Q&A with Academy Award-winning producer Pamela Tanner Boll

“In a half changed world, women often feel they need to choose: mothering or working? Your children’s well-being or your own?” Sound familiar? These are the questions that drive much of Who Does She Think She?, a documentary feature released this year. It essentially explores the lives of five diverse women who refuse to choose. She Writes caught up with director/producer Pamela Tanner Boll, to ask a bit about her process. The film is now available as a beautiful house party kit. Go here to purchase and read on to learn more. She Writes: If you could get one political figure or powerful/rich/influential person to watch your film, who would it be and why? Pamela: I would MOST DEFINITELY want Oprah to watch the film. Her whole professional life has been about living our best lives. She has made a fine career for herself out of sincerely asking people about their pain and outing what might be hidden in their lives...so that they can MOVE ON from those stuck positions. She looks for the inspirational. She brings to light great and moving stories, and believes in the possibility that people can change their lives for the better—which is, in part, the message of my film. So many people who have seen WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS? see themselves and their dreams in a new light and are in a better position to act on those dreams...I think Oprah, from the beginning of her career, has exemplified and has demonstrated these possibilities. Having said all of that, I would also LOVE for Obama to see the film. WHY? Because, I firmly believe that in order for us to have a more peaceful world and prosperous world, we need to start accessing the wisdom of the mother. I just read a study by Valerie Hudson, Mary Caprioli and others called THE HEART OF THE MATTER: The Security of Women and the Security of States (from International Security, Vol 33, No. 3 (Winter 2008/09). It shows a “significant linkage between the security of women and the security of states.” The article discusses empirical findings by Caprioli that “states with the highest levels of gender equality display lower levels of aggression in these disputes and were less likely to use force first. “ These are fascinating studies and I think that they should form the basis for our diplomacy rather than be considered sideline or human rights issues. WHO DOES SHE THINK SHE IS? shows the continual suppression of women’s voices, women’s work, women’s art, in our society—and how lifting that suppression can energize all of us—these are the reason Obama should see the film. She Writes: You're an artist who works in multiple mediums (the written word, painting etc.). What's your favorite and least favorite thing about working in the film medium? Pamela: My favorite thing about working in film is the collaborative nature of the process. At every step of the way, I have worked with amazing and inspiring people to achieve the vision. In pre-development, I worked, nearly a year with Mickey Seligson. We read books, we talked about these issues of self and selfishness, we drank tea, we watched other people’s films; then working with the film crew—my photographer, Gary Henoch, Producer, Will Dunning, my two sisters who often came along for both support and to photograph and drive! All great collaborations. Then, the intensive days in the editing room with Nancy Kennedy. All of this has been wonderful. On top of these intensive relationships, I have had Paula Kirk at my side, helping plan trips, listening to ideas, sitting in on meetings and getting the work done! I like the relational aspect of film as opposed to the more solitary work of writing and of painting. I also, have LOVED sharing the film with audiences---and especially with students at universities throughout the country. What has been hard, has been the financial aspect of film. It costs so much to make a film. There are so many people dependent on me for their livings. And, every part of the process—travel, camera, editing, has been expensive. I had thought that we would sell the film to HBO or another station and recoup some of those costs. So far, no go. And then, I thought the “distribution” was something that I could hand off—and am finding that even though we have a “distributor” in Emerging Pictures, that I am still paying two other people to do this work. So, it is HUGELY frustrating to find so many people want to see this film and yet I am still losing money on the endeavor. She Writes: What is your favorite new skill that you've gained from working on this film? Pamela: I’d have to say that I have gained a trust in my voice, in my experiences. I have gained a trust that I know some things worth knowing and that it is vital to get those out. I used to feel a little like I was “showing off” if I “showed my paintings” or sent my stories out. It seemed it was more about my needing attention. And there were lots of people around me to tell me that that was the case. But, I no longer doubt that what I do matters to others. I have come to see, in fact, that it might be “selfish” to keep my thoughts and feelings and artistic expression to myself! I’ve also learned to pace myself and to respect my pace. I have all of my life, worked on more than one thing at a time and all of my life, I’ve had people tell me I need to “focus.” The fact of the matter is, I work best when I have many different projects going. And I sometimes don’t feel like working at all—which used to make me feel that I was lazy. But, I now know more about me—I work for hours and hours, getting deeply invested in a subject or project then I stop all together. It is a furious surge followed by calm. Knowing this pattern and accepting it, has been another new skill. She Writes: You profiled five artists. Who would the sixth artist have been and why? Pamela: I would love to have really shown Pattiann Rogers. Pattiann is a poet and we did have her in the film early on. I loved two stories that she told about becoming a “real” writer as opposed to someone who wrote a few things in school. She told about moving away from her home as a young married woman with two small sons. She moved from mountainous, wooded Tennessee to flat, hard pan burnt and blasted Texas. She lived in a newly built ranch house, the biggest house she had ever had; she was married to a very fine man and had two precious sons, yet was miserable. So lonely for her home and her people that she could hardly breathe. She told how one afternoon, after wrestling the boys down for naps, she too lay down in the shadowed bedroom behind drawn shades and a fan stirring the dry air and began to re-member the walk through the woods near her home. And she began to catalogue each tree and each leaf and branch of that tree and then on to the next. She remembered the water crackling over the stones, and the coolness near the brooks mouth. And she remembered each and every site and then began to feel better. She constructed that which she loved first, in her mind, then on a piece of paper. And that remembering, that creating is what we need and love is the power of writing. She Writes: What's next?! Pamela: Well, I have a few ideas I’d like to explore: one is an investigation into peace and what makes it possible. My friend, Lindsay Richardson, who is now at the Watson Institute at Brown University is very interested in exploring this idea. I may work with her; I am particularly drawn to the notion, discussed earlier, that perhaps the key to peace is true equality between the sexes. I am struck over and over, how, even at the beginning of the 21st Century, women and men are still in an old model; male as “in control,” woman as “controlled.” Or male as HERO and woman as in need of protection. This inequality of position is lingering and powerful and IF we could change this in the name of peace—wow! I am also thinking about working with another friend, the poet, Nadia Herman Colburn, to write a book on people who have made radical changes in their lives and how that was possible for them. We would be most interested in people who have changed their own lives for the better AND in doing so, have benefited the people around them. Just at the beginning of this. Most of all, though, I need to unplug. I need to quit working for a period of time. I need to moosh around in my robe and slippers and play Gregorian Chants and Patsy Cline and Chris Issak and read books that make me laugh out loud as well as books that make me cry hard. And also to spend time with friends. I would like to take an extended trip—hiking from place to place without a plan. We shall see.

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