- Jessica & crew for Family of the Year music video
ArtBlitzLA is thrilled to chat with director Jessica Sanders. Read the interview below, and be sure to check out her new film, Bunion, which is currently touring to several film festivals!
ABLA: What is your earliest art-related memory?
Sanders: My grandmother was an artist living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I remember doing paintings on glass with her and my sister. We would hold up a piece of glass and with a marker draw the lines of what we saw framed, then we would paint on the glass and scratch out textural bits when it dried. They were interesting portraits and slices of life.
ABLA: How did your parents both being filmmakers influence your decision to get into film?
Sanders: My parents are both Oscar winning documentary filmmakers and they raised us where filmmaking, family life and art were all very intertwined. There would be film in the refrigerator. We would go on a family vacation in Vietnam, which was also a film scout for one of their documentaries. The amazing artists, playwrights, fighter pilots and composers who were in their films became good friends and part of our life. Filmmaking to me meant you got to travel, meet amazing people, learn about subjects you’d never been exposed to before and combine interests in music, art and technology.
I was always artistic but also went to very academically rigorous schools. As a teenager I thought I’d be a writer or civil rights attorney. In college I majored in Film and English and began making films immediately out of school. I don’t know if there was much decision making, when I made my first film in college I knew that was what I’d be doing, it felt right.
ABLA: And your sister is also an artist, married to an artist. What is it like to be part of such a creative family?
Sanders: I like that everyone knows and understands art. There is a lot of art in our lives, but it’s also practical growing up in a creative family. My parents had a business and company and had to make a living at their art. There are a lot of conversations about art, films and politics, but also the business of being a an artist and filmmaker, which is the practical side. I think this takes some of the mystique away and you see how much work goes into being an artist.
ABLA: Tell us about Bunion. When and where will everyone be able to see it?
Sanders: My friend Avi Rothman has a terrible bunion. He was telling me about it and we thought it would be a good idea to make a short film about it! The film is starring Avi (who also wrote the film), Michaela Watkins (SNL, Trophy Wife) and Alia Shawkat (Arrested development). We recently had a huge screening at the Hammer Museum with the FLUX Series. Next up is Cleveland Film Festival and Sun Valley, Idaho. If you “like” us on Facebook you will get all the updates on where to catch it!
ABLA: You just travelled with it to Santa Barbara, correct? How was that? What’s your favorite thing about film festivals?
Sanders: The film premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, which is a great festival. A highlight was that Ralph Macchio, my childhood hero from “The Karate Kid” – had a short in our program. He was a fan of Bunion!
Film Festivals are a fun place to watch your film with an audience, especially being a comedy, it’s fun to hear people laugh. My background is in heavy subject documentary films that usually make people cry, so Bunion is a fun change.
ABLA: Favorite moment of working on the film?
Sanders: My aunt and uncle have one of the largest pre-Columbian art collections, featuring a lot of phallic sculptures from Papau New Guinea. We filmed a funny scene with Michaela Watkins who plays Avi’s therapist. My aunt who is a real psychologist was on set commenting on how a real therapist would never have a session in a room filled with so many crazy distracting sculptures. Then she actually psychoanalyzed Avi when we were setting up lighting for our shot.
ABLA: When you begin a film do you have a process you go through to develop your approach? Or do you just dive right in?
Sanders: I wish it was as simple as diving right in, but there is so much planning, thought and work that goes into filmmaking. For any film it’s finding the right story and then developing the tone, themes I want to explore and getting the best creative team to execute it. I am very detailed and am very involved in every aspect and love how collaborative it is – getting so many smart, talented people involved to make the project better than planned.
ABLA: What are some of your favorite places in LA to see art?
- Jessica interviewing Nick Yarris who spent 22 years on death row for a murder he didn’t commit for her Sundance winning film AFTER INNOCENCE, 2005
Sanders: I’m a big fan of LACMA. I saw Christian Marclay’s THE CLOCK there several times…I think 17 hours of it! I like going to the Hammer, MOCA, the gallery walks in Culver City. Last night I went to a cool event at the Orpheum for the new Broad with Jeff Koons and one of my favorite filmmakers John Waters. I try to see art as often as I can as I think it’s really good for my creative brain, it inspires me. I’m also really into seeing architecture in LA as well, there is a lot to explore here.
- Jessica on the set of BUNION
- Bunion premiere with Ralph Macchio at the Santa Barbara Film Festival
- Michaela Watkins & Avi Rothman / BUNION
- Avi Rothman / BUNION
- Bunion poster art designed by artist Steve Harrington