Festival registration is open! Design Week 2020 runs April 18–25.
Stories are meant to be shared, and Fran Bittakis is amplifying those that too often struggle to even get made. She’s the Founder & Creative Director of JOOP JOOP Creative, a studio that takes pride in being a platform for the voices it works with. She wants to create work that’s relevant and representative, with multidisciplinary talents truly owning space in varying industries.
Not so surprisingly, Fran’s been working in social advocacy and justice since the late nineties, passionately threading that point of view into her work now. For her, it’s about community—building it, connecting it, and giving it a damn stage.
How did you find your creative voice?
I've always been drawn to the underground and found a love for fashion, music, film, and art at a young age. I would spend a lot of time digging around at the library for books and magazines surrounding these topics. I remember being drawn to creative folks who looked like me—being obsessed with model Jenny Shimizu, The Joy Luck Club movie, chef Martin Yan, and director Zhang Yimou. I always struggled to find someone to take me under their wing, and because I had so many different creative interests, I never exactly landed on one. I’ve been able to explore this with JOOP JOOP and have done quite a few photo shoots, an editorial for Frances May, and four music videos. Plus, I produced a short film this year.
Surrounding myself with other creatives and collaborating with them has by far been the best way to find my creative voice.
Why did you decide to open JOOP JOOP Creative this year?
I started JOOP JOOP this year because I have a lot of friends who are multidisciplinary creatives, and I saw that they were thinking about moving away from Portland because they didn’t find support to make their creative lives work here. It's not ideal to work a minimum-wage job and try to find the extra money to buy costumes, rent studio time, or hire your friends for projects. My goal is to have an agency to represent these creatives and build a support system to help them get paid jobs that free them up to be creative. I am hoping to gain the support of all agencies around town to create an incubator for my community and to show the world what we are made of, without so much struggle, and how our lenses are important.
What stories do you hope to tell through JOOP JOOP?
JOOP JOOP is committed to lifting womxn, BIPoC, LGBTQIA2S+ folx, and accomplices. My goal is to create work and content that is relevant to us, tell our stories through our lenses, and take up space within these creative industries. For example, Karma Rivera’s music video “Not Yours” has a bisexual narrative; Maarquii’s “Full Outfit” celebrates black, queer sexual liberation; and Sávila’s “Échale Sávila” explores harvesting the power of ancestors to energize, create movement, and start healing from harmful cycles. I’m looking forward to telling stories from the Asian-American point of view in the next year and working with director Alberta Poon.
How do you keep yourself motivated and interested in your work?
If you ask any of my friends, they will tell you I never lack ideas or motivation. After seeing The Farewell and Shirkers this year, I’m so fired up to create work surrounding my identity and start writing a script. When I found out filmmakers Lulu Wang and Barry Jenkins of Moonlight were dating and A24 put out both of their films, I felt like what I see for my future is definitely possible with such incredible filmmakers like them paving the way.
I’m also so inspired by my travels to Thailand, where my dad lives and my family is from. Bangkok is a huge metropolitan city with so much acceptance for LGBTQIA folks, and I can see through a tiny window what acceptance could look like here in the States. Also, the night markets, food, and culture make me want to spend more time there to see how I can learn to accept myself as Thai-American in both places and share that through photo shoots, film, and other creative projects.
What do you want your work to stand for?
I’ve been told time and time again to “feel my power” and see what others see in myself. I’m blessed to be around an incredible community that I am constantly inspired by, and I want the opportunities for paid work and support so I can continue to tell the stories of those people. Trying to find allies and accomplices who want to help us get our voices out in a world not created for us has been challenging. I have to be very careful choosing who I work with.
I’m not here for performative allyship and trendy buzzwords like “diversity, equity, and inclusion” because that should be the standard—the minimum effort these creative industries should be held to. Take a step back. Put someone else in power who has not had that opportunity, and do what you can to mentor them through that process with your fragility and ego left at the door. I want my work to stand for this—to show the world my community is worthy and always has been.