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DOC NYC Women Directors: Meet Beth B

DOC NYC Women Directors: Meet Beth B

Beth B produced, directed and edited Exposed. She also shot much of the film, and, with composer Jim Coleman, wrote several of the musical numbers. 

Beth B exploded onto the New York underground scene in the late ’70s, after receiving her BFA from the School of Visual Arts in 1977, creating installation art works, and directing Super-8 films. Controversial and political in approach and content, these breakthrough films, such as Black Box, Vortex, and The Offenders, were shown at Max’s Kansas City, CBGB’s and the Film Forum. These and more recent films have also been shown at, and acquired by, the Whitney Museum and MoMA. Her early films, along with those of Jim Jarmusch and Amos Poe, are the focus of a new documentary, Blank City. Her films and artwork have been the subjects of several books and other documentaries, including The Cinema of Transgression; Art, Performance, Media; and No Wave: Underground 80. Beth B’s career has been characterized by work that challenges society’s conventions and focuses on recasting and redefining images of the female and male mind and body. [Press materials]

Exposed will play at DOC NYC on November 15. 

Women and Hollywood: Please give us your description of the film playing.

Beth B: My work has been breaking boundaries with controversial films and installations that often focus on unheard voices, the underdogs. Exposed profiles eight daring young burlesque stars who use their naked bodies to challenge our notions of sexuality, disability, and gender. These cutting-edge artists allow us to examine our own inhibitions by questioning the very concept of “normal.”

WaH: What drew you to this story?

BB: The characters, their stories, their messages, and their art drew me to delve into the late-night NY underground scene that Exposed depicts. Dirty Martini, Mat Fraser, Julie Atlas Muz, Rose Wood, Bunny Love, Bambi the Mermaid, World Famous *Bob*, James Habacker, and Tigger! Their groundbreaking work — inspired by Karen Finley, Robert Mapplethorpe, Joey Arias, Penny Arcade and others — is uncensored. Their vision, guts, and willingness to reveal themselves made our movie possible. I wanted to ensure that their performance art survives and thrives.

WaH: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?

BB: HAHAHA! The late night hours and having no budget. At this point in my life, I have a 10-year-old daughter and I teach at the School of Visual Arts. I have to be up super-early in the morning, so filming until 3 AM was a huge challenge. And, because of the completely uncensored nature of the film, funding was non-existent. Exposed is provocative in part because it contains so much nudity, but the performers expose themselves in ways that make us laugh and sympathize with their physical foibles and our own. It makes the case for loving our bodies. In many societies, including our own, this is still a revolutionary concept. So this film is about freedom. In the words of the head of the Nuremberg International Human Rights Film Festival (where it was shown this fall), “Exposed is 100% human rights.”

WaH: What advice do you have for other female directors?

BB: Feel passionate about your ideas. You may be working on it longer than you think. I thought Exposed would take 6-7 months since, at the time, I was coming off of an eight-year stint producing commercial television, which is known for its fast-paced production schedule. But Exposed took me seven years to complete because it was 100% self-financed, partly because the characters were very complex and I wanted to go deeper into the layers.

Watch the Exposed trailer: 

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