so, I always joked you know, Rashida I'm going to make a movie with you some day because I feel like you are such a talent and like such a force to be reckoned with. And so whatever I did I kind of wanted Rashida to be the focal point and she had always said you know she wanted to dabble in acting. She's really into fashion and modeling and that was kind of the one thing she had never done. And so a lot of our early conversations were just let's make a movie like what movie could we make. And I bounced around a couple of ideas and none of them really seemed to be the project for this time around. 

 

[00:14:50] So when I landed on sisterhood I kind of went to her one night, actually I think it was like, it must have been pride last year when everyone stayed at my apartment for like the entire pride week, it was such a fun time. And I think one night we were drunk and I was like let's just make a movie about ourselves let's just do that, it's going to be so cool and that's obviously what we did. And then Lotus, the other main character in the movie, is friends with Rashida, best friends with Rashida, and I just met Lotus through Rashida and she was super into art and fashion and she's amazing at makeup. And so originally before we casted her I knew I wanted to fly her out to do makeup because she is probably the best makeup artist I know, and she's so smart about just creating these extravagant, cool, interesting, forward-thinking looks for people, and I was like, I want you to be a part of this somehow. And then we casted a couple different people for her position. They all kind of fell through, didn't work out. We actually casted one girl and she ended up being a racist. And this was totally unbeknownst to everyone. But on Instagram she said something awful and Lotus actually caught it because it was on her feed, and texted me and said oh my God. And I was like oh. So I fired that girl. And then we had this blank spot because obviously I was like no questions asked, I don't care about your reasoning, you're fired. Not having you in my movie. So then we are like Oh God. 

 

[00:16:21] We're filming in like three, four weeks and we don't have this person. And so I went to Lotus one night and I was like Lotus, I will buy you a plane ticket if you are comfortable being in the movie. And so she said yes. And then yeah - they were all in my movie. And then I wasn't ever supposed to be in it. I wanted to find someone to play me because I'm kind of shy and I like performing but I was like, I just want to make a movie, I don't want to be in my movie. I didn't want this movie to be about me so to speak, because you know we have enough movies about like quirky white women fronting them. We didn't need another one. And so once I did get involved I was like, making myself the supporting character - I cut a lot of my lines, gave them to the other girls because even though obviously I was the filmmaker and these were kind of filtered through my experiences, I didn't want to the face of this movie whatsoever. And so yeah, Rashida kind of organically became our lead. And then Lotus and her had such great chemistry and already just as good friends they are, they kind of became our main characters and then I was just kind of there. 

 

ZANAB: [00:17:27] You mentioned both you and Rashida are really interested in fashion and Lotus is really into make-up. Did you have someone style you for the film, or were you kind of just allowed to wear whatever you wanted. Was that a bigger conversation that you had while making the film? 

 

JOAN: [00:17:43] So me and Rashida kind of have a mantra, and usually when we're putting outfits together, it's I want to wear the stupidest clothes possible because I definitely believe in the purity of fashion. I think fashion exists in its own world and obviously it's threaded through our everyday lives but I definitely believe in that very 90s mantra of fashion that more is more. And so usually in my own personal taste, I'm like, overdressed for the occasion and Rashida is the same way. And so when we were putting together the movie and we were putting together, kind of the look book for the movie, I was like, no matter what we wear it has to be over the top and then over the top of that because this is like our one chance, kind of, you know, and I will not lie. It's kind of a vanity project. I wanted all of us to be as fully glam as possible because as people who really never get represented on screen, I kind of wanted it to be our chance to kind of just make ourselves over completely and our truest selves kind of, be what is on screen and normally in film, that's strip women bare, make them go bare-faced, no hair no make up boring clothes. But for me I was like, I want us to just give my actresses the freedom of expression completely. And if they don't want to wear something, they don't have to wear it and if they're in love with something, then they're going to wear it. And obviously Rashida is a super amazing stylist and so she kind of touched on every outfit. 

