FYI interview with Guin Turner & Rose Troche 1994
‘Go Girls- Go Fish’ from Female FYI magazine, July 1994. Interviewed by Alex Zaphiris & Kim Yutani.
The hot movie of the summer is the one we’ve all been waiting for. Co-written by director Rose Troche and leading actress Guinevere Turner, Go Fish is an uproariously funny and truthful representation of young urban lesbians. The story follows the budding romance between Max (Guinevere Turner) and Ely (V.S. Brodie) and their friends who persist in getting them together. Stylized in grainy black and white, Go Fish is a movie by, for, and about young lesbians.
On a hot Los Angeles afternoon, Rose Troche and Guinevere Turner spoke freely to Alex Zaphiris and Kim Yutani about the making of Go Fish, the dearth of lesbian films, and…sex.
Rose Troche: I think it’s going to be that interview of the day.
Guinevere Turner: When we’re really punchy.
FYI: Has the film met your expectations? You worked on it together, and now a couple years later, you’re looking it, how does it feel? Does it meet the picture you had in your mind?
RT: There are a lot of things that are different, but in a lot of ways there are things that are unexpected about the film that neither I or probably Guin originally conceived of.
GT: I think a lot of times when we can sit back and have perspective on it and say, Wow, this is what it is? And this is the reaction that it’s getting? We definitely wanted to make a movie about lesbians, about lesbians our age, that is happy, that shows community, all of that. But all of a sudden we have this romantic comedy that people are saying shows the unversality of romance, sex and love. That is so shocking to us in a way. But I don´t think we sat down and thought, let’s make a sweet movie that like, gives everybody a warm fuzzy.
RT: Right, right, that people will think we’re trying to say, we’re actually just like you. To tell you the truth we never wrote the film with a straight audience in mind or any other audience in mind besides a lesbian audience. In terms of being able to see the film now, I mean, I wish I didn’t make it so I could run to the theater and see it because I would be that person who would say, when is it going to be out in my town?
GT: I wonder if I saw it I would say, Well, it wasn’t that great.
RT: I’m sure I would be that way.
GT: I’m sure we would. We’d be like, Duh, well, I mean, I guess it’s alright. It´s about time.
RT: We could’ve made a better film. We go and see films and we’re just like, Pff, okay, next. (to Guin) And yeah, that’s funny, we would be that way.
FYI: Did you make this film in response to the big Queer New Wave article by B.Ruby Rich?
GT: Actually, we were in the middle of making it when that article came out.
RT: That was the article that got us to Christine Vachon (executive producer of Go Fish, Poison, Swoon) because I’d read that article and we’d run out of money when that article came out. I called her and then that’s how she became affiliated with Go Fish as an executive producer and found the money for completion on the film.
GT: We were just sitting around looking at that article and it was so inconceivable at that moment that we would somehow become either a part of that canon or in opposition to that canon or that we were about to enter the “hall of Queer Cinema.” Even though we were making a movie and even though we were very committed to it, we just somehow didn’t – I don’t know if it’s because we’re women or because we’re lesbians or because we’re just confused young people – I don’t think we ever pictured ourselves, that just if we did something, that we would automatically be there.
RT: I kind of felt that. I knew Go Fish, if completed, would be the next lesbian film which is what it is now. I think even more so at the time that that article was written, we had The Living End, Swoon, The Hours and Times, Poison. That’s gay cinema.
GT: There’s Sadie Benning.
RT: And Cheryl Dunye. I’m just like, Oh, oh, that’s so even, there is a New Queer Cinema. I feel like the concept comes before the evidence – and there’s a little bit of a problem with that. That’s like talking about a gay and lesbian community. There really isn’t. There’s a gay community and there’s a lesbian community. So these are difficult labels. I use them, I know. It’s just so much more simple to say Queer Cinema, Queer Film.
GT: And we have the concept that gays and lesbians actually are this unified group of people but we really aren’t on so many levels except when we all happen to be out on pride day.
RT: But there is a power to saying there is such a thing as Queer Film and there is such a thing as a queer community because a lot of times these things are a label for mainstream media. And that presents us as, much bigger, much more powerful, and much more unified maybe than we are, and more power to us for the emperor’s new clothes on that one. And so I think –
GT: (laughs, then takes on a mocking voice) The emperor’s new clothes on that one. Someone breathing down your shoulder again? This is Rose’s favorite mixed metaphor. Someone breathing down your shoulder-
RT: Oh my God, Guin, I didn’t even know I-until today-
GT: You said that three times on camera or on tape.
RT: It’s breathing down my neck!
GT: It’s either breathing down my neck of looking over my shoulder. You’re like, breathing down your shoulder (demonstrates “breathing down her shoulder”).
