Pages

10.11.2012

LA Ladies: Interview #2 - Jessie Kahnweiler (Filmmaker)

Ok, did you really think I could get very far in my interview series about Los Angeles women without dabbling in film? C'mon, I'm wading in this nation's film industry capital, so I was bound to befriend a filmmaker sooner or later.

Today's Los Angeles woman just happens to be one of my closest friends. Yes, she's one of my "besties." (I was trying to avoid using that word, but our relationship couldn't be labeled by anything less fun & a la mode.) She was the inspiration behind my "Get By With A Little Help" post about friendship.

Not only is she a New York City expat like myself (NYC might as well be considered another country in relation to Los Angeles), she's also, quite frankly, one of the most intelligent & hysterical women I've ever known. She is, very literally, the life of the party. If you're having a party, invite her and pray she doesn't leave...because, as I just noted, the life of your party will leave...and you will be left with a flatlined party. You get the drift.

Today, we're on our way to get astrological readings. (Yes, these are the kinds of adventures we go on) and I figured since we have to go all the way across town (for those of you who don't know LA, this could take 20 minutes or 2 hours) why not corner her and interview her since she has nowhere to run.

She is a writer, director, actress, comedienne, and the best person to go try new things with. Some of her works include Stupid Questions and her amazing web series: Dude, Where's My Chutzpah? Want more of her? (How can you not?) You can check out her site here...but before you do, check out her interview!!!

Jessie Kahnweiler. This woman's got talent!

...And now, ladies & gents, I present to you LAdies: Interview #2 with the very lovely & wise Jessie Kahnweiler.



NMS: Are you ready?
JK: Does this mic make me look fat?
NMS: [Laughing] Alright, question number one! I need to know about the exact moment in time when you knew you had to come to Los Angeles to takeover the film industry. Was it something that happened over time or did you just get punched in the face one day with your destiny?
JK: Oh my God, fuck you, Nami! This is really...ok, wait, hold on...lemme just see where we are. [Checking her google maps.] So, Pico...So, make a right on California. Just look out for California.
NMS: Oh, wait. We're in it.

NMS & JK: [Laughing at the ridiculousness]
JK: Um. I told you this story.
NMS: Yeah, [gesturing toward the mic] but tell the audience the story.
 JK: Ok, sooooo, I was living in San Diego with my loser ex-boyfriend, making lattes and working on voting commercials and porn...like, literally...and being all, "I'm gonna do it, but my way" and totally in denial about the fact that I needed to move to LA.
I think I was just self-sabotaging because I was so close, but I was in this relationship and really unhappy...and then, he was awesome and hooked up with every single vagina in a 50 mile radius. He fucked everyone except my sister...and...I don't know.
So, he totally broke my heart and it was so hard, but it was amazing because I literally got a fuckin' U-Haul and left and came to LA. It wasn't even a question. I had one friend here and he was like, "yeah, you can sleep on my floor."
That gave me the kick in the ass that made me say "ok, I'm gonna fucking do this. I'm gonna dominate."
NMS: That's awesome.
JK: Yeah, it was so terrible. I was so miserable, but, oh my God, thank god he cheated on me. I'm so grateful because I would, literally, still be there...wearing tie-dye.
NMS: Oh my God, I wanna see you in tie-dye!
JK: It was so terrible. I had five chins.
Filming "Baby Love" and NOT wearing tie-dye.

