Beth is an independent producer, director and writer, whose fervor for American history, music and culture has led to a series of award-winning and critically acclaimed films. In fact a few weeks after we recorded this interview, Beth won an Emmy for her film Fort Vancouver that she made for Oregon Public Broadcasting. Her latest project, her first scripted web series, called The Musicianer tells the tale of Yodelin’ Vern Lockhart — a hillbilly singer with a problem.

Read more about Beth.

Read more about The Passionistas Project.

 

Listen to these BONUS CLIPS from Beth's interview:

BONUS: Beth Harrington on her definition of success

BONUS: Beth Harrington on her biggest professional challenge

BONUS: Beth Harrington on her plans for The Musicianer

BONUS: Beth Harrington on singing with Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers

BONUS: Beth Harrington on her most courageous decision

BONUS: Beth Harrington on opportunities for female filmmakers at festivals and markets

BONUS: Beth Harrington on her mantra

BONUS: Beth Harrington on her advice to an aspiring female filmmaker

BONUS: Beth Harrington on her mentors

BONUS: Beth Harrington on her pop culture icon

FULL TRANSCRIPT

Passionistas: Hi and welcome to the Passionistas Project Podcast. We're Amy and Nancy Harrington. Today we're talking to a very special guest, our sister Beth Harrington. Beth is an independent producer, writer, and director whose fervor for American history, music, and culture has led to a series of award winning and critically acclaimed films. In fact, a few weeks after we recorded this interview, she won an Emmy for a film she made for Oregon Public Broadcasting about Fort Vancouver. Her latest project, a scripted web series called "The Musicianer," or tells the tale of yodelin' Verne Lockhart, a hillbilly singer with a problem. So please welcome to the show, Beth Harrington.

Beth what's the one thing you're most passionate about?

Beth: I mean, the obvious answer is filmmaking. With the close second being music. Those things are just so intertwined for me, more, especially more and more lately, that's all I really want to do and talk about and think about. But in of course in that is storytelling. You know, I love a good story and I love telling those stories. And lately I've just been feeling like a lot of it's about just being as creative as you can be for as much of the day as you can be creative. And I have some inspiration for that lately from people I've been working with and it's like, oh yeah, let's just be creative all day long. Let's cut out things out of construction paper and make little things out of clay. So I don't know, that's, I've been really excited about just being creative more and more.

Passionistas: So how does that translate into what you do for a living?

Beth: For a living large, actually I work for public television and I've been making films for Oregon Public Broadcasting in the northwest and before that in Boston at WGBH for a number of years. And that's been my sort of bread and butter. But what's great about that is I'm still filmmaking and it's never a thing that I feel anything but great about, you know, I, I love working in public television. That's been great. So there's that. But on my, as far as my own stuff goes, that preoccupies even more of my brain. And I've just always, I'm just kind of always thinking about that stuff. And I'm, I've been lately, you know, the last few years I've been trying to figure out how I can make music and film be so much a part of what I do, that I will live out my days doing those things. I think I spend every part of everyday thinking about how to advance the film and music related film stuff that I do, um, in whatever shape or form I can do that.

And sometimes, unfortunately that takes the form of just doing boring things like applying for grants. And some of it is really fun. I just came back from a month where a big part of the month I was just away shooting stuff. And then last night I got home from a few days of premiering that new pilot for my, my film project, "The Musicianer" in Canada to the audience that loves this, the star of it the most. Um, those are the things that I want my day to be full of and I'm working actively working to fill my day with those things.

Passionistas: Tell us a little bit about your path to becoming a documentary filmmaker.

Beth: I guess I should preface all this by saying that when I went to college and there weren't a lot of people actually making documentaries, and there certainly weren't that many women making documentaries, largely because independent film where a lot of documentary resides just didn't exist the way we know it now. You didn't go to college to become an independent filmmaker. I mean, you barely went to college to become a filmmaker unless you're going to UCLA or someplace like USC or someplace like that. So when I went, I was, I went with the intention of trying to tell stories in media somehow, but it hadn't fully formed as documentary. But the more I did work on the radio station and in this cable thing called Synapse, that was up in Syracuse where I went, the more I realized that the thing I most wanted to do was deal with these realities. And it was super fun to tell real stories because truth is stranger than fiction as it turns out. So when I got out of school, I wanted to keep doing that, but I had no clue how to pursue that. But fortunately for me, over time I chipped away at just working in media period.