RT: Oh! You know, English is not my first language. So you know, I always get, you grew up in a home that’s just not white, and all these things get mixed up-
GT: It’s a bilingual thing.
RT: It is, it is.
FYI: What culture did you grow up in?
RT: Puerto Rican. So it’s like, I didn’t grow up with, you know (mocking voice), a stitch in time saves nine or these like, American phrases. So I pick them up now and I always get them wrong.
GT: My other favorite one that she does is: that really threw me through a loop.
RT: Makes sense to me, doesn’t it?
GT: It does make sense actually, but – Whew! (demonstrates with her hands, “going through a loop”)
RT: I just shouldn’t say that, you know. I should extinguish them from my – I didn’t even get that until today.
GT: I wanted to nip that shoulder breathing thing in the bud. (laughter from GT and RT)
RT: Okay, anyway, there’s our tangent.
FYI: I was reading that one of the things you wanted was for it to be lesbian driven in terms of the crew and money and who did the work-
RT: And much of it did. All key positions were not only women, but for the most parts, lesbians. You know, we didn’t make anybody show a card. I mean, it becomes a really odd requirement to say-
GT: Are you a lesbian or not.
RT: Yeah, and questions of how you define lesbianism.
GT: We had a couple of people become lesbians after the film.
RT: Actually that’s really true. It was actually a springboard for a lot of people to come out. Their coming out experience was making the movie.
GT: The great potential thing Go Fish can do is that 15-year-old, pre-baby dykes can see it and come out a little faster than some of the rest of us did and see it as a viable option and see it as a cool thing.
RT: It’s funny because we tried to imagine what it would’ve been like if we were seeing Go Fish at 18. We would’ve been like, alright. That’s a really wonderful thing about it coming out in theaters, where I could imagine some woman coming home and their mom says, What’d you go see? Oh, Speed, The Flintstones, whatever’s out. Like people would actually get into discussions or even fights for even having gone to see Go Fish, if their parents knew what it was, for example. That’s a crazy thing to think about. Because it’s really something parents would not want their daughters and sons to see.
GT: And it seems like the first lesbian movie at all that would appeal to teenagers. I mean, you couldn’t really say Claire of the Moon is a recruiting movie at any level. It just doesn’t represents that age group or that class range or even that milieu that we can identify with.
RT: We don’t need to work in opposition to that movie. They are two different movies, and it did so much for Go Fish in terms of Go Fish getting done. Just like Go Fish can do, whether you like it or not, the point here is, there’s a second lesbian feature film out before five years. The amount of time between Desert Hearts and Claire of the Moon was just like, god, the 80’s and the 90’s. That is a long time to wait.
GT: But then if Go Fish does well at all that makes it more and more possible for maybe Hollywood to make a movie that is really not Three of Hearts or whatever.
RT: Well, I think it might be easier for them to give the power to the people who should be making the movie.
FYI: It´s starting to happen. Did you see the movie Chicks in White Satin?
RT: Right, Chicks in White Satin is being developed and we´ll see what happens to that.
GT: It was really interesting to see Chick in White Satin because I’m so like, antimarriage and you’ve seen in Go Fish there’s this whole thing about that. But I had tears in my eyes by the end seeing Chicks in White Satin. There’s something so sentimental about it and so sweet, even though I-
Rt: It’s so true. Because I knew what it was about too and I sat there like, Ugh…
GT: And we have to see this too because it’s a lesbian film and we want to know what’s out there. Even in the beginning I was like, Oh no, here are these women … But by the end I was like, Oh, it’s so beautiful and the moms are dancing together-
FYI: I felt like the trial scene came from a very emotionally charged and true place.
GT: In a way I think there are a few things that we put into the movie that we feared. We wondered if we were going to lose half our audience because there’s a woman and a man having sex on screen. But then we decided to take a risk with it because it’s real. This stirred up so much controversy between us and amongst our cast that we were like, we have to put this in. In a way to me that’s beyond P.C. because that’s really daring and showing how really catty and oppressive women can be to each other.
RT: We are both guilty of being that oppressive. For example, someone very close to the production on this movie, that same thing happened to her. We were just like, pssss, figures! Just willing to drop her and her lesbian identity in a second – it should not be rock like that; you’re a lesbian and you identify yourself as a lesbian. I’m sorry, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to believe someone.
GT: I think it’s really facinating because we put it in there without ever thinking we’d ever have a straight audience and we’d be doing so much straight press, and people hone in on that immediately. I think for straight people it’s like this ultra confusion, like, she’s supposed to be with women and then she’s with a man, and they’re mad at her? And they’re like, does that really happen? Then they’re confused-what is a lesbian, do you all sleep with men and then argue about it, is that how you spend your time? I just think, fuck it, it’s not for you because you can’t understand because you’re not in there.
