It seems like I’ve always been acting and writing, says Jody Jaress

#JodyJaress; #Director, #producer, #writer, #actress, #Films; #Television; #Commercials

Los Angeles (US)/Canadian-Media: Director, producer, writer, and veteran actress, Jody Jaress is known for playing multi-layered complex character roles such as a mentally challenged wife, a psychiatrist, a creepy nanny, an agonized nurturing mother, and a lightheaded wife.

During an exclusive discussion with Jody Jaress through E-mail, Asha Bajaj, Editorial-Director of Canadian-Media, learns about Jody Jaress’ adventurous journey in life, as a producer, director, actress, editor, a Jazz musician. She also tells her experiences of her role in the short film, ‘Mother’s Day Memories.’

​Asha Bajaj: How do you justify the very complicated but true to life role in the short film ‘Mother’s Day Memories’?

Jody Jaress: The role is that of a woman with Alzheimer’s disease and it was an honor to be part of creating this touching story by portraying the mother. Much of my dialog was the exact verbiage spoken from those extremely sensitive moments Bill Hoversten experienced in his life with his mother. Bill’s ability to recreate those moments and then relive them with me, was remarkable. I did my best to do justice to his memory of his mother. In the film, there is information learned, that was not part of the real-life story but certainly added a twist near the end. Sadly, the truth is, Alzheimer’s disease tragically plays out this painful scenario in too many homes across the world. Bill honored not only his mother in this story but all families afflicted and was courageous enough to share it… thus letting others know that they are not alone in their pain.

You are both an actress and a writer. What motivated you to these fields?

It seems like I’ve always been acting and writing. As a child, whenever I was home alone, I would play out scenarios that I created in my head. I was fortunate that my parents allowed me to spend my Saturdays (maybe Sundays too) at the local movie theater where I would stay for hours on end. I was alive on the screen. So, actually to answer your question… nothing motivated me. I think I was born that way! Well, I must give motivation credit to the matinee movies, and actors on screen. Probably on the newsreels too!

Name a few films in which you acted with a brief description of your role in each.

An award-winning feature film, ‘Chain Link’ produced Dylan Reynolds, who created some very gritty, earthy characters which included me as Rhea. I survived marriage to an ex-con, and am surviving in a “trailer trash” kind of community with my grown son recently released from prison. I pretty much know how our lives are going to end but still have hope.

The next is the horror film 2 Bedroom 1 Bath, with Dee Wallace and myself as her sister. I am a very controlling, creepy nanny and doula to this young couple having pregnancy and birthing difficulties. In all actuality, Dee and I are probably centuries old!​

In the movie Chinaman’s Chance: America’s Other Slaves, in a western town, 1870’s, I played the role of Emily Smith, as one of the town’s Christian ladies attempting to get equal rights for the Chinese who work the most dangerous jobs building the railroads. Oscar winners Ernest Borgnine (plays Judge Holiday), Timmothy Bottoms, Olivia Hussey (plays Mrs. Duncan, another Christian lady), all lovely to work with.​

You also have to your credit many years of performing and contribution to the jazz and blues community. How were you applauded for these services?

Actually, any time I’m asked to sing, I feel honored. It’s quite rewarding to know that my story-telling through singing touches the audience in some way. I’m a stylist. A story-teller… to music. One of my most precious honors was being awarded the prestigious USO pin for my dedication and years of entertaining our armed forces at military camps and on US Naval ships. For my years as a jazz and blues singer, I was honored as a “Jazz and Blues Living Legend” and Inducted into the foundation by the Duke Ellington Society of L.A., the Living Legend Foundation, NAACP Beverly Hills and Hollywood, and by the City of Los Angeles culminating as an official event to celebrate “International Jazz Day 2015.”

When, and by whom was “International Jazz Day” created? What is the significance of this event?

International Jazz Day, was created in 2011 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and held annually around the globe in more than 196 countries. They officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role in uniting people in all corners of the globe. Each year, this international art form is recognized for promoting peace, dialogue among cultures, diversity, and respect for human rights and human dignity; eradicating discrimination; promoting freedom of expression; fostering gender equality; and reinforcing the role of youth in enacting social change. Legendary jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock serves as a UNESCO Ambassador for Intercultural Dialogue and Chairman of the Herbie Hancock Institute of Jazz.

What attracts you more, performing and contributing to the jazz and blues community, or acting and directing?

Oh my… that is one heavy, difficult question for me to answer. I don’t feel I can separate the passion and desire I feel for all of them! I must add screenwriting and editing to the list too. I love the challenges in them all. Each one is a drug of choice for me (teehee)! The quiet challenge of taking other people's written dialog and stepping into their story as an actor is more calmly rewarding. The same goes for singing. Both exhilarating. Directing is powerful. You’re responsible for all areas of filmmaking to create a vision, making certain that everyone, actors, producers, cinematographer, all departments are working for the same outcome. Editing is the final talent toward that vision… that’s why I’m very hands-on in that area too. Directing may be more demanding than the others, but what a privilege to be so trusted. Completion is amazingly rewarding. You didn’t mention writing, which is another obsession of mine! I’m deep into rewrites on my own adventure/fantasy/romance feature film. Once I start writing, I truly can’t stop living in the story, so I have gone literally, days without sleep. Anyway, I have co-written many shorts and was a ghostwriter on several features. Difficult choice… I do know that when each event is completed, I have great affection for those who were on that journey with me. I could never do any of them alone. It’s all a collaboration of talents. If you only want a short answer here it is: Acting and singing probably take the first spot, Screenwriting the second spot, and directing and editing fighting for all the spots, but in third place. Now that I’ve written it down… it doesn’t feel right. Whichever one needs me first is the one that attracts me!!

Which were the films directed by you? Name a few and throw some light on these?

Traces Of Memory was my directorial/screenwriting debut, in which I was also one of the producers. It’s a psychological thriller about a woman, who after having committed the most heinous act upon her family, can no longer differentiate between truth and reality. My directing and the over-all film won many film festival awards. Made us all happy considering the obstacles I faced on location in the desert and in editing. Oh, and my lead actress, nearly was shot by the local police who didn’t realize she/we were shooting a film.

​Directed by Gloria Morrison, So This Is Love is a short film but started out as episodes for a television series by the same name. I chose not to take assistant director credit on these. Jack Donner created this fictional concept and characters of Jack and Josey, played by Jack and myself. We both collaborated on the writing (20 episodes!) and the movie. Jack passed away in 2019, so it makes this project even closer to our hearts. He was quite prolific in his talent and was a horror film icon! Here’s the storyline for that film: This feisty older couple, passionately in love for decades, reminisce over their madcap marriage, when some brutal and devastating truths are revealed and erupt into ugly, painful accusations on what was to be the most important day in their lives.

What are your future plans and projects?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’m in rewrites on exciting action, fantasy feature film, Return of the Sacred. Once finished, the next step would be to get it to read… and accepted for production. This action/fantasy will take a chunk of money to produce due to the special effects needed. Wish me luck! I will continue being a coach and mentor to actors and singers, not at home anymore of course, but on Zoom. No one can teach ’talent’. I assist my clients in learning how to recognize, develop and use their unique qualities to get the bookings. I have one film Life Goes On, awaiting the green light to begin shooting again during this pandemic. Two other films Blood Born, and Bound is in post, so I’m eager to see those… soon I hope.

Then it’s time to promote. I haven’t accepted any virtual singing gigs. Eventually, I will… just not yet. I continue to audition for film, television, and commercials. I have two different national spots currently running.

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