Sundance Features

January 24, 2008

Signe Baumane, Teat Beat of Sex

"The episodes are a take on sex from a woman's point of view. Do you know why women need panties?"

(This feature is part of an ongoing series of Reeler profiles of New York films and filmmakers at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Click here for a complete list of this year's interviews.)

THE REELER: I think I have a pretty good idea about this film, but I'd like to hear you describe it in your own words.

SIGNE BAUMANE: I've done a few sex films, but this one someone suggested because I always talk about sex at screenings, and I like talking dirty. I don't know if something's wrong with me. Someone suggested I record my voice and put it on top of animation of sex stories that I tell, and I thought, "Well, let me try that." So I tried recording my voice -- improvising some story about if dick size matters; what is dick size versus knowledge of the guy? And then I improvised it, and then did animation on top of that. It was a one-minute story; I sent it to some friends in e-mails and they loved it. A friend who's a producer in Italy said let's make more than just one. So we produced another two. Basically the Teat Beat of Sex episodes are a take on sex from a woman's point of view: If dick size matters, if masturbation is good for you, why women need panties... Do you know why women need panties?

R: I actually don't know, I'm afraid.

SB: Oh.

R: Should I? Is there a right answer?

SB: You should watch the film.

R: OK, I'm on it. But I am a follower of yours, and I'm interested in knowing where you think this film falls in terms of your ongoing exploration of these subjects.

SB: It's actually quite different than my previous work, and so far it's the most immediate success I've experienced. Animation is the best [medium] because it's the only kind of film that can deal with subjects using no language, and I was trying to go through those stories without using many words. But this is different: The stories are written. They're told, you know? When I was 8 years old, I wanted to be a writer. But English is my third language, so I decided to use no language. When I incorporate my voiceover with an accent -- it's a foreign woman talking, and grammatical mistakes are all right -- then I can explore my storytelling desire in a different way using language.

R: I know what you're talking about, because one of my favorite films of yours is your Borges adaptation The Threatened One. He was a genius with language, and that translated visually. What kind of liberties or challenges did you face when literally incorporating language?

SB: One of my backgrounds is as an illustrator, and I love the relationship between text and pictures. I think the American tradition is too illustrative; the pictures just show exactly what the text says. In my opinion the text and the pictures should complement each other, not be the same exact thing. Children's books might say, "And Mommy walked to the bed and said, 'Goodnight, my baby!'" And then you see a picture of a Mommy saying goodnight to a baby. Give me more! I also studied philosophy for five years, and I want to explore symbolic representations in the story -- what it's really about. Borges' poem is so meaningful to me, and I just wanted to say what that meaning is: Love is a dangerous feeling. Teat Beat is somewhat similar.

R: You haven't screened at Sundance before, right?

SB: I've been there with other people's films that I've worked on; I was there with Bill Plympton in 1998 and 2000, and then I did animation for Austin Chick's film XX/XY. But this is my first time with my own film.

R: Do you have any expectations, maybe even apprehensions?

SB: Yes. You know how we try to build certain arcs in our careers, and they say that if you don't move, you'd better be dead? For a year now I've been itching to make a feature film, and I know exactly what feature I want to make. I'm hoping to go to Sundance and meet some producers or some people who will help me understand how to go about it.

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