And then several years out of school I finally realized I started working with other women filmmakers through Women in Film. And that organization really helped me a lot to connect with other women and a lot of those women worked at WGBH in Boston. And then I was like, oh, that's where it's all happening. That's really where I should be focusing my energy right now. And knowing those women, I realized that a lot of them did their own projects on the side as well as doing the things for series like "Nova" and "Frontline" and those kinds of shows. So it gave me a little confidence to go out and start working on my own projects. And so my initial foray into filmmaking making documentaries was that way. And then over time I got a gig working with WGBH and that further underscored all the things I was trying to do.

Passionistas: So the early films that you made on your own were inspired by the North End of Boston where you were living at the time. Tell us about what you found so inspiring about that neighborhood and what drew you to want to cover those things in film.

Beth: I had moved into the North End in 1977 and it was still very much an all Italian American enclave. There are hardly any people that became known as outsiders when I moved in. So, okay. One or two outsiders is okay. So I was, I was part of the very first wave of, in truth, gentrification in the neighborhood. You know, it had been largely an immigrant neighborhood at that point for over a hundred years. So I kind of thought there were great stories there and I was interested in figuring out what they were because as you know, our family has an immigrant history in Italian history. And so I thought, oh, this would be kind of cool to explore that part of what I know about our own family, what I know about the neighborhood when I know about Italian American history. And so I started filming these religious feasts because they were so damn colorful and there were 12 of them.

And so every weekend in the summertime I could go to one of these feasts. And I was like, Jesus, a crazy, they're so cool. People carry and saints and pinning money on the saint and all kinds of sausages and little neck clams and Italian memorabilia. And I just thought that was the coolest thing around. And I wanted to document that. And then it turned out to be one feast in particular that had a really cool climax, which was the angel ceremony, which was this little girl. They take a little, a little like eight-year-old girl, put her on a block and tackle pulley system and fly her out a window over the crowd. And she's dressed as an angel. And it was just nuts. And I thought, you know, this doesn't happen just anywhere in the world. And it's happening in my own backyard.

I should start filming this stuff. So that was really the impetus when I saw that ceremony, and I happen to be with friends of mine who were from Spain when I saw it, and they were like, what the heck? And I said, I know, isn't that amazing? They were like, this stuff doesn't even happen in Europe anymore like this. And I said, you're right. I should be documenting it. So that was the beginning of like what ended up being three films about Italian American religious ritual and this sort of anthropological approach that I took to it. But that didn't last for very long because then I get sucked into it and became the subject of my own film.

Passionistas: So that film was "The Blinking Madonna." So tell us about the genesis of that film.

Beth: I had made two documentaries about this one religious society. The Fisherman's Feast is what the common name for it was, but it was about the Virgin Mary. It was about the Madonna del Soccorso. And she was Our Lady of Perpetual Help. And so I'd gone and filmed a little angel ceremony and then I went to Sicily with some of the participants and filmed the connective feast that happened there. And I kind of came home from that thinking, okay, I've done all the work I need to do on Italian American religious feasts. And this one summer I had been laid off from my job. There was no more work at the Documentary Guild. I had broken up with the guy I lived with for a really long time. So I was not only on my own for the first time, but all of a sudden all my bills had just doubled. And I had no job. And I was kind of freaking out and really, really depressed. And my friends from the feast called me and said, you come into the feast, it's next weekend.

And I was like, ah, I don't think so. But they insisted and I brought my camera and I went to see them and I filmed the feast one more time with my own camera. And when they get back to their headquarters, they looked at the videotape. I just gave them the videotape and it was a videotape and they said, oh my God, there's a miracle on this tape. And the miracle that they saw was that the statue of the Virgin Mary appeared to be blinking her eyes. And they told me this on the phone and I was like, yeah, let me come down and take a look at it. And when I went down to look at it, sure enough, it looked like the statue of the Virgin Mary was blinking her eyes. And this is a plaster of Paris statue with no moving parts. I thought, you know, this doesn't happen every day.

