Interview with “Jamie and Jessie Are Not Together” director Wendy Jo Carlton

AE: And this wasn’t your first time working with Jacqui, right?
WJC: I was very fortunate to be able to work with Jacqui Jackson again, I had worked with her in Hannah Free, who played the character of Greta, who kind of comes in as an interloper helping Sharon Gless’s character, Hannah Free, talk to her lover. She came from an open audition. I had never met her before Hannah Free and I really love her as a person and a talent and I really wanted to work with her again.

AE:  Of course, with a movie like this, you have to buy that these two belong together so how did you go about pairing up Jacqui with Jessica?
WJC: A year ago, I was going to the Chicago Dyke March and I asked Jacqui if she needed a ride and she got in my car with me and she said “My friend Jessie is downtown, can we pick her up?” And that was Jessica London-Shields and so the three of us went to the Dyke March in 2010. From afar I watched them – they went to DePaul Theater School and were friends, not lovers – and the idea for this film came to me by watching them physically and they reminded me of me and one of my best friends, who is an ex-girlfriend and people often think we’re together. I looked at them – they’re super cute together – they were intimate and charismatic even from afar. There was a magnetism that they had that I recognized. On the way home, I said, “I think I know the next movie I’m going to do with you, Jacqui.” I wanted to tell a story that was complex and complicated and to try to tell that story well and also entertain people and I was always interested in making a romantic comedy and having a light-heartedness. I just feel like there’s not enough of that in movies with queer people, especially lesbians.

AE:  Is it a goo or bad thing to have a project be labeled as a gay film?
WJC: My thought is that it’s a good thing to be labeled as a queer writer/director because I really feel in terms of supply and demand there’s a bigger demand than supply and I’m ready to supply it. I’ve got four scripts in the works right now in terms of rich characters and complex characters and unpredictable plots that have queer characters in them, that’s what I’m interested in. That’s my passion, I guess, right now, to create more of the stories.

AE: All your projects are gay-centric?
WJC: Three of them are queer-centric and women-oriented.

AE: It seems we’re at an interesting time for lesbians on television in The Real L Word, for example, and then you have mainstream movies like The Kids Are All Right. Do you think there’s a change going on or is it just timing?
WJC: In terms of seeing lesbians on the screen?

AE: Yes. It just seems to be a little more out there than in the past.
WJC: I really think it’s incremental, the representation of strong women characters and lesbian and bi women characters. I think it’s incremental progress in the availability of these movies.

Jamie and Jessie has only screened twice in festivals and we’ve sold out both shows and it’s positive response but when you talk about The Kids Are All Right  &mdsah; she’s fantastic writer and director. I’m really inspired by Lisa Cholodenko but, honestly, I’m skeptical about the support for that specifically because there’s not much lesbian action going on there. There was more lesbian erotic action in Laurel Canyon and I love that movie. I also really like The Kids Are All Right but [I] don’t think it’s fair for Cholodenko to be criticized because she makes a movie that doesn’t have the lesbian couple all over each other all the time. I think it’s awesome, actually, that it’s a story about a couple that’s been together for so long that they take each other for granted and it’s not a super healthy dynamic. That is actually a transcendent story to tell compared to being put in a box and here are two women who are lesbian-identified whether it’s well-funded or low budget and it’s about coming out or someone cheating on someone or it’s just about getting laid. There’s a place for all of these things so I’m hoping that general audience can stretch their arms out a little bit and be open to and supportive of, and buy tickets to, movies that are funny and complicated and not cliché or predictable.

Watch the trailer for Jamie And Jessie Are Not Together:

For more on Jamie And Jessie Are Not Together, visit Upcoming screenings include Durham, North Carolina on August 12 and 14.

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