Erin Rackelman is a Business Strategy consultant and marketing director for Savage Love and the Hump! Film Festival.


The Interview

Kandace:
Welcome to The Job!

Erin:
Thanks so much!

Today we have Erin Rackleman, did I say it right?

Yes.

Ok today we have Erin Rackleman. You’ve done so much that I’m just gonna let you introduce yourself as far as what you do –

Oh no I’m terrible at that.

I mean you’ve done everything you’re a marketing director right? For Savage Love?

Yep. Yes.

And the Savage Love podcast – Lovecast?

Lovecast.

Yes. You’re with The Hump! Tour?

Yes.

You –

We’re calling it the Hump! Film Festival right now but it is touring.

Film festival, nice. Ok and you have your own PR consultancy –

I do.

You work with XPLANE.

I do.

As I was going through the list I was like, “Can you actually be doing all of this?”

I am actually doing all of that, yes.

Yes. Ok we’re gonna unwrap it little by little then. But first, where did you come from, like where are your roots?

The Sunshine State, Florida. Winter Haven, Florida, which is in the very center of the state always, that way.

And so, how did you get to Portland, like what…?

I didn’t like Florida –

Early Days

Not really the Sunshine State?

No it is the Sunshine State which is too much sunshine for me apparently.

Oh you like the weather here?

This isn’t perfect either but Florida… there’s more to dislike about Florida than just the weather so…

Right right.

There’s good parts of Florida too, I left the day I graduated college. The very day. I actually did not attend graduation and I left Florida because I was eager to leave. And I had, I was determined to get out of the US because I thought I hated the US, but I really just didn’t like the south. So I had a job lined up to go to Japan to teach English and I had never been passed New Orleans, and I had some girlfriends from college who lived in Seattle and they asked me to come out for the summer before I left for Japan and I fell in love with Pacific Northwest. And I never went to Japan, still haven’t been to Japan.

What!?

I’ve been to the airport but I haven’t been in, so yeah I never took the job, stayed in Seattle for nine months and then had a good friend, we’re still good friends, who had moved here, also from Florida State and he needed a roommate and he coerced me because he said we were gonna make an amazing feature film and so I moved out here to make a feature film and yeah, check out Portland.

How far did the film get? Like farther than Japan or…?

It got… it had some progress. The funniest thing about it though is that it was three of us that were gonna do it. Chris, the friend who lured me down here, he was just recently on This American Life, he’s doing quite well and then the other friend wrote like an award best selling book and then the guy who, the director that all of Johnny Depp, he makes all of his movies.

That was your friend?

No no no, who’s the director…?

I’m blanking too!

It doesn’t matter, Helena Bonham Carter, he’s married to her, he’s making this guy’s next movie, so we could have done great things.

So your film will probably happen right after that.

But anyways, I’ve been here 13 years, I didn’t think I’d be here longer than six months.

We must have arrived around the same time, I think that’s as long as I’ve been here too.

When did you?

I came here for grad school so it was like… but so Needmore is 11 years so I’ve been here about 12.

Yeah 13.

Crazy.

Did you think you were gonna stay?

No, funny I thought I would move to Japan.

Really? Why?

I’ve just always been in love with the country, I was born there, but I did go to Japan for the summer and teach English and I’ll tell you what –

What did I miss?

It’s hard work. There’s a work ethic that is a lil’ bit different than what you have in the states.

Oh you don’t say.

Yeah, so…

Everyone should go to France for their summer job and have like three hour lunches and –

Yeah seriously, there were like weekends off where I would be in my hotel room and someone would still knock at 8am with an itinerary, it’s like, “But it’s my weekend off!”

Really?

Yeah so, I mean it was fine but it was… so you got to Portland, I know that you were at The Mercury for awhile?

My first, so I worked in the service industry, was thinking about coming here I’ve been working since I was 13, I’ve had more jobs –

Is that legal?

Early Days

No, it’s not legal actually. I looked, I was, I’m 6’1’’ and I was that tall then so no one questioned anything. I have had a lot of jobs, many many… I was thinking of some greatest hits in prepping for this. I’ve built and acted in a haunted house –

What role did you get to be?

Well you switched around depending on, there was a Jack the Ripper scene, there was a mad scientist laboratory, but I mean I built most of it, the set, too. I’m more proud of that but worked in an aviation museum, worked at Walt Disney World, worked at the Olive Garden, worked at Whole Foods here right when it opened, so anyways, first couple jobs here were all service industry and my first real job was at the Northwest Film School.

Ok.