 

[00:19:17] She would say oh you need a choker with that or let's put a leather jacket over that or Lotus, let's use the bomber but let's do it off the shoulder, kind of having that moment instead of just zipping it up all the way and let's do your hair up instead of leaving it down. Stuff like that. So Rashida kind of touched every single outfit but the outfits themselves were something where I gave everyone kind of complete freedom and said, here's kind of the look and you can kind of just figure out what you want to wear. I will buy the clothes, I will you know supply all of that. But you know if you see a dress and you're like that's my dress, then that's your dress and I'm not going to be one to tell you not to. So it was really like a collaborative experience. We all kind of pitched in here and there. And obviously as the director I looked at all of it and was like, good. But I didn't really have to critique or, you know edit anything down because going in everyone had such good taste. 

 

ZANAB: [00:20:13]I recently came across a comment that was made about you I think it was in your hungry TV interview - one of your film professors referred to you as the Elle Woods of film school. Can you possibly explain what that means, a little bit. 

 

JOAN: [00:20:29] [Laughing] Yes so. So the professor in question. Her name is Pat Jackson. She's a really brilliant sound editor. She's won Oscars and Emmys and really great. She is kind of the figure head of the program. And going into the semester I had always joked that I wanted my life to be like Legally Blonde or Funny Girl because Elle Woods and Fanny Brice were kind of my icons growing up. They were these two women - Fanny Brice being from Funny Girl, Elle Woods being from Legally Blonde, for listeners who don't know - and there are just these women who kind of were their own creatures in worlds where everyone wanted them to be one thing and they wanted to be something completely different, and they went into these structures and kind of did their own thing but still succeeded at it. You know, Elle Woods kind of goes to Harvard and she is wearing you know Juicy Couture and Prada to class and everyone else around her is wearing you know, pumps and twill and all this other stuff. 

 

[00:21:31] And then on top of that, she doesn't give up her interest in fashion and beauty and art, to be a good lawyer. She can be both of those things at once and so in film school I definitely stuck out like a sore thumb because I would come to class in extravagant outfits and I would do fashion on the side and I would be giving all these different interviews and working in my own little sphere. And then I was also in film school and I was like, I want to do both and everyone said, not really you don't really fit in here. 

 

[00:22:03] And so in class one day when Professor joked, she said you know you really are the Elle Woods of film school and she probably in that moment was meaning it little bit backhandedly because I definitely did my own thing this semester and probably didn't turn in like half of my assignments - but it was because I was like I know what I want to do and what y'all are doing is not the wave. And so I'm going to do my own thing and I'm gonna be good at it, and the rest of you can just keep on doing what you're doing. And so I definitely was always kind of like fighting the current you know, that little salmon swimming upstream. But, I mean you know, out of all the films in my program, out of all the criticism I received, my movie is the only one doing anything outside of it. So you know, I guess I knew what I was doing in some respect. 

 

ZANAB: [00:22:52] I think it's safe to say that you definitely knew what you were doing. You mentioned that you had grown up in a smallish town in California and there was at least somewhat of a culture gap. Can you describe what it was like growing up in that kind of environment and how you developed this immense love for film and for art and such a larger than life industry. 

 

JOAN: [00:23:16] Yeah! So I'm from - most people will not know where it is - it's the south Santa Clara County, kind of the valley, a little bit. And California is very very big. And aside from L.A., San Francisco, and maybe the Bay Area, most people kind of live in the middle of nowhere. And so I'm from one of those middle of nowhere places - there's like 30 miles of farmlands on every side and mountains, and it's really secluded and you can smell cow manure, and it's the garlic capital of the world so you can always smell cow manure and garlic like wherever you are in town. Very disgusting. And so growing up, I was always kind of immediately pegged as an other because I was very visibly gender nonconforming. And in a world kind of pre trans women that was kind of labeled as gay or you know, other things that I won't say here, but I was always kind of immediately labeled as that and I was always an outcast everywhere I went from a very young age, even in like preschool kindergarten etc. I was not allowed to hang out with other kids. I didn't have very many friends because you know I wanted to be one thing and I knew who I wanted to be and that was not what everyone else wanted it to be. Parents and stuff included. And so I lived a very isolated childhood. And I also, you know growing up in the digital age, the Internet kind of followed me throughout my childhood. I think I discovered the internet at like nine and it was probably Neopets. 

