ACTING LIKE WOMEN

Los Angeles, California | Film Feature

Documentary, LGBTQ

Cheri Gaulke

2 Campaigns | California, United States

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This campaign raised $26,120 for production. Follow the filmmaker to receive future updates on this project.

176 supporters | followers

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When feminist performance art burst onto the L.A. scene in 1970, a community of women artists changed their lives and the very role of art. ACTING LIKE WOMEN is a personal and collective journey into gender, art and activism – intimately told by those who lived it.

About The Project

  • The Story
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Mission Statement

My life changed forever in 1975 at the Woman’s Building in L.A. There I found my voice as a woman, artist, lesbian, teacher, activist. Through performance art I learned what art in society could do. I hope this film informs, entertains and inspires. –Cheri Gaulke, Director

The Story

ACTING LIKE WOMEN tells the story of a movement – California feminist performance art of the 1970s. At the film’s center is the Woman’s Building in Los Angeles – an incubator for some of the most innovative, fearless and still-relevant work in the history of performance art. It was a birthplace for radical new ideas that made the art world take notice and laid the groundwork for future art and social justice movements.

Feminist performance art brought women’s private experience into the public consciousness illuminating issues like sexual identity, equal pay, and violence against women. Feminist artists were passionate about social justice and caring for the earth, creating some the first eco-feminist artworks. They exposed lesbian content, and claimed their bodies as sacred.

During this era, museums and galleries excluded women and artists of color. These women knew they were navigating blatant white male and East Coast bias. Los Angeles was at the epicenter of change. With performance art, they brought art out of the elite gallery system, into the streets and directly into people's lives. 

Founded in 1973 by Judy Chicago, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and Arlene Raven, the Woman’s Building was the only public center for women’s culture in the world. Women performance artists came to try out new ideas in the supportive atmosphere, including Eleanor Antin, Nancy Buchanan, Helen Harrison, Leslie Labowitz-Starus, Suzanne Lacy, Linda Montano, Senga Nengudi, composer Pauline Oliveros, Adrian Piper, Faith Ringgold, Rachel Rosenthal and Barbara T. Smith, among others. Its second location is now a historic cultural landmark.

I was on the frontlines of these new art forms and practices – performance, ritual, collaboration, social engagement and media intervention. In 1980, I wrote these words:

Oh my goddess, I have been developing this film for the last 46 years!

This is not just my story – it is the story of many women. The film includes diverse multigenerational voices who participated in and were inspired by the groundbreaking performance art of the 1970s. 

By definition, much of our work was immediate and temporary. This is partly why women and others have been so easily marginalized in the historical canon of performance art. 

I remember seeing nine 7-foot-tall women draped in black emerge from a hearse and stand atop the steps at LA City Hall (In Mourning and In Rage, Ariadne: A Social Art Network, 1978). I was sipping coffee in the diner where the many-breasted Waitress Goddess Diana both satirized and honored the role of women as nurturer (Ready to Order?, The Waitresses, 1978).

I danced in a coming-out conga line in a lesbian play (An Oral Herstory of Lesbianism, directed by Terry Wolverton, 1979). As a nun in a rainbow-colored habit, I performed a dance of death in a graveyard of white shovels to protest Reagan-era nuclear policies (Shovel Defense, Marguerite Elliot and Sisters Of Survival, 1981).

The film reclaims the history of a medium, conjuring the spirit of ephemeral work. As time has passed, key voices have disappeared. Many of the women artists that were involved are in their 60s-80s or have passed away. Archival materials are deteriorating

Now is the time to tell this story! 

Cheri Gaulke, director and writer, and Anne Gauldin, co-writer, joined the Feminist Studio Workshop at the Woman’s Building in 1975 to re-invent themselves as artists. 

Rejecting the stereotype of the lone male artist, we created collaborative performance art groups to create from a collective voice – Feminist Art Workers, The Waitresses and Sisters Of Survival. More recently they co-wrote the award-winning film Gloria’s Call

Gaulke and Gauldin have unique access to the historic and contemporary characters and are excited to bring this movement alive through film. 

The history of feminist performance art is not a tangent about artists on the fringes, but an essential and highly influential period at the heart of the medium’s development. Performance art and the Woman’s Building changed art and society.

Prominent scholars and artists from across the country recognize the importance of ACTING LIKE WOMEN and have become advisors – Betty Ann Brown, Judy Chicago, Sheila de Bretteville, Catherine Gudas, Amelia Jones, Suzanne Lacy, Laura Meyer, Marcia Reed (Getty Research Institute), and Maura Reilly.

We are grateful this project is supported in part by California HumanitiesThe Puffin Foundation and the Woman's Building.

PRE-PRODUCTION – Research and Development on ACTING LIKE WOMEN launched in 2019. Our Seed&Spark crowdfunding campaign is part of this important phase to raise funds for Production. We are outlining the story, securing locations, crew, and subjects now through the end of the year.

PRODUCTION – We plan to film our interviews and restage some performance imagery February-March 2022.

POST-PRODUCTION – April 2022 the complicated process of editing our material will begin. During this phase we will collaborate with additional professionals – editor, animator, sound mixer, composer, and graphic designers. 