And I could explain what happened, but the neighborhood being what it was and people's devotion being what it was that even though I dutifully told them, I think it's the auto focus on the camera, they wanted to believe otherwise. And so one thing led to another, and by the two days later there were busloads of people coming into the neighborhood to view the video tape to see the statue of the Virgin Mary and ended up on the front page of the Boston Herald. On all the TV stations that night and all of a sudden this fallen away Catholic that I am. And this media person, uh, became the agent of a miracle and in the middle of a media event of her own making, albeit inadvertently, it was a crazy time. And a good friend of mine, Deborah Granik, who's a pretty well-known filmmaker now, she encouraged me to try to make a film about it.

And I at first couldn't see my way through it. I couldn't, I couldn't imagine what it was. I, you know, I said, it exists already. It's the story that's on the news. And she said, no, it's about you. And I was like, really developed me. You sure? And she was like, yeah, you gotta be in this. It's about you. So with her encouragement and some real prompting, you know, she really pushed me. I started working on the film and finished it the fall and a couple of years later, and it's still my favorite film that I've ever made. That's still like, it says everything I want to say about community and my background and family and all those things.

Passionistas: What's the most important thing you learned about yourself by being the subject of your own film?

Beth: That you can run but you can't hide. You think you put these things in your bed, in your rear view mirror. I'm not a practicing Catholic. I'm not somebody who's, I haven't been to church routinely since I was a teenager and that even then it was largely to satisfy our mother and I kind of thought I didn't care about it, but clearly I did. If I'm making films about it, I don't know who I was kidding except myself. I was clearly exploring stuff that I thought I didn't want any part of. And so when this thing happened I was like, Huh, this is it knocking on the door. It's me going and I'm still here. You know, are you going to pay attention or not? So it's not like I had a religious conversion because of it, but it did make me realize that there were components of my upbringing and my education Catholic school that I really cherish. And there were things about it that I want no part of and we could do a whole show on that. But really that the stuff that I, I cared about that was embedded in it was very meaningful to me and made me who I am. And that's something you just, you can't get away from. It's there.

Passionistas: And now with time, even though you have a technical explanation for it, do you think it was assigned that the statute blinked at you?

Beth: Sure. Cause right at that time, a week prior to this or two weeks prior to this, a handsome French man moved in downstairs from me and shortly after I got my job back and I was told I was going to take this cool trip to the Philippines to do a film about volcanoes and I stopped feeling bad and obviously the sign was, I was ready to move on. I embraced the whole episode as being kind of fun and crazy. Like it was lovely. People in my community thought that I was the agent of a miracle, right? They thought I was capable of being the Saint Bernadette of the North End. And that made me feel really great. Not because I believe that, but I believed that it was so nice of them to think that of me, that that changed how I felt even I already loved the neighborhood, but I loved him even more after that.

So it just kinda cracked me open or made me realize that I was already cracked open and I was ready to make the next step. So that was the sign. The sign was, you're ready, move on. And as an, as a scholar, I know my friend Bob Orci, who's an Italian American religious scholar, pointed out the Virgin Mary when she appears to people, right. And that this, the body of literature about this, when she appears to people, she doesn't appear to people who are in good shape. You'd never, you know, she appears to poor people. She pours them, appears to people in crisis. That's her M.O. And he said, Beth, you were perfect. You were such a mess. You know, this is perfect. And I was like, you're right, I was perfect.

Passionistas: So then talk about getting into making your music documentaries. What inspired you to start making them?

Beth: Well, I really, I really wanted to almost from-the-get-go, you know, like I especially back when I finally started working in film, I thought, God, there's so many great stories. Why isn't anybody telling them? And one of the reasons nobody was telling them was that we're an outlets for them at the time. The other reason people weren't telling those cause they're expensive to make. And I figured that out fairly, fairly fast. I had friends who were making a documentary about women in the blues and they were in rights hell for a number of years trying to pay the music for those, for that documentary. So I was aware from the beginning that it was an expensive proposition. And as a young filmmaker, I thought, well, there's no way. Back in those days there was no way I could command the kind of money as an inexperienced person. I couldn't raise that money to do the kind of film I wanted to do.

