“Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it.”
Small Steps Films is comprised of three women who began making this documentary in the early 1990s. Lynda Fleet Perry and Pat Tashjian, both active members of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom since the 1980s, had worked alongside Marii Hasegawa in Richmond, VA, on many issues centered in peace and justice reform. They approached Janet Scagnelli to help them give shape to their ideas because of her work and experience within the arts community. Together they conceived this project and step by step over the past 20 years have brought it to fruition. With no money, and little experience with this type of project, they managed to barter and borrow all of the needed equipment; volunteer hundreds, if not thousands of working hours; survive a damaging flood; solicit donations in every imaginable way and whittle down over 14 hours of filmed interviews with Hasegawa to produce this documentary. This was all done in their “spare” time and in tandem with developing personal lives and careers to include marriages, children, graduate school and geographical relocations. This documentary is a testament to faith; an unrelenting commitment to honor and preserve one woman’s dedication to making a better world.
Janet Scagnelli, Director and Producer: When Lynda Fleet Perry and Pat Tashjian approached me to help them record the story of Marii Hasegawa, an admired local peace activist, I was very interested to try, even though I had no experience with this kind of filmmaking. I had grown up in New York and my background is in animation. I had opened The Chelsea Animation Company, which I ran in NYC, and moved it to Richmond, VA in the 1990’s, where I married and now have a family.
As I learned Marii’s story, I was so moved that I made a promise to myself that I would see this project through to the end. Hasegawa’s experiences and philosophy inspired me not to give up, despite many obstacles (and there were many, over 20 years) that came into my path. I had grown to feel as strongly about telling Hasegawa’s story as Lynda and Pat had felt. When problems arose, I would remember Marii’s philosophy to take small steps, one at a time and never give up your goal. It is a message I have taken into my heart, and I have applied it many times in my life.
Lynda Fleet Perry, Co-producer:
I met Marii working on peace and social justice issues in Richmond in the late 1980s. Growing up in the south, I had few role models of older women who challenged racism or worked for peace. Just watching Marii showed me a different way of being in the world. Never strident, always soft-spoken, she embodies peace. Over the course of this project she became more than a role model. She became a dear friend. I am grateful to know her and to share her spirit with others by helping to produce this documentary about her life and work
Pat Tashjian, Co-producer:
I grew up in a military family, moving frequently with all that entails. I love learning and art in all its forms. I trained as a dancer through college and graduated with a degree in interpersonal relations and group work facilitation. I was a child of the 60’s and wanted to change the world. Now I am an acupuncturist.
I have always believed in the importance of volunteer work which prompted me to get involved with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. There I met and worked with Marii for many years. From her, I learned how important it is to do “the work,” not just talk about it, which I loved to do; stuffing envelopes, making meals, participating in public demonstrations and organizing small local events changes the world, one small step at a time. Big things and people come and go. It is what goes on behind the scenes, often work done by women that makes and sustains the lasting impact. Like water on stone. Keep focused and keep moving. I learned to look at my mother differently. I learned to value myself.
Like Lynda and Janet, I had no experience in film making. But what an exciting idea! And so the journey began. Marii was a trooper and let us run away with ourselves. Because everything we did was a learning experience and done in our “free” time, it has taken 20 years for us to finish this project. We made a commitment. We persevere in her honor, and our own.
Bill Lohmann, of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, wrote a story about us, which you can read here: