What is your name, age, and location?
Anne Flournoy, age 60, live and work in New York City.
What is your profession?
Artist / filmmaker / video producer.
What did you study in school and what degrees do you have?
I majored in Art History at Wheaton College (MA), studied Sculpture in Etienne Martin’s atelier at the Beaux-Arts in Paris and have an MFA from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.
What was your first job?
I scooped ice cream at Buxton’s in Princeton, NJ.
Who or what inspired you to break into your current line of work?
When I was a graduate student at Rutgers in the late 70’s, the artist Arakawa came to talk and show us Why Not? an astonishing film he’d made pretty much for the cost of the film and the lab work. He’d shot it himself and edited it with a pair of scissors, running the cuts through a projector. I realized, by his example, that film didn’t necessarily have to be a group endeavor, much less a Hollywood-style production – that it was possible to make a film the way you make a painting.
Name/describe what has been your most rewarding project so far?
The Louise Log, which started as an admission of complete defeat, a sort of home craft project when I couldn’t get my second feature financed, has been my most rewarding project and probably because of the fact of digital technology. With digital, one person is capable, and for very little money, of functioning as both a production crew and a distribution team. Making it has forced me to learn a lot and to use every aspect of myself.
By the second season, it had become my life – my diary, therapy, my social life and a way to let alter-egos do over everything I’ve mishandled in real life. I’m all the characters.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has helped / hindered your career?
I’m afraid that my ‘incidents’ only show the potential for helping and the potential for hindering.
Sometimes allowing a certain erotic proximity to men in a position of power has benefitted me. I’m not talking about sleeping with them or anything even close to that. I’m talking about being willing to engage in that kind of energetic dance that’s not unlike a game of chicken, a power struggle that was probably refined in the Garden of Eden. My friend Carmela refers to it as ‘wearing the push-up bra’.
One day several decades ago, business-like with two copies of my itemized equipment list and budget in hand, I went into a meeting to try and negotiate a deal with an equipment house for a camera, lighting and grip package. It was a scaldingly hot sunny day and I can tell you exactly what I was wearing – a huge brimmed hat, an off-the shoulder dress that came to my knees and cool pointy flat shoes. The guy who owned the equipment house was a tough guy who could have been cast as a smart and effective Mafia hitman.
He lead me into his office – black leather chairs, air conditioning on blast and, to my horror, he closed the door. He may have even told his secretary to ‘hold his calls’. Mercifully his massive desk separated us. At one point, he looked at me with a sort of come-hither look and asked: “So why should I give you a great deal?” I was so freaked out at how he was acting, that he’d totally gotten the wrong idea about me that I cried out: “Because I’m DESPERATE!” He winced and his whole chest caved in as if I’d just socked him in the stomach. I remember feeling surprised at his disappointment and at my power in the situation. Thinking about it, I feel renewed awe for Marlene Dietrich: it’s tricky to pull off the erotic proximity thing, but women actually hold all the cards. Well… almost all the cards. There’s always the brute strength card.
Now a few decades further along, I’m better at it – partly because I’m older than most of the people I deal with which is a huge neutralizing advantage. Still, recently, in a supposedly mentor-type situation, a captain of industry nonchalantly slipped the question into our conversation: did I watch pornography? Luckily I was looking down and scribbling notes when he asked. Without missing a beat or even looking up from my pad, I kept right on scribbling: “Nope!”
The trailer for Anne’s feature film How To Be Louise – which was in competition at the Sundance Film Festival in 1990.
Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?
Eve Ensler is an incredible role model and an inspiration. She’s managed to keep writing, to get her work in front of a vast audience and to actually raise global awareness of the unacceptability of violence against women.
I recently had the experience of a mentor during an intense social media campaign and it was beyond wonderful. I want a mentor. I need a mentor. Guess I have to ask somebody.
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in your field, what would it be?
Do what you love. This work is so hard, both the making of it and then the promoting of it but if you love it, it doesn’t feel hard. My only real problem today is that, so loving what I do, it’s hard to find the time to sleep.
The Louise Log’s Facebook page
Anne’s personal website
Follow Anne on Twitter: @AnneFlournoy
– Interview by Elena Rossini
– Special thanks to Emily Best for the introduction.