Leaving San Francisco felt like saying goodbye to something bigger. Sounds dramatic, but America is a dramatic place. Even the train was dramatic – bigger and better than any train I’d ever been on. As we rattled up the West Coast it made it all the more clear how vast the country is. We had heard stories in Berkeley of the difficulties Siew Hwa and Saunie had communicating magazine business when they weren’t in the same place – no internet, no mobiles – impossible. They had to rely on letters. Sounds romantic, but I bet it didn’t feel that way at the time.
We were travelling up to Oregon to meet two key contributors to Women & Film who just so happen to be married – Chuck Kleinhans and Julia Lesage. They swept us up at Eugene train station, with our wide morning eyes – a bizarre way to meet, but they were great. We stayed with them for a few days and they welcomed us into their lovely home where we talked for hours and watched films (including Band of Outsiders by Godard). Julia and Chuck really are experts in their field and casually watching films with them and eating cookies felt like a strange privilege.
We spent the best part of a day filming their interview and they gave us a lot of meat that really filled in the story of how the magazine developed, the different people involved, and eventually why it might have ended. Chuck and Julia started their own publication Jump Cut which still exists today and they explained how Women & Film really encouraged them to start something up themselves. But stop asking me questions, I can’t tell you anything else, Clarissa keeps the rest of the information in the vault, you will know it all in time.
Oregon was quite a place – leafy towns, Oregonian pride, organic everything – its hard to hate it but its even harder to love it. Even now I’m not sure what my lasting impression of the place was. Could I live there with the coffee and the kale and the cyclists and the nice people everywhere? …yes, but that is not the point.
Meeting Chuck and Julia opened us up to a more theoretical view of the magazine which was to develop as we made our next stop in LA. By now we were in the flow of filming interviews. We had 5 people’s stories captured and had gone through some technical learning curves – focus, lighting, sound, composition…a lot to think about really. Clarissa thinks she had the hard job asking all the questions but I tell you, setting up the camera and letting it roll made me sweat on more than one occasion as I wondered whether the composition was good enough, whether the focus was focused enough…
So we made our way to LA with more experience, more information and more excitement. We were to conduct 4 more interviews there as well as meeting again with Siew Hwa and her son Niles for a whistle stop tour of Women & Film, Hollywood style. I’ll get back to you on that.