And then I did PR and marketing for PIFF, which is still going on now, and Northwest Fest, I worked in marketing in their office.

Were you studying marketing, was that what you knew what you wanted to do or…?

I’ve never studied marketing. I’m all self taught. I studied english lit, film theory and British studies, does that say something about me?

I think that beats my anthropology and linguistics.

Does it? I don’t know. I studied abroad in London so that’s where the British Studies part comes from.

So when you started at The Mercury was it in a PR role or…?

Early Days

No I was in sales. So a good friend of mine was leaving and they needed a replacement and they had an all male staff so they were looking for a lady that could handle all the guys so yeah I was a sales rep and I have to say, my favorite thing to say about The Mercury is it kinda changed my whole, I don’t know, Trajectory probably. Because you wouldn’t think in a sales role but I met every amazing small business owner in Portland and that kinda changed my course because I had a huge group of people to you know, get advice form when I started my own business, hear pitfalls, failures, so it kind of got me into the whole community of Portland. It was great, I met so many – I handled basically everything besides the bars and music venues so I handled like universities and all the arts and restaurants and all the boutiques so I met all those people early on.

What do you think are the big pitfalls when people start their own business?

One I think is not hiring, realizing what you’re not good at and not hiring out for that –

Trying to do everything.

Trying to do everything yeah. I think one of the biggest things you have to learn is what your strengths are and hopefully find a partner that you know, or any partners that can kind of fill the gaps but if not, hire an expert. I think that’s important advice. I think moving slow can be important. I’ve been apart of companies that have moved very quickly and some that have moved very slow and I mean obviously there’s, you gotta take risk at the right time and be ballsy as well but I think really fast growth can be dangerous, I probably have more but those are the first two that come to mind. What do you think? Or do you ask all the questions here.

I think one of the biggest things you have to learn is what your strengths are and hopefully find a partner that you know, or any partners that can kind of fill the gaps but if not, hire an expert.

We can talk. The idea of hiring out I think is so key. Like when we started our business we did everything and I remember the, I remember the accounting taking me a week a month because it was just so huge for me and when we went to hire an accountant we dressed up in like suits and a dress ‘cause we though they would say no to us. You know it seemed like a really big deal to give that away to somebody and then all of a sudden I had an extra week every – and you know it took them just a few hours and that sort of slow process or in our business I think a lot of times having contracts because people really often times feel like “Well I don’t want to ask anyone to sign a contract,” kind of thing way early of –

Yes, I’ve learned more lessons than I care too. Yes yes.

I mean basically if you have a contract you never need to use it because you’ve just discussed what the rules are and then you’re, everyone’s playing by them, it’s almost like an agreed upon way of going about. But without one, it can be mayhem. So that was the other –

Yes, I’ve had plenty of that in my day.

Yeah so did you, I’m really interested in what you’re doing with Hump! so did you kind of happen upon that from your work at The Mercury because The Mercury and The Stranger are related?

Early Days

It’s slightly complicated but I will attempt to explain it. So after working at The Mercury for I think about two and a half years I went and started my consulting firm and I worked with fashion designers primarily for a couple years and then I co-founded an app company and did that for six years. And during that time, The Mercury because a client of ours so we, my app company dealt with kids apps and while I like kids stuff, I needed something to do that kind of fed my other interests. So while I was at The Mercury they were in the process of building a fantastic, massive content management system that I knew held all the happy hour bar, restaurant data and that they were selling that system to other alt weeklies all around the country. So I knew that there was this thing and that contained, that was right there, it would be very easily accessible. So I went to my old colleagues and pitched the idea of making Happy Hour Finder, and I think we made the first one in the App Store, and from there I also did the same thing, the same system, catalogued and managed all of Dan Savage’s content of, I think he has now 23 years of columns. So we made a podcast app and you know sort of, it had special Q and As that weren’t in the column and then it had, you could search anything by any tag that has ever been in the 23 years of columns which was a crazy undertaking. So we made Dan Savage’s app and yeah, when I left the company you know, Hump!, they had just decided to take Hump! for the first time, outside of Portland and Seattle and my old – so I had been working for the Mercury off and on for the last 10, 11 years. So yeah that’s how I landed in this very bizarre role.

Can you explain Hump! to me a little bit?

I can.

Early Days

I know some of the team has been and they have really good things to say –

Some of your team?

Yeah.

Participated or been?

I think they’ve just been yeah ‘cause they were like, “You should go, can you let me know if you’ve participated or been ‘cause that would be the line for me if I go.”

