NOVEMBER - FILMMAKER IN FOCUS: JESSICA HINKSON

You can’t keep Jessica Hinkson down, nor do we want to. As the co-creater, executive producer, and co-star of the multi-award winning short film Jessica Jessica (winner of the Audience Choice Award at BFF 2018) Ms. Hinkson has had quite a successful run with her film and other incredible ventures. This month she sits down to talk to us and tell us all about the making of Jessica Jessica and what's in store for her next!

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, at the age of 12, Jessica along with her family moved to Vancouver, BC. She trained intensely at The Vancouver Goh Ballet that also got her to The Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Summers were spent alternating between touring China with the Goh and dancing with the Winnipeg Ballet. In order to explore other forms of dance, Jessica began to spend her summers in Los Angeles training at Tremaine Dance and The Edge Performing Arts Centre. Falling in love with LA, she moved there to study full time. An acting teacher convinced Jessica that she should take an acting class, which she did and instantly caught the bug so much so that she went to New York to audition for theatre school and got in. Jessica attended the Neighbourhood Playhouse School of Acting and studied closely with Terry Schreiber in New York City. She has also worked with Larry Moss and Ben Ratner to name a few.

She has had many acting roles (currently you can see her in WOLFCOP) and since has now added producing, writing and directing to her credit. She just completed her newest short JOEY, which is Jessica's first film script as well as her directorial debut. The film is currently in post-production. Other shorts she’s been involved in include "Oh Shit" and "The Floaters". In the writing department, Jessica has had articles published in Notable.ca and The Elephant Journal. Jessica also produced and stars in CHARLIE & YONI, part of CBC's Comedycoup that has now gone on to be optioned by Cinecoup. Jessica recently completed her first book LOVE YOUR YONI, a popup vagina book, as a means to empower women of all ages about their bodies. 

The much talked about short, Jessica Jessica will be broadcast on CBC TV, November 15 on Canadian Reflections, a 30-year program featuring Canadian indie short films. It will then be available to stream online at cbc.ca/watch, as well as on VOD.

Jessica Jessica is currently being developed into a series. 

You made a short film, Jessica Jessica, that has travelled the world and won many awards. It is a 30-something coming of age film, what made you want to work within this age demographic?

Simply because that is our age. As we navigate this journey, we continue to grow and to come of age. We are always coming of age. That is the idea that (Jessica Jessica co-star and writer) Jessica Greco & I wanted to present.

You use humour in what some would call sad situations, which results in both funny and clever content. How did you work through that with your key team?

Jess Greco wrote the script and I was her “doula” aka story editor. We formed the story based on our “in the vault” stories shared over brunch and mimosas. The friendship you see onscreen in Jessica Jessica is the friendship that Greco and I have. Greco slayed writing the script! Comedy was intentional as it was important to Greco and I to highlight female friendship in a positive way. Being single women at this point in our lives we do lean on one another. We show up and say ‘I’ve got you, I see you,’ and hold each other in the balance of life which let’s be honest, can be tricky. And why not talk about it? Jess Greco wrote a beautifully-funny-sad script, and our director Jasper Savage elevated the storytelling of that journey. The power of vulnerability made for a soul-filling experience.

Jessica Jessica was picked up by CBC and it will air on their REFLECTIONS program November 15th, and then be available to stream for 3+ years. How did you come about that deal and what if anything did you learn from it?

Jess Greco and I were at Lakeshorts International Film Festival mingling in different place. Greco came over and introduced me to Paige Murray from CBC Shorts Programming who had seen Jessica Jessica screen at WIFT-T’s Showcase. There was no business, just fun that night - with a plan to meet up soon. Greco and I met up with Paige a few weeks later for drinks, and about 3 mins in Paige put the offer out on the table. The look of shock and disbelief with a side of sheer excitement on Greco & I’s faces must have been priceless. Truth be told we thought Paige just thought we were cool and wanted to hangout with us. We didn’t realize what was happening at all. Oh the beauty of naivety! Our takeaway is that anything is possible.

What inspires you as a storyteller?

