DocFilm Forum: Barbara Hammer & Cheryl Dunye

DocFilm Forum: Barbara Hammer & Cheryl Dunye


[ Music ]>>Cheryl Dunye: Hello and
welcome to the DocFilm Forum. I’m Cheryl Dunye and I’m a professor of
film here at San Francisco State University. We’re called the school of cinema. Isn’t that lovely? I’m here today with a wonderful groundbreaking
filmmaker friend alumni, Barbara Hammer. Hi, Barbara.>>Barbara Hammer: Hi, Cher. I’m glad you put friend in there.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes.>>Barbara Hammer: That’s what’s most important.>>Cheryl Dunye: It is the
most important thing right now.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Chery Dunye: It’s friendships
and friendships and film, cinema.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: I think that’s
what we’re here to talk about.>>Barbara Hammer: Great, I’m ready.>>Cheryl Dunye: So we have
that in common [laughter].>>Barbara Hammer: We certainly do.>>Cheryl Dunye: And we have
this institution in common. Why don’t you just tell us a little
bit about San Francisco State? How did you get here?>>Barbara Hammer: Oh my goodness. Well, I’m going to just cut
straight to my studies in film here.>>Cheryl Dunye: Okay.>>Barbara Hammer: So I was coming
back from teaching in Europe on my BMW that I bought via the American
Army because I was working for them and one of my first teaching jobs,
English IA in Germany to you know, young folks who were kids of the Army personnel. So I bought this BMW. And I decided that I really
didn’t want to teach English. I wanted to be a creator and so it’s
either going to be painting or film. And I looked at all the courses that were
offered here at State and they were so exciting. They had to do with philosophy,
not just color mixing, you know, and how to put paint on the canvas. They had ideas behind them. And they were documentary
classes, narrative, directing. Not so much experimental but I couldn’t
afford the Art Institute which is where I would have had the real
nugget of experimental cinema. So I had 10,000 in my pocket. I came to State. And I drove up on my bike, parked
it right outside the building. Went in for an interview with the
chair of the department at the time and that was Ron Levaco who
taught Russian cinema. And he said, well, you haven’t
had any film classes at all. So you know, we want to make
sure you can do that. So take some next semester and
we’ll see how you do at the end. So I took 18 units. Loved it — straight A’s. No issues. It was just — feed me that stuff. You know, I hadn’t seen cinema and
it was during his class, Cinema 101, Film History — all male directors. We had seen the history of
cinema through patriarchal eyes. And towards the end of the class, I’m sitting
there with my two famous buddies on either side, a very short black and white
film comes on the screen. And something different than
I’ve ever seen before. It was a film about emotion. A woman was showing her emotion
through images on the screen. It was Maya Deren’sMeshes
of the Afternoon
, 1945. And I knew I should make cinema. There was a blank screen
in terms of lesbian cinema. Nothing had been shown. And that was it for me. And, you know, the three of us, the triumvirate
in the classroom went, okay Ron, finally. And you know, I just went on. Things were very different then than now. I was the only woman in my
film production class. There were 12 men and me. I was lifting weights so that I could
handle the big area and all the equipment. We crewed for each other. One of the students had me
shoot cinema for his film. His film was a group of students who
were acting as construction workers. You know, showing their chests and, you know,
sitting with their Levis and their hard hats on, talking about women’s bodies
as they’re walking by. And one of the comments was,
“She’s got a million dollar ass.” I had to shoot that. So I was at my first kind of
moral dilemma as a filmmaker. Should I open the camera and expose the
film to light and destroy his film here or should I deal with this another way? So I decided that I’d put him in my film. And have him repeat those lines and when he did, I would bag him with a big black garbage
bag [laughter] and roll him down the hill. It was one of those in-house student
jokes that we have in first films by, you know, students traditionally. And that was my way to deal with — I don’t remember his name but I sure
remember what he looks like [laughter].>>Cheryl Dunye: I want to know what
he looked like rolling down the hill.>>Barbara Hammer: Oh, it’s
in my film [laughter]. It’s inI Was/I Amwhere I changed from
a diamond-clad tiara in my long white gown and I had long brown hair to motorcycle
dyke in my leather jacket, you know. And so part of that transition was bagging him. And then I start my bike by taking
the key out of my mouth ala Maya. And starting the bike. My name then was Agressa. And I scratched my name like Stan Brakhage and Su Friedrich scratched their
names on the film — Agressa. So that’s my history at State [laughter].>>Cheryl Dunye: Well, bravo.>>Barbara Hammer: The beginning.>>Cheryl Dunye: The beginning
and I think it’s those times again that we even have students
scratching things here.>>Barbara Hammer: Oh good.>>Cheryl Dunye: It’s a wonderful story. I love that completely. Talk about the leap to sayDyketactics.>>Barbara Hammer: Oh, yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: How many years
between [inaudible], you know, your time at State or a little bit after?>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah. No, no — I made or I followed
I Was/I Amwhich was 1972 withDyketacticswhich was 1974, I think. Yeah, it was ’74. So in that fall, we had all this equipment here. And I thought, “Oh, it’s all free, you know. I’m going to shoot a feature.” So I got all these women that I knew
in the community, in the department. Chris Saxton was my cinematographer. Debbie Hoffman who’s still
in film was my sound woman. Oh no, I think she had the Bolex. Some other people from the department
were doing [inaudible] sound for me. We went up to Witches Land, in
other words, land in Napa County that was owned by self-proclaimed witches. And we had the weekend then to film. We camped there and made this film celebrating
our bodies, and ourselves, and nature. So I came back to edit. And 60 minutes was a lot for me. Now I thought I’d make a feature out of that. I don’t know [laughter]. No [inaudible], I guess. And I had locked myself in
the editing room for the night and looked at the footage and fell asleep. It was so boring. I just thought, “I’m not making this film.” This, you know, romantic rituals
and passageways, and hugging trees, and kicking up leaves, and acrobats,
you know, in the dry fall season — no. So I did what was traditional. I cut to the action. I threw everything else away. So just the key frames that say
