A part of the Revs Program's grant to Stanford's documentary MFA film program, Emily Fraser and Katherine Gorringe focused their summer documentary on a unique repair facility in northern California. Read about Emily's experience and view the trailer of their film below. The full version is headed to film festivals this year and will be available for viewing here on the Revs website in 12 months. View a gallery of images from their experience here.
Sometimes it really is all about the name. I was driving through Redwood City on my way home from a doctor's appointment when I saw a sign on a building that read "Lady Parts Automotive Services." I did a double take and then chuckled to myself.
When my Revs film partner Katherine Gorringe and I started brainstorming ideas for our summer film project about the automotive industry, "Lady Parts" immediately came to mind. We didn't know anything about the shop, but we knew there had to be a story behind that name. We found their website online and were excited to discover the tagline: "Designed and created with a woman in mind...and we're nice to men too!"
Like many women, I've had negative experiences at car repair shops: feeling talked down to, feeling taken advantage of, feeling powerless. I rely on my car so much, and yet I understand it so little. A repair shop that recognizes and tries to reduce some of the anxiety that women like me feel - it seemed like such an obvious idea....where had this been all my life?
From the first moment Katherine and I entered Lady Parts, we were taken. The waiting area looks like the lounge of a spa: plush couches, a bubbling fountain, free Wi-fi, scented lotion in the restroom. This was all a far cry from the typical, greasy auto repair shop with its plastic chairs and day old coffee. And it only got better from there.
The owner, Mae de la Calzada, could have just created a shop with a pretty waiting room and called it a day - but her philosophy runs much deeper than that. She's dedicated to educating and empowering people to learn about their cars and take responsibility for their basic maintenance. She takes each customer back to talk to the mechanics, to look inside the hood, to understand what's going on. She provides free "car care clinics" on the weekends to teach people how to do basic upkeep work on their vehicles.
And she lives this philosophy of education and empowerment in her own life. When Mae decided to open Lady Parts, she had no background or family connection to the automotive industry. She had just seen one too many women being taken advantage of - and she was pissed off. So she took classes, found a space, hired mechanics, and opened her own shop with the goal of making a difference.
After five years in business, the shop is doing so well that they're looking for a bigger space. And it's not just women who love Lady Parts. Nearly 50% of the customers are now men.
Katherine and I had a great time shooting our film in this unique space. From learning some new things about cars, to goofing off with the employees, to philosophical conversations about gender, empowerment, and compassion, we left feeling inspired by this little corner of the world and the difference it's making, one repair job at a time.