WIDENING THE LENS COMPETITION Q&A with Jessica Ashman

ON THE SHORTLIST

Jessica Ashman, animator, director, filmmaker

From: London

  1. How do you feel to have been shortlisted for the Widening The Lens competition?

It feels great to be selected and it’s a great confidence boost in getting my idea made. I’m really looking forward to experiencing the festival too and meeting new filmmakers.

  1. What story idea did you pitch?

The story I’m pitching is called I Don’t Protest, I Just Dance In My Shadow and is an animated visual essay, telling the story of women of colour (WoC) visual artists, especially the women who work in animation (myself included). It’s about how we traverse a white, male dominated cultural landscape and all the thoughts and feelings that come with that existence. I’ve interviewed six WoC artists so far and plan to combine their interviews with my own thoughts, using animation, soundscapes and live action

  1. What inspired the theme?

The complete lack of diversity I see around me in the film, animation and visual arts landscape inspired the theme! From my arts G.C.S.E to my masters, I’ve hardly seen or been taught about artists, filmmakers and animators of colour, especially women. I’d like to use this project as a way of re-addressing the balance and perhaps inspiring future WoC creatives.

  1. How does it address diversity and the idea of challenging limitations of character and story development?

I think the subject matter itself will address diversity! And perhaps challenge the perception and narrative of what WoC represent in the world. I feel we are shown as many other negative things in the arts and film world, but being an artist with their own agency is rarely one of them.

  1. Does your film stimulate audience debate?

The film will address the fact that women of colour are out there creating, despite the fact there is no indication of this in the cultural landscape. I hope this gets people talking about why this is and why it’s not represented.

  1. How did you get into filmmaking?

I’ve always been interested in film and art and was a colossal nerd as a teenager. So I ended up combining all of these loves into animation. I studied animation at university at an undergraduate level and then freelanced for a few years in the commercial animation industry, as well as making my own short films. I recently completed a masters in animation at the Royal College of Art, to focus my skills and remember the reason I loved animation and film, and now I’m back to freelancing and creating my own work in my studio in South London.

  1. What’s your top tip for other new and emerging filmmakers?

Having enough conviction in your work when others don’t is important. I’ve spent a lot of time second-guessing myself and my skills due to others’ opinions. Make friends with other filmmakers and artists so they understand what you do and why you do it. Also, don’t work for free for years! It really isn’t worth it.

  1. What’s your experience and thoughts regarding a lack of diversity within the film industry, both on and off screen?

I think it’s obvious to everyone that there is a discrepancy in diversity in the film industry, yet everyone seems to wonder why this is. Direct action is needed I feel, not hand wringing. I feel more engagement in multi-cultural communities with art and film could help with this. More representation of people of colour (and LGBTQ people) as humans, not clichés and stereotypes in film, TV and art are needed also.

  1. What are your ambitions for the film concept after the festival?

My plan for the film is to combine the short with a multi-channel sound installation that replicates the interview process I undertook to make the film. This exhibition will be pushed out to teenage women of colour who are interested in a career in film and the arts, combined with workshops and panel talks addressing their career aspirations and the issue of representation in general.