NMS: I have to ask this...I've been dying to ask someone this on record. Alright, girl, Los Angeles or New York?
JK: LOS ANGELES! Of course! OF COOOURSE! A million times yes. Because...you wanna know why?
NMS: No.
JK: [Laughing] Because it's like a fucking secret. It's a dirty little secret. New York is like the wife that everybody knows is great and everybody knows why she's perfect. She can make cupcakes and fold your underwear perfectly...and always has your drink made. Yeah, she's perfect.
...But LA is like your fucking mistress. You have so much fun with her and you can't really tell anybody why you like her so much, but the sex is awesome and that's...yeah. LA's the mistress.
NMS: I love it! As a writer, director, and overall filmmaking guru, what would be your top 3 tips for aspiring female writer/directors, trying to make it in this town?
JK: Don't wear a bra. [Laughing]
NMS: [Laughing] Hot.
JK: My mantra is "don't make meetings, make movies." Do not talk about it. Just fucking do it. If it's filming yourself in the shower...do it. Film, write, create. Create content. Straight up...and you'll figure out everything else.
NMS: Ok, so don't wear a bra, create, and what's your other tip?
JK: [Smiling] Oh, surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and just completely learn and be open to learning because I never realized that the way to be a filmmaker is to have your own voice and the way to really recognize what your own voice is is to surround yourself with people who totally have their own voices too.
NMS: That's fucking genius. I love it.
JK: [Blushing] I just...
NMS: JESSIE'S SO SMART!!!
JK: [Laughing] Shut up.
NMS: YOU ARE! Ok, moving on...
JK: Do you see California? [Referring to the street.]
NMS: Oh, I haven't even been looking. Sorry...Um...I know you're about being in touch with your own vulnerability. It's part of who you are and your art form. With that said, can you tell me 3 recent instances where you felt really vulnerable and what you learned from those situations?
JK: [Silence]
NMS: Booyah.
JK: Booyah. Ummmm. Ummmmm. Can I think about this? Man, that's a really good question. [Thinking] Ummm.
NMS: It doesn't have to be major either.
 JK: I mean, being at the Ace Hotel...
NMS: In Palm Springs.
JK: Going swimming...and everyone's like, "oh, yeah, totally!" I'm sitting there, preaching to everyone and their mother, "LOVE YOURSELF!" and "I take care of myself and I know who I am and I don't give a shit, blah, blah, blah." And I'm at the pool at the Ace Hotel like a 12 year old girl...again.
...and I'm fat...and stuff is hanging out...where it's not supposed to and I'm thinking, "every single person is here to judge me and my cellulite." I'm completely convinced.
Nothing humbles me like my body does. It's so crazy...to just own that and still fucking jump in the water...and drink a beer...and have a good time...and have that dialogue. Not deny it. 
A couple of years ago, I probably would have been all, "fuck that! I don't care!" and then secretly hate myself. Instead, I was able to talk about it with my girlfriends. I think that is power.
NMS: That's really awesome. Ok, should we leave it to one instance of vulnerability?
JK: Yeah, let's do one. Can we do one?
NMS: Totally. After I asked, I realized three is a lot to ask!
JK: But that's a fucking great question!
NMS: [Smiling] Ok, speaking of sensitive subjects, Dude, Where's My Chutzpah? is a series based on religion and your connection to it. What made you decide to "go there" and what challenges did you encounter and what challenges are you still encountering?
JK: Well, the motivation was getting this money, you know, and having those restrictions...
(note: The series is prefaced with a young woman having money left to her by her grandmother and not being able to get her hands on it until she lives Jewish for an entire year.)
We talk about it all the time with artists. It's like every restriction that you have is such a gift. It's such a gift. The greatest art is from people that all they had were limitations. So, really trying to embrace that and taking this pillar.
"Praying for Love" in Dude, Where's My Chutzpah?
Running from tear gas in Dude, Where's My Chutzpah? - THIS IS REAL, PEOPLE!
The greatest challenge is taking this pillar that's thousands and thousands and thousands of years old, this tradition, and keeping it authentic, but also making it mine...and making it real...and making it true. On top of that, also making it entertaining. That's been a major, crazy life lesson. So, how to separate my art from my life and how not to. When you should and when you definitely shouldn't.
NMS: I could watch you staring at a wall though and be all, "THIS IS AMAZING!!!"
JK: [Giggling]
NMS: "Oh my God, I get to watch 30 minutes of this?!"
JK: [Cracking up]
NMS: [Pulling it together] Ok, so, if 5 year old Jessie met you today...in fact, let's say she was in the car with us right now, what would she say to you?
JK: "Shut up, bitch!"
NMS: [Laughing]
JK: Uhhh, [smiling] she'd probably say, "when did you get so loud?" I was a really quiet little kid. Probably, "shut up" and "why do you have the same haircut?"
NMS: [More laughing]
JK: Hmm. I think she would be happy with where I'm going, but probably be all, "when did you get all these insecurities?" Yeah, like, "why do you make it so hard for yourself?" I think she would wonder.
"Why do you over-think the shit you should just do? You know how little it takes to make you happy. Why do you always lose touch with that?"
NMS: Ooooh.
JK: Fuuuuck.
NMS: You should listen to 5 year old Jessie more often!
JK: I knoooow. [Smirk] She smells bad though.
NMS: [Laughing] Nice touch...Ok, being a woman can be challenging. Period. Being a woman in Los Angeles often feels even more challenging. Especially in the film industry. What are your thoughts on being a woman in LA?
JK: [Phone rings] Oh my God! It's the crazy Australian guy!
NMS: Dude, we're having an interview. He can leave a message.
JK: I don't want to talk to him! He's fucking crazy! The one that got drunk and made me drive him on the date!
NMS: OH! THAT GUY!!!
JK: He's fucking terrible! He calls me all the time.
NMS: This is totally going in the interview.
JK: He's fucking crazy...um...OK. So...it sucks. It's so hard. I've got to tell you, I was seeing my girlfriends from Portland. They were my girlfriends from college and I had an intervention.
They pulled me into the bathroom and it was like drug-style intervention...and they were like, "listen, we really, really need to talk to you. Since you moved to LA, you've started saying really derogatory things about yourself and you have this fucked up idea of your body." All this stuff.
...and I was like, "whaaat?" They were kinda kidding, but they weren't and it really put me in check. This was about a year and a half ago.
Putting this photo in because it's amazing.
I've always been self-deprecating. I laugh at myself before anyone else can, but I think in LA, specifically, you really gotta make an effort to keep yourself in check and I kinda feel like with LA, in the same way that I feel about being spiritual here, I feel like being a strong woman here...if you can do it here, you can do it anywhere. So, I like that challenge...it's a challenge to be here and be confident about yourself and who you are as a person and what you look like and how you treat people. You are tested on a minute-by-minute basis here. So, I like that challenge, but I fully recognize the challenge.
Also, it's not just LA, but I think the industry it breeds a certain something here that's just fucked. So, you have to surround yourself...I cope by meeting people like you and fucking forcing them to be friends with me.
NMS: [Laughing loudly] Ugh. Yeah, it's such a drag!
JK: ...because I need a support system...No, but I feel like I'll meet somebody and be like, "ok, I need you in my life as a support system." It's really important here.
NMS: And I need you!