You should come, in November when we’re back. So it’s been, I think this is it’s 10th year in Seattle, seven year anniversary in Portland. It started out as a joke I believe, I’m gonna be retelling Dan’s story, I think Dan totally as a joke put a call for entries in the back of The Stranger in Seattle, really as a joke, didn’t think he’s get anything, and he got a ton of entries which is how it all began. And they were good, they were really inspiring and not what he was expecting I think? I mean he didn’t expect to get anything I believe. SO that’s it’s origins, it happens – well the way it started it happens in Seattle, over one weekend, they burn all the films at the end so you, it’s kind of like a happening. It happens one time, the films are not available anywhere else we don’t release stills, we don’t release the directors names and the actors names so you have to go there to see it and the other pretty unique thing about it that you kind of don’t think of until you get there is that you’re actually watching porn with other people.

well the way it started it happens in Seattle, over one weekend, they burn all the films at the end so you, it’s kind of like a happening. It happens one time, the films are not available anywhere else we don’t release stills, we don’t release the directors names and the actors names so you have to go there to see it and the other pretty unique thing about it that you kind of don’t think of until you get there is that you’re actually watching porn with other people.

With a lot of people.

Yeah with maybe 500 people, maybe your friends who are sitting next to you so that takes a little getting used to. But I would say it’s pretty weird for the first like five minutes but then it’s, yeah.

Does it end up having like a bit of a campy feel or does it end up having a really like, “This is really hot and sexy with 500 people,” feel, what…?

Do you mean for the individual viewer?

HUMP Tour-01

Yeah like as a viewer are there – I imagine, I’ve never been but I imagine if I was seeing like amateur porn with a bunch of people there would be times when everyone’s like cheering or laughing or like I would imagine it would get a little campy in that way because there are so many people there and it’s like…

Well the entries are different every year so that dictates a lot but I would say that like overall, you know like big sweeping generalization is that most of the entries more air on the side of funny than they do, I mean they’re sexy too but a lot of people I think like to put humor in it to kind of get people cheering I suppose. They’re competing for prizes too so they want the audience to like them but yeah they, there’s a really wide range so not only is there gay, trans, lesbian, bi, what am I missing? Straight, animation, claymation, all sorts of stuff, yeah it’s everything so we do have rules, there is only cheering allowed, you can’t heckle. It’s supposed to be a very supportive experience for everybody so heckling isn’t allowed and to protect the anonymity of everybody we don’t allow any cell phones at all so that’s kind of crazy as well ‘cause if you pull it out we take it away and you have to leave.

So if you burn the films at the end is this –

Yes, things change, things changed eventually. So they, I actually kind of didn’t really think they burned them but they did burn them. So actually, we are just starting our second year of the tour and to start the first year of the tour it actually began two years prior to that so what is that, like three and a half years ago they decided to try to put it on tour. Since everything, you know everything was gone, every copy of everything and than release forms, the way we put together the tour is we, Dan just in his podcast and in his column said, “Have you ever submitted before, are you interested in it touring the US and Canada? Please re-submit.” And so a lot of the crowd favorites, you know for one reason or another, maybe the people in the film didn’t want it wide release or they weren’t comfortable they wanted to do it just that one time os not everybody we wanted was able to do the tour but we got a great, kind of group our first tour was 25 films and yeah so it took two, a little over two years to put that together and that was just by pure advertisements in The Mercury and The Stranger saying –

Did you keep a copy?

Yeah did you ever submit to Hump? Please resubmit. Now what we’re doing, you know it’s gonna change a little bit because the tour will now be a part, you will always have the option of just showing in Seattle or Portland or doing the full tour and people will know that from the get go when they enter.

And is it always amateurs or is it, I mean who submits to the…?

Well I haven’t met too many of them, I mean we don’t really meet them. Sometimes if they’re, well they’re not all from the Pacific Northwest either which is interesting. One of my favorite ones, one I love called Crutch is all shot in New York. When we first showed it in New York the whole cast came, so I met them there and they were a pretty professional crew. It ranges, what I would say is the quality is quite high, I don’t know if its’s all coming from professionals but it’s high high quality. But it’s everything from, you know a married couple that’s in love and are exhibitionists I guess and have a great idea, to you know, a group of friends who have a great idea, they’re inventive, yeah.

One of my favorite ones, one I love called Crutch is all shot in New York. When we first showed it in New York the whole cast came, so I met them there and they were a pretty professional crew.

And what are some of the awards?

