Virginia transplant, one time Womp Skater, and blogger Jessica Stover is, like most people who’ve moved to Los Angeles, here to make movies. Unlike many of us, she has yet to give in to the studio system, and has looked to the internet for an innovative way to make buzz for her project even before anyone has heard the synopsis (let alone read the screenplay).
Via Eventful.com, Ms. Stover has had over 230 people “demand” that her film project be released in their area, totalling over 45 cities so far…
sat down with emailed some questions to “JSto” to find out what the hell she’s thinking by bucking the studio trend, what this top secret project is all about, and some mandatory questions to keep the interview LAcentric…
What are you doing with Eventful.com and why?
Currently, with Eventful, I am supporting the audience’s screening demand for an original epic fantasy film trilogy I’ve written. This makes sense to me for a few reasons: 1. Nearly everything “notable” I’ve ever done has had something to do with new media and working with the audience directly. 2. I believe in my audience and the timing is right in that I’m marketing the story to producers and so forth. 3. From Wheaton’s experiences, I was already aware of, and stoked on, what Eventful offers. Their staff is a pleasure to work with. 4. I believe in change via the power of gathering.
You’ve been vague as to what your project is about beyond the genre – why should people back your project when there are so many other writers and projects out there? What sets you and yours apart?
This is the big question, right? I can’t wait to show nerds, the universe, everyone some of the art so that they will realize that we aren’t fucking around over here and that this is serious shit that has been a long time coming. Sharing some of the art will also eliminate the leap of faith, or at least make it more of a step of faith. Here’s how I feel about the matter: People can read my site and look through the art and use their weird magic (a.k.a. critical thinking skills) to decide. If this leads them to want to attend a screening, and so request it at this point (an unprecedented opportunity), then I’m thankful and I’d love to hear from them. It’s not a huge risk on their part. If it doesn’t, then they can go about their business. I don’t really know that a proactive defense for “why I should be allowed to do my job” is necessary. I work hard, I have an amazing team and audience already established and building. Plus, you know, I’ve only staked my life on the story. So what do I do when I can’t yet show you a trailer? Concept art and everything I can tell you without compromising your theater experience.
Have you tried any other unique avenues to get your project noticed?
No. Although we do have concept art and other pre-vis materials along with the screenplay, I would consider that normal. However, the standard screenwriter does not do those things. In meeting with [X] large agency, they have been slightly good-confused at each stop because I came in with all this intellectual property. Usually only screenwriters in this genre who want to direct their project do that sort of work. My goals are different, People in meetings oft ask, “Yes but you want to direct, right?” to which I respond, “Are you out of your mind: I do not have that skill set!” They seem to agree (in a relieved manner). Haha–It’s nice to agree on something for once. Primarily, I focus on keeping my eye on the ball, which is maintaining the integrity of the story while finding a way to share it, and I do what aligns with that goal. Maybe I only have one big story in me and this is it. That’s the trouble with anything being possible: It can go both ways. ;-)
You’ve expressed disappointment in the way studios choose projects…
Yes, what person working in film hasn’t? Perhaps that disappointment is part of why certain production companies are taking measures to distribute themselves? In this way they can eliminate studio meddling. ICON comes to mind, and I believe Walden Media has such plans in place as well.
My complaints mostly rest with big-budget endeavors, especially anything sci-fi or fantasy related. There are handfuls of good films made in a year, after all, which is why I look forward to the wintertime when the smaller, “Oscar films” are released and sulk all summer long through crap the likes of The Da Vinci Code, Pirates of the Caribbean and X3 (Oh! The disappointment of that last one!). Is there room for those sorts of Bruckheimerian films? Absolutely. But when every big budget film, the most highly visible and widely distributed myths in our society, are on that level, there’s a problem, and that problem is reflective of you and me and everything, really. So I’m concerned. It will be interesting to see if what I learn over the next few months alters my point of view.
Also, when will your site be finally unveiled, and what sort of cool stuff can we expect?
The new JSDC launches at the beginning of next month. I will refrain announcing an exact date because I usually pad my production schedules, so it’s possible we’d launch before whatever I stated and then you’d call me a trickster and I just couldn’t live if you called me a trickster. Most notably, and related to this article, the new site has project areas. The most prominent project area is the TSL section where we will share concept art rolled out over time and more. Beyond that, the look and feel will be visually related to the bigger stuff I create that cannot be shared online. Needless to say I’m looking forward to re-launch.
Where do you go in Los Angeles to be inspired or to “be creative”?
My room. The dark, dark, solitary of my room. I’m not a caf√© writer and I don’t particularly find LA inspiring. I used to open water swim at Will Rogers Beach to clear things out, but given the activity on the SoCal shark report, the unpredictable waters lately (thank you, team of rip tide and 10-year-old girl that nearly drowned me), and the pollution, I don’t have the desire to visit the beaches here anymore. I go to gymnastics multiple times a week and that usually cleans my mind out nicely in prep for writing. I realize that this question was geared toward localizing our exchange, so I should probably mention my church, a.k.a. the ArcLight Cinemas. (Try the midnight services on Thursdays.)
What does Virginia need from Los Angeles, and what does LA need from VA?
It is my official stance that all places everywhere could use a few more Ninjas and far, far less Pirates. Oh and better smart-growth plans. No but really, I find it important that LA and VA (and places in general, especially in this time of globalization) retain their differences. I mean, from one place you can get to here, from the other, here. Both locations, clearly, have their own advantages and charms.
Truly, though, I do wish I could take the fantastic tools and professionals in LA and transplant them into some sort of rural VA-like place. That would be ideal. I think Lucas has it right with his whole Skywalker Ranch idea (so beautiful and calm there). Other filmmakers have similar setups in Texas, New Zealand… . Seems like a nice way to work, no? I much prefer working on location to working in Los Angeles.