Jessica Hester | Women Who Inspire
The oldest of five siblings (four sisters), Jessica Hester grew up having a strong awareness of the need to support female artists. Her ambition grew stronger, and by the age of 19, she founded her first theater production company, The 4th Wall, which focused on socially conscious theater. It’s no wonder that this woman, now 36, is being featured as a writer, director, and contributing producer in works making it to the LA Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival (Cannes, France), and the Hollyshorts Film Festival (Hollywood, Calif.). “Whenever another artist crosses my path, I just feel naturally inclined to advocate for them,” Hester says. “I was already directing when I found out there were so many hurdles for women as professionals in the film industry, and it blew my mind to discover there weren’t any female directors in theater! So that encouraged me to want to support others the most.”
Hester also mentions how grateful she is for all of the other women who have supported her throughout her career. She was mentored by Caitlin Engel, a recent MTV Video Music Award Nominee for her work on J. Cole’s single “Crooked Smile,” and Melissa Leo, the Academy Award-winning actress featured in The Fighter and Frozen River.
Leo reminded Jessica not to get lost in the red carpet events and to stay focused in the work and the stories she wanted want to tell. The creative process can be daunting, Hester admits, because she is confronted constantly with finding the space she needs to let her authentic voice come forward during her writing process.
“I find that I always need to find the time and space to be still and really learn to listen,” she says. “And that’s been a process for me, because in the beginning of my career I would overthink things. Now I am really learning to trust my instincts.”
Since adopting this strategy, Hester has served as a producer on many plays and short films. Her voice has been channeled through films like Delicious Ambiguity, featured last year in the Cannes Film Festival for the Short Film Corner.
Her current project Long Walk to Forever, a short story adaptation by Kurt Vonnegut, has offered rewarding challenges for Hester and her production team. They are currently committed to increasing production financing through an IndieGoGo campaign in order to finish the rest of the film.
She says she always felt like she had an entrepreneurial spirit but had to be clever about finding ways to support herself and her team along with pushing these projects forward. “One of the things I’ve learned during this project is there’s power in ‘The Ask,’” Hester recalls. “I’ve always been able to give support, but in the project it was important for me to learn to ask for support. This is about believing in the work that you are doing and believe that it has some values for others out there.”
But that’s not the hardest lesson she’s learned as a director and working in a creative field—Hester often finds herself reminding her team members to keep moving even after a production is complete. She has to play the role of a coach and really push them to see the entire vision of a project. “A lot of people are coming into a performance and working out of a labor of love, and they’re not getting the money they deserve just yet,” she says. “So I have to remind them to stay committed at times when I know there is more work to do.”
And her advice to other aspiring writers and directors is to have faith. “One of the women on my team is always asking me how to stay in the game and make a living,” Hester says. “I realize that this journey is hard, but at the same time there is nothing more exhilarating than just discovering your ability to create.”
As artists, it’s often hard to realize that dedication is eventually rewarded in the event that one has to sacrifice her creative talent and time spent to perfect it. But Hester reminds herself that there is no better support system to have in place than being surrounded by other motivated artists.
Meanwhile, Hester stays motivated with an increase in requests for guest writing and directing other productions. While she enjoys having multiple projects to tackle, she hopes to schedule realistic time in the near future to map out her career in a meaningful way.
Her current project Long Walk to Forever has not been granted rights for production since 1987. Hester is proud that her team of filmmakers can honor this literary legend, Vonnegut, an American icon who wrote this satirical short story of love and marriage. You can follow the updates on movie production at http://longwalktoforever.com.