Movie Maniac

Tallgrass filmmaker questionnaire: Laurie Kahn, ‘Love Between the Covers’

Laurie Kahn, director-producer-writer, “Love Between the Covers”

Currently residing in: Watertown, Mass.

Genre(s): Documentary

When is it screening? 2:45 p.m. Saturday at the Orpheum

Tell us about your film in 10 words or less: It exposes the witty, passionate women behind a billion-dollar phenomenon: The romance novel.

Why were you drawn to tell this story? I want to bring the lives and work of compelling women to the screen, because any industry dominated by women is typically dismissed as trivial and “merely domestic.” My previous films – “A Midwife’s Tale” and “Tupperware!” – are very different from one another, but they were both shaped by my desire to look honestly at communities of women who haven’t been taken seriously (but should be), who deserve to be heard without being mocked.

I want people to realize how deeply ingrained we all are to dismiss anything that is by women, for women, and about women. Many romance readers told me stories of complete strangers looking over their shoulders on a train, or at the beach, leaning over and asking them, “Why do you read that trash?” I really don’t think that would happen to someone reading a mystery or a thriller! Romance novels are dismissed as simplistic. People who’ve never read a romance novel tell me, “They are formulaic. They all end happily.” But all genre fiction ends with a happy ending. Mysteries all begin with a crime, and end with the case solved – a guaranteed happy ending. Schwarzenegger is never killed in his movies. The good guys always win. So why are romances singled out? I think it has to do with a devaluation of women’s work, and a deep-seated fear of women’s desires.

How long did you work on the film? “Love Between the Covers” is part of a larger project called Popular Romance Project, which I’ve been working on for about five years. The Popular Romance Project explores the deep origins and widespread influence of popular romance. A fruitful collaboration of three institutions, the project includes:

▪ “Love Between the Covers” (Blueberry Hill Productions). For the film I followed my main characters for three years, and spent one year editing.

▪ “What Is Love? Romance Fiction in the Digital Age,” the February 2015 multimedia conference of romance scholars, authors, and industry insiders (the Library of Congress Center for the Book).

▪ Popular Romance, the thematically organized website with videos from the filmmaker plus blogs from scholars and romance insiders (the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media).

Who are directors you look up to/are inspired by: There are too many to mention! In the documentary film world, I’d have to say Fred Wiseman, Barbara Kopple, Jon Else, Shari Springer Berman, Rithy Panh.

What’s your favorite film? That’s an impossible question to answer! However, some of my favorite films are: “Throne of Blood,” “Days of Heaven,” “Chinatown,” “Searching for Sugarman.”

Do you prefer jumping off a cliff or taking the long, winding way down? Wow! I think my answer depends on my mood. When I’m feeling confident, I jump. When I’m feeling cautious, I take the long way down.

Been to Wichita before? Yes, I was in Wichita when I was shooting for my last film, “Tupperware!” The Weber family were Tupperware distributors, and Lavon Weber did a wonderful interview with us that is featured prominently in the film.

Be honest. Ever mutter the phrase, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore”? I confess I’ve said, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” to others when we’ve found ourselves in crazy, unpredictable places. I don’t think I’ve ever used Toto’s name when I’ve said it, though!

Any advice for aspiring filmmakers? Be persistent! If there’s an obstacle in your way, try to find a way over it, under it or around it.

Anything else you’d like to add? I’m looking forward to the Tallgrass Film Festival!