Melody Chow and Sharon Swenson, Department of Theatre & Media Arts
On May 6th, I moved to Portland, Oregon, to begin the filmmaking process for The Legacy of R iot Grrrl. Most of my focus so far has beenon networking, but I have filmed various music concerts and several days worth of cityscape footage of Portland. I am now entering the filmheavy phase of this project, and will have captured most of what I need by December. I am editing this footage concurrently with filming and will have a rough draft of the film by the end of the year, which will then be reviewed by my peers for feedback and finetuning. The final movie will be finished by March of 2017 and will then be exhibited in Provo by the Provo Film Society.
My fieldwork in Portland began with a meeting with my musician friend Clare PughNewman. She told me that shows mainly take place in bars for a 21+ crowd, but there have been collectives that are working to expand the scene. One of these groups is Shut Up and Listen (SUALT), a music collective dedicated to creating a community for queer musicians to express their music. I attended one of their shows and made connections with several musicians who were eager to become involved with this documentary. Clare also informed me of the music collective SemiOK that is working to cultivate an allages space. I attended SemiOK’s one year anniversary where I met collective founders Teal Bluestone and Claire Gunsville and set up oncamera interviews with them. They told me about one of their contributors named Jules Cordova, a Portland native who has recently shared her experience with sexual assault in SemiOK’s latest magazine issue. I have reached out to Jules, asking her about how she has used her writing to bring up topics that are important to her.
In early May, I had the opportunity to attend Oregon Doc Camp, a three day program hosted by the Oregon chapter of Women in Film Association that provided filmmaking workshops with wellknown documentary filmmakers such as Jennife r Grausman ( Pressure Cooker, 2008), Greg Snider ( How to Die in Oregon, 2011), and Beth H arrington ( The Winding Stream, 2013). I sat down with the camp’s director Jackie Weissman who has just finished a documentary about Portland musicians and their experiences with motherhood. She was very enthusiastic about my project and told me to call her for advice or connections.
In these first few months of fieldwork, I have achieved several project goals by securing a place to live, finding a day job to help cover living expenses, making personal connections with local musicians and filmmakers, researching the local music scene through interviews and show attendance, and beginning to film concert and cityscape footage. I went into this project with the preconceived notion that there was a substantial number of feminist music collectives, group, and venues, an assumption that has since been proven false. Although there are feminists who working within the scene to make the community safer, their efforts are not female specific. The focus appears to be either nongender binary specific (transgender / genderqueer) or disregards gender entirely. These discoveries have shifted my perception of the Portland music scene and cause me rethink my approach to this documentary. The musical activism here is not femalegender specific, and this film must be open to the all inclusive nature of the musicians here who are cultivating of a safe space for all individuals, regardless of gender identity.
The greatest thing I have learned thus far is just how hard independent fieldwork is. I have worked on countless projects in the past, but it was always within a mentored college environment in which I worked with multiple peers. I have been completely on my own for the past four months and did not predict the logistical, financial, and emotional obstacles that have been set before me. Upon arriving here, I moved into a house with three other people I did not know. I soon discovered that one of my roommates had emotional problems, to the point of threatening me with physical violence. I moved out of this house soon afterwards, staying at my aunt’s home temporarily until I found a new place to live. I had found a job right after I moved to Portland as a cashier at a grocery store, but experienced a work related injury that forced me to leave that occupation. I was unemployed for about a month, which put me in a dire financial situation. Fortunately, I found new apartment to live in with people I know and trust and also got a new job as a bank teller. These obstacles have taught me how to better navigate this new postgraduation phase of my life and find a balance among my work, social, and artistic aspirations.
The purpose of this documentary is to find Portland musicians who are trying to make our community safer for artistic expression. Having established my life here in Portland, I feel confident about moving forward with this intent. I have gained a knowledge of what this music scene consists of and will follow through with the connections I have made in order to capture musicians’ activism on camera. I will be filming at an increased pace from now until December, acquiring the assets I need to tell a complete story. The editing process should be completed by March of 2017, at which time I will work with the Provo Film Society to host a community screening of the finished film.