 

[00:24:55] But after that, excuse me, it was LiveJournal and forums and anime and all of these people talking about things that they loved. And you know, I definitely was like the 11 year old in the live journal group full of 18 year olds. But it definitely kind of gave me an awareness of the world around me because there was no culture at home. There was no sense of art, there was no sense of fashion or love of film anywhere around me. And so once I got a whiff of kind of the outside world I was like yes that's it. 

 

[00:25:30] That's what I want and so I'm a very obsessive person, and I just obsessed over the entirety of film canon, art canon, fashion canon etc what have you. And you know, I was 12 years old looking up Gianni Versace fall winter 1999 fashion shows on my little computer that we had in the living room and my parents were like, why are you looking at all that stuff, or you know, illegally downloading anime, or the entirety of, you know, John Waters' filmography - very young. And that was kind of my only solace, that was the way that I expressed myself because I had no one to express myself to and I didn't really have anyone around me who fit in with me so to speak, or who I fit in with at all. 

 

[00:26:15] I kind of had to create my own little world in my sanctuary. And most of that was through film and fashion. 

 

ZANAB: [00:26:22] You had mentioned a little earlier that people were struggling immensely with, kind of understanding why this film about three trans girls wasn't inherently about just the struggle, and you had mentioned that it was important to you to make a film about three girls just kind of living their lives and, you know, experiencing their 20s together et cetera and not having violence be the focal point of the film…a lot of people really weren't understanding that. And the parts of the movie where you do confront violence, can you talk about what that was like for you, what it was like for you and your cast to film those moments and produce those parts? 

 

JOAN: [00:27:07] Yes so it was kind of, it was hard, because I was brutalized last year, I was, you know, attacked on the street and it was, you know, a trans-misogynistic attack. The person who, you know, attacked me was very blatant about that. And it was kind of in a string of events that happened over a few months and I never - it's kind of sad and a little bit, you know, looking back - but I never really addressed that with my crew and with my other cast members the way I think I should have. But it definitely was the reason why I wrote that in, I wanted to kind of have that moment for myself where I was posthumously I guess you know, going through it again so I could kind of move on, because it really affected me last year. 

 

[00:27:58] I stopped going out as much. I stopped being as social as I once was. I really didn't go out dancing anymore. I stayed inside for a huge majority of the last year. And so when I did, come time to make the movie, I was like, I want that to be in the movie but I don't want to show violence because there is so much out there and readily available for people to consume. 

 

[00:28:22] And I just didn't really want to enter that into any sort of canon or into any sort of atmosphere around me because images of brutalized trans women are so readily available on the internet. 

 

[00:28:37] I mean there was, you know - at the beginning of this year I couldn't get on Twitter without seeing the bloody face of mostly black trans women and so to make a movie and then to address violence, I was like first and foremost, I don't want the violence to be the center of it. I want it to be more about what happens next and how people deal with it, rather than just having to deal with it. So having to film that scene it was really hard. It was the first scene that we filmed of the movie and it definitely affected, I think, how it played out because we were still kind of figuring out each other on screen. We were getting into the flow of things and so, you know I'm bursting into tears halfway through the scene and we're having to start and stop and start over. So yeah it was hard. 

 

[00:29:27] And I don't really think my cast members ever really understood that that was something that had happened to me, and I had stayed really private about it. I think only really one person knew because I was ashamed. 

 

[00:29:39] You know, I'm such an outgoing strong quote unquote person. And for me to just have such a weakness about being social and after this attack I was really ashamed. And so I didn't really address it but I kind of used the movie to move past it. And so yeah it was hard. It was weird. It was interesting but worth it I guess because I have moved on. I have definitely resumed my old ways of going out every weekend and what have you so yeah, I hope that answered your question I'm sorry. 

 

ZANAB: [00:30:15] No absolutely. I think that totally answers my question. It reminds me of what you said earlier that people were struggling to kind of comprehend why it wasn't a fight story, why it wasn't a coming out story and why violence wasn't the focal point. Whereas you had made, violence kind of just, a part of life among other things rather than just the only focus in the story. 

