I met Jessie Kahnweiler in line for the bathroom. At Sundance you learn you drink just as much water as you do wine. Hence, you meet a lot of people waiting for the Lou. She was wearing an over-sized rabbit coat. I died. As I gasped in adoration, she informed me it was a 50-dollar purchase at a garage sale. Turns out we both live in LA.
Come to find out this sweet young chick had a film in Slamdance. “Meet My Rapist.” I replied, “Awesome.” She immediately smiled; saying people either love it or run for the hills. After watching the short, I was impressed with not only Jessie’s ability as a filmmaker, but also to confront such a touchy subject and make it incredibly humorous. It’s artists like Jessie that find a voice in Slamdance.
I can give you a re-cap of the short, but you should just watch it HERE. It’s concise…and funny…no excuse.
The shorts program at Sundance and Slamdance are wonderful ways to get your foot in the door. Just last week Damien Chazelle took home the Grand Jury Prize and Audience award for Whiplash. He had a short with the same name in the festival last year. Carter Smith, who took home the Jury Prize for Bugcrush a few years back, premiered his feature Jamie Marks is Dead this year. But getting a short made, let alone into a festival can be difficult. I talked to Jessie about some of the challenges of getting the short together.
“Working with limitations tends to be very freeing in the creative process. With Meet My Rapist, we borrowed equipment and stole locations and shared burritos. But I think it brought us so close and made it essential for us to all be making the same movie. We didn’t have time to fuck around.”
Most young filmmakers have mentors, something extremely helpful in cultivating your artistry and focusing it into the right direction. Jessie’s was Jill Soloway, who most recently released the comedy Afternoon Delight starring Josh Radnor and Kathryn Hahn. Soloway told Jessie, “You want to have an affair with your work. Make it exciting and scary, not a stale marriage.” But Jessie admits the biggest challenge of Meet My Rapist was “getting people to actually watch it.”
The write-what-you-know advice surely rings true in the short. It’s clearly based on a true story, but Jessie was able to transform it into a concise exploration. She explains, “I showed the script to lots of trusted friends and worked that baby into the ground. I didn’t make Meet My Rapist. It made me!”
Plenty of people didn’t want her to make the movie. They said it would kill her career in Hollywood. But the call from Slamdance is exactly the validation she needed. “It was the day before Thanksgiving so I celebrated by changing my new niece’s poopy diaper and eating that second piece of pumpkin pie. My film is my baby so the Slamdance call was like my baby getting into Harvard Law School or a more badass alternative grassroots version of Harvard.” At the end of the day, making the movie and getting it into the fest taught her to “honor that voice inside that speaks to shit people are too scared to talk about. It gave me the balls to speak from my uterus and I can’t wait to keep going.”
Jessie also has a hilarious series online Dude, Where’s My Chutzpah? She continues to explore “life, love, Judaism, tacos, etc.” We can all agree it’s a time in the industry where you can make your own films. More and more artists are implementing the DIY way of art. As daunting as committing to a project may be, Jessie assures me that making, “shorts didn’t just teach me how to make movies. They reminded me why I can’t not make them."