of that whole clip were left. Then I took them and I had a synchronizer
so that I A, B, C, D rolled my work print through the synchronizer looking at all
four pieces of film in the movie scope so I could see what I was getting. Well, you couldn’t see it really
well but I could see this is working. And the film went to the lab
then as A, B, C, D rolls. It came back and for the first time, I saw it
because, you know, I had really projected it.>>Cheryl Dunye: Right.>>Barbara Hammer: So that was the beginning
ofDyketactics, the first two minutes. And I saw that all the films
had the sense of touch in them. They all — even though it was a woman’s, you
know, putting their foot through a hot tub or I had combing hair, touching
the tree, walking in the grass. So but these are all the essence of the shots. So there are a hundred and, you know, like
about a hundred images with touch in them. And I got, oh, I’m leaving out lovemaking. The biggest sense of sensual experience
that I knew of and that had changed my life. I had been a heterosexual woman
before, made super eight films that were heterosexual in definition.>>Cheryl Dunye: Great [laughter].>>Barbara Hammer: Oh well,
oh yeah [inaudible] me. Now, so yeah, so I had to put this footage
in because it had defined my sense of touch.>>Cheryl Dunye: Right.>>Barbara Hammer: So making
love with a man was okay. I mean, I touched a man but it
wasn’t like touching my own body. Whereas touching a woman, my sense of
touching was reinforced double-fold because I was touching a body like my own. So in a way, I was mirroring
myself through the touching. And I think that’s how touch
became so important to me. And then I wanted to make
the audience know that. So I wanted to put together perception
and touch that what we see, we can feel. And that’s why I wanted the screen to be, you
know, kind of like so many students today. We’re talking about their cats
or their dogs, touching the fur. I wanted them to touch bodies on the screen. So I had Chris Saxton come over and film my
lover at the time Poe Asher and stroke us with the Bolex as if she were petting us. And then I had the best shot in that film. I wound the Bolex so you get
about, you know, what do you get? You know, two minutes?>>Cheryl Dunye: Two minutes.>>Barbara Hammer: And set it down between us
so we’re lying like this, two women’s bodies like this, set it down towards
our knees, turned it on and then we both stroked each other like this. So you have this long cave-like shot of two women’s hands moving along their
bodies and nobody behind the camera. And I loved that shot.>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh, yes.>>Barbara Hammer: You know and — so that became the lovemaking
section ofDyketacticsand at that time, I just showed it in film finals. And we were now, those of us — I don’t
know, I didn’t know Chris was gay. You know, I didn’t know any guys. I didn’t know. You know, it was sort of the
beginning of the lesbian revolution. I would call it that.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes.>>Barbara Hammer: Because there was the gays
and suddenly, women were attracted to women and before that, they hadn’t been.>>Cheryl Dunye: But we all [inaudible].>>Barbara Hammer: So yeah. So I was nervous and I stood
in the back of the room. And I thought that, you know, I don’t know. I might get thrown out. There might be hostility. All male professors, not a woman
was my teacher that first semester. That’s big. Not a person of color. No difference. Maybe Jewish and Christian [laughter]. Some of the professors started
running up towards me at the end of the screening and I was, okay, I’m ready. And then they put out their
hand to congratulate me.>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh!>>Barbara Hammer: And that made
all the difference and I knew then that I was making cinema that
can go forward in the world. And I didn’t have to be worried
that I was making lesbian film. I was making lesbian film that
was going to go out there. And these heterosexual men were accepting
that and then saying it was good. Then and you know, if they were going to do it, because they were the enemy
— then everybody was.>>Cheryl Dunye: Right. Wow.>>Barbara Hammer: So that was the beginning
of my work at State and then I went on to make about — I made 13 films
in two-and-a-half years.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yeah.>>Barbara Hammer: They were
mostly for me, not for a class. So I never liked making an assignment film. They were all [inaudible] I had a lot to say.>>Cheryl Dunye: You had a lot to say. I mean, there was no stopping you at
that point once you got the information.>>Barbara Hammer:Multiple Orgasm
, you know,Menses,Super Dyke. You know, two other films came out of that
footage fromDyketacticsincluding shooting and audio recording of Audre Lorde
at the first lesbian conference in 1975, I think it was at UCLA. And the Family of Woman band came down from
Chicago and played in the classroom there and all the women took off their t-shirts. They were dancing at night and I had four
acts in my camera and was able to shoot it. And there were [inaudible]. I don’t know which but that film
is just now getting preserved by New York Women in Film and Television. So it’ll be available. It hasn’t been available. I’ve had like one or two prints all
this time and nobody shows 16 anymore. So I’m really excited about
going back into my own archive and bringing forward some of
these films from the ’70s. There’s about four hours of films from the
’70s that are only available in 16 millimeter. That’s a lot.>>Cheryl Dunye: That is a lot. That is a lot. That’s a lot of story. It’s a lot of storytelling
that is now just coming to us. And also a lot about cinema which I think
is — there’s a big hole in it, as you said. You know, before you, there was nothing
until you saw Maya Deren’s work. And I think that’s cyclically coming back
again where you know, people don’t — I mean, the L word, the lesbian
word in the sense of its definition with cinema is very watery right now.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah, tenuous.>>Cheryl Dunye: It’s very tenuous and I think
being able to see the definition of a cinema that is filling in the void, that is
defining itself and birthing itself and regenerating itself constantly is something
that these younger filmmakers need to know. Not in the sense of episodic. I mean, there’s so much episodic
and binge watching. But there’s a strong sense
of harboring on the past. And I think within the roots of
lesbian and gay and diverse cultures, we don’t know what our past
is within this country. So this magical moment of you sharing
your archive with us is so precious.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah. Well, thank you. I’m so lucky I was born when
