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WITHOUT (2011), Interview with Joslyn Jensen
WITHOUT (2011) is a haunting coming of age psychological drama about a young girl who becomes a caretaker to an old man who is practically a vegetable. In small town America almost in the middle of nowhere Joslyn has little to no internet signal and is cut off, ‘without’ any and all outside communication. She has to assimilate into this new life with her near-death patient and the provincial frustrated locals; further, she is dealing with the overwhelming loss of the love of her life. While the film starts out like it might be an opportunity and escape from her troubles, the experience becomes too heavy and impossible to cope with, a trial of sexual and emotional frustration and the unbearable coming to terms with being WITHOUT. –Summary by Vanessa McMahon
WITHOUT has most recently won an award in the Acting category in Festival di Film de Marrakech on December 10, 2011 where lead actress Joslyn Jensen won the Best Actress award. I interviewed actress Joslyn Jensen shortly after the Marrakech Film Festival and here is what she had to say about her experience working on her first feature.
ME: Can you tell readers a bit about your role in the film WITHOUT?
JOSLYN: The film Without was written and directed by Mark Jackson. I play a young girl who becomes the caretaker of a man in a vegetative state. My character, Joslyn (which is kind of strange to say, because it’s also my real name) spends about a week caring for Frank (the old man) in his secluded home –without internet connection or television, Joslyn is forced to confront some of her own issues while caring for Frank.
ME: WITHOUT is your first lead role in a feature film, is that correct? Can you tell us how you came across this role?
JOSLYN: Yes! This is my first feature film. Mark Jackson and I met in New York in 2009 and had worked together on some short film projects and I really loved working with him. So, when he approached me with an idea for a feature film that he wanted to shoot near Seattle (where I’m from)-- I was really excited at the chance to work with him again.
ME: You play ‘Joslyn’ in the film. How close is the Joslyn in the film to you?
JOSLYN: I’m a bit private about my personal life. Of course, playing a character that shares your real name invites a lot comparison… I think that we are similar in that we both prefer to be distracted rather than have to address what is bothering us. We also both find great comfort in playing the ukulele!
ME: Did director Mark Jackson write the role for you? Have you known each other long?
JOSLYN: Mark did write the role with me in mind--which is such a great gift for a young, inexperienced actor! I think the trust I have in Mark as a director really helped me to create, with him, the performance that you see in the film. Because a lot of the film is made up of still moments, without a lot of talking, Mark was able to side-coach me from behind the camera. He was like the voice in my head throughout the whole film. It took me a little while to get used to working that way, but I’m really proud of the way we were able to communicate and create this performance together. (He’s the best.)
ME: How hard was it to play a young woman with such a traumatic and haunting sexual frustration in the middle of nowhere, without communication?
JOSLYN: It was my first film, so everything was hard. Not just the emotional things, but also just the technical aspects too. I owe everything to Mark, Jessica Dimmock, Diego Garcia (cinematographers) and the whole crew for helping me along and making me feel safe and supported. I couldn’t have done it at all without their help.
ME: What do you feel that WITHOUT is saying about modern American culture at large? / What do you think is the universal quality of the film that has made it so well received all over the world?- (from Reykjavik to Thessaloniki to Marrakech and still going).
JOSLYN: Hearing people’s reactions to the film is always really interesting because everyone comes away with something different. One aspect of the film that really resonates for me is the notion of connectivity—how much we rely on cell phones, internet, social networking, etc. to shape our living experience. Sometimes it seems like if there isn’t a picture or a post or a tweet to commemorate an event, it’s like it never happened—we don’t take a lot of time to just simply experience what is around us. I find myself guilty of this in my own life. It’s a pity—and I feel like this film touches on that in a really honest, human way.
JOSLYN CONT’D: Mark has spoken about his inspirations for this film, one of which was the suicide of a young middle school girl who was being picked on at school and bullied online. I think Without is distinctive in that it places the focus on the person who was left behind and feelings of guilt, anger, sadness that follow. Sadly, since the making of this movie, I have seen many more stories of cyber-bulling and teen suicides. For the Outfest Film Festival in Los Angeles, we partnered with the “It Gets Better” Project (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/) to raise awareness and encourage people to speak up against intolerance.
ME: You have just won the prestigious Best Actress Award in Marrakech during the Marrakech Film Festival, awarded to you by jury member and actress Jessica Chastain. That must’ve been amazing! What was that like?
JOSLYN: My entire experience in Marrakech was absolutely incredible. Interestingly, I wasn’t able to access the internet or make calls on my cell phone while I was there, so I had a really amazing, off-the-grid experience and it was wonderful. Meeting Ms. Chastain and the rest of the incredible jury was such an honor for me. I have admired many of them as artists—I was a bit star-struck. More than anything being in Marrakech and receiving the acting award filled me with the desire to make another film and another and another! It was a very special and inspiring time for me. I can’t wait to go back!
ME: What’s next for you? Do you have some feature film projects in the pipeline for 2012?
JOSLYN: Currently, I’m collaborating on a new film with Lee August Praley and Steve DiUbaldo, titles Nothing Is Fun Anymore and follows a man and woman in the months following their breakup. Because my character is a musician in the film, I am also working on the soundtrack with some original music performed on my ukulele. I’m so excited to work with these two talented young writers—and it feels good to be working on something again!
ME: Thank you Joslyn! And huge congrats again for your success in WITHOUT! Looking forward to see you on screen again soon!
Debut director Mark Jackson’s film WITHOUT (2011) held its world premier this August in Locarno, Switzerland at the 2011 Locarno International Film Festival. It has won Jury prizes at Slamdance Film Festival in Atlanta, Florida Film Festival and Sarasota Film Festival in the US and internationally it has gone on to win prizes at Thessaloniki Film Festival (TIFF) for Best Director and has most recently won an award in the Acting category in Festival di Film de Marrakech on December 10, 2011 where lead actress Joslyn Jensen won for Best Actress.
Interview by Vanessa McMahon, December 20, 2011
view film website here: http://www.rightonredfilms.com/
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