O.C.O Films evolve through the creative process – sometimes most dramatically in the editing process. It’s often really hard to reconcile the difference between what was desired and what was achieved. How have you encountered this and how do you move through it?
J.G: This is something that everyone who makes a movie (especially with a low budget) encounters. You spend a crazy amount of hours preparing to shoot your film, then almost as many hours shooting it, but in the end, as you say, the film is really made in the cutting room. Luckily, I think I came to terms with the idea that “the film you shoot will be different than the film you write and the film you edit will be different than the film you shot” pretty early (in college). To be honest, once I got over the despair of not getting the thing I had originally envisioned I really warmed up to the idea that every film will be an evolution. That’s kind of the magic of it…you plant a “seed” of an idea as the writer (and/or director) and then you bring on a bunch of other people who take that seed and nurture it with you. There’s no way it’s going to come out exactly how you pictured it, how could it? There are directors who will disagree with me but I love treating my films like living beings that grow and change organically. You might not get exactly what you wanted when you first started writing, but you get something else that you never could’ve written on your own. Every project is a learning experience, and I have definitely learned things the hard way, but it has made me freer in the process and more confident about the things I know and my ability to ask for help with the things I don’t.
O.C.O: Do you find it challenging to be a female director in a male dominated industry or have you not been affected by that?
J.G: This is a loaded question…what I feel is most challenging is being taken seriously. Finding the balance of being an approachable, friendly person and standing up for myself. I’ll give you some examples of sexism I have experienced as a filmmaker who happens to be female…
At film festivals:
Man: You have a film in the festival?
Man: You’re the actress?
Me: I wrote and directed it.
Man: Oh wow! Good for you. So it’s your first film?
I know, it doesn’t seem that bad, but the fact is, I’ve directed 12 short films, some that I have been hired and paid to direct and the assumption that if I have a film in a festival, I’m either the actress or it’s my first film is really frustrating. Not that there’s anything wrong with being an actress or making your first film (OBVIOUSLY) but the assumption is the problem.
I had an experience recently working as an Assistant Director on a film where the Director of Photography (a man) was basically trying to direct the film (the director was a woman) or force shots he thought were necessary (in exchange for the shots the director wanted and had shot listed). At the end of the first day I took the guy aside and reminded him that this wasn’t his movie, that I had conceded to him his shots earlier in the day but that we needed to get the shot that the director wanted and had conceived of for a reason, whether he understood it or not. He immediately agreed with me and apologized but the next day I overheard him undermining me multiple times (he was speaking VERY LOUDLY to his all male camera team) saying that he "wasn’t allowed to have opinions” because he's “just the DP,” so on and so forth. He then continued to literally ignore me the entire day. It was infuriating and confusing because I have been very lucky to have worked with many amazing men who do take me seriously and don’t feel like they have to “swing their dick around” (pardon my French…) but it was a brutal reminder that often, a man will not take a woman’s word at face value.
I don’t want to think of my gender as a weakness because I love being a woman but every time something like this happens it scares me. It also makes me want to work harder…go ahead and underestimate me, let me prove you wrong!
O.C.O: Who is your favorite fictional character?
J.G: Such a hard question…my childhood self would’ve said Alice (from Alice in Wonderland…I was obsessed). I love Clementine (from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), I love that she is unapologetically herself. I’ve always had a hard time truly being myself, because I’m scared of what other people think (though I’ve gotten better at this) but she wore herself on her sleeve and I love that. I also LOVE Jessica Jones (you know this, Kosi). She’s complicated, she has darkness, and she’s strong but still vulnerable. Despite the fact that she has super powers, she embodies what real women are and can be. BAD ASS.
O.C.O: What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?
J.G: I have very mixed feelings about film festivals. I have had the opportunity to attend a decent amount, mostly local and some have been wonderful (they are what you put into them) but I’ve gotten a lot more out of joining groups (like The Filmshop and The FilmmakeHers). I think some (more prominent) festivals can really help launch people’s careers but these days, from my perception, people that get into those festivals, mostly already have the connections.
They can be a great way to meet other filmmakers and grow your network of collaborators, and I’ve met some wonderful people at the festivals I have been to. Mixed feelings about spending so much money on submissions and never knowing for sure whether my film has been watched…wondering if it’s even worth it to submit if I don’t “know someone.” There are just so many festivals that rather than feeling like each one is getting me closer to achieving my dream, I sometimes feel like I’m caught in a vicious “pay to play” cycle, where I never have enough money to really compete.