Jessica Franz is an actress and accomplished bluegrass digeridoo player. A native European, she now seeks to conquer LA. The joyful glint in her eye is frequently used as a flash by fellow photographers. She doesn’t just write stories – she writes history. She was once asked by the Loch Ness Monster for a selfie. She is… the most interesting woman in Los Angeles!
How did you get started in the industry?
I actually started out as an actress after getting my degree in Performing Arts. Being an actor taught me a lot about the ins and outs of the business. When I made the decision to go behind the camera, I got a job in Casting and Development at a prominent German production company where I managed projects. The rest came through online research and learning from my filmmaker friends, which helped a lot. Photography has been my hobby since I was a teenager and became a job over the years.
How do you balance being a photographer, filmmaker, writer, and producer? That’s a lot of hats!
The key is to only take on what you really want to do and not to overwhelm yourself. In the freelance world, projects usually come in waves. It’s just a matter of how much time I can delegate. So far, most endeavors took up a chunk of time at some point and then mellowed out when I was on something else. It’s pretty funny how that works out. Last year was all about finishing two feature scripts, and I was fortunate enough to get paid for one of them. Because of that, I was able to focus on the photography and commercial projects that I wanted to put my name on.
What’s your average day like?
Every day is different due to my different areas of interest. I check my emails regularly, research current trends and get inspired by the work of others. When I make my own schedule, I make sure to set deadlines and schedule meetings to keep on track. Screenwriting is a very delicate thing for me and I need to be in the “zone” to write, so it takes patience. A lot of that is actually taking time with the story in the beginning. Producing has different stages but I like to spread the prep out as much as possible to avoid very busy phases or last minute stress. I’m one of those people who come overly prepared and take my time early on.
As a photographer, how do you feel about the whole Canon vs. Nikon vs. Sony debate?
That’s an excellent question and I don’t know if I have an answer to that. I personally love my Canon system, but I think all DSLR’s are pretty similar these days. I opted for Canon because they were the leading photography/ videographer combo at the time, though I’ve definitely been impressed with Sony cameras as of late.
What’s been your favorite project to work on and what’s your ideal production?
That’s a tough one… Every project is different and offers opportunities to grow. I’d have to say it was probably my short film “Chew” (www.chewshortfilm), because it was my first segway into narrative filmmaking – my dream since I was a little girl. I’m a creator through and through, so I love putting things together from beginning to end. Pouring one’s heart and soul into something takes a lot of focus, but it fills me up. It becomes a part of me. The feature “Imperfect” that I wrote for GPA Pictures has tons of funny moments and a beautiful message that I enjoyed just as much as the heaviness and romance of my script “KIN” (WT). As far as productions go, we are currently filming a series of commercials for the California Preservation Foundation and an untitled documentary about the restoration of Route 66. The ideal production has a great team, the weather we need and an acceptable amount of things going unplanned.
Describe your worst filming on location story.
Let’s just say I’m not gonna make the mistake of picking locations without air conditioners in L.A. again- especially in the middle of summer. A downtown loft looks incredible for a low price tag, but it doesn’t do you much good when your brain fries in the heat. Fortunately, we didn’t have as many equipment breakdowns as expected.
You are originally from Germany; what are some similarities/differences in the film industry there versus here?
I’d say there are major differences between the markets and approach to the craft. L.A. is much more creative, competitive and driven when it comes to filmmaking. It is open to anyone who has an idea – which can be very enriching but sometimes attracts people that are only dabbling in it. Europe is very regulated and degrees matter a great deal. The stories tend to be very serious, borderline depressing, or are a copy of an American story. I personally prefer the American inspirational and ingenious approach.
What’s the one thing Americans do that you find amusing or weird but we don’t?
Let’s just say it took me some time to get used to how casual things are treated here. The “winging it” mentally I’d call it. Germans are very structured and organized, so they probably wouldn’t come to set without a fixed idea how you want to shoot something. Now I appreciate the more spontaneous approach from time to time. It can be very freeing. Since then, I get inspired by locations and allow for a certain amount of flexibility on set.