"The Politics of Fur" was shown at the 19th Lesbian Film Festival Berlin 2003. It┬┤s the story of a sadomasochistic power struggle between the cool, beautiful music executive Una (played by Katy Selverstone) who lives with her pet baby tiger. Una rules her empire in between protein shakes and yoga poses until a wannabe rock star called B (played by Brynn Horrocks) moves in after their first date.
Laura Nix, born in Rochester, New York, started writing the film script in 1998, and in 2002 the 70-minute film was finally finished and ready for the silver screen. A four-year project mostly financed on credit cards, and a labour of love that was shot in just nine days ...
AVIVA-Berlin: Do you have a film background?
Laura Nix: I started in documentaries, working with independent filmmakers for public television in Boston in the early nineties. I was an assistant editor and that was how I began, watching them put these shows together. It was great training because I watched them mould material.
Then I started making experimental films. One of them was a short called "Possession" that went around the world on a little tour. It┬┤s about an erotic relationship I have with an armchair. After that, I moved to San Francisco and worked as associate producer on the "Celluloid Closet" which is a documentary about gays in Hollywood. Then I went back to graduate school at the University of San Diego in California - in the visual arts program - and that┬┤s where I wrote and shot "The Politics of Fur".
AVIVA-Berlin: "The Politics of Fur" is inspired by Fassbinder┬┤s film "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant". How did that come about?
Laura Nix: "The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant" was the first film by Fassbinder that I ever saw and it made a really big impression on me. And then I didn┬┤t really think about it for many years, I kind of filed it away. Then later I was in San Diego trying to write a screenplay about a relationship I had when I lived in San Francisco. I thought about "Petra" again and realised that the architecture of the power triangle was something that would be really helpful to me and the problems of how to construct a drama. I looked at the film again and there was a lot in that film that was parallel to this relationship I┬┤d been in.
AVIVA-Berlin: How did you fund your film?
Laura Nix: It wasn┬┤t funded. I applied for a lot of grants. I didn┬┤t get any of them, except later on I got one grant from Frameline in San Francisco. Before that I was feeling very discouraged and thought, "I┬┤m never gonna make this film." It┬┤s very hard to get grant funding for fictional work. In the States, It┬┤s mostly given to documentaries. So I put it on credit cards. I applied for a lot of credit cards. It was a juggling act that, frankly, I┬┤m still dealing with today because you don┬┤t pay off 30 grand ($30,000) that easily.
AVIVA-Berlin: Why did you call it "The Politics of Fur"?
Laura Nix: Fur is obviously a metaphor for "woman". This was a joke between friends of ours when I would go out: "Was there any fur there?" "Was the fur good last night?" "Did you get any fur?" "The Politics of" is just trying to describe the power relationships between the characters in the film.
AVIVA-Berlin: The film is about the power struggle between two lesbians but there are a lot of gay men in the film who seem to be having sex all the time. It is a very interesting juxtaposition. Could you tell me something about that?
Laura Nix: I wanted to make an observation and somewhat of a comment about how much gay male sexuality has made an imprint on lesbian culture and lesbian sexuality. I came out in 1988, during a time when the sex wars were going on and people were having all these conversations about S&M, transsexuals and so on. When I moved to San Francisco I went to the bars and there was a very "butch on butch" scene. I kind of identified as a femme and so I felt very invisible there. It was difficult to get myself orientated and to feel desirable in a way. Ironically it was funny to go to SF to be with the lesbians who were all dealing with these issues of playing around, and identifying with, gay male sexuality. It was inescapable, it was everywhere. It was being talked about all the time, there was performance art that was being done about it in every caf├ę. I wanted to play with it a little bit and just explore it.
Also, a lot of gay and lesbian events are called gay AND lesbian events but often I feel like they┬┤re run by men. I don┬┤t feel that so much here in Berlin. You actually have a lesbian film festival - It┬┤s the first one I┬┤ve ever been to.
The film is obviously about two lesbian characters, about lesbian lives and about this lesbian anti-love story, but to me it feels completely appropriate to play around with how visible the men are, how visible the men┬┤s sex is and also to make fun of certain aspects of gay male culture - like these white parties that they have in Los Angeles where there┬┤s hundreds of men all wearing white underwear. I wanted to have images of that in the film.
AVIVA-Berlin: Do you have distribution for "The Politics of Fur"?
Laura Nix: The film is going to open theatrically at one small cinema in New York and depending on how it does there, it might go to other theatres nationally. That same distribution company might also show it on home video channels. We┬┤ve also had interest from a distribution company in the UK and since I┬┤ve been here in Berlin, somebody said they were interested but I haven┬┤t had any answer yet.
AVIVA-Berlin: Do you have any advice for women who want to be independent film makers?
Laura Nix: Yeah, don┬┤t wait for people to help you make your film! Just go and make it. Because if you wait around for support and funding and approval it might really never happen. I know that from myself, It┬┤s very easy to get caught up in that. And I think It┬┤s definitely good to start off on a small scale and build your way up slowly because you can learn a lot that way.
AVIVA-Berlin: Thanks for the interview. We wish you and your film "The Politics of Fur" every success.
The Politics of Fur (USA 2003)
Produced by Laura Nix
Co-produced by Catherine Hollander
Written and Directed by Laura Nix
Photographed by Winnie Heun
Starring Katy Selverstone. Brynn Horrocks, T. Jerram Young and Carolyn Mignini.