Yes I think it is, oh dear I’m gonna forget them all. I think it’s the funniest, the kinkiest, best of show, best humor, I think that’s all of them.

Yeah. And you’re coming back to Portland in the end of November.

WE are, I think it will be the first and second week of November at Cinema 21.

So I heard that you had a protestor?

We did, I don’t think he was real.

Really? That’s what I was wondering.

I thought he was really the whole time he was there, well it turns out he was also at, Dan did a live Savage Love for Valentine’s Day and the same protestor was there then having people sign abstinence forms for candy bars, an abstinence pledge. And this time he was handing out a flier about the dangers of masturbation but I think he, I’ve been doing some sleuthing, I think he is not really a protestor.

HUMP Tour-02

Ok, what is your current running theory about this person?

I think he’s doing a happening on top of our happening. He’s really, but he stayed in character, I could not get an answer out of him but –

Have you figured out who he is?

Yeah I mean I looked him up on social media, he looks like he’s in support of us through his bizarre methods, yes, yeah I was impressed with him. And we also had – did you see those pictures? We also had seven foot tall vagina.

I saw yes.

Those were unrelated, the protestor and the seven foot tall vagina. Yeah it’s called the Wonder Womb and two very lovely ladies run it and they were touring the whole country.

Those were unrelated, the protestor and the seven foot tall vagina.

Oh so this is something that’s not just for your, you could happen upon this vagina…

Yes you could happen upon the vagina when you’re least expecting it. I don’t know where they are but they were just out at a festival, yeah.

HUMP Tour-03

Are they your groupies? Do they follow you around do you know they’re coming? Do they just show up?

No no they kindly asked if they could come and they were quite lovely, the experience is wonderful, you climb into the vagina and it’s a whole room with furry pink, yeah it’s not just, it’s a whole room that like maybe like six people could fit in. A womb. But yeah. And I think that they just began this art project. I loved it.

Ok, I did see a photo of you but I wasn’t sure if I should bring it up.

Oh no you know when you’re touring the country with the amateur porn festival things like this happen.

Yeah. Were you a big fan of porn before this or was this like your…

I would, as my best friend says I probably don’t deserve this job.

Ok.

I’m a little naive, a little, yeah I had to get up to speed.

Like you blushed for awhile like, “I can do this.”

I mean I’d been to some Hump! shows a couple years back so I’d been in the show and it’s so different than what it, nothing in the entire show resembles any mainstream porn I’ve ever seen in my life so it has such a different feeling, it’s such a different thing entirely that I had no qualms about taking the job. But I’m definitely in a… a different, I don’t know, environment than I’ve ever been in before. You know, the things that come up with this, all sorts of things come up!

And so, you’re doing PR for the tour and how is doing PR for this different than say local Portland businesses and restaurants?

Well you know to be honest it’s both easy and difficult. We, there’s a lot of misconceptions about it, that’s the difficult part you know we’re not, like we’re not trying to land a story in like a sex trade magazine necessarily. Not that we’re not but you know, it’s, we’re within the industry but we’re on the fringe of the industry. Well we’re not really part of the industry we’re not paying people I mean people are all making them because they want to. So it’s been difficult… it’s such a unique experience going to Hump and it’s been difficult to convey that in the PR messaging. you know it’s a really fun event, Dan promotes the heck out of it and anyone who is a fan of Dan and understands Dan’s philosophies will get it quickly but trying to you know kind of get people interested, you know ‘cause people are scared. I mean people are intimidated, they’re scared and if they could just sort of like know how laid back and funny it is and you know there are moments when it’s shocking; you definitely see things you are probably uncomfortable with but the films are five minutes or less, it’s gonna change to a different one if you hate it so… But yeah the PR has been, I mean it’s just led me down weird roads I mean just the people who reach out to us you know it’s like a seven-foot tall vagina being like, “Hey can we come down to the show?” I’m trying to think of another example but yeah it’s a lot of fun but it is sometimes hard, since we don’t release any stills of the films we can’t give you an example of the films, that’s been a challenge to kind of get people to understand what we’re all about. You know because the tickets are, you know, they’re not super cheap and so getting you know, people to take a risk on that has been a little bit of a challenge.

Do you find that once somebody shows up they’re, it’s like an annual they’re back year after year like “This is amazing.”

Yes, yes. And that’s I mean basically if someone goes in they will, we don’t have walk outs, people love it. Our best marketing is word of mouth because it’s people going and then bringing a bunch more friends next year.

