Exciting zine news! Ana Hine, editor of the zine Artificial Womb (we made a split zine together!) and film maker Fergus Cruickshank are making a documentary together called Zines there done that. It will be about Ana’s struggle with mental health issues and the role that zines are playing in her recovery. Other zinesters may be featured as well as the zine touches upon feminists arts, DIY culture and mental health in general.
The crowdfunding campaign for the film is up now, so hurry to support this amazing project! In October 2016 we can expect the documentary to be finished.
The link between (per)zines and recovery is something which interests me a lot. I think zines, because of their accessibility and creative freedom and because of the supportive zine community in which they exist, can play a great role as tools for self-care and as community support networks. Zinesters often say writing zines as like therapy and survival for them. I’m curious to see how the film will explore this issue.
Let’s ask Ana and Fergus about their motivations and expectations of making the film!
Hi Ana and Fergus! Can you introduce yourselves?
Ana: Hello Nina! I’m a… well I’m not sure. I used to be a newspaper reporter, but at the moment I’m creatively unemployed. So I spend my time doing activism, writing poetry, making zines, and generally living off the grace of the state. I’m going back to art college in a couple months though, to do a masters degree in fine art and humanities. I’m from and live in Dundee, Scotland. And… I’m 25!
Fergus: I’m a Glasgow based Camera Assistant and I produce short form documentaries. I have made films inspired by arts residencies, social and political movements, and of course my family and friends. I’ve known Ana for many years now, we went to art school together, but working on this film with her has made me realise how ignorant I was about mental health and her own struggles with depression. I want this film to show how prevalent mental health is in our society and how easy it is for friends and family to hide it. Zine There Done That will aspire to be the type of film that I want to see: a film that educates, inspires and informs, and makes you want to get off your sofa and get out and help society.
Ana, have you been making zines for a while? Tell me about your zine Artificial Womb!
Ana: I made my first collaborative zine in early 2013 with my university feminist society. Then in spring 2014 I was working for a newspaper and they had mandatory holidays every quarter. I’d only been working there for a month or so when the first one came up and I had to take my holiday time, but I was really into my job then and didn’t want a week off. With all the pent up energy I made a pseudonym, gave her an intricate social media presence, and decided to make a zine. I was doing it all really fast and it probably would have been called ‘Feminazi’ (a term hurled at feminists here equating our politics with fascism, because feminism restricts freedoms like free speech or some other weak logic) and been really crap, but my boyfriend Alfie came and sat with me and helped me with the logo and the name and then, I think, insisted I leave it until the morning. By the end of the week the first issue was made, and stocked in a couple shops. We published five fortnightly issues with friends from university and art college (Alfie and I met at The University of Dundee in 2010) before I shut it down out of fear I’d get into trouble at work.
In early 2015 I lost my job after having a nervous breakdown. I was suffering from work-related stress and anxiety, because it turned out being a newspaper reporter is a bit intense and I didn’t have a very supportive supervisor. I got into a spiral of over-analysing things and feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of influencing public opinion and being at the frontline of archiving history… it just all got on top of me. I’d bought a car though and government benefits are only for subsistence, so I needed to find a way to bring in a little bit of income. Restarting Artificial Womb seemed like a good idea. Alfie and I launched a Kickstarter to try and raise the initial money to restart the zine and we ended up raising £1500, which was enough to live on over the summer of 2015 and make the first two issues. Since then we’ve been running it as a monthly zine, featuring the work of emerging artists and writers and paying them a little for their contributions. Mainly it runs on crowdfunding (through our Patreon subscription service) and zine sales. Honestly, I’ve spent most of the past year trying to make it a viable business, which hasn’t really worked. I mean, it makes enough to pay the contributors and cover the print costs, but we still need to get support from our local council to cover our rent and get government assistance to cover our bills and groceries… so as a business it’s been a bit of a failure. Turns out, you can’t make a living making zines! Or at least, I haven’t been able to.
However, for a zine it’s been quite successful. We’ve been running it on a monthly basis for more than a year, publishing the work of around 70 emerging creatives and covering all sorts of topics like beauty standards, anarchafeminism, feminist parenting, asexuality, sex education, housework, artistic poverty, gamergate, homophobia, and much more. It’s not cutting edge stuff yet, but there’s a lot of potential. I’ve taken it to a bunch of zine fairs in the UK and sent copies to zine libraries in the USA. As a professional journalist I strive to make it regular, available, accessible, affordable and accountable… but again that’s kind of business marketing speak.
TL;DR: The best way to understand Artificial Womb is to read it!
Ana and Fergus, have you worked together before? How did you meet?