I was, you know too, to be there right at the
beginning of everybody coming out. You know and kind of a lesbian revolution.>>Cheryl Dunye: It — yeah, it was.>>Barbara Hammer: It was, wasn’t it?>>Cheryl Dunye: It was. It was.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: It was. Gosh, we were. Oh, that was very, very, very –>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah, we were
lucky — I had that incentive, yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh, goodness gracious. So I see that you really love optical printing.>>Barbara Hammer: Yup [laughter].>>Cheryl Dunye: Talk about — I mean,
you talked about learning things up and you know, seeing it that way. How did that progress? Because people don’t experiment. They, you know, as you said, you have an archive
of footage that you shot and you were able to put it in a variety of pieces. People are — my students are very
like I’m just shooting for this film. I’m not saving anything.>>Barbara Hammer: Oh!>>Cheryl Dunye: You know, I’ll take
a couple of takes and then it’s — it was taped over or you
know, I’m not using it again.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: So talk about the
optical printing and having that archive and those layers because I think
that says a lot about life.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah. Well, yes and the optical printer
actually there was one here. I don’t know if it’s functioning. But when I left and that was ’75 —
there was an optical printer here.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes, it’s — there’s one. There’s [inaudible].>>Barbara Hammer: There still is? I never used it because I, by
then, had my own by the ’80s when I was doing a lot of optical printing. And I only learned how to use it —
actually, I did learn in the ’70s because there it is in double strength. So I learned at California
— no, at Mill’s College. There was one and they — one of the
professors gave me a key to this cabin. It’s like a log cabin at
the back of the college. And I could go in there and do my own
optical printing forSync Touch, 1980-81. I had painted frames, let’s
say, of a woman’s breasts and I would paint different
colors around each frame. And then I could go in and sometimes I
would put bleach on and bubble them up. And then I could go in and reshoot those
for 10 frames each or whatever I wanted. And that was so exciting for
me because I was thinking of myself as a painter first and foremost. But I went into film because it
was more intellectually stimulating and involved more of the arts than painting. So again, your way to paint on film to use the
optical printer besides using my own archive for it and then it just became too tedious
to be carrying these little rolls over. So I bought my own.>>Cheryl Dunye: Right.>>Barbara Hammer: It was made in Oakland by JK. And he had made 200 in his lifetime. He invented it. He makes surfboards and things now. I don’t know if he has much
of a calling for the JK. But it was a thing, a lot of colleges had them. There were some of us who practiced using it. But you could do what I was doing
with the synchronizer with four pieces of film layering them, rolling the Bolex back. Always keeping track of where you were, what
frame you were on because you’re going to have to cut your exposure in half, you know,
they’re going through twice and four times. Usually they’re going through four times. So it was a period of –>>Cheryl Dunye: Invention!>>Barbara Hammer: The invention
and very detailed fine work. Like somebody was talking about
editing right to the frame. Yes, that frame made all the difference. And you could bring in anything. I was bringing in postage stamps,
cutting them into 16 millimeter. You — and AIDS dialogues. And you can project right through the texture of
paper which is beautiful, made out of you know, all those pieces of cloth really.>>Cheryl Dunye: Wow.>>Barbara Hammer: And filmed
that so you have for the texture of newsprint while you’re looking. So it brings in the touch again. And you have text so that
you’re bringing in ideas. And about the hysteria of
AIDS during the crisis. You know, you could put on — you could take
a red magic marker and put it on the frame and then the ink would move into the paper and
you could be running continuously at that time with your — you know, with your camera. So the optical printer rephotography
device where your camera is right next to your projector and the light is coming
through the projection area right into the lens of the camera — was a very tiny little
sewing machine-like almost device. And there weren’t many —
[Inaudible] had used it.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yeah.>>Barbara Hammer: There
weren’t that many women using it. I never really thought of it
in terms of gender until now. But it was great until my eyes got tired.>>Cheryl Dunye: Right, I was going to say,
it was like this work that you only can do for a certain amount of time and
dedication that way, you know.>>Barbara Hammer: Right, right.>>Cheryl Dunye: Meticulously
using your physical self.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah. Did you ever seeSanctus?>>Cheryl Dunye: No, I did not.>>Barbara Hammer: So that’s made
with moving x-rays of the human body.>>Cheryl Dunye: You know, I actually did. I did see it. Yeah, I saw it. I did see it.>>Barbara Hammer: You’ve seen it? Yeah, so from the Eastman House archives. It was Dr. James Sibley Watson who
was the doctor and a cinematographer and had wonderful 70-35 millimeter
films of a skeleton putting on lipstick.>>Cheryl Dunye: I remember that.>>Barbara Hammer: Blowing a horn and I
found that footage and just had to use it. So that footage after I had it reduced to 16
to go through my optical printer from the 35 that it was, you know, I
could layer it in offset so that I could put the same
image like here and here. And there’d be a different halo
around the skeleton, let’s say. And I worked with — for secondary colors. So thinking as a painter, you know, when I’m
talking about the body again and the kind of the precious — and I’m — you know,
and I wasn’t going to say spiritual. But something — or another aura in
the sense of really seeing an aura. But there is wholey — W-H-O-L-E-Y
sense of the body. AndSanctusmeans health in body. And that was — a score was created by Neil
Rolnick who took the Sanctus section of the Mass from five different composers,
put it in his computer. Flipped it, threw it out and we dialogued
as he developed the score for the film. And he’s playing in the Venice
[Inaudible] this year.>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh, goodness.>>Barbara Hammer: You know, on
the 13th, 14th century Palazzo. It’s not in selected or [inaudible]
but it’s going to be there like in a sidebar exhibition for four months. And I told them they have to
