A few years ago I had the chance to make Jessie Kahnweiler wear a green jacket that made her look like Kermit The Frog in a short film I wrote and directed called “The De-friender”, featured on Funny or Die about a girl (Played by my sister) who is de-friended on Facebook by her mom (Played by my real mom) on Mother’s day but is accused of being the wicked de-friender herself by home land security. It was fun, but the highlight of our shoot was definitely directing Jessie, who almost had me peeing in my pants from laughter. Literally, I wet myself a little. Okay let’s not dwell on that. Let’s just say her improv skills were mad! And I’ve been pretty fascinated by the risks she has taken with film and story telling ever since. She manages to tackle the most difficult issues in her own films, but always uses a funny lens. Saying she is the female version of Sasha Baron Cohen would definitely not be an exaggeration. Her latest film called “Meet My Rapist” is one of those difficult incredibly odd defying attempts to look at a difficult subject, and really get real about it! We are excited to have her on the blog and hear about what inspired her to make the film and how she overcomes her biggest fears.
Thelma & Louise: Hey baby doll, how’s it hang’n? You ready to bare your soul?
Jessie: As long, as I don’t have to shave!
Thelma & Louise: No one’s going to make you shave, as long as you smell nice- but this is the web, so you don’t even have to do that. Welcome to Thelma & Louise! We are so excited you have agreed to get real with us!
Jessie: Whoohoo – is Brad Pitt going to jump out of my shower?!
sorrry okay soul – lets get deep…
Thelma & Louise: Oh how we wish he would, Unfortunately Brad hasn’t graced us with his presence as of yet, we’re working on it though (no we’re not)
Jessie: He COULD be Jewish, Pittozwcawitx?
Thelma & Louise: Pittberg??
Thelma & Louise: Now we’re just pushin it…
Jessie: I love the name of your blog, by the way – I just love the idea of women supporting each other – we are all in this together!
Thelma & Louise: Thank you! Yes we are! WOOT-
Thelma & Louise: Jessie, Please tell us a little bit about yourself….You are a comedic actress, an incredible writer and filmmaker, how did you get into that?
Jessie: Ya so I started playing dress up when I was 2 and I never really stopped. But for serious – as far back as I can remember – it would be me in my room telling stories to my stuffed animals. I loved creating my own worlds – like inside jokes with myself. I felt so free.
Thelma & Louise: SO I wasn’t the only one who pretended to be Princess Leah to my cabbage Patch doll?
Jessie: NO I wish! – My stories were always super dark… I was always an orphan or a widow-
Thelma & Louise: I was always a monarch or Erica Kane from All my Children.
Jessie: LoL! Well, I guess I was trying to work shit out. I have always felt really comfortable in the shadows of life – the issues we don’t talk about everyday. My acting guru Judith Weston says, “In filmmaking you get to tell the truth!!” it’s magic it really is.
Thelma & Louise: Was there an event in your childhood that led you to go to that dark place? Which parent was constantly threatening to walk out? (Or was that just my house?)
Jessie: No my parents were rad! I come from a typical Jewish home- you know where therapy was an extra carricular activity, they were always very supportive of self-expression.
Thelma & Louise: So why all the “Soap Opera” reenactments?
Jessie: I think it was a way to manifest all these feelings I had inside my head…I’ve always been very emotional/very sensitive – filmmaking/storytelling is a way for me to make sense of it all.
Thelma & Louise: What was your biggest fear as a child?
Jessie: Never getting my braces off.
Thelma & Louise: And?
Jessie: And probably “getting caught” of what – I’m still not sure
Thelma & Louise: Getting caught with your pants down, getting caught lying, getting caught being Jessie, and not some tall blonde who can cheer? What does that mean?
Jessie: As I said I’m still trying to figure that out. I think we all have parts of ourselves we’re nervous to show in the light of day. It stems from that-
Or maybe it’s just me.
Thelma & Louise: Interesting, so you were afraid to show your vulnerable self, the side that confided in her stuffed animals- the side that you think might be different..
Thelma & Louise: And you have definitely defied the odds in trying to manifest that side of yourself through your filmmaking, and that’s pretty cool. Your most recent film was probably the gutsiest film I’ve seen on the web. I have to say, it not only inspired me to start this blog, but it made me realize that we sometimes create our biggest fears by keeping our “secrets” secret. Can you tell us what inspired you to make the film called “Meet My Rapist”?
Jessie: Well first of all THANK YOU- it has been 8 years since my rape and I was just SO frustrated like, “Why wasn’t I over this thing already?!”