And that’s what I heard from the team they’re like, “You’d love it you should go it will be amazing we should go as a team!” I’m like, “Well I’m really not sure!” How about I stake out my area way over here you’ll be over here…

Yeah don’t all sit together if that feels weird maybe –

We’ll see how close we are by November.

No really it’s like I said there’s about, I would say, and you know I’m like I said I was a little naive going into my first Hump! screening, there’s like five, and I was with some good friends, I was like “Oh… Ok.” But after about five minutes you’re like, “Oh! Ok it’s like this. This is just gonna be a fun night.”

Yeah. So in terms of, so you’ve been doing PR for awhile?

HUMP Tour-04

A very long time yes.

Like what is the craziest PR stunt you’ve ever pulled or what is like…?

Oh boy. Well, I don’t know that I’ve done any stunts um one of the coolest things we did is I guess you sort of know them, is when for one of my clients more in the fashion realm, Entermodal who is like a luxury leather goods maker.

Yes we did their website!

You did their website! I don’t know if you ever heard about this but we set Larry, Larry who is the master designer/owner –

Yeah he’s amazing.

One of the most amazing people I’ve ever met in my life yes. We set him up in New York right before Christmas at a store we were working with called Odin, on a, with a stitching horse, the way he really makes all that stuff. And I mean the stitching horse is maybe like a hundred years old, and he sat, basically in the window display in the store and so you could come in and get a wallet made but you could pick out the thread and the color of leather and he could engrave it. So that was one of the craziest things I’ve done. Oh I know another crazy thing! I know the craziest thing I’ve done. That one was pretty amazing, I guess it’s all my fashion clients. I worked with Dana Pinkham who does hats, she’s a milliner here in town and we did a fashion show on the Portland street car so everybody met right in front of the Eco Trust building. We got, I had to talk to the city and you can, well you can rent street cars for like weddings and stuff and events, I don’t know if you know that which is kind of cool, you can have like a roaming reception.

With drinks?

Yeah.

Oh that sounds fun.

You can. So they were very kind and donated it to us since it was an arts/culture event but yeah we were able put a Pinkham Millinery sign on the street car, we had our own driver, he came and we made these beautiful old train tickets that my great friend Jen Wick did, and they looked, you know like they were from the 30s and nobody knew it was gonna happen, you just had to show up at the Eco Trust building, and a streetcar came and picked everybody up and then we went through the Northwest loop and at every single stop there were models that got on and walked the length of the street car, and then exited and there would be new models at the next one. And that was crazy to organize.

Yeah I’m sure and you’re like, “And I’m never did it again.”

There were models that you know, there was like a truck or van behind our streetcar picking up the models and yeah, it was pretty crazy but it was one of the things I”m most proud of, it was really beautiful it was super cool.

And so are you taking on clients, like if someone wanted to get ahold of you how would they…?

Yes!

Or are you just…

Yeah sure! Yes. Probably my, I mean I love PR and marketing and I’ve been doing it a long time but after owning a company what I am probably most interested in is business strategy, that’s where my real, and business development. And I am doing some of that with Hump! and Savage Love. But I would love to –

And is that what you’re doing, you’re working XPLANE too?

Yeah I was just doing PR for them, not on the business development side but they’re an amazing company who do crazy, wonderful things here. But yeah I’m really into business development but I love making partnerships, you know figuring out who goes together, yeah, that’s the stuff I really loved at Night and Day. And I’m really loving with Savage Love because you know, we’re kind of expanding Dan Savage’s brand into all kinds of different arenas and I think that you know, it’s ripe for that right now. I think something’s happening with sort of, American’s acceptance with sex, I don’t know. Something’s about to turn a corner and being on the ground and going to all these cities with Hump! you can feel it.

HUMP Tour-06

Really?

Yeah, you can. And showing Hump! in you know the South vs. the North is a very different experience, both very positive but yeah, doing it in Canada was even different. And we’re gonna probably go abroad, like abroad abroad to Europe, and I’m really curious to see how like, the Germans and Italians react. So yeah.

Yeah I would agree that there does seem to be like some kind of change happening and it’s really exciting to see.

Yeah I think so too, and that’s part of our mission with Hump! is to foster some of that which I feel really strongly about, so I’m interested to kind of see what’s next with all of that.

Yeah you’ll have to report back.

I will!

Yeah. Is there anything we missed that wanted to…?

I don’t think so.

Yeah, this has been amazing thank you so much for coming!

You’re welcome! Thank you so much for having me!

Yes yes and I don’t know, we’ll check back in with you in November!

Yeah you must come.

Well I will now, like I have to.

I demand it.

Yes ok.