An Interview with Jamal Rashad About Jack and Jill
How did you start making films and what was the first film project that you worked on as a director?
I started making films in 2019 as a graduate student at Full Sail University with the first film I directed being a short film titled “Over/Under”. It’s about watching a couple’s relationship take place from inside their bathroom, and often with a roll of tissue being the center of attention.
What genre of filmmaking are you looking to work on?
I love working on dramas and horrors/thrillers, but I would like to take a break to try directing comedies. I understand that comedy is about timing so I want to challenge myself to see if I can strike “comedy gold” with a short film.
You have master of fine arts in film production. Does filmmaking teach more than film school? Do you recommend going to film school to those who would like to make films?
For me, I learned more about theory than application in graduate school. We did a LOT of application, don’t get me wrong, but it was supervised. I had someone there to kind of make suggestions or hint that I was doing something wrong while on a controlled set. When I filmed my first short film and my thesis film, I had no on set supervision, I had to rely on what I learned in class. That made things a little bit tougher for me in post-production because the mistakes I made during production became more noticeable in post.
Though it’s not a requirement to have a formal education in filmmaking, I still recommend that beginners go to school to get an understanding of how everything works and flows together. The information is out there, but a teacher/mentor kind of streamlines the research process for the student by giving them the information up front in a structured manner.
How challenging is it to fund indie films in this era?
It proved to be pretty challenging. Several places in the local area opened their doors to us to raise money, but it was on us to get customers to donate. This was difficult considering some places don’t allow you to directly solicit money from their customers. I had to heavily rely on my social media status for support and funds for my film.
Your film, Jack and Jill is about sexual abuse of children. What inspired you to approach this topic and the themes involved in the film?
My answer might seem all over the place but bear with me. So, the film was originally about a young Black couple robbing a bank to feed their two starving children and shooting a white security guard during their escape. I wanted to spark outage within the groups of people who have grown desensitized to, or find delight in seeing Black deaths in the media at the hands of authority figures. When I couldn’t get a bank as a location, my mentor advised me to think of a story where I could keep the characters and their outcomes the same. After enough brainstorming, I decided on making the security guard a priest because I figured, “I could kill a child molesting priest anywhere.” I’d seen too many news articles about the number of missing children in the world, too many articles about pedophiles, and know too many victims of sexual abuse/sexual assault, and I wanted to make something about it. However, deep down, part of me was happy I landed on this topic because it allowed me to confront my own victimhood while potentially helping others do the same.
Do you consider yourself an independent filmmaker and would you like to be an indie filmmaker or not?
I definitely consider myself an independent filmmaker since I’ve just started in the industry. I’m not part of a union or anything like that right now. In the future? I’d like to be part of a union to work on tv shows and in writers’ rooms, but I’d also like the ability to still do indie films. I feel there’s a different type of story to be told with indie filmmaking and I want to tell as many of those stories as possible.
Can you name three of your most favorite directors who have inspired your work?
I would say Jordan Peele, Antoine Fuqua and F. Gary Gray.
How can cinema change the world and impact lives and societies?
Cinema can change the world through the dramatization of real life. Most of the world’s inventions and progress in technology and art has been a direct result of cinema sparking a viewer’s imagination. There are also things happening in this world that most of us know nothing about and it can bring those things to light for us. We may not be able to understand the words being said but, if done correctly, we can all understand the visual language presented to us because our eyes will translate the message for us.
How challenging is it to distribute short films?
It’s pretty challenging to distribute short films when one does not have access to the right amount of funding to do so. I had to raise an extra $1000 to submit to festivals and it still wasn’t enough to cover the amount I’ve submitted to. I know that as a beginner I probably should have been more selective, but you never know who’s attending certain festivals and what they might think of your film when they see it. I figured the more eyes, the better. I had a talented cast and crew and we all deserve to have our hard work seen by professionals, so I owe them that much.
Why do you want to make films?
I want to inspire action and change within the world. I want to tell stories for the sake of telling them. I want to provide an escape to the people who want/need them. I want to make films so people can see the world as I do.