You can’t but help feel good watching this documentary by Sarah Knight about the blues band Saffire. These are older women who want to make music and have been on the road for years bringing their brand of blues to people all over the country.
Director Sarah Knight answered some questions about the film. You can purchase it here. The film is also availalbe on Amazon and on the band’s website.
Women & Hollywood: What drew you to make this film?
Sarah Knight: My fascination with Saffire-The Uppity Blues Women began in the early ’90s after the release of their second album, “Hot Flash.” They caught my eye because, at that time, they were receiving a great deal of national press including features in “The New York Times” & “People Magazine,” and on “Entertainment Tonight” & CNN’s “Showbiz Today.”
It was their story that first intrigued me – that of three middle-aged women quitting their jobs and hitting the road to pursue their dreams. Their witty lyrics (in songs like, “I Gotta a Silver Beaver” and “Middle Aged Blues Boogie”) provided a further hook, but it was their stellar musicianship that converted me into a permanent fan. In addition, I was lucky enough to catch one of their electrifying live shows when they performed at the 1997 Seattle Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival, where one of my short films was being screened.
Some time later I contacted their manager, Bonnie Tallman, only to find their life rights had been under option by another film company for many years. Fortunately for me, nothing was ever realized and the band decided to grant the rights to me when the former option expired in 2006.
The project was originally envisioned as a narrative feature film with actresses playing the three women (a project I am continuing to pursue). But as I went about my research, it occurred to me that, apart from brief TV segments, no one had ever conducted interviews of any real depth with the band. Furthermore, other than some VHS tapings, professional footage of their wonderful concerts did not exist. I wanted to correct that and bring these sassy dynamos to an audience beyond their loyal fan base.
W&H: There is a great message in the film which is it’s never too late to follow your passion. Why are these women such great examples of that?
SK: The notion of changing careers and pursuing new passions in midlife may seem a bit less audacious now than did in the mid-80s when Saffire tried it. Nonetheless, it is still inspiring to watch them realize their ambitions. I think Andra Faye sums it up best in the film when she says, “I always dreamed of being a musician for, you know, to make music my life and living but it just didn’t seem real. That must just be some dream that other people can do.” This is especially true for the arts, which is so often discounted as a viable professional pursuit.
W&H: Explain the title of the film-Hot Flash?
SK: “Hot Flash” is the title of one of Saffire’s most successful early albums. It also reflects their style of putting an empowering, humorous spin on taboo subjects.
W&H: You had to wait several years to get the rights to tell these women’s story. What lessons can you share with other women filmmakers of your experience during that time?
SK: By the time I approached the band, the other company’s option was set to expire within a few months. Even so, it took roughly another year for my contract with Saffire to be fully executed. During that time I was able to attend several concerts and spend time with the band members. The good news was this eventually led to a higher comfort level in the on-camera interviews. So, I would say to always keep track of a project you love, even if it is not available at the time. Options often change hands several times over many years before a project comes to fruition. And, of course, given the glacial pace of indie filmmaking, always have as many projects percolating as possible.
W&H: What do you want people to think about as they learn these women’s stories?
SK: In an age where it is rare to see women past their forties portrayed as sexual beings in the media, I hope the audience can appreciate seeing these women openly embracing their sexuality and other passions well into their sixties. This is real in life, but not often reflected on tv, in film and commercials, etc. But overall, Saffire transcends the issue of gender. As they often say, “We’re more than just feminists, we’re humanists. We are strong women but we like to think of ourselves as strong humans.”
Check out the trailer for the doc: