Director Spotlight | Mill Director Jessica Bishopp

Jessica is an award-winning docu-style filmmaker and artist fascinated by subcultures and myth, as well as exploring universal themes embedded in our daily lives and thoughts. Her work stands as a testament to crafting human stories and the nuances uncovered within. Building intimacy with your cast is a talent that many directors strive to perfect, but one that comes so naturally to Jessica. Her work has been screened internationally at film festivals and she has been awarded funding by Film London, Channel 4, BFI, Doc Society, Barbican and Arts Council. Her short documentary films have been nominated twice for the Best Director Award at Underwire Film Festival and her short film 'Lifespan' was broadcast on Channel 4 Random Acts.
Thought November 2, 2020

Channel 4 Random Acts ‘PAMPAS’

Tell us about your career so far, how did you become a director?

I’ve had a camera since I was 6, but went on to study graphic design at university, in my final year, I answered a brief with a film. I felt like for this brief in particular, a film was the only natural response. I was then lucky enough to be commissioned by Channel 4 Random Acts and the Institute of Contemporary Arts and directed my first funded short film, ‘Lifespan’.


You directed ‘Like Me’, a short film that explores how teenage girls use social media to create and construct their identity. What was the most important thing for you in tackling such a difficult subject and did you take away any learnings from the experience?

The most important thing for me was to create a nuanced film that expressed the young women’s perspectives. I wanted the film to feel like you were being taken into their confidence. I learned that in order to do this you have to spend time getting to know them and build trust.

What advice would you give an aspiring filmmaker just starting out?

The best advice I could give is to collaborate with your friends, go out and make a film, borrow camera equipment or use your phone, don’t wait for permission or acceptance. There are also great organisations like GiF (Girls in Film), Free The Work and BAFTA Crew who support filmmakers.


How would you describe your directing style & how does it influence the work you produce?

Honest, intimate, thought-provoking with a creative approach and love of storytelling. I am interested in the boundary between non-fiction and fiction. I love working with documentary contributors and actors to make them feel confident in front of the camera.


Can you talk us through your favourite pieces of work?

‘An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Sussex’, commissioned by NOWNESS, is an artist film and documentary set in one of my favourite places. The film is mixed media, shot on both digital and 8mm film and features overlaid text, all to create this sense of place as a character. I enjoyed searching for characters in the café and having philosophical conversations with the people who spent time in the meditative space.

‘PAMPAS’, my most recent film, commissioned by Channel 4 Random Acts is a botanical mythical dream and an exploration into suburban legend, set in the 1970s. The film is a hybrid documentary, which enabled me to explore narrative storytelling and work with actors.

What’s keeping you inspired at the moment?

People inspire me. Serendipitous meetings with strangers, friends who protest and stand up for what they believe in, the old man along my road who when the sun is shining – sits in his front garden, and when I walk by we have a chat.


View more of Jessica’s work via her Creator profile or head over to @jsbishopp on Instagram.