(INSERT SQUEAKY, MUSHY FRIENDSHIP MOMENT.)
JK: Pause it so we can make out.
NMS: Totally. [Pause] Ok, we're back!

(INSERT LAUGHTER)

NMS: Everyone has their challenges in life...their hurdles. Up to this point, what would you say your top 3 hurdles were? Have you completely overcome them? Or are you in the process?
JK: Ummmmm.
NMS: Or it can be one hurdle. I know three is asking a lot.
JK: Yeah, I mean, honestly, it's one big one that encapsulates everything and it's true for a lot of women. I think it's getting out of your own way. Every obstacle that I've had was self-inflicted. Even if it's dealing with dick people...it's still...
NMS: You put yourself there?
JK: Yeah, I put myself there. So, I think it's getting the fuck out of my own way and recognizing that I can't be so hard on myself too. Even that is a process. You're not gonna fucking change in one day and fix everything in one day, but just to be on the path is enough.
NMS: Yeah, Jessie, I love these answers!
JK: [Laughing & blushing]
NMS: Ok, finish this sentence for me. When I'm 65, I will have ____________. Feel free to tell me all the things you've accomplished as a 65 year old.
JK: Oh, wow...
NMS: BEST INTERVIEWER EVERRRR!
JK: Dude, yeah...you fuckin' suck. These are hard! Soooo, I will haaaave...a really bad hernia...ok, no, I think I will have a lot of love. I don't know if I want a family, but I'll have fulfillment in that I'll be giving a lot of love.
NMS: You already give a lot of love!
JK: But I'll be getting a lot of love too...whatever...just keep on with the love shit...all that love stuff...I mean, a big part of my life is really career-oriented. So, there's a goal.
I have a goal of making it and, to some people, I've already made it. To some people, there's no way I've made it. Me too. In my head I'm all, "I've made it" and in other ways I'm very "you totally haven't made it."
When I'm 65, to just feel like in my mind "I've made it. I've made the most of my time and I've created work that's meaningful to my life."
NMS: And then you'll live another 40 years and do more cool shit.
JK: Well, yeah, we'll be around for at least 200 years.
NMS: Oh, totally.
JK: This is crazy!
NMS: This traffic is nuts...
JK: This is funny. It's been an hour and a half...anyone else...anyone else, I would have kicked out of the car by now!
NMS: [Cracking up] And one more philosophical question. I'm a fan of your work...you know that...So, does art mimic life? Or does life mimic art for you?
JK: OoOOoOh. What do you think?
Life & art in one photo.

