JODY JARESS: CELEBRATED ACTRESS’S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT
Jody Jaress is a multi talented entertainer with an extensive acting career. Her filmography is extensive from television to film.
Jody’s film appearances include Hollywoodland and Chain Link, among others. In television she’s made guest appearances in Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles (FOX), Days Of Our Lives (NBC), So This Is Love Transplant (Mow), Michael Nesmith’s Television Parts (CBS), Crisis Counselor (Lifetime).
TRACES OF MEMORY IS Jody Jaress’s official debut as a Film Director, Screenwriter, and Producer. This phycological short, won eight director/producer/story awards out of ten separate festivals.
ONE ON ONE WITH JODY JARESS
Jody, you have an extensive resume as an actress from film to television, but what led you to become a film director as well?
Most friends and family would say it’s a natural progression for me, due to my desire to always be HANDS ON and in CONTROL…with everything…so they say!
I’ve been an acting and performance coach on and off, for umpteen years. I have directed some theater, so it does follow suit, at least for me, to want to direct and write for film also. I have always been curious as to how the director guides their actors, cameras, lights, wardrobe, etc., in order to create their vision. And what’s the “directors cut” as opposed to the finished project? Questions! Curiosity.
Traces Of Memory is your debut film as a director. What inspired the film and why did you choose to direct it?
Challenge! My inspiration for everything, my motivator. TRACES OF MEMORY was absolutely that from the moment the actress, Maray Ayres (General Hospital, Poe, ICarly… ) asked me to direct her and actress Saratoga Ballantine (Troupers, The Nutty Professor, Frasier…) in a short film based on a one-act play they had recently performed. The two-character story was intriguing and the roles were an actor’s dream, tragic and meaty. I was totally interested. After securing permission from the playwright, I proceeded to create the original story for film. I did so over, and over again. Unfortunately, every draft became a feature film with flash-backs, a larger cast, and additional locations requiring a much larger budget than the 20 minute or less Ultra Low Budge (ULB) short that was requested of me. Though it was not my intention to change the story’s concept, that’s exactly what transpired, and a very surreal psychological drama evolved. My personal interest in the thoughts we keep hidden within our minds began influencing my writing and TRACES OF MEMORY. Thus the short film, TRACES OF MEMORY, came into existence.
The intro shot to Traces Of Memory is memorable. Can you elaborate on it?
Now there’s a story, maybe too long. My actress was nearly shot by the local police! This opening sequence was actually filmed a year later than our original shoot. Due to my wanting a certain sky that only happens during a particular time of year, we were back on the same deserted road, filming gorilla-style (no permits, no lodgings, no catering), only actor, director, DP and a driver for the pickup truck, and one producer.
We began at pre-dawn with my actress Maray, looking rather crazed and disheveled, standing in the middle of the road holding a knife. The shot was done like this: she stands still, camera on truck drives towards her and past… about a mile. We keep repeating and shoot all runs. The next thing we notice are red, white and blue lights flashing in the distance. Then sirens screaming as four vehicles came racing up the road toward my actress, stopping within about 20 feet of where she was standing. Now from a megaphone, a demanding voice, “Drop the knife.” Unfortunately my actress stepped forward, raised the knife to show it was not a weapon yelling, “We’re shooting a film.” Well that’s one word they didn’t need to hear. With that… four (4) policemen leaped out of their cars, knelt down to the ground as they cocked their rifles and pointed them directly at her.
Simultaneously, the other four (4) officers jumped out and positioned themselves behind the opened car doors with their hand guns stretched out, also in her direction. Myself and DP in the back of the pickup, had the driver race back to the scene. As I jumped out of the bed of the truck, I heard aimed at me, “Don’t move!” From the middle of the road, I signaled my DP to begin filming and don’t stop! Right then our producer, jumped out from behind a bush and screamed, “For God’s sakes Maray, drop the knife!” As you can observe in the film, both actress and producer were handcuffed, and placed in separate vehicles. After the Sheriff approached me to verify this mess, he asked to see the camera and the footage taken. We had only been there maybe 30 minutes prior to their (unexpected) arrival, but he was able to view enough shots to satisfy his skepticism… and my DP was brilliant at showing ONLY our scheduled scene… without police.
Accepting my apologies and explanations for our (innocent) behavior, the Sheriff gave me instructions for any future endeavors, and now permitted me to resume filming. And amazingly without any fines either! I am also known to be quite charming when necessary. Another… Teehee! Oh, before leaving us, the Sheriff wanted us to know the state of mind he and his officers where in when arriving onto the scene, and this is really important!
“This easily could have been a Chain-Saw-Massacre type situation.” he said. “Considering when we arrived we found a crazed looking woman wielding a knife, a pervert hiding in the bushes, and an old pickup truck speeding onto the scene with someone jumping out of the back heading towards us. We were pretty serious about keeping in control.” More apologies made by me and then I retrieved my actress and producer from the cars and off we went to finish the shot…and in a hurry too, considering we were now loosing the sky we came to shoot in the first place! Gotta love this business!
In Traces Of Memory the desert can be interpreted as the third main character. Would you agree with this assumption?
Yes, I absolutely agree. Another reason to shoot the desert sky a year later. But, I was a bit short-sighted, and didn’t choose enough shots of the lonely majestic desert and it’s world, to truly satisfy myself and /or possibly the audience also.
As an actress who’s had various successes, what advice can you give to aspiring actresses and actors?
If you recognize a passion for “anything” (that doesn’t hurt others), never ignore or give it up. Never! You can place it on the back burner due to other life needs, but please don’t give up those passions.
Regarding acting itself: 1) I tell my students to be DETECTIVES. You must be CURIOUS to know how and why this story came about for the people depicted in the script. 2) I suggest that you NOT become another character. That character is YOU! How would you behave under those circumstances, having made those choices in life that put you in that position, using someone else’s words, that’s all. Being you, makes your rendition UNIQUE without doing anything contrived to get attention. There is only one YOU. Be that. 3) Learn by doing, watch, observe and realize you need technical training for the camera in front of and behind. Go to those type of classes. 4) Do NOT COMPARE yourself to anyone. There is no comparison. 5) Be a generous actor. Considerate of each and every actor, crew, person on the set. Be available to your acting partners during their close ups, etc. So very important.
The hardest lesson in this business is: REJECTION IS NOT PERSONAL. You just simply might be too tall, etc. Let the audition go, move on. Here’s a valuable quote from TRACES OF MEMORY…. “Nothing can help you or hurt you as much as the thoughts you carry in your own head.” – Zen Buddhism
What’s ahead for you as far as filmmaking?
I’m loving doing re-writes on a feature film I co-wrote. It’s about a burnt-out detective pairing up with a very old Indian medicine man and his strong-willed, Berkeley educated, granddaughter. They pair up to recover their Sacred objects, while tormenting and running from, the FBI.
My writing partner on this is already creating sequels. Very exciting! I’m not booked to direct another film at this time, but I haven’t been putting my interest out there either. I’m not good at self promotion. I definitely want to direct more. As an actress, I’m still working. I’m on hold for several projects at the moment, with a couple others in post. I love booking indie films. Working with todays young filmmakers especially and their fresh and creative outlook is quite a treat for me./span>
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