project it, you know, room size.>>Cheryl Dunye: Totally large.>>Barbara Hammer: It’s not going to be small.>>Cheryl Dunye: Large.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah. And right next to other artifacts
from medieval period. I think it’s going to be a guest.>>Cheryl Dunye: I love the [inaudible]. I love that. And I love the sense that time and the
whole like putting cinema in its place because I think people have moved
to cinema being about television. But cinema is the seventh art. And it needs to be in the world of art to
really fully utilize every aspect of it. Light, sound, you know, all the
elements that make this magic up. And I think many folks just, you know,
stay on the narrative or they, you know, they stay on the documenting this truth aspect. But I think there’s so much more
in between that it’s about you. It’s about the world. And I think people need to definitely
remember that I always drive that home that this is an art form and
this is about creativity. This is about changing form.>>Barbara Hammer: Yes.>>Cheryl Dunye: And I think that’s
a wonderful message that I — I think we both share about this moment
that we have to change, you know, talking about the patriarchy that the system,
you know, has us so blindly following. We’re not changing any of that. We’re just being angry. Now is the time to, you know,
crack it open and change forms. So I think all the narratives that we even,
you know, believe in, we just keep, you know, rebooting them by building on them. And I think this is a perfect time. You know, your work and maybe mine,
are having visibility right now because it is really saying crack it open.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: Change things.>>Barbara Hammer: We had
the lesbian revolution. Now it’s the cinema revolution.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes, the cinematic
lesbian revolution, for sure. And it seems like you loved the medium. Do you, I mean it’s –>>Barbara Hammer: I do!>>Cheryl Dunye: — you love it.>>Barbara Hammer: If it’s not
then I don’t love digital as well.>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh.>>Barbara Hammer: I mean, you
know, just to play around so fast and so quick and to work with a pixel.>>Cheryl Dunye: Talk about the
first digital moment for yourself. I mean, when you did that flip.>>Barbara Hammer: The American Film
Institute decided that there were a whole group of filmmakers who knew nothing about computers. And we were — Les Blank was one. I was one. And we were invited to LA for a weekend
workshop where they introduced us to the Macintosh [laughter], told
us what a pixel was [laughter]. And we made little short films there. And it was really — Les had a
hard time moving from cinema. I found myself really, you
know, wanting to do it because I made three films in that one weekend.>>Cheryl Dunye: Right [laughter].>>Barbara Hammer: One of them, you know, one
was a minute long,Save Sexor is it Safe Sex? You know the words kept changing
from save sex to safe sex as the blouse kept going on and off [laughter]. At that time, we thought lesbians
might be transmitting AIDS so we were practicing safe sex in our intimacy. And then I did one onShirley Temple
and Me
because my mom wanted me to be Shirley Temple and a movie star.>>Cheryl Dunye: And she was at the Film
Society too, wasn’t she here for a while, right?>>Barbara Hammer: My mom, no.>>Cheryl Dunye: No, not you
know, your mom but Shirley Temple.>>Barbara Hammer: Oh, Shirley Temple.>>Cheryl Dunye: I think she was the
head of the Film Society at one point.>>Barbara Hammer: Was she?>>Cheryl Dunye: The San Francisco Film Society.>>Barbara Hammer: Because I know she
lived in the [inaudible] down there. Yeah, oh.>>Cheryl Dunye: She comes all the way back.>>Barbara Hammer: Oh, Shirley Temple Black. Republican.>>Cheryl Dunye: [Inaudible]
and many other things, yes.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah [laughter]. Well, I have her in my film wearing diapers with a big safety pin holding them together
[laughter] so that’s the way I see Shirley.>>Cheryl Dunye: That’s the way
we should see her, yes, for sure. Oh, my goodness.>>Barbara Hammer: That was my,
you know, introduction to digital. You know, we were shooting — before that,
we were shooting the half-inch analog. And Max Almy — do you know Max Almy’s work?>>Cheryl Dunye: No.>>Barbara Hammer: She graduated out of UCLA. She’s now head of the Art
Department or the Art School at Savannah College of Art
and Design in Georgia. And she was at California College of Arts
and Crafts doing experimental video work. I was doing film so I taught her film. She taught me video. And we madeSuper Dyke Meets Madam X.>>Cheryl Dunye: Okay, all right.>>Barbara Hammer: We never got
together unless we had the camera. And the camera was attached to this deck so
you could see how limited our relationship was. And we filmed our first kiss. We filmed our arguments, you know. We would — everything, I mean, eventually
the film ends with me teaching her film and her having me do something seductive,
outlining my lips while the Bolex was coming on and so it was a little 20-minute,
I guess, documentary. And it actually won a prize in the Civic
Center here, San Francisco Arts Festival.>>Cheryl Dunye: Wow, wow.>>Barbara Hammer: So little
seen, little talked-about black and white grainy, full of glitches. And we talked about the glitches,
you know, and celebrate them.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yeah, celebrate our glitch. That’s what we should definitely [inaudible]. Got to make that mantra in my class.>>Barbara Hammer: So video
came in early into my life. And didn’t, you know, squeeze out film. Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: And it’s still
a, you know, a wonderful mix. I see students — I mean, here
at State, we’re still teaching on 16, on the Introduction to Film.>>Barbara Hammer: Oh good.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yeah.>>Barbara Hammer: Oh.>>Cheryl Dunye: The 310 classes — there’s
one where they do have to shoot on film. They don’t have to post it but definitely, there
is the opportunity for them and that equipment or the same equipment that you shot
with, they’re still here [inaudible].>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: We never let things go.>>Barbara Hammer: No.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yeah, so let’s see. There’s so many wonderful things to talk about. We can just go on for days but I was
going to think about generationally. Because that’s something that’s I think not in
a lot of our conversations right now in the, you know, the queer film making world. Just the world in general, I think, it’s very urgent that we’re having
intergenerational dialogues. Do you feel — I mean, do you feel like you’re