 

JOAN: [00:30:42] - And going on that, also, just about how I wanted trans women to be shown on screen. There's only really one other movie that tackles trans-ness in any incisive way and it's Tangerine. I don't want to cite it as kind of a touchstone because I think even in the wake of that we still have a ton of work to do towards like, accurately representing and allowing trans stories to be told. But it definitely was like the first movie we saw where trans women were allowed to be more than that and beyond just their experiences but a center point of that movie is violence, and is this very brutal reality and so kind of in reaction to that, I wanted to provide a counterpoint to what Tangerine did and I wanted the conversations to be mostly frivolous and fun and lighthearted. And obviously if you rewatch the movie you can kind of sense there is darker and harder things going on than what's on screen. 

 

[00:31:50] But I wanted the movie to just be about people living their lives. I love slice of life films. I think it's why as a society we are so obsessed with people vlogging, just watching people live is a huge source of fascination for us. And so I kind of wanted to tackle that a little bit and I wanted it to just be, these are trans women and these are the kinds of conversations we have when no one else is watching. These are the conversations we have outside your gaze and outside your meddling and outside the world around us when we are by ourselves. This is what we're like and what we're like is just people. And so I wanted that to be the focal point. 

 

[00:32:31] I think it's why people have such a hard time with it because they wanted it to be something that it wasn't, they wanted it to be some grand statement on violence and on trans-misogyny and what have you, and I wasn't going to do that because there's other people making those movies. I wanted to do something that we've never seen before. 

 

ZANAB: [00:32:50] Was there ever a moment of realization for you during the filming of this movie? Was there a point where you realized something just either by yourself or your relationships with your friends. I know you had said that so much of this film was a recollection of real things that had happened, just told through the lens of storytelling and filmmaking. So during that process did you come across any realizations? 

 

JOAN: [00:33:17] Yeah. You know what I have been open about it online. I made a lot of mistakes filming SISTERHOOD. It was my first time making a movie, this venture, this big of a venture, and so going into it I had no idea what to expect. And I definitely pushed myself to the limit and my friendships definitely took a hit because of it. I asked a lot of my friends and it was probably mostly undeserved and filming was harder. You know, the events outside of filming and just us coming to grips with this crazy film schedule that we had, definitely affected the movie and affected my direction of the movie. And afterwards, you know, I had to apologize to everyone and say “hey guys that was really crazy.” We did it. I'm proud of us. I definitely never want to do anything like that ever again. I think there's definitely a separation that artists need to have from their art and their personal lives because having just gone through that, it's so messy and it's so needlessly messy. I think, you know Nora Ephron, a very famous screenwriter and filmmaker for those who don't know - Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, etc - said that everything is copy and said that you know everything in your life is up for grabs. And I can understand why she said that. But having made SISTERHOOD I want to provide a counterpoint and say that everything is copy but that doesn't mean it's your copy. And so after SISTERHOOD I probably will never do anything like this again. 

 

[00:35:03] I don't really think I could ever recapture, kind of, the magic of the movie nor do I want to, because for as much good has come out of it, it was also a lot of hurt too and you know it was hard it took a huge blow on my sanity and on my friendships. And I probably would never go through that again honestly which kind of makes it sound like a huge bummer. 

 

[00:35:26] I'm really proud of everything and I'm really proud of everyone but it's definitely I think a once in a lifetime experience. 

 

ZANAB: [00:35:31] So, to kind of counteract that, what was your favorite moment during the film? What was something that was the most memorable thing for you while making this movie. 

 

JOAN: [00:35:42] My favorite part of the film is - Rashida is the funniest person I probably have ever met in my entire life. 

 

[00:35:51] There is a wit about her that just kind of exceeds anything else. And I've never met anyone who can kind of say the funniest thing at the funniest time and only her, only she could come up with it. 

 

[00:36:05] And so there were these moments in it where she was taking the material and just completely making it her own. 

