By Clare Mulroy
This article was first published March 17, 2021 in Tagg Magazine here.
Jen Rainin had no directing experience before taking on Ahead of the Curve, but she knew it was a story she had to tell.
Her wife, Frances “Franco” Stevens, the founder of Curve Magazine, told stories over the years — taking out a dozen credit cards and betting on horses to come up with money for the magazine. She won three times and used her winnings to launch Curve Magazine (formerly Deneuve) in 1991.
Armed with these stories and a garage full of archives from Stevens’ life, Rainin spent the next three years making the documentary, which is set for its worldwide premiere on Apple TV and Amazon Prime on June 1.
“As I was researching for it, I realized how little our history as queer women has been documented,” she explains. “I realized I actually think I owe it to the community to tell this story first as a nonfiction film.”
Rainin says the best part of creating Ahead of the Curve was learning about her wife through the eyes of those who knew her decades before the two met.
“She has such trust in me. She knew that I was going to tell a balanced and fair and honest story,” Rainin says. “She’s a badass, but she’s a flawed human, like everybody, and she wanted people to see that.”
The filming and post-production process had its own plot twists, however. During filming, Stevens received an email from the current owner of Curve Magazine saying that the magazine might not be able to survive another year. Stevens sold the magazine in 2010 after a disabling injury.
The coronavirus pandemic also modified the film’s festival circuit. The crew was set for a grand debut at The Castro Theatre in San Francisco for Frameline44, but when in- person events closed, co-director and producer Rivkah Beth Medow suggested changing the event to a drive-in screening. The event was held on the day originally slated for Dyke March, and the audience rolled up decked out in pride and protest gear.
“We’re focused on making sure that our historical stories and our present-day stories are told and shouted from the rooftops,” Rainin says.