talking to the, you know, when you’re talking to younger people, does it feel like you’re
talking to people who aren’t with you? Or do they seem like they’re, you know,
caught up in something of their generation or is there a way that they, you know, really
connect with you around your spirit and energy?>>Barbara Hammer: Well, I feel myself
connecting with them because they’re so smart.>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh, okay.>>Barbara Hammer: And they’re so agile. And they’re so adept with the computer. And, you know, so I have assistants come in and
they can do something like that with MailChimp where it will take me all day
to fix something together. You know, so it’s great having
the resources [inaudible] pay them and then I could still do the
creating because that’s happening here. And then they put it out, not always.>>Cheryl Dunye: Right.>>Barbara Hammer: But you know, doing a lot of
projections on my body that are being refilmed by one of my assistants who’s another
generation and another identity gender defined. And there’s — I don’t know, is the
exploration that’s going on with youth. I think is in terms of gender fluidity
and politics and the total amount of committed energy behind the 1% Movement
that’s now morphing into Black Lives Matter. Or running alongside of and now the political
movement to divest at least challenge as far as we can a despot who unknown too many of us
has surprised us by becoming a president elect. And I think what we feel now
is a tremendous energy to put and reform, reboot our educational system.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes.>>Barbara Hammer: That allowed
people to not see through the scam that half the population did.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes.>>Barbara Hammer: So that’s a big concern to
me and yet, I see the ball being carried forward on the streets, you know,
with the pink pussy movement.>>Cheryl Dunye: Right.>>Barbara Hammer: And, you
know, and I’m right out there. You know, and I remember the 1% Movement,
there was a woman in her 80s who was walking down just towards Wall Street,
you know, and people — young women on either side were
saying, she’s in her 80s, you know. So I’m 77 and I’m hoping I
can be there as [inaudible].>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh, definitely.>>Barbara Hammer: I got three — four years
to march, you know so [laughter] I’ll make it.>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh, goodness. That’s so lovely. I mean, you did speak about the
relationship to your body and your work. But talk about why that continues.>>Barbara Hammer: I think
the ageing body is important. I think we don’t look at ageing bodies. There’s — especially ageing female
bodies or ageing gay male bodies. You can look — you know, women has
been put forward on the pedestal as this beautiful creature, you
know, without a sag or a wrinkle. What’s wrong with a sag and a wrinkle?>>Cheryl Dunye: Right.>>Barbara Hammer: Every wrinkle in my
body talks about an experience I had. You know, so with age, you have more experience. That’s to be shared, not hidden away, you know. So I think the body, no matter
what its size, its color, its form, its physical ability, you know, its gender. It’s to be appreciated and loved
and that diversity is what makes that force impossible globally — I would hope
at some point, if we ever have appreciation of each other just for who we are, not for
you know — she’s got to be a socialist. You know, I mean, you know the Democrat
has to learn to love the Republican. At least appreciate, listen to, argue
back, you know, see the difference. But not walk away from it, close the door on it.>>Cheryl Dunye: Right, right.>>Barbara Hammer: You know, it’s a hard
task we have when we can be so angry.>>Cheryl Dunye: And it’s a sense of
literacy and I think that there’s a lot of illiterate people on many forms and
if we just keep it even back at media, and why there were this — this
moment has been such a big curve. You know, media literacy hasn’t been out there.>>Barbara Hammer: No.>>Cheryl Dunye: When people aren’t exploring,
we’re just eating and listening and you know, avoiding but seeing your work and seeing my
work and seeing a lot of the other, you know, radical pieces that are starting
to you know, appear again, is a sense of like — where did I see it? Where did I see — why didn’t
I see Barbara Hammer’s work? She’s been around, you know. It’s like there’s a sense of
like what have we been eating? You know, why have we been asleep
for so long and at least this moment that we’re calling the 21st century? I think today is the beginning
of the 21st century. This electorate has really, you know,
kicked us into the next century finally and I think people are uncovering all
this generational bodies, lives — looking for a sense of where we are. But it’s about literacy because we’ve
only been teaching this invisible culture that nobody can grasp. So it’s great to find the void fillers,
to find the missing links and I’m so glad that we’re able to have this moment with you. Talk about earlier today in class, because
I think that was a wonderful example of that tactile, that literacy and
that feeling with the students today in this master class here
at San Francisco State.>>Barbara Hammer: Well,
you know, I do this workshop where I have people develop their personal
imagery because a lot of times, students don’t or anybody doesn’t believe, that they
don’t believe that they have things to say or they don’t know where they are. And one of the ways you can find them is just
to relax and allow yourself to see things within your own body, to hear sounds, you know, come back from your childhood,
whatever comes to you. So people lay down on a large piece
of paper and made a body script, as I’ve led them through a guided
meditation and those went on the wall. And they were able to enunciate
what those images were and then find stories within
them, one to the other. So that was fun for me because I’ve
never had anybody else write a script from somebody else’s story. Often it’s me in the second part of the class who puts the script together
and then the students fill in. And we find commonalities and then we go
out and film this hypothetical character, you know, based on this paper design. You know, a paper cutout
kind of a thing but we get — while we do that, we get to experiment with
whatever is lying around because, you know, somebody visualizes a snake coming
around their arm, a snake of power. We don’t really have a snake to work with. But we have a rope lying somewhere or a
cord or you know, even an iPad earphone or something, you know [laughter]. That becomes the snake.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes, yes.>>Barbara Hammer: So you get to improvise and
