In advance of the 2019 Nantucket Film Festival, N Magazine spoke with actor and director Gillian Jacobs. Known for her roles in NBC’s Community, HBO’s Girls, and Netflix’s Love, Jacobs will be on island this week screening her narrative directorial debut short film Curated, part of Refinery29’s groundbreaking Shatterbox Series.
N MAGAZINE: Your film Curated, which you will be discussing during Afternoon Tea Talks, grew from a personal experience with your own grandmother and then took on a life of its own as a short horror film. How did that happen exactly and was it difficult to step back into the bigger picture and let this story, inspired by your grandmother, develop on its own?
JACOBS: I’ve always been fascinated by my grandmother but I knew that having an interesting character wasn’t enough to make a short film. I also felt too close to the material to have the necessary distance. Refinery29 introduced me to the writer Amelia Gray who did a brilliant job of taking the seeds of my grandmother’s personality and crafting it into a horror narrative. Amelia and I share an interest in the creepy and strange and she infused the script with that feeling.
N MAGAZINE: How do you feel like your own transition from acting to directing can help shape or impact the world of film for women? How do you think the field can encourage more women to take on different kinds of roles and jobs in film like you have?
JACOBS: I’m lucky that I am surrounded by people in my professional and personal life who encourage, support and believe in me. My manager, Jill Kaplan, always pushes me to do more and take risks, like directing. Not everyone has those people. I think the industry should mentor women who want try a new job, provide them with opportunities to shadow directors or fund their short films. Refinery29 and TNT have shown that there are so many women out there who can direct, they just need to be given the chance.
N MAGAZINE: Your directorial debut was with your film Queen of Code, a piece about a brilliant and successful woman, Grace Hopper, the naval officer and computer scientist. Do you think you will continue to direct projects that focus around women, specifically powerful and impactful women to you like Hopper and your grandmother?
JACOBS: I seem to be drawn again and again to stories about women. My grandmother saw herself as a grand figure, like a Grace Hopper, but never achieved the fame or recognition she wanted. I really enjoy discovering women who haven’t gotten their due and trying to shine a light on their accomplishments.
N MAGAZINE: What was it like transitioning from acting to directing? Did you always know that directing was something that you are passionate about, or was there a specific instant or project that gave you the realization?
JACOBS: I didn’t set out to become a director. In fact, during my orientation week of college, a psychic told me I was going to become a director and I was very upset. I was going to school to become an actor not a director! Over the years, as I learned more and more about how sets worked, I wanted to try something new. I saw some of my fellow cast mates on Community directing short documentaries for 30 for 30 at ESPN and I wanted to try my hand at it as well. Dan Silver, who ran 30 for 30 Films, hired me to direct the documentary about Grace Hopper and set me down this path. I owe a lot to Dan and his belief in me.
N MAGAZINE: Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can tell our audience about?
JACOBS: As an actor, I recently completed the films Larry for Amblin and Fear Street for Fox. As a director, I have some exciting projects in the works that will once again celebrate amazing women.
Gillian Jacobs will be screening and discussing her film Curated as part of the Nantucket Film Festival this Friday, June 21 at 3:00pm in the Dreamland Theater Harborview Room. Tickets are available here.