NMS: Psh, I'm not the one getting interviewed. I'm just asking the questions.
JK: [Chucking] Ok. So, it should be that art mimics life...especially my work because...well, my editor said to me, "not every movie is a chance for you to have therapy, Jessie. Just back the fuck off your own work."
I think, for me, I've realized I'm embracing the fact that I'm here to be a filmmaker and that's it. That's all I've ever known and that's what I'm doing. That's my shit. So, just trying to own the entire process more. I will have my life experiences and that influences my lens and the stories I want to tell, but also in the process of making films...making films has taught me how to be a communicator, how to have relationships, how to get outside of myself for the sake of myself.
All of these lessons that making films has taught me in my life...so, how can it not be back and forth and a little bit of both? That's why I love it so much. When you make a film you have to apply this philosophy of "you have to completely collaborate," "you have to suspend your ego," "you have to know what you want and go for it," "you have to be supportive," "you have to support." All these awesome things!
When I think of making films, I think about all these great characteristics that I have to develop in order to make the film. It makes me a better person.
NMS: That's fantastic!
JK: It's so cheesy, but it's so true! I don't know...
NMS: No, I totally know!
 JK: This is the standard cheesy or whatever, but that one girl...I make this silly movie and this one person is like, "oh my God, I've totally been there. I've totally fucking been there." Even this Jew thing. I was talking to a Catholic friend from Boston and she was all, "It just brought up all these...you have no idea. I'm gonna share this with my family."
And it's just, oh my God.
NMS: You make a difference.
JK: Well, whatever. We all make a difference in each others' lives. My art is just trying to reflect that. [pause...and then a laugh.]
NMS: I love that you say something serious and then end it with laughing.
JK: [More laughing] Because I realize how ridiculous I sound!
NMS: Now that we've scratched the surface, we're going to do some serious prodding of your psyche. It's my favorite time. It's word association time. Are you ready?
JK: Oh nooooooooooooo...
NMS: Ok, here we go. Bagels! (And, no, I'm not being racist.)
JK: Bubie
NMS: Awwww.

NMS: Love!
JK: Nami.
NMS & JK: [LAUGHING]
JK: um....wait, wait. I'M SO BAD AT WORD ASSOCIATION. I'm just like, "Pepperoni!" Pepperoni. That's my answer.

NMS: Sex!
JK: Money?
NMS & JK: OoOooOooooOOoh!!!
NMS: Loooove iiiiiit!!!
JK: Oh my God!
NMS: That was amazing.

NMS: Humor!
JK: Dude, Where's My Chutzpah? Um...um...I don't know. Say it again.
NMS: [Laughing] Humor.
JK: Do..Do...Doing stupid stuff.

NMS: Spandex!
JK:Last night.
NMS: Oooh, I wanna know what happened last night.
JK: [More laughing]

NMS: Ok, there were only five of them.
JK: Ok, good. I hate that game!
NMS: And now, we've finally come to the end of the interview. This is the part where you leave us with some sage advice about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. So, lay it on me. What's your parting message? (The one that everyone will remember you for - no pressure.)
JK: I can't wait to fucking interview you.
NMS: I like how you used that as a threat.
JK: You want my advice? Don't get interviewed by your best friend. How bout that?
NMS: Ok, really?
JK: No. Hmmm. My mission is one of vulnerability and I just think so many of the world's problems and moments of joy could be prolonged from people being open to being vulnerable with themselves in terms of having relationships and looking deeper into themselves and creating work that's authentic. I want all of us to get real.
Getting real for the sake of being hopeful and positive and happy and projecting. The "ourselves" that we wanna be exists. It all already exists.
Admit it. You love Jessie.

NMS: Best parting message ever.

...............................

And that's all we had time for before we parked the car to go get our star charts read.

A very warm and appreciative thanks to Jessie for taking the time (or agreeing to be stuck in a car with me in horrible traffic) to get interviewed. Not only does she have the intelligence, grit, and chutzpah to make it in this town, but she's also one of the most beautiful women I've ever met, inside and out.

To find out more about Jessie Kahnweiler, check out her web series site: Dude, Where's My Chutzpah, her artist site, and follow her on Twitter at @shegotchutzpah for some solid laughs and serious insights.

Much love to you & thanks again, Jessie! xo!

2 comments:

  1. Nami, this series is amazing and so important! Such fun, truthful and mind & heart-opening questions! And, Jessie, you are an infectious little sprite of a person. I need to meet you! I am so proud to have been one of the Ladies. I can't wait for another one next week! xoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry for the delay on this. Soooooo glad you're enjoying the interview series! I'm so lucky to have you as my blogging champion! xoxoxo!

      Delete