By Tee Tyson
Here at Pankhearst we thrive on meeting new and awesome talents and bombarding them with questions they don’t really want to answer. Today we travel to the strange and trendy city of New York where Jane Ji has agreed to suffer the third degree. Jane is a writer, director and producer who has created a short film about a young girl coming of age in what seems to be a broken world. Let’s get grilling.
In three sentences tell us who you are and why you’re here?
I’m a Ji. I’m here to do the right thing. I’m here to stay gold.
Well, we hope you manage to do that. This world has a weird way of tarnishing people. I see a fair bit of gold in your short film Line and Sinker. This is your senior thesis for NYU’s film program and I’d like to know what your central theme is for this short?
It’s hard to pinpoint. My original intent came from me looking back on a childhood experience and realizing how that ended up affecting me later on in life. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I do. I guess, through that reflection, the motivation for the film was born. The theme is the fragile nature of youth. If that’s not too cheesy.
The central theme is the discovery of things around you before you are able to understand them.
We here at Pankhearst love the cheese, so that works for us. Do you find discovery and youth are themes that are prevalent in your work?
Yes, to some degree. It intrigues me because I think it has to do with the cycles I’m always going through …t rying to uncover things about myself leading to further self discover but its not always that simple. Actually, it’s never simple and its not always progressing, sometimes regressing. Sometimes events in life place an obstacle in front of you that you don’t even see. So you are always just running against it and you are not sure why … wait did I answer the question?
No, I don’t think you did. Just kidding. Your answer was yes, but a long winded yes. This project seems pretty personal. What was the most interesting part of the film-making process for you?
Tough question. After all the build up, anxiety, stress, pressure, planning, planning, trying, failing, and failing, and failing …I guess the most interesting part was it actually happening and unfolding. There’s something so nice about it. Just thinking back on all the people who got involved — the crew, location owners, the actors and their parents, and all the many strangers that I reached out to for help. It was an amazing experience to feel that come together in a kind of combustion. Ultimately, all these parts and pieces that helped make the production happen had an effect on this movie. It’s just so interesting what you’re able to create; how all these resources come together in this out-of-control way that ultimately is going to create your film. I was just really surprised by the generosity of all these people around me. I think that’s pretty cool.
It’s amazing how much others are willing to give. And you yourself gave a lot. You are the director and the producer, but you are also the writer. Which one of these roles do you identify with the most and why?
Is it a cop-out to say all three?
I was most inclined to say writer at first because of what a solitary process writing can be and how my anxieties sometimes tempt me into succumbing to my stage fright, into a cave of lonely creating. You feel safe to be as imaginative and vulnerable as you can be when you are alone with your computer. But I really believe that making a movie is a process and to put down the director and producer in me would be no good. Producers get a movie made and directors shape it. A lot happens and changes during that process. Ultimately, I strive to be a collaborator, not a cave-dweller.
I myself am a cave-dweller. You’re lucky I have a thick skin. All jokes aside, your movie centers around a little girl and I often wondered as I watched how much of yourself you put into her. Tell us why you opted to choose a child as your main character and where your inspiration came from for her?
I think a lot of myself is in this character. That’s probably why I wrote about a child, because I still feel like a child most of the time! It may sound ridiculous, but I’m kind of serious. I think that’s an important part of our lives that we often forget about.
It’s so tragic how reality reveals itself to someone who hasn’t yet been fully exposed to the reality around them. I think it’s a general thing that happens during childhood, or something that happens to someone “naive” and well meaning. It all came from myself, how I remember things happening and not knowing why or why I felt the way that I did. And only really realizing now.
So, NYU, that’s pretty impressive. Tell us why you got into film and where you want to go with it?
Thanks! I got into film because I loved ‘the movies’ when I was a kid. So I thought I wanted to be an actress and got involved in theatre/drama at my high school. I turned out to have pretty bad stage fright. I think I realized what I liked about it all was creating these different characters in different worlds and film-making was an even more expansive way of doing so.
Now, for some easier and more interesting questions. Was there a movie that inspired you to pursue this field?
No I don’t think so … movies in general I believe …
It’s hard because I never thought it was even a possibility to be a film-maker but I always knew that I wanted to. So I never consciously thought after watching a movie I liked that that was what I wanted to do … but I think one I remember having a great effect on me was the Academy Awards! All those movie montages. All the different award categories and impassioned speeches. I was a sucker for it.
The glitz and the glamour. We are all about glitz and glamour here at Pankhearst, but the climb up to the top is hard and we all need help. Tell us what the most important piece of advice you would hand down to other screenwriters, producers and directors?
Just do it and know why! It’s so easy to think that you can’t. I doubted myself for a long time until I realized this was the only thing I really wanted to do. You just have to commit to it, with commitment there’s the opportunity to go anywhere.
But I really think you should be doing this for the right reasons. If you’re in it because you want to say something that means something … I believe that viewers are always looking out for that. At least I hope so …
Stay curious and stay gold!
What’s next on the docket for you Miss Ji?
I am mainly doing art department (set design, props etc.) and camera work. I have plans to work on several independent films as well as a couple music videos.
All of this on top of finalizing my film, Line and Sinker, and submitting it to festivals all over.
Because we like the books and work hard to promote writing and all that awesome stuff. Has there been any books that have changed your life?
1984 – is that cliché?
I am just re-reading that now since grade nine. Whole different perspective on it as I read it as an adult. Anyway, I won’t get into the whole Big Brother crap. There is a very feminine quality to your latest film Line and Sinker and since its central theme is ‘coming of age’ tell us three women that inspire/inspired you …
Andrea Arnold, Lynne Ramsey, Miranda July
Finish this sentence. If I was queen of the world …
I’d have a headache. Stop fracking! Bread not Bombs. Art not war.
I have a feeling you’d be a tyrant. Say they lock you up after your rule, because you went nuts and started yelling Bread not Bombs. You’re going to spend a year in solitary confinement. You can take one song, one book, and one movie. What do you take and how long will you last before you go completely insane?
“Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”. History of Art – might as well brush up on some history. Close call between Rescuers Down Under and Fievel Goes West.
I’d maybe last 9 days…maybe. Is that pathetic?
Nine is a lot longer than I’d have given you. Just teasing. Or am I. The last question is my my favourite to ask … what is the most fascinating aspect of life?
And with that, I tend to agree. Nature is fantastic. Thank you so much for joining us, Jane. We are ever so glad you made it through these questions.