The Insaints’ late lead singer remembered in Slamdance film
January 21, 2011
Marian Anderson was the lead singer of the Bay-Area punk band the Insaints.
The music and lifestyle were her escape and, perhaps, her therapy from the life she lived. She suffered alleged sexual abuse from her biological father. She attempted suicide multiple times and she lived on the street and worked in the sex industry to survive.
She died in 2001 of a heroin overdose.
Director Lilly Scourtis Ayers knew she wanted to tell Anderson’s story. And she wanted to tell it right.
"I wanted to be careful with keeping a level of respect and dignity with her memory," Ayers said. "My intent with the story was to evoke compassion in other people, seeing what Marian went through."
The result is the documentary "Last Fast Ride: the Life, Love and Death of a Punk Goddess," a film that took more than six years to complete, and is screening as part of the Slamdance Film Festival.
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Anderson’s girlfriend, Danielle Bernal, approached Ayers in 2004, when the filmmaker was still in school.
"She had taken the story to someone else and they didn’t know what to do with the story," Ayers said. "After talking with Daniel de Leon, whom I shot a music video for, Danielle came to me, and I couldn’t get the story out of my mind."
It wasn’t until after Ayers finished film school, that she was able to sit down and seriously think about how to make a film about Anderson.
She discussed the project with producer Shannon Factor, who also was fascinated.
"I knew I needed to make it visually interesting," Ayers said. "I wanted to do a feature film, and I also wanted to do a documentary. So I got the idea to write a screenplay for the feature film with all the information I learned while making the documentary."
Ayers knew she needed to make the film interesting. Luckily, she had Bernal’s support.
"When people got word of that, they opened up to me and gave me a lot of material," Ayers said.
Filmmaker Harold Adler, donated footage of Anderson he shot in the 1990s. Another friend Randy Magnus, who worked with Anderson when she was a teen also donated some film.
"Friends would give me boxes of photos," Ayers said. "It was amazing how much they trusted me with Marian’s life."
Even Anderson’s mother and step-father showed their support by giving Ayers home movies.
"Marian’s mother told me that she knew her daughter needed help from an early age," Ayers said. "She knew she had some symptoms, which we may diagnose as perhaps autism today."
In addition to the donated footage and photos, Ayers compiled interviews with punk-rock icons such as Tim Armstrong, Daniel de Leon, Greg Langston and Dexter Holland, to name a few.
"I still wanted more layers, so I decided to shoot some 8 mm film, because I love that format," Ayers said. "So I went out, while very pregnant, and waddled around town, shooting the super 8. I also shot some black-and-white 16 mm film of Los Angeles when I was in film school and I thought it would fit perfectly."
Capping the project was getting punk pioneer/actor Henry Rollins to narrate.
"I knew the film needed a voice over to unify the elements," Ayers said. "We came up with a short list and Henry’s name was at the top."
Ayers cited Rollins’ background as an actor and a respected member of the punk-rock scene as her reasons for wanting him to be a part of the project.
"We sent him the film and he liked it and agreed to work with us," she said.
When the final edit was made, Ayers felt relieved and satisfied.
"I am so happy with how the film turned out," she said. "My goal was neither to exploit the more salacious and outrageous elements of Marian’s career. Nor did I want to gloss over the ugly elements. I wanted to tell her story the most truthful and best way I could."
Slamdance will screen "Last Fast Ride: the Life, Love and Death of a Punk Goddess" with Henry Gerson’s "Ultra Violet for Sixteen Minutes," on Saturday, Jan. 22, 8 p.m., in the Treasure Mountain Inn Main Screening Room, and Tuesday, Jan. 25, at 5 p.m., in the Treasure Mountain Inn Gallery Screening Room. For more information visit http://www.slamdance.com .