Your current animation is centered around female sexuality. What was it like to research this topic?
The research stage for Gardening (that’s the name of the animation I’m making) was the biggest literary adventure of any of the films I’ve ever made. I had a lot of questions when I started so I read a lot, and what I learned from the reading went on to inform the script for the film. The initial question came from a quote by Oscar Wilde;
‘Everything in life is about sex, except for sex, which is about power’
I became obsessed with trying to figure out what this meant, and it if it was true. My friend Rosie referred me to Esther Perel, who I think is one of the most important writers on sexuality today and offered some really useful perspectives. I also found inspiring books in strange places, like the Sex and Punishment book which my Dad had left on his coffee table. I also did recorded interviews with friends and friends-of-friends, and these interviews informed a lot of the dialogue for the film. I also went on a weekend-long Tantra workshop after I moved to California. The workshop was taught by Margot Anand, a self-proclaimed ‘orgasmic woman’ who was one of the original few who brought Tantra to the west. Margot had some amazing stories and deep wisdom on sexuality.
After compiling pages of notes and hours of interviews I had a loose narrative thread, but it was a bit dry and I was worried about some very long monologues. The book which really brought my whole film into focus was The Hearing Trumpet by Leonora Carrington. Leonora Carrington is a surrealist painter and writer with a story of her own. She lived and worked with other surrealists such as Andre Breton and Max Ernst in Paris for several years, but during the 2nd World War she was forced to flee to Mexico where helped start the women’s liberation movement. The Hearing Trumpet is her most well-known book which is about an elderly woman who is sent to an old people’s home by her family, and gets up to all kinds of mischief while being decidedly opinionated. Carrington is a wonderfully visual writer and the surreal, occult imagery in The Hearing Trumpet provided me with the visual cues I needed to finish pre-production on Gardening. It also contains some very long entertaining monologues, so I decided this was not a bad thing. These are women with a lot to say.
What have you discovered about yourself in this process?
I discovered that many of the formative ideas I have about my gender and sexuality from my childhood are very damaging to me now. I don’t want to be too attached to any fixed sense of self, especially if it comes from someone else’s idea of what I should be. Esther Perel taught me that sexual desire is like theatre, it’s a place you go, a constructed narrative which sometimes begins several days before you actually get down to it. I also have discovered a lot about how to work with my psychological trauma, what role my art plays in this and how self-love is the pre-requisite to loving another.
Who are your favorite female icons? Why?
Serena Williams for her unrivaled athleticism, Jane Fonda for her determination and ability to re-invent herself, Tarana Burke for her contribution to womens’ rights, Gina Miller for taking the British government to court over Brexit, and Joan Jett for revolutionizing the way people think of women in the music industry.
Sarah Beeby is an illustrator and animator living and working in Los Angeles, CA. Gardening is a surreal animation about sexual self discovery and healing, generously supported by The Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality at California State University Los Angeles, and Rooftop Films Short Film Grant. Due for completion 2019.
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