So I would have to wait until I became a more experienced filmmaker. So really took me many years, both refining what I knew about just making films and then getting the confidence and the skillset to raise money. All of those things had to reach a point where I felt I was ready to do it. But you know, right around the time I moved away from Boston and moved to the Pacific northwest, I really had always wanted to do this documentary about the early rockabilly women and the rock and roll scene, the peers of Elvis's and Jerry Lee Lewis, his and Johnny caches who were women. And that story was dates back to when I was in the modern lovers. I had thought about that as a possibility in like 1979 but I didn't get to make that film until the late 1990s it was just wasn't possible, but I did get to do it and it was really, it was the right time and it went really well and the film did really well and I still feel good about it because I think I gave a window into these, the lives of these women that a lot of people would know about.

If the film hadn't existed and apparently according to some of the women in the film, it boosted their careers. Most notably Wanda Jackson's. She went from being marginally known to ending up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I felt like, oh good, my work is done. I helped do that.

Passionistas: And then your follow up film, "The Winding Stream" was also a very female centric topic. Talk about that film and also just why telling the story of women in music so specifically is important to you.

Beth: "Winding Stream" as a follow-up to that, it really organically came out of it because a lot of the women I talked to on the rockabilly film noted that a huge influence on them in the 1950s where these women from the 1920s Maybelle and Sarah Carter who had been arguably, they're the first famous women in country music and really first famous women in American music at that time.

This is at a time when radio is it coming in and the recording industry is coming in. So these people that would probably only have been regionally known are suddenly famous. Not only all over the country, but all over the world. Maybelle Carter and Sarah Carter, are two of the seminal women in American music. So I was really excited about telling that story. Sarah's husband AP was this sort of Impresario of the group, but the real musical engine of that group were the two women. And once I realized that, I was like, well, this is a no brainer. Why isn't anyone telling this story? And I also had the added impetus of knowing that Johnny Cash was a huge part of the promotion of the story because Johnny Cash married into that family. June Carter cash is the descendant of these women. And so I had made my rockabilly film, had Roseanne cash in it as a narrator.

So I had this connection to Rosanne and I was about to reach out to her when she reached out to me and said, you know, you should think about making a film about the Carters. I was like, well, it's funny you should mention it. I would love to do that. So she opened the door for several of the really important interviews, most notably the interview with her father in both cases. In the case of "Welcome to the Club, the Women of Rockabilly" and in "Winding Stream," like a lot of history, it isn't that people aren't there, it's just that they're not getting singled out. There are women in all these stories. There are people of color in all these stories. They're, they're there and they're not even on the sidelines, they're there. We just kind of have this way of until very recently just focusing on the white guys.

So I'm really excited that these films came out when they came out. I feel like they were in some ways a little bit ahead of their time. Then now I think it's, it's a little bit of a no brainer that we can now look back and say, Oh yeah, there are the women there. They're right there. But they weren't obvious in terms of how, how they were depicted in the media. I'm really proud of that. I'm proud to have helped contribute to some of that.

Passionistas: So besides musical talent, was there a common thread that you found with the women that were featured in both of those films that sort of contributed to their success?

Beth: Especially in the rockabilly film, but even to a certain extent in the Carter story, there were other strong women in the wings that made it possible. All of the rockabilly women had mothers that really wanted them to do what they were doing. Wanda's mother sewed her stage clothes. Laurie Collins, his mother couldn't have been prouder, drove them all over the place to gigs, get them on TV shows, insisted that they moved to LA so that the kids could be on TV. Janice Martin's mother pretty much almost like fell in love with Elvis during the whole process. Like took her to meet Elvis and took her to meet Chet Atkins. And then it wasn't just being stage mothers, although there was a certain amount of that. And in Brenda Lee's case, she was the support of the family. So her mother was like, you're doing this because we need the money. But they were all super proud of their daughters and they worked hard to make it happen. And even in the Carter family story at a time when women really weren't doing that, you know, they weren't out there touring, they weren't out making records.