see how you can create with little, you know, and sort of work on the street, so to speak.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes.>>Barbara Hammer: With the imagery,
it become very personal to you.>>Cheryl Dunye: Because I say
this all that we, you know — everything that we have inside
of us, that’s all we need. And we don’t believe that — that all that
we need is right inside of us and just kind of getting it out there, it’s that trust. I mean, I think that’s the
biggest lesson for a student to hear [inaudible] it’s
to trust your intuition.>>Barbara Hammer: Yes.>>Cheryl Dunye: It’s been there. It got you this far and it will get you further. But you have to believe in it. And just take that leap, to just
follow that path with it and it’s — I think it’s the hardest thing for
any creative to kind of, you know, know that they have their
scripts already in them.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: It’s sort of already —
it’s just waiting for you to say okay.>>Barbara Hammer: Right.>>Cheryl Dunye: And give yourself permission.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: So –>>Barbara Hammer: I’m so lucky in
that way that my mother believed in me. And so that gave me a real
foundation to work on. And a lot of times, our parents
really want us to be something other than we are and there’s no foundation then.>>Cheryl Dunye: Right, right.>>Barbara Hammer: To find that
in within and the school too. The whole system, church,
school, whatever, family.>>Cheryl Dunye: Systems.>>Barbara Hammer: They all might want something
from you but not to discover who you are. And that’s what we do in cinema
is find who we are and put it out.>>Cheryl Dunye: Definitely. So let’s discover what some of
these people have to say here. We have a wonderful 13, 14 students
who attended this master class who might have some wonderful questions
to ask or not, I don’t know with it.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah, I’d love to hear that.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes. Let’s wait for the mic to come to you and –>>It was really fascinating to hear about your
background and we, I think we got to see a lot of it in your film on Elizabeth
Bishop especially visual-wise because of your background on art
and how much you love having texture and whatnot on the screen. And I’m curious about the aspect of sound and
how that progress since your time [inaudible] and now have become — because your sound
for the film was absolutely fascinating. It had so many layers. And could you help us, enlighten us on that?>>Barbara Hammer: Thank you [laughter]. That’s a great question. It makes me think of guided
meditation that Pauline Oliveros –>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh, wow.>>Barbara Hammer: — the avant-garde composer
who recently died has, I think, in her book or maybe she led me on it, but
sometimes I do this in the film class. You lie down and this time, you’re
listening to the world around you. And you think of yourself as the center
of concentric circles that you then draw. It doesn’t have to be a large piece of paper. On your piece of paper and as you’re listening,
you hear — I just heard a stomach growl.>>Cheryl Dunye: Is it — so did I.>>Sorry [laughter].>>Barbara Hammer: Let’s point out here.>>Cheryl Dunye: All right, all right.>>Barbara Hammer: Because it’s
[inaudible] in our inner circle. And yet we both had lunch,
right, okay [laughter]. So it’s going out here. I hear room tone. Oh yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: I hear leather and [inaudible].>>Barbara Hammer: My leather jacket is
probably ruining the sound track on this film. Yeah, and so these points
become layers, you know. We’re going to mix those in to our own melody. And that’s one way of listening.>>Cheryl Dunye: That’s a
lovely sound, isn’t it? It’s almost like Katrina coming [laughter]. And we know what Katrina does
once she comes [laughter].>>Barbara Hammer: So like with visuals,
it’s a way to make complex sound, multiple sounds at the same time. And which is the way I experience life. If I’m quiet enough to experience life.>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh, that’s a big one.>>Barbara Hammer: Yes.>>Cheryl Dunye: I like that. Is that a seashell or is
that Katrina [laughter]? I don’t know, I think not.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah, yeah. Thank you for that question.>>Cheryl Dunye: Someone else? Yes.>>Yesterday, you talked about
how video editing, the kind of — the fact that you like to edit your own films. I was kind of interested in how does
being a video editor of your own films, inform the way that you create films?>>Barbara Hammer: What a wonderful question. You know, when I’m shooting a film, or thinking
about it, I’m not thinking about editing. So it doesn’t inform the shooting process
or I don’t know if there’s much of a script but scripting or even an idea,
it does not influence that. It’s only later when I go to that
stage of putting things together that the images start influencing
me about the way to cut. And that becomes my own personal rhythm. Like my films, if you’ve noticed,
I’ll have very short shots with a lot of the Eisenstein abruptness and waking you up. And I loved that idea when I was here
at State and read his ideas on editing. So it’s not the long take where a
lot of things develop on the screen and you can watch all these people doing
different things or all these colors going by. No, I’m going to make my color next to
another color and bring a shock to you, to the viewer to make sure you’re alive in
your body while you’re watching my films. So the editing process is a totally
separate one from the shooting for me and I’m sure it isn’t for everyone.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yeah, there’s
a sense of slow cinema. People like to let things
like a [inaudible], you know.>>Barbara Hammer: A [inaudible].>>Cheryl Dunye: That’s to see something very
prolonged [inaudible], a lot amount of time.>>Barbara Hammer: Nine hours [laughter].>>Cheryl Dunye: Nine hours!>>Barbara Hammer: That was
in the cinema, it was.>>Cheryl Dunye: I know. What was awake even? But yeah, there is this sense and I
think there is a sense of a film forum and urgency and the conflict of image. And I think that’s sort of
what to the ground is. You know, there are two different surfaces and
how do we feel that and how do we see that? And the only way you can see it is through, you
know, rubbing things together, making some fire.>>Barbara Hammer: But don’t
you think it’s true too? Like for Bella, there is the way
he experiences stories in the world and they have to have that slow evolution. So what I’m thinking, not everybody’s going
to cut the way I want to nor do I want to see that kind of work always,
you know, by any means. That we each have our personal rhythm.>>Cheryl Dunye: Sure.>>Barbara Hammer: And that’s
