Conversations with Gen-Z Filmmakers is a series in which Adolescent speaks to varying female filmmakers about how they got started, their work, and their experience in the industry.
This month, Adolescent spoke with Jacqueline de Gorter, a filmmaker and photographer based in Paris. Her work ranges from experimental and narrative short films to fashion photography. Jacqueline spent the last four months of quarantine on hiatus in the South of France, where she busied herself with documenting life on film and embracing personal craft projects.
Her latest short, Blackberry Jam, premiered in November at the annual Chéries Chéris, a much-anticipated LGBT film festival held in Paris. The film portrays the budding romance of two Catholic school classmates, Lilah and Mayumi, who bond over outlandish conversations after school. We caught up with Jacqueline over Zoom to chat about the making of Blackberry Jam, her creative process, and how everything’s been since quarantine.
Adolescent Content: Hi, Jacqueline! How are you doing?
Jacqueline de Gorter: [I’m] good, it’s been two weeks of rain. [Now] the sun is out and I need to leave the apartment. Go to a cafe, maybe read in the sun for a bit while I can because I feel like it’s going away for another week.
Adolescent : Why’d you decide to move to Paris?
Jacqueline: I’m not sure. (Laughs.) I love the cinema culture so [I thought] maybe it’s the place to go. I went to work in a new environment that was different from New York and to gain a different perspective. I ended up loving the city, so I stayed.
Adolescent: Do you think living in Paris has helped you grow as a filmmaker?
Jacqueline: Totally. I feel like when I was living in New York, I had a very productivity-focused mindset. After I moved here, I met so many artists in their thirties and forties, and they were like, “Yeah it took me eight years to write this screenplay.” Now, I’m more studious about doing research and finding work that I resonate with.
Adolescent: What influences your work?
Jacqueline: For my photo work, I’m very attracted to details in everyday life. I always have my camera with me and I take a lot of pictures. I think there are many beautiful coincidences. For movies, I always get inspired by looking at people. When I see an interaction between two people or when I’m people-watching at a cafe, I daydream a little bit about their life beyond what I can see. And that’s actually how I create characters, instead of drawing traits from people I know.
Adolescent: Is that how the characters from Blackberry Jam came to life?
Jacqueline: Yeah, I think so. I remember seeing a lot of schoolchildren in New York and that was always very visually fascinating to me. Then I recalled one of my own queer experiences in high school. I thought to myself, “Hey, maybe they had the same experience I did.” And I just let it snowball from there. Blackberry Jam is definitely something a little more personal [compared to my other work].
Adolescent: Were there many challenges in filming Blackberry Jam?
Jacqueline: The challenges were actually on set. At times, I felt like some people weren’t responding to what I was asking for, especially the men who were on the shoot. Sometimes, even though I’d said I wanted something, I could see they were doubting me. That was really frustrating and disheartening, because you’re already very stressed on set. The industry is so heavily male-dominated. I can’t even imagine how difficult it’d be working as a female director with a huge budget.
Adolescent: Whose work do you look at for inspiration?
Jacqueline: I’d say a lot of my inspiration comes from other mediums, usually paintings. I like a lot of surrealist artists like Leonora Carrington, Dora Maar, and Hilma af Klimt. If you look at their work, you’ll see what I’m drawing from them. But I pull very small abstractions.
Adolescent: Have you seen Portrait of a Lady on Fire? I thought that film was pretty surreal in terms of its visuals and narrative.
Jacqueline: Yeah, I think that [movie is] very interesting. At first, I almost felt a little disappointed because I thought that they could’ve shown some more chemistry. But then I thought about it, and I realized that it’s not so much that kind of film. It’s more about the gaze. A woman painting another woman, really seeing who she is—it’s an exchange that’s very vulnerable.
Adolescent: Do you like Sofia Coppola?
Jacqueline: I have conflicting opinions about her work. I think she’s very talented and aesthetically, I like a lot of her films. But she has a real problem with portraying characters that don’t come from a privileged white background. In The Beguiled, she took out a Black character from the original movie. She’s only telling what she knows and she comes from a very privileged upbringing. So there can’t only be Sofia Coppola. There need to be directors from all different social classes and races so that we can have real stories with richer characters. I don’t want [to see] Sofia Coppola tell the story of, for example, a Nigerian girl growing up.
Adolescent: In the beginning, was it hard to get funding for Blackberry Jam?
Jacqueline: Yes, but I was also very determined to make this film. I worked with a really great producer, Natalia Bell. We applied for grants and we ended up getting three. We wouldn’t give up easily, so if something didn’t work out we’d find another way.
Adolescent: How did you stay creative during quarantine?
Jacqueline: I loved quarantine. (Laughs.) I was in the South of France, in a really small seaside town. It was such a creative time for me because I didn’t feel the pressure of producing anything. It was a lot more introspective. There’s this artist Leonora Carrington who I adore, and I found everything she’s ever written and every painting she’s ever done online. I became sort of a scholar of her. Then I’d spend three days reading a book on another artist. I also made an experimental film. I think I grew a lot as an artist. When I got back to Paris, I was ready to create. Right now, I’m mostly working on music videos, I’m directing two in the beginning of November.
Adolescent: Do you plan on making another short, or even a feature film, in the near future?
Jacqueline: Yes. I actually wrote a script for another short film that’ll take place in France. It’s also a lesbian love story, but it’s about an aging actor who wants to confront her sexuality at an older age. It deals with ageism in cinema, because as you know, women over 30 in the film industry are often marked as has-beens. They don’t usually get interesting roles, unless they're well-known and recognizable senior actors. I want to start producing that in 2021. Fingers crossed.
You can watch Blackberry Jam on Jacqueline’s website.