Ana: I met Fergus at art college (DJCAD in Dundee) where I was studying fine art and philosophy and he was doing film. We were part of a student society that made short films and things and broadcast them as part of the student union’s TV station. This is the first film we’ve made together without other folk being involved, but I trust his instincts and he’s working as a camera assistant now-a-days so he knows his stuff.
So now you’re making a film called Zine There Done That. How did you come up with the plan to make this film together?
Ana: Fergus approached me and asked if he could pitch a film idea – centered around my mental health and zine making – to a funding body. Pitching ideas is just part of being a freelance artist and working in the creative industries, so at that stage I wasn’t sure if it would actually happen. But once we worked on the pitch together we realised we’d really like to make the film. It seemed like a good way to explore how mental health affects employment opportunities and a chance to look at zine culture. We weren’t selected for funding, but the feedback we got was pretty positive and we were encouraged to launch a crowdfunder to see if there’d be any interest in the project. We’ve been shooting footage and have a rough idea of how we want the final film to look, but it all depends on how much we can raise.
What will the film be about?
Fergus: The documentary will be about Ana and her recovery from a nervous breakdown in 2015. It will show how mental health can affect anyone, and that it takes a long time to recover from. We want to show how zines and the zine community have helped in Ana’s recovery, and also with the recovery of other people with their own mental health. Using the prism of the zine culture, the film will explore mental health, depression, unemployment and feminist art scenes.
Why a film about zines and mental health?
Ana: The funding we applied for was specifically for films about mental health. We wanted to bring zines in because my mental health story is all about media and employment and career, and zines are a huge part of that. It just seemed like a good idea.
How do you feel being the central subject of a film and speaking out on mental health in such a public way?
Ana: It feels kind of uncomfortable, but also a little bit thrilling. I live a lot of my life in semi-public, deliberately. I see a film like this as being a continuation of my own journalistic work and art practice, which is highly confessional. It’s a technique, right? Like, performance art. You let yourself be the subject so that the ideas and concepts can be explored through you, so you’re like a conduct. I believe in the premise of this film – that zines can help with recovery – but I don’t like to ask people to participate in something intimate or that covers ground that could be potentially traumatic or triggering without demonstrating that I am also willing to participate. And participate more. So, while I don’t think I ‘deserve’ to have a documentary made about my breakdown or my zine making – I’m not that interesting or unusual – I am more comfortable with this sort of public confessional work than other zinesters might be. Of course, saying that, zines ARE confessional so maybe we will find that as we make the film a lot of other zine makers want to get involved and share their stories too. I hope so!
How do you think zines can be used in healing/self-care/community support? How did it work for you?
Ana: Zines are so important for self-care for so many reasons. They’re a bit like diaries and a bit like therapy, in that you talk through the problems until you find your own solution. They’re also like internet forums or support groups, in that by talking about problems in a group setting with people going through a similar thing you realise you’re not alone and find coping mechanisms and techniques that may not have occurred to you. For me, being able to make a publication outside of the mainstream media has helped me rebuild my sense of self. I had invested so much of my identity in my career and been so convinced I needed an editor or publisher to validate my ability. Making zines reminds me that I have a skill set that’s suited to underground media and information distribution, that I don’t need permission to publish. It’s a very empowering medium.
How can people reading this help make Zine There Done That be funded and realised?
Ana: By donating to the crowdfunder – https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/zine-there-done-that#/
I mean, we’ll try to make the film regardless of how much money we raise, but we set a target of £2000 because that’s how much we need to make a film with clear audio, coherent editing, where we have enough fuel in my car to meet up and conduct the interviews and shoot footage. Sharing the project around social media is helpful, but actual cash donations are needed too. It’s hard, because the zine community is a DIY scene full of broke creatives so people don’t have a lot of cash to spare. I totally get that. Or first perk level is €1.19 (£1 or $1.31) though, which most people with good internet access can spare. I guess, the message is: if you like the sound of the film consider giving us some money. Isn’t that the core of every crowdfunding campaign.
Where will it be shown when it’s finished? Will you be sending it to film festivals? Will local DIY collectives be able to show it in their towns? We’d like to make the film in time for the Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival in October 2016. After that, I’d like to think we’d send it anywhere that’s relevant. We’ve got an option on the crowdfunder for the screening rights at £100, which is intended for charities. We’ve also made a secret perk for DIY collectives and grassroots organisations. If they follow this link they can get the screening rights for £30, plus a copy of the DVD and some of the other perks – https://www.indiegogo.com:443/projects/1824153/x/12434003?secret_perk_token=e7d8c500
Thank you and good luck!