Signified // Jessie Levandov + Anna Barsan

Talking to folks who are making a real difference in their communities is never short of inspiring. That’s why we were so excited to chat with Jessie Levandov and Anna Barsan about SIGNIFIED, their new multi-platform documentary project focused on giving a voice to the LGBT community. Levandov and Barsan are the type of people that you just want to thank, because this world needs as many of them as we can get!

So what does a multi-platform documentary look like? “This means there are three separate components of the project: the video interviews, the website, and the discussion series,” explains Levandov. “We wanted to create different points of access and interaction for folks wanting to learn and share more about the queer community. We wanted to create a project that people could build and grow with.”

Levandov and Barsan met in New York through mutual friends. Barsan, originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, explained that she doesn’t remember exactly how or when she met Levandov, a Cambridge, MA native, but definitely remembers the moment the two became friends. “I really needed a haircut and I think I remember Jessie saying something like—‘oh, I cut my own hair.’” Making a crack about Levandov’s insanely long locks, Barsan jokes, “But, really that should’ve been an immediate sign to me that really, Jessie doesn’t cut hair at all because she is like the Rapunzel of Brooklyn.” After a good two hours of snipping away, the two have been close ever since.

Levanadov and Barson started SIGNIFIED with the desire to help the LGBT community connect. “We want the project to be used as a tool for resource building so that we can share the best practices and combine knowledge and collective power to really put into motion the changes we’d like to see in our local communities and beyond. It’s a creative way of nourishing community, a testament to the vitality of the human spirit and an exploration of the intersections of social justice movements.” The goal is to “reach far beyond just queer issues [addressing] struggles of race, class, privilege and gender as well.”

On Friday, SIGNIFIED will celebrate their partnership with the BMW Guggenheim Lab. Levandov and Barsan told us about how their collaboration with the BMW Guggenheim Lab happened quite fortuitously. “Well, that’s actually a funny story,” says Barsan, “after interviewing MM Serra [an experimental filmmaker] at The Filmmakers’ Co-op, we decided to go out and grab some dinner. While walking through the East Village we saw all this construction going on and MM shouted from across the street and asked what was going on. It just so happened that we met one of the curators for the [BMW Guggenheim Lab who] invited us to the opening of the lab the following week. We ended up going and gave a short little pitch…we followed up the next week with a proposal and a short video clip and fortunately for us, they liked it!”

SIGNIFIED opens to the public this Friday, Oct. 7, 9pm, at the BMW Guggenheim Lab. SIGNIFIED has already wrapped their first season, started shooting the second, and are preparing to take the third season abroad, beyond New York City. Stay tuned to catch SIGNIFIED’s workshops and screenings in a town near you. And of course, thank you SIGNIFIED—for being you!

—Annick Mayer