 

[00:36:13] She was definitely I think a scenery stealer and you know, chewed up everything around her and in the bath tub scene in particular, in the editing process there was so much good material from Rashida in that scene because she took a scene that was super hard to film probably in a way that I would never want to have to film in an environment like that again - it was the smallest bathroom possible with the most amount of crew possible. We had so many hot lights in there, with bubbles, and water, and trying to keep everyone not wet, and doing hair and makeup and all this stuff. Despite all of the things that we were going through on set that day, she completely took everything in that scene and just ran with it. A couple of them made it into the movie. 

 

[00:37:01] Her eye rolls at what I'm saying. Or her little improv line at the very end, she says, “got to I guess.”  I didn't tell her to do any of that. I didn't give her directions for that and I didn't even know she was doing it until after the fact. 

 

[00:37:15] So watching it back I was like, there is such a magic in this scene, and such a purity in this scene and it's because she especially was just taking the material and just making it completely her own. She lived her self in that moment. 

 

[00:37:30] And I didn't really have to tell her to do that. And so watching it back up like that definitely was my favorite part. Also the end. I have such a soft spot for the end because I don't think anyone saw that coming. No one in my program knew I did that ending or that that was going to be our ending and so filming it that day, I kind of was just like grinning the whole time, I was like, I feel such a pettiness about this, I can't wait to put this in a movie and just shock everybody so yeah. Definitely the bathtub, for sure. 

 

ZANAB: [00:38:01] So from the population of people that you look up to in this industry and directors, actors, personalities in general, if just one of your role models could see this film and tell you their thoughts about the movie, who would you want that one person to be and why?

 

JOAN: [00:38:25] Oh my goodness. Yes. OK. This is a hard question. Oh my geez you know what, I am going to go completely out on the rails here. And you know I have obsessed and just died for Barbara Streisand since I was like 11 years old. 

 

[00:38:50] I used to reenact like every scene in every movie she's ever done. You know her and I…I definitely come from the same background …as you know, the big nose. And I was always the awkward girl and I had, you know, the same hair and just the same personality and I always looked up to her, I modelled most of my life after her and I always wanted to be her and so I always have this moment of, in anything that I do, if I could show this movie or any of my movies to one person, I'd want Barbara Streisand to just kind of know who I am. 

 

[00:39:21] But on a more realistic scale, who would I want to see my movie. Yeah, I think John Waters cause he's kind of my spiritual successor - not successor, predecessor. I think we exist in the same spirit. And so, realistically if John Waters ever saw any of my movies and had even a mild reaction to it, I would die. I would be like OK that's it I can die now, I can stop making movies. John Waters knows I exist. 

 

ZANAB: [00:39:53] So I have just one final question for you. Inevitably there's going to be a girl out there who watches this film, and this girl might also have a camera, and she might see herself in you or in Lotus or in Rashida. What are some things you would want those girls to know, what is some advice you would want to transfer to this girl?

 

JOAN:[00:40:27] Oooh. That’s good. OK. I would tell her that there are going to be a lot of people in her life who try to make her art their art, and who are going to try to tell her how to live and how to express herself and what is the proper way to not only be a girl and be a woman but be an artist and a filmmaker maker, and she is the only one who really knows who she is and what she wants to say. And just to remember always going forward that you are the only person like you and you are the only person who can tell your story. And so stick to what you know, do what you love. And if someone tells you that what you're doing is wrong, definitely take it in but also acknowledge the way that their experience differs from yours, and that you again are the only person like you in this world, and you are the only one who can tell your story. That's really what I did with SISTERHOOD and what I wanted to do with SISTERHOOD. There's a lot of people, as women in our lives, who tell us how to be, how to dress, how to look, how to act, how to be women, how to be mothers and daughters and girlfriends and brothers and sisters and whatever have you. And despite all of that, we somehow managed to stay resilient and strong and independent and interesting and creative, and women are the only filmmakers I know still making movies that challenge status quos and are completely new never-seen-before breaking box office records smashing records starting new standards etc.. 

 

[00:42:02] And so there is a magic in that. There's something to be said for that. We have a point of view that no one else has yet. And so stick to your point of view. Don't try to rehash old stories. Don't try to do something that someone else has done before, because men have been telling stories for a thousand years. You know women finally have the opportunity to tell our own stories and so stick to that. There's pride in that there's nothing to be ashamed of for that. 

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