It was just a weird thing. The community around them seemed to be fine with it and they got help with their while they were away because other people, some other when women supported them. So I think that's the most striking thing that there was that support from other women.

Passionistas: So you recently completed the pilot episode of your first scripted project, "The Musicianer." So what made you decide to move into a scripted format?

Beth: I love documentaries, but you know, you're waiting for people to say the right thing or to say the thing that you think will help tell the story. And I thought, gee, we'll be so liberating to do something where I put words in somebody's mouth and they send them. Wouldn't that be great? And I had done, you know, little attempts at narrative stuff before, but I had never really given myself the freedom to do that. And I started to think if not now, when, and there were a bunch of other forces that came together. One was that there was all this extra information from the research I did from "Winding Stream" that never shows up in the film. It has no place to go. It's important but not relevant to the story. So I knew all this extra stuff about the recording business and the movie business and the 1920s and so I liked quote, you know, living there. And I thought that was kind of fun. And at the same time I had been going to these academic conferences and meeting all these academics that cared about all that stuff too. And I got an immersed in that world of what they talk about and the way they talk about it. And then the third big thing, and probably the most important thing was as I finished "Winding Stream," I was introduced to this musician whose name his stage name is Petunia.

And Petunia is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting performers I've seen in a long time. He's just a force of nature and he's a kind of mysterious guy with a vague personal backstory. And he's somebody who I recognize had enormous charisma and I thought he'd be really great in a film. And right around the time I was sort of thinking this, he said to me, you know, if you ever needed somebody to play Jimmy Rogers in a film, I'm your guy and I thought you are. You are the guy. So I kind of tucked all that away and started thinking about it. I would see him periodically when he come through town and I kept saying, I haven't forgotten about that thing we talked about. So finally I, it all kind of came together in my head that it would be fun to do something that was vaguely supernatural that involved a story about the 1920s but also had a present storyline that involved musicologists in contemporary academia. And let me use all this extra background information that I had in a way that didn't fit into a documentary. So I wrote this thing called 'The Musicianer" and he's the star of it and he's really good. He did a really good job and it lets him use his music talents. It lets me play in the world of music still, but it also lets me make use of all this extra stuff that took me 10 years to put together

Passionistas: We're Amy and Nancy Harrington. And you're listening to the Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Emmy-winning filmmaker, and our sister, Beth Harrington. Visit her website, BethHarrington.com to learn more about all of Beth's films and her new web series, "The Musicianer." Now here's more of our interview with Beth.

As an independent producer director who's had to keep the momentum going for herself for a very long time. Do you ever feel unmotivated and if you do, how do you push past it?

Beth: That I used to be more problematic than it is now cause I now I recognize that you've got to have those periods of feeling unmotivated. It's like it's like recovery. I'm pretty driven. So if I find myself in a place where I'm like I can't, I can't, I just can't. I can't even then that's me telling myself you need to take this time. You know, right after I got off the road with winding stream, I think I sat on the couch for about two or three months, pretty much didn't, you know, I, I was just, I was just done and I didn't have an idea and I didn't know what I was gonna do next. And that was really unusual. And, and it, it was a little alarming for lit a little bit. And I did wonder and gave myself time to say, are you done with filmmaking?

Maybe this is the high note you go out on and it's good and it's over. But then I thought, okay, but what is it I'm going to do if I don't do that? I didn't have an answer that satisfied me cause there's nothing I like better. I've taught a little bit and I've done other kinds of writing and there's nothing that I like more than making films. And when it's going well, it's the best Gig in the world. So I allowed myself to really think about it and to feel it and to mourn it and to, and then it was like, Nah, I'm doing it again. So it's a little bit like a drug addiction. So there's that. But um, yeah, I'm happy I'm still doing it.

Passionistas: What do you think is the one biggest lesson you've learned during your journey as a filmmaker that sticks with you?

