March the 8th – International Women's Day – is an event that not only calls for gender equality in all facets of life, but celebrates women's achievements too.
Jessica Phoebe Knox is an actor, filmmaker, and Tropfest 2018 finalist based in Sydney. We had a chat to Jessica to find out more about her journey to Tropfest, the world's largest short fim festival, and how the film industry can help promote gender diversity.
How long have you been on StarNow and what prompted you to join? I've been on StarNow for about two years now. From a young age I knew I wanted to get involved in acting, however in my culture going to university and getting a degree is more valued. So, I studied for several years at university, writing movie scripts, poems and short stories on the side for myself. I enjoyed it, but I was inspired to begin a career in acting several years ago. It was in acting school that someone had mentioned StarNow as a good way to gain experience as an actor. StarNow helped me get my first ever movie set experience, which was on the set of "Fenced", a short film Directed by Sophie Hawkshaw, who I'm still in touch with. I haven't looked back since.
What was the most surprising thing about creating your film for Tropfest? I was surprised at how the whole project and story just fell into place, despite the short amount of time I had.
I approached my friends to collaborate, however they were all engaged in other projects. So I decided to take things into my own hands. After perfecting the script and borrowing a friend's camera, I produced, acted in and directed the film, which was my first professional film, and my first submission for Tropfest. The entire film was filmed in about four hours.
Each film entered into Tropfest must include the TSI (Tropfest signature item), which this year was a Rose. This inspired another part of the film which I hadn't originally intended to include. All these aspects together just fell into place. This is what surprised me the most.
Where did the inspiration come from to create your film "Regime"? Despite my experience on the set of other people's films, I always wanted to make my own movie. Following a discussion with my friend about a lady living in a war-torn country and her current situation, I went home that night and wrote the beginnings of "Regime", about the war in Syria. Determined to tell the story of this and many other women in a similar situations, I interviewed several refugees from Aleppo and Damascus in Syria and was saddened by the horrible circumstances they faced daily.
"Regime" tells the story of many families, both refugee and those still living in war. It details the impact ongoing war and trauma may have on individuals and shows a snapshot of how they may cope. It calls for the need for humanitarian assistance for individuals who are still living in war-affected areas, which does not necessarily just mean food and water. Many individuals who were victims of war suffer from mental health issues such as PTSD, Depression, Anxiety and complicated grief, amongst many others, and require assistance. Many refugees who have come to Australia have settled and sought help. Others however remain without support and alone. This is their (ongoing) story.
How do you think the film industry could promote more gender diversity in the media? In many, many ways. But it takes more than one person. It starts with the writer. The writer can write scripts that promote gender and cultural diversity. The casting director can choose actors from different backgrounds and fresh talent, rather than well-known named talent just to boost ratings. The director – shock horror – can be a woman! The cinematographer, the crew, can include women. Panellists, judges, educators; the "runner", the "water boy" – the possibilities are endless. It starts from the bottom up. Or from the top down. It's beginning to change, which is great. Susan Sarandon was a judge at Tropfest this year and the overall winner was a woman. But it needs to really change – not just to keep up a façade. Change from the inside out. Forever.
Check out Jessica's film "Regime" below:
A couple of other ladies in the StarNow community celebrated becoming finalists in Tropfest 2018. Izzy Stevens made the finals with her short film "Phenomena" with Greta Nash took out the top prize with "Two Piece".