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But I Love the Zine

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Jeffrey Cheung & Gabriel Ramirez: Unity Press

If you think the digital age destroyed print culture, this short documentary may surprise you. But I Love The Zine explores the thriving zine scene in the San Francisco Bay Area. To devotees, zines are more than just self-made publications, they're tools for building community and offer an antidote to the disconnectedness of internet culture. In this film, viewers are taken to studios, galleries, and zine conventions where they're introduced to a dynamic small press community. Publishers like Jeffrey Cheung (Unity Press), V. Vale (Re/Search), Tiny Splendor, and Jess Wu (Mixed Rice Zine), share their process and explain why self-publishing matters.

Director Statement

I’ve always been drawn to the unique art scene and the passionate creators that permeate the Bay Area. But it was with great surprise if not shock, that I saw myself pictured on the cover of Zine at a festival in San Francisco! Unknown to me, the creator had photographed my responses to his first tattoo and made that into Zine: Look Mum My First Tattoo.  It was a very personal moment that ignited my desire to find out more.

I set out to discover what these self-made, intimate booklets and zine culture are all about telling the story through my relationship with my son Raphael, the owner of the tattoo, and through the many talented zine makers in the Bay Area. I wanted to convey the importance of these cheaply-hand-made, very personal pieces full of thoughts and dreams at a time when digital communication and social media are taking over.

I spent a lot of time at Zine festivals shooting people ensconced as they flipped through zines. With a DSLR, I moved easily around these vibrant crowds where there is an eclectic mass of people of all ages and cultures in all kinds of attire and bodily marks. I sometimes had the camera on sticks but more often than not I found freedom in just hand holding and moving quietly through crowds while trying to shoot tight on faces and Zines.


I interviewed in Zine makers’ spaces–bedrooms, tiny print shops above book shops–which are colorful spaces crammed with artwork and sometimes noisy risographs!It was important to include an interview with a curator at a traditional art institution to get an outsider’s perspective. I spent over 6 months reaching out to various people and organizations–sometimes I never heard back, but mostly I received polite rejections. Finally I gained access to a very insightful curator at the Oakland Museum where we were able to do the shoot on location.

Post production turned out to be far more intense that I had anticipated. My editor, Kat, was highly motivated with great energy and lots of ideas and she really wanted to add a hand-made look to the whole production. In fact we didn’t do any traditional, digital lower thirds, captions. Every name and title was typed out, cutout,and then photographed at different points to create a stop motion style.

But she really put me to the test when she talked me into making a zine for the credits! My hope in showing the documentary at different screenings and festivals, and through KQED, is that audiences will gain an understanding of what zines are and the power they hold to communicate personal thoughts to wide audiences without using social media platforms.

But I Love The Zine Director - Fiona McDougall

Director Bio

In her roles as both Creative Services Director and Video Producer at OneWorld, Fiona oversees and coordinates all media production: TV broadcast PSAs and digital informational and educational videos, radio, print, photography, digital. Many of the campaigns she has produced incorporate all these media and she has produced them in Spanish, Cantonese, and Mandarin, among other languages. Her work involves carrying out research and meeting with clients to understand their programs and goals; contributing to strategy and creative briefs; overseeing treatments and scripts, ensuring that they address all client goals and will be effective in achieving required results; creating budgets, schedules; putting together the team: director photography (DP), scriptwriter, director etc.; identifying talent and locations, identifying the types of cameras to be used for the look, overseeing the field production and overseeing editing, music, audio, and special effects. Her most recent project, But I Love the Zine, was nominated in the Short Doc category in the Oregon Film Festival, 2019.  


V.Vale: Writer, Independent, Publisher

Jess Wu-O: Mixed Rice Zines

Max Stadnik & Sanaa Khan: Tiny Splendor

Raphael Villet : Play Press Zines

Jeffrey Cheung & Gabriel Ramirez: Unity Press

Carin Adams: Curator of Art, Oakland Museum of California


Produced and Directed by Fiona McDougall

Script: Fiona McDougall

Consulting Scriptwriter: Jonathan Villet

Camera: Fiona  McDougall, Cliff  Traiman,  Khaboshi Imbukwa

Editor & Art Director: Kat Cory

Sound Mixer & Designer: Thayer Walker

Audio Post: Lowdownhaus

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