SBIFF Closes with Santa Barbara Short Docs
Despite the pandemic, the film festival is continuing its recent tradition of giving over the prestigious closing night slot to selected short documentaries shot by Santa Barbara filmmakers. We caught up with two of the locals who have contributed frequently to the fest’s film lineup. First up is Casey McGarry, who tackled roller skating old and new, as well as a local artist.
Q. Casey, what drew you to make a doc about roller-skating in “Electric Lady”?
A. I never intended to make a film like this, nor did I necessarily want to. But I was tired of waking up feeling the existential crisis in my gut during the Trump years, and then the could-have-been-avoided pandemic, and the haunting videos of police brutality. So, I was relieved to find humanity and hope in something as simple and beautiful as roller skating.
I had already flirted with the idea of doing a project on the SB Rollers – which was started by a friend of mine – but I also knew there was a history of roller-skating on the beach in Santa Barbara.
But I couldn’t find anything for the longest time. Then right when I was about to give up, I discovered gold in Ana Coffey, the “Disco Queen” on roller skates. That seems to be a trend with my luck in making these SB docs, but you also have to be really intuitive, go with feeling, talk to some weirdos, and other odd things you never knew you’d get yourself into to make a most-likely non-profitable short documentary film.
What I do love about making these things is forcing yourself to talk to people you’d never in your right mind talk to otherwise, and the journalism part of it all, unexpectedly meeting someone that changes your life or magically helps solve the puzzle you’ve been trying to solve for months.
I understand you have a roller-skating background of your own.
No, I actually don’t really at all! I got Ninja Turtle roller skates from my uncle Tim when I was four or five for Christmas and I roller-bladed for a short time, mostly around my mom and her friends power-walking on the path at the Bird Refuge. Then skateboarding took over my life.
Local history and eccentric local characters seem to be your main themes. Why is that?
Santa Barbara is an unusual place because of its combination of talent, wealth, and escapism. Old Santa Barbara maybe isn’t cool in a lot of ways because of old white money suppressing much needed culture. But especially for the few of us that remember the good ol’ days here and are shaped by it, as many faults as there might have been with American exceptionalism or white privilege among many of the people who built this city, there has always been a more accepting crowd here as a whole compared to other larger, more densely populated cities up and down the coast.
So, I made “Electric Lady” about a strong, talented African American woman – I haven’t seen a film, video, or TV special where a Black person from Santa Barbara was featured as the star. It’s about goddamn time.
Can I also say that this should be all about Ana and Terrance, not me. Ana is back in town (she’s been living in Arizona for 14 years). She skated at her old spot next to Stearns Wharf yesterday (Sunday) with a boombox and all. She can still skate and is killing it at 62!
You also directed “Vuje De,” about local artist Michael Long’s studio and miniature art. I don’t believe anybody has ever had two films in the fest at the same year, let alone the same program. That’s got to feel pretty good.
I’m not sure I’m the first, but it’s pretty f—ing cool. Also, way too much work for one person, which I do not recommend. I bit off a little too much to chew.