Filmmaker Explores Women in Blues and their Gospel Roots

From Piet de Vries-2 (640x427)

Lisa Eismen (left) is a U.S. born filmmaker now living in Australia.

Filmmaker Lisa Eismen is seeking the help of the gospel and blues community. Time is running out with only 6 days left to help her fund this inspirational film about women artists.

By Bob Marovich (Sponsored Post)

Growing up in the Chicago suburb of Westmont, Lisa Eismen soaked in the impromptu jam sessions that her blues performer father orchestrated in the family’s living room.

“Our living room was very small,” she reflected, “but we had a baby grand piano in it and my dad would bang out the blues.”

Relatives stopped by and they would perform together as a family. These early experiences inspired Eismen, writer-turned-playwright-turned-filmmaker, to direct Women in Blues, a film about the life and contribution of female blues singers.

“Many of the women in the film are larger than life characters,” Eismen told JGM, “and have either been in the game for a long time or are newcomers. The film follows them through their daily struggles as they compete with one another for gigs and captures the camaraderie that brings them together in the making of music and blues. The audience gets to witness the heartache of rejection and the glory of making it.”

Although trained as a writer and journalist, Eisner turned to filmmaking after moving from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia, where her husband had accepted a temporary job assignment. She attended Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney. When the temporary assignment was over, the couple decided to make Sydney their home.

The notion to direct a documentary on female blues performers hit Eismen while preparing for a summer 2014 trip to the States to attend a family wedding. “I had never seen [a documentary] about women actually singing the blues and yet they play such a big part in the blues life,” she said.

Eismen, whose company is called U N Me Films (www.unmefilms.com.au), secured the talented Pieter De Vries, ACS, award-winning cinematographer. Together they flew to the U.S. and began filming in Chicago. A subsequent road trip to Clarksdale, Mississippi, enabled the duo to interview four women and even catch a live blues performance. They returned to the U.S. in early 2015 for additional filming.

Not surprisingly, most every one of the women Eismen interviewed for the film began their musical journey by singing in the church but turned to the blues because it was more lucrative financially. “There seems to be a progression,” Eismen said. “Gospel music is the start for so many people who move on from there.”

One exception, Eismen adds, was Holly Thee Maxwell, who “started out in opera. But others, like Deitra Farr and Shirley Johnson, they all sing gospel. I asked each of them to sing a gospel song for the film. They dug deep into their memory, tapped into a gospel song, and it was just stunning! It’s kind of been the highlight of the filming experience for me.”

While Eismen believes she has enough of a rough cut for a full-length film, she also has inquiries into popular blues women Sam Fish, Susan Tedeschi, and Anna Popovic—“different streams of blues players”—and plans to return to the U.S. this summer to conduct the on-camera interviews.

“I also want well known male blues artists to talk about what it is like performing with the ladies,” Eismen said.  She hopes to lasso the likes of Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and Ronnie Wood for their perspective.

The film will be completed by the end of 2015, or possibly sooner. “What I have so far are black women in Chicago singing the blues,” Eismen said, “but the next leg of the journey that I will be filming this summer is a whole different style of singing. So I might do this as a series. Depending on how I piece everything together, I could possibly have enough for something sooner than the end of this year.”

Whether it ends up being a feature documentary or a series, the project has been funded thus far by Eismen herself. She organized a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the film’s completion.   The campaign is in its final days.

“I’ve been surprised at how tough the blues life is for these ladies,” Eismen said. “They are not living a high life. On stage, they own their audience, they own their band, but they live in neighborhoods that are not so great. They keep at it because they love it. The majority of them would love to make it big, but they take it day by day.”

Women in Blues will “provide a rare insight into the rich history and experience of female blues singers and musicians, many of whom have overcome personal struggles of various kinds, in a male-dominated musical arena.”

When Eismen describes the blues life as “a long hard road,” she could easily be talking about her own journey. “You have to be persistent about what you want. I am absolutely determined to finish this film properly and have a well-made documentary on these women!”

For a teaser of what’s been filmed so far, here is a link to the film’s latest trailer: http://tinyurl.com/lvetcdu

To participate in the Kickstarter campaign for Women in Blues, go to:
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/women-in-blues

About Bob Marovich

Bob Marovich is a gospel music historian, author, and radio host. Founder of Journal of Gospel Music blog (formally The Black Gospel Blog) and producer of the Gospel Memories Radio Show.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.