A couple weeks ago I unveiled my new production company, JEM Pictures, LLC. Please forgive the website for the moment, it is still a work in progress, but it was important to me to get it out into the world. I started the company in the last months of 2013, but wanted it to incubate for a little bit before making any sort of debut.
You might ask, but Jess, you’re an actor, why would you start a production company? Good question. Starting any sort of business is not easy, what with licenses, taxes, forms, etc. I did not make my decision to start a production company lightly. It’s a lot of work, but these three questions led me to it:
1. What stories do I want to tell?
2. What roles do I want to play?
3. How do I want people to be treated on a film set?
I take my role as a storyteller very seriously. I think stories are integral to human existence, as are any form of entertainment. At a certain point in one’s career you have to ask yourself, what are the stories I want to tell? What moves me as an artist? What would I put my back into? Personally, I wanted a means for telling the stories that I don’t see out in the world but would like to. I try not to make a film I wouldn’t want to watch myself.
In addition to the story element, I started thinking about the characters I wanted to play. The other lives I want to live as an actor. Often they are roles I’m not normally cast as, or would be considered for. Also, as an actor you want to act. Crazy, I know, but jobs are very few and far between, thus creating my own company would give me some control and power over my own career.
But the most powerful motivator for starting the company was to change the status quo of how people are treated. I have been a lead actor, an extra, a stand-in, writer, producer, director, and in some cases I have been shocked at how people (myself included) are treated. Maybe it’s just how I was raised, but I don’t see any reason for it. I think there is a habit in this industry to write off bad behavior as “that’s just how it is”, but I think that is a cop out. Yes, filmmaking is an extremely stressful business, but everyone is there to create something special and magical and their talents should be valued.
JEM Pictures makes me accountable for my work as an actor, a storyteller, and a human being. If I’m going to make a film, I’m going to make sure it’s one I think is worth telling. If I’m going to make it my mission to change the culture on set, I have to be the first one to be a better and bigger person. I try to make everyone feel appreciated and valued, because I honestly am grateful for their work and their presence.
You could say that this is a selfish venture of mine to create a company to tell the stories I want and play the roles I want and have a set experience I want. You would be absolutely right. I made this company so I could be better. And I hope that by changing myself, other people will too and that this business may become more compassionate and inspired.
Thank you for reading about my reasons for creating this new venture, and please like JEM’s Facebook page to stay updated on upcoming projects.