what we find in our editing.>>Cheryl Dunye: Sure, but I do think there also
is this sense of taking leaps within the context of storytelling which, you know, your work and my work doesn’t [inaudible] different
ways where we can take out a piece. We don’t need every piece to make a story.>>Barbara Hammer: Right.>>Cheryl Dunye: Stories go all over the place. I’m talking about my mom and their past. I’m there and then, you know, something
that happened in the future and you know, were going to happen and
I’m circularly going around. So I think that we should try to
get those experiences to our viewers and make them feel the kind of, you
know, [inaudible] nature of a story. It’s alive. So I think there’s a lot of need to not
make sense as they would say around. Because it doesn’t.>>Barbara Hammer: And recognize
that everything exists in that clip.>>Cheryl Dunye: And it’s gone.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah [laughter].>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes, yes.>>Barbara Hammer: Thank you for that question.>>So I don’t [inaudible]. So my question is — and I think Cheryl
could probably comment on it on well — on it as well is in your films when you’re,
you know, kind of filming these things that are very intimate and explicit with your
partners, how do you create this like safe space to create those and, you know, you’re showing
this intimate moment to a whole bunch of people and kind of like what’s that like in
creating that space I’m curious about?>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes, very — it’s very different than shooting
a scene on the street, isn’t it?>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah, so in
shooting sex, I have to say that any — all my experience has been that
it’s always dramatic and performed. That it’s never documentary. And inNitrate Kisseswhen I shoot
Peter Kramer and Jack Waters making love, I made the mistake early on and talking
in interviews about how I was documenting for the first time because I’ve never
seen gay sex performed, gay male sex. I was documenting gay sex. And they called me up and said, Barbara,
that was not the way we make love. If you remember, you were posing our white and
black asses together the way that you liked. And encouraging us to wrestle. And you know, so they were saying this
was a performance and you were directing. And they were right [laughter]. So what, you know, just because I’ve
never seen and I got carried away that I was documenting [laughter]. I was documenting my own fantasies, I guess. But say with theDyketactics, first
off, I feel like I have to be in the film. If I’m going to ask somebody else
to be sexual in film then I have to be willing to be one of those characters. And we did it within the safety
of my partner’s living room. And with another person who practiced the same
kind of sexual practices we did to film it. And we giggled between every
run of the Bolex [laughter]. So what looks like very sweet touching and
gentle vanilla love was really a comedy. But I just didn’t include the laughter. So with the old women making love,
that was in my living room in — on Sanchez Street where I used to have a home. And I found these two women in their
70s and I loved the way the light came into that living room through venetian blinds
and, you know, created their own stripes on the body that blended with their wrinkles. And these were two women I
had met at a SAGE gathering and I’d ask what old women would perform
love in front of a camera, you know. And everybody said, oh, Frances Lorraine,
and they pointed her out to me [laughter]. Everybody knew in that [inaudible]. Not my generation then — true, she would. And then she had somebody she could ask would and she’d never made love
with that woman before. People think they’re a couple. They never made love. And I had all these sex toys in
the living room ready for them, you know and spread out on the rug. And they came over with their own [laughter]. They’re wearing G-strings and, you know. And one of the women wanted me to take
out the wrinkles on her stomach, you know. So that was [inaudible] your skin
gets a little looser as you age.>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh yeah.>>Barbara Hammer: Because the body fat
disappears and, you know, unless you’re, you know, keeping it up but
usually it disappears. So you have a looser skin
wrinkling which is quite lovely. And I just would never do that.>>Cheryl Dunye: It’s [inaudible].>>Barbara Hammer: I convinced
her how beautiful it was. But that was one of the techniques of using —
and then because I didn’t want it exploited, eitherDyketacticsor that film
or other sex scenes that I’ve shot, I did use editing to disrupt voyeurs.>>Cheryl Dunye: Right.>>Barbara Hammer: The voyeur practice — even
inDouble Strength, I used optical printing so that the woman is doubled and
both in color or black and white. So that was how I dealt with
it in terms of the audience. That I think you need sustained
sexual practice for erotic arousal. Maybe I’m wrong [laughter]. But maybe –>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh, that’s another
— that’s another whole [inaudible].>>Barbara Hammer: Let’s
have a whole class on sex..>>Cheryl Dunye: Sex and cinema, totally.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah. That would be good at San Francisco State. I’ll come in as a visiting lecturer [laughter].>>Cheryl Dunye: Okay.>>Barbara Hammer: And you’re teaching.>>Cheryl Dunye: I will just [inaudible]. I will — I’ll be your TA [laughter].>>Barbara Hammer: So anyway — and then just — you know, somehow that person on the screen
becomes her and not you after a while. You know, like somebody came up to me the
day and asked me about Elizabeth Bishop in the film last time [inaudible] actor
and how did I work with the actor. I said that was me. [ Laughter ]>>Cheryl Dunye: I would [inaudible].>>Barbara Hammer: I’m letting
silence reverberate in case nobody else knew that [laughter].>>Cheryl Dunye: You know the eyes go out.>>Oh wow, yeah.>>Barbara Hammer: So yeah, good luck.>>Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yeah and to go on that and I documented the first
sexual experience I had on film.>>Barbara Hammer: You did?>>Cheryl Dunye: InShe Don’t Fade. It was one of my shorts.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: It was the first time I
was short of playing with doing [inaudible] where you have the title
card that was [inaudible]. And so there’s a scene where I’m, you
know, engaged in a sexual beginning moment with someone and the cameras are on and
you just see these two brown bodies. And because nobody was showing brown women
making love in any queer film or lesbian film as they were called at that point. And so the room is silent and you know, you
