Andrea Sperling, powering up

Claire Faggioli June 24, 2007

Producer Andrea Sperling’s kept pretty busy over the past few years; starting by making a very productive friendship with professor/director Gregg Araki straight out of college, she has built a strong reputation with her many (17, to be exact) fresh, original films. While she strives to create outside the Hollywood box in all her work, Sperling had become a shining star of the queer-cinema landscape not only through films like “D.E.B.S.,” but also for her constant community support through her involvement in POWER UP!, an organization designed to support and fund lesbian filmmakers, where she sits on the board of directors. The producer has also received her fair share of honors, named one of Hollywood’s most powerful women by POWER UP! and was commended with a career retrospective at the Vienna Film Festival. This weekend she adds to her illustrious list with 2007’s Frameline Award, appearing at the Castro Theatre (Sun/24) to close the festival with the film she most recently produced (with director Jamie Babbit), “Itty Bitty Titty Committee.” We spoke with a very pleasant Sperling on her drive to pre-school with her daughter, who made a few appearances on the line to give her mother some additional “warm and fuzzy” cred.

SF360: How did you get into film production?

Andrea Sperling: I studied film at UC Santa Barbara and I studied film theory, history, and criticism, which isn’t production, but during my summers I would intern at production companies or on movies. So when I graduated college, Gregg Araki was my professor, and he asked me if I would come work on ‘The Living End,’ and I said ‘Yes.’ That was sort of my second real production, I had made one short in college and then I had produced a short right before ‘The Living End’ and then I did ‘The Living End,’ and from there Gregg asked me to produce his next movie, and then my career just sort of took off from there.

SF360: You’re often identified as a ‘queer’ filmmaker, but you’ve also produced a number of films, like ‘Harsh Times’ and ‘Pumpkin’ and ‘Prozac Nation,’ that don’t fall into that category. Do you find yourself or others identifying you more with one side than the other?

Sperling: Definitely not. I feel like I definitely kind of go from one world to the other really smoothly. I’ve been lucky that way. Unfortunately I probably wouldn’t be able to make a living just of off — erh erh — queer movies, so although it would be great to be able to do that, I also have to branch out. And also, when I first started making movies I really wanted to just make movies that pushed the envelope in any direction, whether it be gay or politically progressive or really stylistic. Anything that was kind of alternative and not Hollywood was what I was interested in doing.

SF360: You and your partner have collaborated on a number of films. Is it ever difficult to separate the professional from the private? Do you guys still get along during that period?

Sperling: It’s definitely challenging to work together, for sure, just because she becomes a director and then I’m a producer, so there’s always issues in that relationship. But then combined with the fact that we’ve been together for 12 years and we have a child, it all kind of comes into play and we definitely would fight more than the average producer-director relationship. But it’s also rewarding because it’s great that we can stay together, like we see each other a lot more than maybe other couples do because we can work together, so we also get to spend a lot more time together.

SF360: And you probably just fight more than the average director and producer because you’re living together, so you’re there with each other all the time.

Sperling: The biggest problem we actually have, which is strange, is that we end up not