LACMA Young Director’s Evening: Highlight on Jess Zakira Wise
I am very honored to say that I will be in attendance of one of LACMA’s most popular annual events, Young Director’s Night. Every year, usually following The Oscars, the museum pays homage to some of the finest up and coming film makers in SoCal. The only little catch? The films submitted must be a minimum of only 5 seconds, & a maximum of 30 minutes! While they have seen it all, & it must be such a difficult task to choose which Directors make this event, you know that those who do get in are some of the finest up & coming in the film industry today.
One of those talented artists is Jess Zakira Wise, whose short, To Beauty, will be featured this weekend. I am so excited to introduce you to her, & will be reporting back on the films of this event, but in the meantime, thought I would find out a bit of what led Jess to her film & this prestigious evening…..
1) What can you tell me about To Beauty? What was your inspiration?
To Beauty is a cinematic recreation of six of Dada artist Otto Dix’s paintings. I’ve loved Dadaism, and particularly Otto Dix, since I discovered it/him in a high school art history class. I’m very drawn to the idea of unconventional beauty. There are also a lot of cultural parallels between Otto’s time and present day America. I wanted to explore that cross over.
2) Is this your first project?
I have one other short film, Through the Door, which is about a nanny who discovers that even in the perfect house in the perfect neighborhood things never look the sane from the inside. It’s a film that attempts to challenge the idea of a perpetrator – what does it mean if you’re a person with the power to stop abuse but choose to do nothing? It was challenging in different ways than To Beauty. A much darker, more critical look at human behaviour.
3) Who do you admire as far as fellow film makers/directors?
I’m a huge Michael Winterbottom fan. He takes a lot of risks – some of them work, some of them don’t – I respect that. I know his movies will always challenge me in some way. Same for Kathryn Bigelow. Zero Dark Thirty stayed with me for weeks after I saw it. And of course PT Anderson. Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, need I say more? As for newer directors, I really enjoyed Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It managed to be charming and powerful all at the same time.
4) Where are you from, when did you decide to become a Director?
I’m from Santa Cruz, CA. I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker when I saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. The world the filmmakers created was so real. I remember watching it when I was a little kid trying to figure out how real people and animated characters could interact. That was when the movie magic bug bit me. Which is why working with Dean Cundey, the cinematographer of To Beauty AND Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, was really a dream come true – because he was part of the magic that inspired me to become a filmmaker.
5) What do you hope guests of LACMA’s Young Director’s Night take away from To Beauty?
To notice each other. To really see the people in their life.
Young Director’s Night at The Los Angeles County Museum of Art happens this Saturday, March 2nd, with films beginning at 8pm & a wine reception to follow. Check out LACMA’s blog for further info!
(*Disclaimer: I will be at this event courtesy of LACMA.)