see us start rolling around and then all of a sudden, I go, “Is that enough?” And everyone from the cameras
said, oh no, you got to do this. You got to do that. Dah, dah, dah. I’m like, “Really? Oh my God.” And then the woman gets up and
she’s all like touching herself and you just couldn’t clearly
see how it’s constructed. And then we got to do —
you know, go at it again. And then it becomes sort of an experimental
breakup but that was the first time that I had to feel it and put myself in there
and it was very uncomfortable.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: But the most empowering
thing for me doing it was getting over my body and getting over — and getting used
to my body, getting used to myself, getting a sense of every time
I saw it, I saw it, you know.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah, yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: So I really — it was this
weird, you know, personal thing as a filmmaker to allow me to you know, kind of accept
things that I hadn’t accepted before about brown bodies even though
I wanted to see them. But here was mine now doing this performance.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: And so every film, I think
I’ve gone through a couple of — many films. There’s always sex in my
films for some reason and –>>Barbara Hammer: Part of life.>>Cheryl Dunye: It’s a part of life. And I think in my porn, my
adult comedy, I’m not in it. I’m not doing anything, any practice. I think maybe I’m in a bar scene or something. But there are — I go deep into a community
that is practicing it like [Inaudible] and all these other international performers who
are giving us deep conversations about it too because the Dunye [inaudible] is
happening so you get to see the performance and then you also get to
have these conversations. You’re hearing actors, you know,
talk about their experience.>>Barbara Hammer: Their
experiences performing –>>Cheryl Dunye: Yeah, so
it’s the — performing it.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah,
that’s something to watch.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes, yes.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah and that’s going to
be the first thing up in the first class.>>Cheryl Dunye: Oh yeah, okay definitely. And also the next workshop which I’m sure
the doc forum, the DocFilm Forum might want to engage with is Shine Louise Houston.>>Barbara Hammer: Yes.>>Cheryl Dunye: Who has taken our — both
of our dialogues to a whole other practice and made a whole industry out of it and a
commitment to weekly adding more content of two bodies, you know,
together having — making love. And she does it every week.>>Barbara Hammer: Wow.>>Cheryl Dunye: And invites two people
who might know each other, might not. Different shapes, sizes, and colors who
define themselves in a variety of ways.>>Barbara Hammer: That’s amazing.>>Cheryl Dunye: Every week because it’s
a member subscribed channel that she has.>>Barbara Hammer: Oh.>>Cheryl Dunye: So –>>Barbara Hammer: Oh.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yeah.>>Barbara Hammer: Do you think
these doc institute video interviews like we have will be online so I could watch it?>>Cheryl Dunye: I imagine they will.>>Barbara Hammer: Okay, yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: And then we’ll clap the magic
clap and they will be online, right [laughter]. So yeah, let’s go back to the questions and
see if there’s maybe one more, one more.>>So this is for the both of you and
thank you for doing this, both of you. I’m wondering what you see as is a
filmmaker what your most important tool. If you could pick one tool from the toolbox
that you said that this is the most important, what would you tell us as current and
future filmmakers would be that tool? Can you pass on this?>>Barbara Hammer: I’d say it’s the hammer. Yup, I think it’s the hammer. The hammer for me is me. And everything I am, not the camera,
not an audio recorder, not other people. But the strength of my name, the handle and the head together can
knock the ball out of the park.>>Cheryl Dunye: I second that
[laughter] with my [inaudible]. I mean, the Dun and the Ye, you know [laughter]. I would say that’s what it is. Dun-ye dunyette. I really — you know, at the end of the day,
I’m the one who’s lugging equipment still. You know, I might have made, you know,
five features, 15 films, whatever it is. I’m still slugging it out and
I think you have to be strong. I know, for example, Nancy Shriver, a
cinematographer who came last semester to do a master class and shot one of my films
and won the award this year for her work, she is going to the gym every time she
has to shoot a feature and working out. She’s constantly, you know,
keeping her body strong to carry the equipment, to
you know — just hold space. And so I think we don’t think about our health. We thing about, you know, the party we can
have at the reception and all the fun at the, you know, whatever the — again,
the illusion of filmmaking is about. But the illusion of filmmaking
is staying healthy, staying, you know, keeping your spirit alive. Keeping that, you know, fantasies and
that acting, absurd laughter, crying, being an emotional first hand up
valve in your life — to your life. Asking those questions. The minute that you slip away from that,
to enter normalcy which I would say, I think you are at a little loss. And even that — and it doesn’t
say that these moments have to be high or low or not sad or whatnot. If you’re feeling sad, go down. Just go down. Go down and feel all ill. Oh, I scratched some of those
walls as you go down and look at the dirt underneath your fingernails and
you know, bite them off and climb back up. It’s the only way that you’re going to be able to tell the story, see the
story, feel the story. Feel whatever you want to
change out of the story. Don’t avoid it. I think we — I think that
the — that’s where we — what we see out there now is actually
people not wanting to feel the story. Repeating everything Batman
17, I don’t even know. Sponge Bob 18 — I don’t know these movies
out there but it’s not feeling the story. So I really do think that if you
want to make the story and you want to make it as a filmmaker, feel it.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: Even all the way hear it.>>Barbara Hammer: Yes too.>>Cheryl Dunye: Cheers to that.>>Barbara Hammer: Here’s to it.>>Cheryl Dunye: Here’s to the feelings.>>Barbara Hammer: Yeah.>>Cheryl Dunye: And here’s to Barbara. Thank you.>>Barbara Hammer: Thanks to Cheryl.>>Cheryl Dunye: Yes.>>Barbara Hammer: Thank you. [ Applause ]>>Cheryl Dunye: Well on that note, I must say this has been a wonderful
interview here for the DocFilm Forum. I’m Cheryl Dunye. This is Barbara Hammer. Good night.

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