I’m such a “doer” and feel like I have a proactive approach to life but emotions, for better or worse are something you can’t control. But looking back I started to realize – fuck, I haven’t actually dealt with it – I haven’t stood still on a bridge and realized that I’m not okay and that I don’t have to be! So making the film was really scary but it was so personal – everyone told me not to make it but in the end I just had to follow my heart and JUMP!
Thelma & Louise: So can you now say you are “over” your rape? (If that’s even possible- Is that even possible?)
Jessie: No and I never will be, but damn – what I’ve learned in this whole process, by connecting with other victims, by being honest about where I’m at… is that I don’t have to be. I can have moments that I am, and moments that I’m not. But I don’t have to be “over it” to move on, I just don’t want to be alone in it anymore, that’s huge. It’s been really holy for me.
Thelma & Louise: Holy. Yes. Getting real is a holy experience.
Jessie: My issues are just chances to reach my soul potential.
Thelma & Louise: You have most definitely done that in your life, which is the bravest thing a woman can do! When you first came out with your film, did you get any negative reaction?
Jessie: Yea totally! People were really offended. Rape/comedy- not exactly the perfect funny cocktail.
Thelma & Louise: I imagine you were prepared for that reaction. How did you handle it?
Did you feel like you were being raped all over again?
Jessie: I was upset at first but then realized that it’s so not about “Me” its a larger issue and if it upsets and offends people than it is moving the conversation forward and that is a good thing. I wasn’t trying to piss people off – I was just being myself. As long as I stay true to who I am everything else doesn’t matter. I’m sure Moses even had some haters…
Thelma & Louise: Well he did, in fact an entire mob tried to start a rebellion against him, but eventually G-d had his back and had them swallowed up by the earth.
Jessie: The Earth?
Thelma & Louise: The earth!
Jessie: See, when it’s hard that’s when I feel the most connected to humanity- it’s my fuel….
Thelma & Louise: And that’s why being true to one’s self usually wins. A holy experience is one that has the capability of changing something mundane into something out of the norm, something that is pure, virtuous and free of ego. When we connect with our deepest self in a real way, when we are honest with ourselves and share that honesty with others so they also have the opportunity to grow, we break the mundane, we break the norm and we reveal the innocence and the integrity. And that is what creates a holy connection, as you had mentioned.
Jessie: Still, being truly honest can be hard, which can be a problem sometimes…especially when it comes to my choices in men:)
Thelma & Louise: Speaking of men, do you think that women have a harder time with getting real and honest than men do?
Jessie: That’s a great question – I think there’s so much pressure for women to “be everything”… to bring home the bacon and then cook it AND be light and carefree the entire time. I often get paranoid about sounding whiney or self obsessed or worst of all NEEDY, but I think looking at those fears in the light of day or the light of film is the easiest way to walk through them.
Thelma & Louise: Yes we all have our own “boogie man” hiding that tells us we’re doing it all wrong, don’t we?
Jessie: Yep! It’s the same voice that tells me my thighs are too fat or my legs are too hairy or my dreams aren’t possible.
Thelma & Louise: Our thighs aren’t fat, they’re just not ankles-
Jessie: Do you think its possible to have thankles?
Thelma & Louise: All dreams are possible. All dreams but that one.
Thelma & Louise: Its interesting that by exposing your story, you managed to stare it down, and because of that- it made you braver. Tell us, what would you like to tell women who have been raped and who are struggling with it?
Jessie: I would say that however you are feeling in this moment is right and to honor the process of your emotions.
For anyone experiencing trauma – if it feels right, share your story,
I’m listening. We all are.
Thelma & Louise: Jessie, you are very courageous, and part of letting go of fear, is to stare it down in the face and really walk on it. I am so privileged you are my friend, and that you have taught this to me, and in turn now to my audience is a great gift.
Jessie: oh chava!!! I feel the same way! You are so special to me and always will be-
Thelma & Louise: You mean Thelma-
Jessie: Ahem, Thelma, right.
Thelma & Louise: So what’s the next project you’re working on?
Jessie: Right now I’m developing a show that’s based on tackling topics people are too scared to talk about. It’s comedy but also weird and out there and emotional and ME!
Thelma & Louise: So you date homeless guys, join gangs and go to Burma?
Jessie: Exactly. Just me playing dress up in my room all over again.
Thelma & Louise: Once again, you tackle the hard issues, totally courageous and insane, just how we like our women:)