Jacqueline Christy

Jacqueline Christy

Unaffiliated

What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
My first professionally directed work is my feature film Magic Hour. It is loosely inspired by the wonderful adventure of going to the NYU Graduate Film Program – a little later in life. It was joyful chaos all the way through and I hope my film encourages people to go out and live their dream – at any age, on their own terms. Magic Hour stars Miriam Shor, Sendhil Ramamurthy, Austin Pendleton and many other brilliant actors. In the story, a once-promising filmmaker, Harriet, languishes in the suburbs of New Jersey. Dumped by her philandering husband and reviled by her teenage daughter, Harriet decides to secretly live her dream of going to film school. She leads a double life and loves every minute of her adventures and misadventures. When she gets her first professional directing job, she is horrified to find that the professional film environment is a cutthroat place run by bullies and their terrified minions. She pines for the nourishing, artistic environment of film school. When she gets replaced by her nemesis, and found out by her daughter, Harriet needs to decide if her film, film school, and her long-cherished ambition to be a director is pure folly or if it’s a dream worth saving.

How did you get into directing?
I come from a theater family. My father is a theater director and professor and my mother is a musician and music teacher. So, when I was growing up, I was lucky to be constantly immersed in the arts. I think my parents would sit us in the theater seats and let us watch rehearsals rather than get babysitters for us! When I moved to NYC, I founded a non-profit space for the arts, Access Theater, in a small textile warehouse in Tribeca. I’ve been lucky to produce, present, workshop and direct new plays there. Some years ago, I decided to (finally!) go to film school. I had much to learn in terms of all the technical elements of film, but I found that my background in working with actors and designers, developing character arcs and storylines, and leading a team through tech week “hell” to the joy of opening night, carried over well from my theater experience. Film directing has additional challenges that I have fully embraced. I love the power of a closeup, the ability to move the camera and change the audience’s perspective. I love the power to re-cut and rethink a storyline. I love the intensity of having all the disparate elements come together “on the day.”

What is your most recent project?
My next project, Operatives Attract, is an FBI wedding movie. It is very loosely based on true events that took place off the coast of New Jersey many years ago. The FBI staged an elaborate wedding sting operation to lure a criminal mastermind and dozens of his cronies onto a yacht so they could arrest all of them at once. In my fictionalized version, two undercover agents – a vengeful femme fatale and an idealistic rookie – pose as bride and groom. But when they fall in love for real, their actual feelings complicate the operation – veering from love to hate and back again with neither agent knowing if the other is playing them or if love between agents can ever be the real thing.

What is the best part of being a director?
I love the excitement of striking that crucial balance of a coherent vision and a lively creative cacophony of fresh ideas from everyone on the project. My favorite part of directing is collaborating with all the different artists on set. There is nothing more exciting than seeing an actor make a character their own, or a designer light up with a fresh idea. When all departments are humming along, the actors are getting their hair and makeup done, the cinematographer is finessing the light and the idea becomes an actual thing – that moment is thrilling. After the chaos of racing around to put the finishing touches on hair, makeup and lighting, when the AD calls “roll sound” there’s a sacred hush that falls on the set and we’re all transported to the realm of the imagination together. It’s a beautiful moment when things feel almost mystical and I feel like the whole cast and crew are completely aligned in that magical moment. Then, when the take is over and everyone hears “cut!” the joyful chaos resumes!

What is the worst part of being a director?
I love all aspects of directing, but I’d say that the worst part of being a director is essentially the same as the best part of being a director. One of the biggest challenges of being a director is striking the balance between coaxing out each individual’s creativity and also making sure everyone is making the same movie. Sometimes, you have an actor, a designer, or anyone on the team with a big, theatrical sensibility working with someone extremely subtle. This could be a disaster, but I think this can be an exciting challenge. My philosophy is that all ideas are good ideas and that creativity is precious and artists need to be supported and encouraged. Otherwise, they’ll shut down creatively. So, I always want to very gently coax everyone toward a unified tone without discouraging anyone along the way. If someone has an idea that’s not quite what we want, I try to be grateful for their ideas and encourage them to keep generating more ideas until we find the ones that align with the overall project. I have found that when people feel genuinely valued and encouraged, they’ll give you everything they have and the project will be better because of it.

What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre–comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
My career focus currently is film. But I feel drawn toward limited series and television as well. In terms of genre, I love stories that balance drama and comedy. I love to tell stories that are relatable and grounded in emotional reality but that are also funny in a subtle, slightly heightened way. I love telling stories that are honest about the human condition with all of our flaws and foibles, but that ultimately champion the power of kindness and togetherness.

Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
I’m incredibly grateful to have the world’s best mentor, the incomparably brilliant, talented and generous writer, Jose Rivera. I’ve been in Jose’s writer’s group for nearly two decades and I’ve learned so much from him about writing, creativity, collaboration, and about life. I developed many scripts in his writing group, including the script for the film Magic Hour, on which Jose is executive producer. One of the things I love and emulate about Jose is his unwavering commitment to the community. He’s committed to the tiny community of our writing group, which feels like an artistic family to me. He’s also committed to the film and theater communities, and to the community of the larger world. On my projects, I try to create a feeling of family in pre-production, on set, and in post. From Jose, I’ve learned that people are more inventive when they know they can be vulnerable and take a creative risk and will be appreciated for it and treated with tenderness- whether the idea works out or not. I have attempted to bring Jose’s spirit of a strong, supportive community into all my creative projects.

Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up outside of Philadelphia in a family of artists, teachers and wonderful party-throwers. My parents are both artists and teachers. My father is a theater director and professor of theater. My mother is a pianist and music teacher. I grew up attending rehearsals, performances, opening nights and closing night parties – singing show tunes late into the evening with the entire cast and crew gathered around the piano. The world of the arts has always been a source of joy, fun and friendship for me. Additionally, the creative process has been a true sanctuary where I could work through all the issues of life in a truthful, novel way with a dedicated group of artists working toward something greater than ourselves in a focused, communal effort of togetherness.

Have you had occasion to bring your storytelling/directorial talent to bear in the Metaverse, tapping into the potential of AR, VR, AI, NFTs and/or experiential fare? If so, tell us about that work and what lessons you have taken away from the experience?
Not yet!

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