RT: That’s so funny. That’s the lovely part of Go Fish where of course she’s going to have these massive quilty feelings about having just slept with a man to the point where she imagines this trial scene because it’s completely her life and everything is enveloped in this lesbian space. That guides her life in a way, and this is why she’s kind of “gone off track.” It’s like a fuckin religion, right?
GT: (mocking voice) It’s like a fuckin’ religion, right?
RT: I’ve had just about enough of you, lady.
FYI: Were you concerned about how you would present lesbian sex?
GT: Very. It was one of our original directives before we even wrote the script. We wanted to have sex in this and we wanted it to be good and we wanted it to not be a cop-out. And two years later we’re actually supposed to be shooting and we’re like, what’s it going to be, how are we going to do this?
RT: It was the thing that remained in the script like: ” …and they have sex.”
(much laughter from all) We were so lost. We took it from a theoretical angle, you know, what is erotic-
GT: What’s pornography, and what’s just boring, what’s your middle-ground, what’s sexy…
RT: What could we do in terms of respecting both actresses and how much they were willing to put on screen. There’s all sorts of questions that come up.
GT: And the politics of who gets to be in the room when the scene is shot. It was far-reaching.
RT: Everyone’s going to expect Ely (V.S. Brodie) to be a top and Max to be a bottom and how do we combat that? How do we show it as an even-because that happens-I don’t care how butch someone looks. Because it’s not always butch in the sheets, femme in the sheets, you know, it’s not always about these reversals even. It’s not about how you look, it’s when you get home at the end of the day, you’re doin it to each other.
GT: We also wanted it to be passionate and also to have a sense of humor about it. Also for it not to be “the moment” of the movie like, oh, they’re finally having sex!-even though that’s kind of how the movie ends. We were like, how’s it going to end? Well, they have sex, and then what?
RT: They’ll all have sex! Yeah, that’s a good ending – but yeah, it was a difficult scene to shoot. The three of us kept running off-set, Valerie, Guin, and myself.
GT: It was very hard and we shot it twice. We tried once and we had to stop because there was just too much drama and tension, and we were too vague about what we actually wanted. Then we went back and actually did it again and it worked out better. We have some really hilarious outtakes. We were trying all kinds of things about what’s sexy. For example we thought it might be sexy to show them taking off their clothes which you never see in the sex between Ely and Max. So we have these shots of us, and the camera is like here (gestures to below her knees), I had these boxer shorts on, and it’s like the most unsexy thing.
RT: Like farmers.
GT: Like two old men sitting on toilets next to each other.
RT: It’s like Farmer Bob getting ready to do it. We’re like, ok-no. She’s got these chickeny legs, and I’m like, I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking. Or else they go like this (opens her legs) and I’ve got this big beav shot, and it’s like, yeah, that’s what I’m going to put in the film, that is sexy. Really we ended up with a lot of footage but I ended up cutting it down and making it quite … abstract, to some degree. But I just battled with it on every level. In terms of directing it, editing it, I was just battling with it.
FYI: What did you not want to happen with it?
GT: We just didn’t want it to be wimpy. That was the big thing. We just did not want it to be this copout scene. We still look at like, ugh, it’s really not what we wanted. Althoug I think the other sex in it makes up for it.
RT: I can’t look at the scene. I closed my eyes when I edited it and that’s just what I came up with. You know what I just wanted to say about the sex scene is that there was a real clarifying for me, in terms of what is sexy, what is erotic, from that scene between Ely and Max to the final sex montage. We were like, it’s kind of sexier to keep your clothes on and have it be like in different places, things…
GT: And we just said fuck dialogue because we had dialogue in the sex scene too. (speaks in a shrill voice) It was so scary!
RT: Oh my god. I wanted them to talk to each other because people talk to each other-
GT: It just became so cheesy.
RT: There’s a point where Valerie had her glasses on and you kissed her neck and they went like this (demonstrates glasses askew).
GT: Valerie told me, okay, I have a zit right here. And there’s this one scene where I´m kissing her, I’m licking the back of her neck and my hand is right here and I’m covering her zit.
RT: Monster zit!
GT: It’s not like we had body makeup or anything.
RT: It was funny. But I really liked the stuff at the end of the film.
GT: Yeah, I like it much better.
RT: I’m kind of happy with what ended up happening with the sex scene. But it was a battle. But the sex at the ending I had never had a real problem with, the final sex.
GT: It’s so hard. Try writing a lesbian sex scene sometime-
RT: Also try acting it and looking like you mean it.
GT: It’s sweaty and hot…
RT: A lot transpired between these women from beginning to the end of the film.
GT: Among all of us.
RT: There are many stories…
Image Credit: [AfterEllen].