Why was Jessie J afraid of Jessie K? Because Jessie K is a badass.
Interview with Jessie Kahnweiler
“When you speak of my confidence, could you elaborate on that?” asked Jessie Kahnweiler. My professor replied “There’s a certain confidence that you carry as a director – we know we are in good hands when we start watching one of your films.”
This energy – this feeling of being in good hands – is overwhelming not only in her films, but also simply in conversation with her. Jessie Kahnweiler is a wildly interesting Hollywood filmmaker with a spunky personality and dark sense of humor to match. I walked away from the group interview feeling uplifted by her bold way of navigating such a risky industry. It’s easy to say Jessie’s achieving the textbook filmmaker goal - telling a story we’ve all heard in a spicy and honest manner.
The small window of a gallery view zoom call failed to constrict her strong presence throughout the interview. Her humble confidence leaked through her camera, and she encouraged our small group of aspiring college students by demonstrating the lack of boundaries in the entertainment industry. While advising us to be careful of whose advice we take to oath, she called on the age old saying “Nobody knows” to assure us that it’s fine to love it all, and it’s also possible to do it all. As the writer, director, and main actor in her latest short film, “He’s the One,” she encouraged us to write our own rules for how we want to tell our stories.
Jessie holds a strong commitment to her work, clearly revealed in her statement “Don’t fucking talk to me while I’m writing.” The physical process of writing takes only a few hours out of her day, but her creative process doesn’t end there. An aura of inspiration follows her; everything is a scene. Her art serves as an expression of her life experiences, and her YouTube tagline jokes “Jessie can’t afford therapy so she makes films.” However, revealing that this is untrue, she states that primarily addressing her own mental health is pivotal in her role as a responsible filmmaker. Emotionally dumping onto the audience crosses a boundary, and there is a difference between telling an honest story and relying on the audience to carry the director’s personal shit. In “He’s the One,” Jessie trots along the thin line without ever overstepping. A young woman spends the night at a new, exciting online match’s house. Everything is pristine until she realizes this is the same man who raped her several years back. As she wrestles with her emotions, this film makes a comment on the grayer cases of sexual assault, a topic sensitive to so many women. A comedy about sexual assault probably doesn’t seem like a good look to potential investors, but the ethical sense of responsibility Jessie assumes is at the base of this story’s message. It creates that trust; not only do I feel like I’m in good hands, but I feel like I’m being told an honest story.
While I loved her film, others may conclude that she overstepped a line. Los Angeles County is home to 9.9 million people, and not everyone in Hollywood is going to be able to praise, let alone understand, your films. Criticism is everywhere, and while Jessie takes it as an exciting challenge, she sometimes found it challenging to channel the right kind of energy from it. “There’s often a voice that pops up telling you that your work isn’t good enough – or no one cares about the story, or no one will give such an edgy film idea a chance. You can’t be afraid of rejection,” she says, “You have to quiet that voice and be sure of your work.” So when it comes to criticism – it’s a tight boundary in figuring out which feedback to listen to.
The personal and emotional boundaries Jessie sets for herself and her films allow her to take advantage of such a boundaryless industry. Starting in documentaries, Jessie then realized she loved being on set. She acts, she writes, she directs the screenplays she writes, she’s done post production, has a thriving YouTube channel, her own web series, and the list goes on to include a plethora of experiences that couldn’t be addressed in our hour long zoom call.
During a fragile time of young adulthood when everyone is asking what you want to do with an entertainment degree, Jessie proves that you can do it all. She has succeeded in knowing her own boundaries so she can push them in the wide world of storytelling content.
Check out Jessie's Youtube Channel and website: