When I spent some time as visiting professor at City College in New York City 2008 I visited the Austrian researcher Daniela Jauk at the University of Akron Ohio. Because of her I met many interesting women artists and musicians (aged 40 and more). In 2010 I visited Little Rock, Arkansas and had the pleasure to again meet great women in arts and academia. I interviewed the artist and researcher Heidi Mullins in Little Rock and when she visited the University of Graz I had the chance to shoot a little art exhibition documentary and a lecture (at Schaumbad, das Freie Atelierhaus, Graz). Having done these films – and considering my research background in videography and gerontology – I was interested to interview more American female artists 40+. My research interests, my being a musician in her 40s – my own aging process and the curiosity of what to expect when turning 50 inspired me to create a video documentary on older female artists in these two places of the USA.
This is a video documentary – a hybrid between research and art. Roughly I do follow the rules of scientific investigation, by using qualitative research strategies throughout the planning, shooting and editing. My contacts in Little Rock and Akron – my friends and colleagues – functioned as mediators to find interview partners that would trust me to interview them in their homes and studios. I tried to find women beyond the age of 50, but I did interview some younger ones as well. Influenced by my previous work I was looking for women in arts and academia. But later within the research/filming process I decided to stick with the artists and musicians for this documentary.
To introduce myself I emailed the interviewees about my filming plans. All Email addresses, phone numbers, contacts and good energies were given by: Dany Jauk, Jeannie Moss, Hildee Pine and Heidi Mullins, these women were essential to be able to conduct the interviews. They contacted potential interviewees, arranged interview dates, coordinated places to stay and shoot, helped initiate musical events and pointed me in the right directions – above all they cooked for the crew or fed us with Krispy Kreme Donuts.
In 2011 the film crew: Andreas Wildbein and I 🙂 traveled to Little Rock and Akron and conducted and taped the interviews within approximately 12 days. 2 consumer HD cameras, 1080i50 (one sony one canon – a variety to regret later), an external microphone, a digital audio recorder for audio backup, crappy tripods, and no extra light :-). In Akron Isa Hollauf joined us and assisted during the filming and the three of us played some music with the local musicians at Marilyn’s open mic and basement.
In Austria upon return we captured the mini DV tapes and logged the material. The first coding process was characterized by filtering the content of the interviews. Every interviewee got her own sequence: The questions I asked showed as subtitles, extra footage was assigned to the sequences. At the same time I generated text files with the key propositions and descriptions of the locations. The summaries of these text files became the interviewees’ blog entries.
With the 12 sequences – I needed to try to compose a combining film. I tried to weave a red thread (in qualitative research you might like to call this yet another coding process). What do the women have in common? What are the differences? And then another coding process: How are the links between them that bring all together? Geography, art work, music, bands, age/generation, interests, outlook on life/aging… all needed to be considered. After creating a draft film I invited all the participants to feedback this version and give consent. They all did within a few days.
The next step was to create the final cut. Meanwhile I generated this wordpress blog and asked for consent on the individual entries. The women rewrote some of the text and edited my English, and they gave consent to the overall content of their interviews summaries.
The process of giving consent was crucial for this project – I wanted the women to feel represented and not misrepresented.