Beth:  I think the biggest thing that I know about anything creative is perseverance. I have come to realize it's more important than talent. It's more important than intelligence. That's who wins the game. You're, you have to persevere. And filmmaking is one of the big tests of that because there's so many parts that are hard before you get to do the fun part, that you better be willing to hang in there and the hard work because you might never get to the fun part. So I have always, you know, the Woody Allen thing showing up. You just show up and you, you do it, you do the hard work and you put one foot in front of the other. That's something I've become really good at, even when I don't even understand what the next step is all the time. It's like, well we got, I gotta take some step, I'll take this step.

So I think that's the biggest lesson I've learned from filmmaking is that there is such an obvious set of hurdles. Everybody has hurdles in the work they do. But for filmmaking to even get to be creative, you have to do all this other stuff before you even get the chance to be creative. It isn't like you go out and buy a canvas and then you paint. You have to raise the money to buy the wood to put stretch the canvas on the frame. And you know, it's, he just goes on and on.

Passionistas: What's been the most rewarding part of what you do?

Beth: The most rewarding part of what I do is having an influence on people's understanding of our culture and history. And sometimes that's very general, like just people come up to me and saying, I never knew that. Thank you for showing me that. And often it's telling untold stories about women and people who don't get represented usually in these things. You know, I, I'm really proud of the fact that with "Winding Stream,” part of the story was the story of Leslie Riddle, who was the African American Blues Man, that AP Carter enlisted to help him collect songs in the south. And AP and Leslie were ostensibly friends, but AP Carter benefited financially from the songs that got collected. And to our knowledge, Leslie Riddle did not. He spent lots of time with the carters. Many historians and people like me, think of Leslie Riddle is very important figure in the Carter family story. Maybe arguably the fourth Carter, you know, if there's a fifth Beatle and George Martin is the fifth Beatle, then Leslie Riddle is the fourth Carter. But he's usually not acknowledged that way. So I was able to tell a little bit of his story and after the film was done, people in North Carolina where he was born, who hadn't spent much time thinking about Leslie Riddle, used some of my research to justify approaching for the fathers of a certain town and getting them to erect a memorial in honor of Leslie Riddle.That was like, my work is done. I, that was, that was such a great feeling to be able to, to have that happen. So those kinds of things make me really, really happy and they don't always happen on that scale, but they do happen in the sense that people become aware of something that they weren't aware of before and maybe see it slightly differently. I also, the fact that when I showed "Winding Stream" to audiences that were kind of demographically mixed, I'd show it in places in the south where they're on one part of the auditorium. They'd be all these kind of hipster Americana appreciators and then there'd be people who were much more conservative, had grown up with the carters almost as part of their religious beliefs. You know, Carter sang a lot of religious songs, so there were these very different camps in the same room and we would have Q and A's afterwards and people would talk about everything from, you know, was Johnny Cash saved to, you know, tell me more about this African American Blues Guy.

And so to have those conversations was really, that was really gratifying. And my husband Andy, whom you know, has a phrase that he likes to use about when you get people to think about things they didn't think about or accept ideas that they might not have accepted ordinarily. And he calls it Trojan horsing. So we bring the Trojan horse in and then we climb out and we make people think about things and then we climbed back into the horse. Um, so that's Trojan horsing.

Passionistas: What do you think were the lessons that Mama taught us about women's roles in society?

Beth: Mama, like a lot of women of her generation. And I also will include my late mother-in-law, Marie in this, you know, you, it's the old, you can't be it if you can't see it. Right. And those women didn't have any range of opportunities. And Mama to her credit went to art school and she became an art teacher. And in conversation with her over the years, I realized there were things she probably would have loved to have done, but she was also somebody with a strong sense of duty. And she already had kids and that there was just like off her radar screen at that point. And she couldn't pursue those things to her way of thinking. And I remember many afternoons sitting with mam watching television. Watching the talk shows, watching Merv Griffin and you know, Gloria Steinem would be on, or Betty Friedan would be on, or you know, any number of radical Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, all these revolutionary figures were on TV. And I sensed a tremendous ambivalence from mom. On one hand she was like, now these people are crazy. You shouldn't, don't do what they're doing, you know. But there was a piece of her that recognized that things were being, some of it was being dismantled in a good way.