COMPLETION AND DISTRIBUTION – We anticipate completion in September 2022 at which time we will send the film out into the film festival world. Our previous films have had successful international runs. Most importantly we want this film to be seen by students, educators and arts professionals, so that this movement will be part of the art historical canon. 

CONTRIBUTE any amount, big or small. Pick a fun incentive or check out our Wish List. Our non-profit fiscal sponsor The Chimaera Project will give you a receipt for your tax records. We must raise 80% of our crowdfunding goal to keep our funds.

FOLLOW our campaign on Seed&Spark. If the timing is not right for you to make a contribution, your support by following our progress means the world to us! When you contribute you are automatically following. As the project gains followers we earn rewards courtesy of Seed&Spark.

FIND and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter too. Link icons are above. 

SPREAD THE WORD by sharing our campaign with your community. Personal requests make all the difference. Here's the link to our campaign. www.seedandspark.com/fund/acting-like-women

We are deeply grateful for your support! Thank you for joining us on this creative journey.

Email: [email protected] 

Wishlist

Use the WishList to Pledge cash and Loan items - or - Make a pledge by selecting an Incentive directly.

Cash Pledge

Costs $0

Cinematography

Costs $10,000

Camera rental and an excellent cinematographer for our interviews.

Production Sound

Costs $5,000

We need to hear what these women have to say! In a documentary good sound is key.

Transportation

Costs $4,000

Help us bring some of our important voices to Los Angeles for their interview.

A Hard Drive Named Gaia

Costs $2,000

Only a Goddess can hold all this data. Heck, we'll name it after you if you prefer!

Performance Recreation Supplies

Costs $1,000

Costumes, props, make-up, oh my! We are going to film some fun recreations.

Archival Data Wrangler

Costs $1,000

So many images! So many artists and archives! We need a skilled wrangler!

Production Assistant Mentees

Costs $1,000

We were once young, learning from our mentors. We'd like emerging artists to learn while helping us.

Craft Services

Costs $1,000

Maybe the Waitress Goddess Diana will show up to feed us! In any case we will need to feed our crew.

About This Team

Writer/Director/Producer Cheri Gaulke is a pioneer in the feminist art movement in Los Angeles. Her work has been presented in film festivals internationally, in museums and a Smithsonian-touring exhibition, and alternative settings including buses, churches, and prehistoric temples. In recent years, her short doc, GLORIA'S CALL (2018), has screened in over 40 festivals and won Best Documentary at the Ann Arbor Film Festival among other awards. In 2021, she completed MISS ALMA THOMAS: A LIFE IN COLOR, a short doc about a little known African-American woman abstract painter, which is already winning awards in film festivals, and she is just completing INSIDE THE BEAUTY BUBBLE, a short doc about a gay hair salon owner and his roadside attraction in Joshua Tree, California. She is currently in pre-production on her first feature documentary – ACTING LIKE WOMEN – about 1970s feminist performance art, an under-represented movement that profoundly shaped art and social movements of today.

Co-writer Anne Gauldin is a Los Angeles artist and entrepreneur. She was a producer, writer and animator on Cheri Gaulke’s award-winning short film GLORIA’S CALL. Gauldin was a founding member of The Waitresses and Sisters Of Survival performance art collectives, both of which took art out of the galleries and into alternative settings in the 1970s and 80s. Her work has been exhibited and performed internationally. Gauldin is currently in pre-production research for feature-length documentary ACTING LIKE WOMEN.

Producer J. Cheryl Bookout is a filmmaker, studio artist and nonprofit arts administrator. Bookout produced the award-winning short film GLORIA'S CALL and is just completing a short documentary film INSIDE THE BEAUTY BUBBLE, producing a short sci-fi film PURE, a feature-length documentary, ACTING LIKE WOMEN and a short narrative film titled JUST A FRIEND. Bookout is preparing to shoot a proof of concept for her sci-fi episodic screenplay, WOMEN OF STEEL. She is the Executive Director/Founder of the nonprofit organization The Chimaera Project. Her nonprofit work includes sitting on the Board of Directors for FURSTWURLD and the Joshua Tree Retreat Center.  Bookout maintains a private studio in Joshua Tree, CA where she works on both her fine art practice and film projects. She has a long history of exhibiting her personal art and curatorial projects in venues across the U.S.

Archival Research Advisor Sue Maberry joined the Feminist Studio Workshop at the Woman's Building in 1977 and became a staff member at the Woman's Building in 1979 as Director of the Women's Graphic Center. In 1992, Maberry became the Director of Library and Instructional Technology at Otis College of Art and Design. There she led efforts to incorporate the use of new and developing web technologies within the college. She received a grant from the Getty in 2000 to begin digitizing the Woman’s Building archive and make an image bank available online. She has continued to make visible the history of the Woman’s Building as co-curator of a Getty-sponsored Pacific Standard Time exhibition at Otis College in 2011-12 that included the publication of two catalogs, video oral histories, and extensive online resources.

The Chimaera Project is a nonprofit organization that has been championing women filmmakers since 2013. They are  dedicated to empowering women and non-binary filmmakers to fearlessly create, inspire and lead. The Chimaera Project believes by supporting creative visionaries who are telling the stories that will grow our hearts, open minds and ask questions, together we can lead a movement for positive change in the world.

Current Team

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