Reel Women: Jessica Velle, Screenwriter and Actress

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(Editor’s Note: To celebrate Women’s History Month, Reel Chicago and Reel 360 are once again celebrating the women who make up the industries of film, TV, advertising and music.)

Jessica Velle is a Spanish-American Screenwriter and actress. She was born and raised in Los Angeles and began her career starring in commercials and short films as a child.

In her early twenties, Jessica appeared on NCIS, and starred in award winning festival films such as Heavy Makeup and Jengo Hooper. Shortly after, Jessica created her comedy webseries, It’s Not Me, It’s You.

She continues to write and create her own content, On her free time she enjoys helping humane causes and raising awareness for the American foundation of suicide prevention.

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How did you get into the business? I was a kid, maybe 4-5 years old. I started talking at a really young age, which was where my big personality was basically born. My mother thought the perfect place, to use my persona, was behind the camera.

Barbizon was really big in the early 90’s and I sort of found myself there. They used the “old Hollywood” way of approaching you in the middle of the mall screaming enthusiastically “Oh my god! You should be a model or on Television!”

It almost felt like a scam, but it’s what was normal back then. They’d bring you in this small room, make you slate and then you’d read off a prompter. I remember being extremely shy and nervous and I remember having a conversation, with Elizabeth Berkley (Saved by the Bell, Showgirls).

She was in the waiting room, waiting for her audition, and she was telling me I should own the camera, and that talk about what made me feel confident. It all sounded great until the moment I entered the room, I literally froze. It actually took me awhile before I was mentally ready to come out of my shell.

What obstacles have you faced specifically because of your gender? Being a woman has its challenges. Women magazine articles are titled, “How to be sexy, while male-focused articles read “How to be successful.” Can you imagine if things were switched?

Being a working woman in a male-dominated industry such as entertainment has many challenges and roadblocks. I really have a lot of love and passion for what I do as a creative, and I highly respect film and the art of what it takes to create it.

Women tend to be sexualized instantly, but being a Latina, it can be a little more excessive in my point of view. I’ve had many experiences, where I submit for an audition or send a script to be read, or go to a business meeting, and I’ll get asked out on a date instead.

Lots of men tend to have an ulterior motives. I’ve lost money and an opportunity to showcase my talent because I refused to sleep with producers or directors. Not to point the finger at every man in the industry, because that’s not true. I’ve met some great professional men in the industry, who have not once taken advantage of me. They’ve treated my work fairly and respected me completely

There are just assumptions being made since most people in the industry are men, but thankfully that is changing.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are a woman? I never forget I’m a WOMAN. That sounds cynical, but I mean, I wake up grateful every day. I’m very resilient. I’ve been through life’s toughest times, and I’m still standing.

Since last year, I’ve connected with a large community that has supported me. After the #TIMESUP and #METOO movement something really big changed. Women have taken their power back. It’s difficult working on your craft and facing the day to day challenges of believing in yourself, showing up and doing your best, but wait. I’m a woman, so I forgot to add that into my itinerary.

If I didn’t walk this journey in my own body I wouldn’t be able to experience this trailblazing Female empowered generation.

Work you are most proud of? This question is difficult to answer, I don’t want to sound cliché and name a project or script because its so much more than that. I didn’t wake up and say “I’m gonna do this and its gonna be great! I’m gonna be proud of it!”

To be honest, I’m constantly doubting myself, and by a miracle I get the courage to write a script or shoot something. I’m proud of those moments, I’m brave.

Brave enough to write an outline or pitch an idea to someone. It’s hard work being an artist. You’re typically alone most of the time with all these thoughts, emotions and experiences. Getting them down on a paper and giving a little bit of yourself is always an opportunity to showcase your creative work, and prove to yourself that you can do it.

Do you think the #metoo movement has created significant change? Yes, I believe it has. Women are standing up for themselves. We are no longer asking for the same respect any human deserves, we are demanding it. It has also created a bridge for women to unite. Most people tend to connect through wounds and even though unfortunate circumstances which we didn’t deserve.

It has a made women unite all over the world. This competitive analogy that women have faced for decades is changing. Women are also learning we need to protect ourselves. Mentally and Legally, Men don’t get to dictate our self-worth and treat us like less than, because of the way we are dressed or because of our gender.

How have professional attitudes towards women evolved during your career? Some have been positive and negative. I think there’s a big uproar for women. We are at a time in our lives where there is a huge light on everything we say and do.

We are at a place where we will not let anyone or anything stop us, and most of all we want to change the norm and status quo of “a woman’s place.” Three years ago, you were allowed to speak about a woman like an object and men would laugh, not saying that still doesn’t happen, because I believe it does, but saying that today, in 2019, you might not get the same response. In fact, say that in front of the wrong crowd, your ego could be shattered and you could possibly ruin your reputation. The level of respect that women are demanding is powerful and real.
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Trapped on an island, what essentials must you have? Tom Hanks for sure, he’s done this before. Moisturizer with Spf because I care about my skin too much. Oh and Rachael Ray, at least I know, we won’t starve.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self? I would tell myself to just GO for it and stop living in FEAR.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? It’s hard to choose, but today I’d wanna meet Frida Khalo, because she was a trail blazer. Feminist at heart. Life was always going against her and she always pushed back. She conquered obstacles and overcame herself.

 
To see the up-to-date list of Reel Women, click here.

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