And I think she wanted that for all of us, that she wanted us to have opportunities that she didn't, have, you know. The fact that she always used to say she wanted to be an archeologist, she would've dug that, no pun intended. She wouldn't, you know, she would've loved that. She would've thought that was the, the greatest, you know, one day we went on a little dig together, the BU had just so she could do it. And I ended up going on a dig for a while in Spain and she thought that was great because it was something that she was so curious about. I mean, I don't mean to make it sound like I only learned stuff from her by what she didn't get to do because she also very much promoted our sense of possibility. She very much wanted us to pursue our, our ambitions and dreams, especially the creative ones.

Even at the same time saying, yeah, but you have to support yourself. You have to figure out a way to support yourself. And that was really important because some parents just go no, some parents just say, you can't do that. And they mean really okay if you can support yourself. But most people just say no. Mama had the presence of mind to say, yeah, go ahead and do that. You're going to be in Jonathan Richmond and the Modern Lovers just kind of after you've just finished college? Okay. You know, she never made it seem like that was a bad idea. As long as I could justify how I was going to take care of myself. And at that point they were paying me enough so I could. And she was like, great, then have fun. She was so accepting of people too. She was so incredibly accepting in a society that wasn't that accepting.

We had gay friends and friends of color and all these people come into the house over the years that I know other parents would not have been so open. And she was the one that was open. And remarkably so all of those people still comment on it today. That's an extraordinary thing for someone from her time, you know? And what she, what she couldn't do for herself in a way.

Passionistas: So what's your proudest career achievement?

Beth: I think still "Blinking Madonna" is my proudest career achievement because it was the first big creative risk I ever took and compounded by the fact that I was in it and it was super personal and I had to be really honest in a way that I'd been fairly guarded before that. And people really liked him for, because I was honest. So that I think was my proudest thing. I, you know, that I took a huge creative risk and I, and I sweated that I would go to bed every night going, oh, this is either the best thing I've ever done or the worst thing I've ever done and give on any given night. It could be one or the other. And I was like, oh. And a lot of people challenged me, especially then because I was a woman putting myself in the middle of my own story and making a film about it. And I had people guy say to me, what makes you think you're so special? And I, that wasn't what I was trying to do. I was saying, I don't think I'm so special. I think I have something universal to say, but boy, those kinds of remarks could've just cut me off at the knees and I didn't let it. So I think that's what I'm proud of stuff.

Passionistas: What's your secret to our rewarding life?

Beth: What's that line from "Spinal Tap"? "Have a good time all the time." Which is the best movie of all time. As long as I'm here talking about films. No, I mean there is something to that. There's, I, I do believe life is too short. Life is too short. And so, you know, we stayed up way too late the last few nights in British Columbia hanging around with people 20 years younger than us going to rock and roll shows four nights in a row. Yay. And um, Andy and I were both exhausted and he said, why are we doing this and this because we can because we can. And it's such, there was just such great memories. I'll sleep when I'm dead. I want to just keep doing the fun stuff. So I try not to turn down opportunities to do fun stuff. I try to be there during the sad stuff as present as I can be for the people that I love. And then the rest of the time the chips fall where they may, but I, I, I feel like I'm going to quote another musical. "We got a lot of living to do." Right? Again, this is stuff to do. So I think that's the key to a rewarding life is not until not sitting back and letting it roll over you. And I know a lot of my friends go, what the heck? And they see my posts on Facebook and like, aren't you tired? And when are you home and why don't you do this and that. And I just think at this, not enough time. Let's just keep going. You know, you can take a few days off and sleep, but go for the Gusto.

Passionistas:  Thanks for listening to the Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Emmy-winning filmmaker, and our sister Beth Harrington. Go to PopCulturePassionistitas.com to see some family photos of us with our big sister Beth. Visit her website, BethHarrington.com to learn more about all the best films and her new web series "The Musicianer." And be sure to subscribe to the Passionistas Project Podcast so you don't miss any of our upcoming inspiring guests.

 

Share | Download