Directors Jessie Zinn and Chase Musslewhite attended this year’s MeetMarket with their “The Home” project. We asked them about their experience at the festival and MeetMarket’s impact on their work.
What lies at the heart of your desire to work with documentary film?
An obsessive inquisitiveness and interest in everyday life and the stuff that makes up this incredible and often extremely strange world we live in. As young, millennial women, we are also interested in exploring female narratives of modern identity. Documentary filmmaking is arguably one of the freest filmic forms - there’s so much room to play around with genre and to push the boundary between fiction and non-fiction. We always try to challenge ourselves with each new project in terms of the filmic form, and documentary allows this room for play.
What are you working on now?
We are currently co-directing our first feature documentary titled ‘The Home’, which is a comedy on the oldest and largest old age home in South Africa. Think: an episode of ‘The Office’ meets a Wes Anderson movie…but set in a Jewish old age home.
What was the biggest challenge you needed to overcome to get the your project off the ground?
As two young female, first-time feature filmmakers, getting the project off the ground was challenging all round. We come from a commercial filmmaking background in Cape Town, and are very lucky to be immersed in a very ‘hands-on’ indie film scene back home. This was the only reason we were able to get the project off the ground - through the help and trust of our friends and collaborators who believed in the project and agreed to come on board from the beginning. (Having two-directors also helped! It meant double the woman-power when trying to convince people to get on board the project ;))
When you heard about being accepted as a MeetMarket participants what stage were you at with your project?
We were in production.
Had you shown your films or pitched projects at festivals before?
Yes we have! We have had quite the journey this past year at festivals and markets with our project including:
Berlinale Talents (Durban Campus)
IFP Film Week
Cape Town International Film Market & Festivals’ Works in Progress Week
Encounters Rough Cut Lab
Durban Film Mart
How did participation in MeetMarket help you to develop your practice as filmmakers and/or your project?
It came at a pretty crucial part of our project, right in the middle of our project’s production phase (which we are still in). Over the past year, we had further developed and refined our pitch, and we were able to deliver a much more polished presentation at MeetMarket, and to use it as an opportunity to see whether the decision makers would respond well to the changes we had made to our presentation. The feedback we received at MeetMarket proved invaluable for preparing for our live pitch at the Durban Film Mart, which Jessie presented a month after Sheffield.
How was the project received? What was the most enjoyable part?
Meeting with the same decision makers we had met with at previous markets and presenting the changes and improvements we had made to the project to them. It was great to see these changes positively received. And, of course, because our project is funny (it’s a documentary comedy) it’s always fun to watch people laugh when we play the trailer!
What effect has attending Doc/Fest had on your work since, has it created further opportunities?
Definitely. The market helped put us in contact with decision makers that we are still in conversation today regarding pre-sales and distribution for the film once it’s completed. We would have never had access to these people had it not been for the Meet Market.
How do you describe Sheffield Doc/Fest when you meet new people who don’t know the festival?
What advice would you give to emerging filmmakers who dream of having their project being a part of MeetMarket one day?
Just go out and do it. Have guts, be courageous and believe in your vision. Everything else will fall into place.
Would you do it again?
Always. We love going away for the summer and getting rained out.
Jessie Zinn (pictured left) is an award winning writer/director from Cape Town. Her short films have screened at numerous international film festivals, including Visions Du Reel, Encounters International Film Festival, Durban International Film Festival and Tampere Film Festival and MoMA doc fortnight. Jessie is an alumnus of the Visions Du Reel Pitching Forum (2017), the Durban Film Mart (2017), IDFA Academy (2018), and Durban Talents (2018). In 2018 she was named a "Mail & Guardian 200 Young South African" and in 2017 she was named a "Marie Claire Future Shaper” in the Women's day issue of Marie Claire Magazine.
Chase Musslewhite (pictured right) is an American filmmaker currently residing in Cape Town, South Africa. She studied filmmaking and media both in the states and in Cape Town. Merging her film knowledge with her tendency to lead and coordinate groups, Chase adapted quickly to Producing. She spends her time producing documentaries, short films, commercials, music videos and an acclaimed web series. Her work has shown at the Cannes International Film Festival, Tampere Film Festival, MoMA Doc Fortnight, Encounters and SHNIT among others.
About “The Home”:
At the close of 2017, residents of Highlands House gear up for the upcoming Resident Committee elections. Out of 300 residents, only 6 lucky individuals can claim a spot. Happening once every 3 years, the residents treat the looming elections with simultaneous excitement and apathy. “The Resident Committee is more than a monthly meeting... it’s a 24 hour commitment! It’s a lifestyle,” remarks one resident. “What Committee?” retorts another. Around the same time, the home is given an ultimatum by Cape Town’s Fire Department: make the home fire-safe or shut down. Will the elections continue amidst the noise and rubble of renovations?