Filmmaker Jess Lowe was raised by television…in the good way. Her childhood passion for family TV planted the seeds of her film career. Though she aspires to return to her hometown and reveal its quirks and virtues on film, Jess is currently based in New York pumping out badass music videos.
CONVICTS caught up with Jess to get her word on the importance of having a good reel, the creative freedom of music videos and the positive energy around female filmmakers in this day and age.
Hey Jess. To start, can you tell us who you are and what you do?
Hi, my name is Jess Lowe. I’m a director and an executive producer.
What inspired you to begin your career in the film industry?
I feel like I was raised by TV and movies. My mom was a working mom, So I just watched everything on television that represented a nuclear family. Any movies about morals or manners or anything like that. It’s not so much a singular thing, just a whole childhood of learning through films and TV.
So what kind of stories are you drawn to?
I enjoy telling stories about strong female characters. I’m also drawn to beautiful imagery, but in the future I would like go back to some of the places I grew up in and tell stories from those wacky places. Going back home and sharing those stories is a contribution I’m aiming for.
How would you say your identity influences your work?
A lot of my work as a director has come from ideas that I liked or circumstances that came up. For a while it was to get financing, so I was beginning to feel that I wasn’t putting my influence in anything. That I was just creating what was available to me but then I started to kind of realize that it’s almost like a mood board where you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to end up with. You’re picking things up that you like and adding images and words and then all of a sudden you step back and there’s a common thread and greater idea. That’s what I’m hoping will happen at the end of all this: after creating everything I will see my identity and how it has influenced my body of work. It’s a feeling rather than a calculation. It’s what story I want to tell in that very moment.
Why are diversity and representation so important in film?
Well, it’s important because storytelling is so much about relating to other people. Artists put their voices in their work, and the more voices we have the more stories we can relate to.
Have you had moments of difficulty breaking into the film industry?
It has been difficult, but I think it’s difficult for anyone to break into the film industry. It’s an inherently competitive career. Right now, we’re all kind of in a sweet spot. I mean ‘we’ as women because things are shifting. I don’t think anyone has an easy time getting financing but more often than not, I have a lot of people who want to collaborate just for the sake of it. It’s certainly difficult, but I think it’s shifting for the better.
What changes have you seen already?
Well, the biggest cultural shifts have been the MeToo movement and Times Up up movement because they’re Hollywood backed. So there’s no more tolerance for that kind of stuff, which is great. Obviously. But on a smaller scale I see women banding together more and empowering each other. I’m part of a women filmmakers group in New York. Anytime I have a question or need to crew up or anything like that, I can go straight to that forum and and find help. On a larger scale in Hollywood theres this cultural movement and on a smaller scale women just banding together.
Why is it important to like challenge the industry’s male dominated norms?
It’s obvious there is an imbalance and it needs to get brought to light, but there’s been an imbalance in every industry. We have to keep fighting the good fight even especially now that we have the momentum. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.
What is the first step in creating an industry that is more balanced?
It’s difficult to sell women filmmakers because of this Catch 22 of not having a reel. You can’t have a reel unless you get work. Someone has to be the one that takes the chance and hires the female director that doesn’t have the totally built out reel over the man who might have six or seven items on the reel. It takes bravery for anyone financing a project to say: “I trust you.” It’s a small choice, but it’s going to have a large impact.
Have you experienced any gender discrimination yourself? As in, having a man picked for the job over you?
I’ve assumed that I lost the job to a man but that was a result of not having a strong enough reel, because I wasn’t presented with the opportunity to build the reel.
One thing I’ve noticed in the industry is that, although there are so many women banding together and supporting each other, some of my worst experiences on sets have been from other women and it makes sense. It’s a really competitive industry and it can get really Cut throat. It’s a shame I don’t get to say though that a man barked at me and a man treated me badly on set. Most of my horror stories have been from other women. And so I would like to say to women “let’s not go there. Let’s continue supporting each other because it’s already hard enough.”
That’s a good point. Thanks Jess.
Watch Jess Lowe’s newest music video for Cid Rim, “Control” below. “New York is an abusive relationship.” says Jess on the inspiration behind the video, “I wanted to write it a love letter but then we had a bad day so I made this instead.”
To check out more of Jess’ stunning work, visit here.
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