An Interview With BAVC Media’s Development Manager: Jess Epstein
Tell us a little bit about yourself (career, hobbies, anything you’d like us to know).
Hi! I am so excited to be joining BAVC. I’m originally from Massachusetts but have called New York home for nearly 15 years. I studied Visual Culture and Social Change and minored in Documentary in undergrad and have a MA in Arts Administration from Baruch College. I’m a freelance producer currently working on my first feature documentary, which is a dream come true! I feel like I’ve been building a career working towards this goal for many many years and I’m so excited to be working on that while at BAVC and in tandem with so many other creatives and artists on our team here.
I’m an amateur artist and illustrator and worked on my first children’s book this year, written by Andres Lester-Coll that we self-published. It was a huge undertaking for me and really pushed my limits but is something I’d love to grow and develop more. I got back into my creative practice of painting during the pandemic and have been loving doing some commissioned work for friends and family (including doing miniature paintings of people’s pets on coasters, more about that below!). I’m a proud Godmama to two awesome little girls, I’ve got pup who is a rescue from Puerto Rico, thanks to a really cool organization, Souls of Satos. My partner and I love to travel and really look forward to coming out to the Bay Area soon to be in person with folks at BAVC Media!
When did you first cross paths with BAVC and what about the organization’s mission and vision resonates with you?
I first came across BAVC while working on Remaining Native when I was a fellow as part of CNN/Points North American Stories fellowship at the Camden International Film Festival. A few of the fellows in our cohort were also MediaMakers fellows and I had the opportunity to meet with Dawn, Brittney, Rodrigo, and Jenny while at the festival. I was really impressed with our conversations and heard such great things about BAVC from fellows that I was curious to learn more. Dawn, Brittney, and Rodrigo came to our film with a nuance and understanding that we weren’t seeing too often so it was a breath of fresh air to walk into a conversation with people who were eager to go beyond an introductory conversation and get to the heart of what we are trying to accomplish with the film.
After that, I started keeping an eye on all things BAVC! I love the evolution of BAVC over the years and how rooted it is as an organization in the Bay but also is creating a national network of emerging and existing filmmakers who are challenging traditional narratives and ways of thinking about film and storytelling.
What are you most excited about in taking on the Development Manager role?
As a producer and arts administrator I’ve seen the work that development teams do as crucial to the operation of programming and organizational support but I never really saw how my work in public arts activism crossed over with production until now. There is so much crossover between being an independent producer / filmmaker and joining a Development team that I can’t wait to apply what I know about filmmaking to the work BAVC’s been doing for years.
What advice would you give a young person who has a story to tell but doesn’t know where to start?
Listen to yourself! You know the story you want to tell and don’t let anyone get in the way of that. Find the people around you who support your dream, your vision, and can help you bring that vision to life. You don’t have to have all the answers for how the story will come together but if there’s something that pulls you towards an idea or a story, it will come to be! Most importantly, surround yourself with good people who are willing to take risks with you, challenge standard forms and expectations, and generally break the rules.
What are 3 things that are currently bringing you joy?
Being in the most informal monthly craft club, performances at public libraries, and doing paintings of people’s pets.
You’re a part of Mobile Print Power, tell us about that organization and your work with them!
Mobile Print Power is a multigenerational collective based in Queens, NY but really we are a roving group of artists. I joined the collective in 2015 and we’re now officially a 501c3. We are a multigenerational collective from different corners of NYC and the world. We use a unique methodology for participatory design in public space and a pair of portable silkscreen printmaking carts to engage communities and explore social and cultural situations. To transmit the work that we co-create with the community we make books, prints, and public sculptures. Each project that we do reflects our commitment to social justice and our belief in the value of shared artistic production.
Most recently we put out a box set of our work with Booklyn. We are gearing up for another set up public workshops this Spring/Fall with support from NYFA and The Public Art Fund but during the pandemic we shifted our focus to accommodate for safe social distancing. We created a series, Propagate Propogamos, with Navaja Press of printed-postcards using linocut in order to allow for supporting artists around the country and local mutual aid organizations. I’ve really missed our in-person work but loved how we adapted with the project and now I’m super excited to be in person again!
You also mentioned being a producer on the film Remaining Native, what was that experience like?
It’s ongoing! I love being a part of this film and feel like a bit of a broken record in saying this but working on Remaining Native has changed my life. I feel so honored to be helping Paige along this journey and feel really grateful to have met the participants while filming, experience the footage in post, and work with an incredible group of creatives on the project. Paige has a strong vision and draws people in with her. She has a drive and energy that you want to be around and a creative voice that is contagious.
I love getting to watch the footage with her and our editor Stephanie, our Assistant Editor Roxy, our Post Supervisor Stina, and collaborate with everyone else like Zack and Shai on this film. We all have so much energy for the project and love seeing Ku, Misty, Delmar, and so many other people on screen and feel very appreciative of the way they’ve shared their lives, time, and story with us in the making of the film. It’s been a wild ride, one I would never change, and I am beyond grateful to all of the people along the way who have supported us and believe in the vision we are hoping to bring to the big screen.
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