I did a Soulo Theatre Workshop with Tracy Erin Smith a few years back. I wrote and performed the first 15 mins of my show, Serious Mysterious. The show is about when I was bullied from grades three to six. I didn’t have a support system and for about a year I had facial ticks, as a way of coping. This was a part of my life that I associated with immense shame, hurt, and pain. I felt like it was a secret I had to keep. Until I did this workshop and I realized that a part of me had been walking through my life holding on to this as my story. It was a part of my life but it was most certainly not what defined me. The workshop was healing and it was fun. Bringing comedy to what had been a painful and traumatic experience brought so much joy and relief not only to me but to the audience. When I create content now, those are the places that I want to go to. Where the secrets, the shame, the pain, and the hilarity live. It makes for authentic storytelling. It makes it relatable and, hopefully, lets somebody know that they are not alone. So as that old saying goes, write what you know. It isn’t therapy but it is most certainly therapeutic.

As an actor, have you always wanted to write and produce as well?

Years ago, I remember watching an interview with Tilda Swinton and she said, ‘More now than ever as artists we have to create our own work.’  I’m not sure why that resonated with me so deeply but it did so I got to work. I started out by producing theatre, and eventually moved to film. Writing-wise, I started out blogging with a side of poetry. I was new at it. I had a lot to learn. Writing is hard and it is tedious. However, I was drawn to it, I continued to work at it, and eventually I had my first article published. Not that I’ve learned everything. I have a long way to go, but what I know now is that I love to get lost in whichever world it is that I am creating. That is a process that brings me great joy.

You just completed your directorial debut short JOEY (along with co-director Laura Nordin), which you also wrote and are producing. Tell us how you came to this story and your actors, and how was it directing?

I'm addicted to creating content, to curating a voice that I feel is necessary to be heard no matter how absurd, heartbreaking, funny, or all of that combined together, it is. JOEY is a short film I began working on five years ago. The inspiration came from being obsessed with the 60s and a divine passion for fashion. I was silent about this project because it was my first film script. So, when other projects came up I would walk away until I would come back. In 2015 I went through more than a breast cancer scare. My perception of myself and the world around me shifted. I remember standing on University Avenue after receiving my diagnosis. It was late afternoon, the sun shone bright and warm, it was beautiful. All I thought was, 'How did I get here? This is when the world of Joey shifted for me. At times when fear runs our lives, when we don't know the outcome, we aren't sure that where we are is where we should be, and self-doubt sets in, we find comfort in the absurd. It’s like a nest in the daunting mystery of life. We can plant ourselves in the womb of comedy.  

Now, directing was not something I had considered. When I found Laura Nordin, I was relieved that someone "got me, got Joey." When we finally decided to go for it and film this irreverent odyssey, Laura very casually asked me if I'd like to co-direct because my vision was so clear. I was thrilled, and although it hadn't been something I had initially considered it felt like the universe was handing me an opportunity. I loved every minute of it. To see my vision come to life after all of this time with our amazing team; that was surreal. 

In terms of getting our cast together, I created and wrote Joey for Lucie Guest, as well as wrote for Jessica Huras, Teagan Vincze, and Katie Messina. These ladies have been attached to the film almost as long as I have. Ronnie Rowe, Daniel Stolfi, Rakhee Morzaria, Jen Pogue, Emily Andrews were all undoubtedly perfect for their roles. All of these people are so talented. Filming was diamond magic! (Yes. That quote is inspired from Rihanna). Plus the amazing Lauren Grant of Clique Pictures coming on as Executive Producer, working with the #ladybosses of Filmcoop once again, and our wildly talented DP Gabriela Osio Vanden; it was a dream team.

With your busy schedule of acting, and prepping Joey for a spring 2019 release, is there anything else you are working on that you are excited about?   

I am a mentor in WIFT’T’s Mentorship Program that starts up next month. This year I have been asked to mentor two women which should be super fun. I have a one year old golden retriever Hank who is such a love and I think was a comedian in a past life. In the next year, I want to take myself on a yoga retreat. Wherever it ends up being, it will be a good soul journey. And I love those.