IFFR Pro producer interview with Jessica Adams
27 January 2023
Canadian Jessica Adams, a 2016 Rotterdam Lab alumnus, returns to IFFR this year with the Canadian/Swiss Something You Said Last Night, a family/transgender drama directed by Luis De Filippis, screening in Harbour. Adams presented the film at our co-production market CineMart in 2020.
Adams refers to the film, which world-premiered at TIFF, as a turning point in her career and “100%” the greatest achievement to date. The film is a tender and lyrical trans story set within the bosom of a vibrant but supportive, albeit highly argumentative, Canadian/Italian family away on their summer vacation.
“The need to have more representation of trans and non-binary folks behind the camera.”
Impact is a word generally associated with documentary but it is equally applicable to the processes that the film’s production set in motion. “We created the first ever Trans Film Mentorship, and that burst out of the need to have more representation of trans and non-binary folks behind the camera,” Adams explains. “That was something that we were passionate about since day one. We carved out a portion of our budget and we sourced additional financing to raise a hundred thousand dollars to pull off this mentorship programme. And then we brought in experts to help with best practice.”
At which point the initiative grew, as Adams puts it, “way past the boundaries of our film.” The baton was passed to the HBO series Sort Of, as well as to the upcoming doc Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story, exec-produced by Elliot Page. Adams and director De Filippis also organised the first Trans Film Mentorship summit at TIFF, giving the first barrier-breaking award to Bros actor TS Madison.
Producer Jessica Adams (source: CMPA Indiescreen Awards)
So why did Adams decide to be a producer as opposed to a director, DOP, editor or suchlike? “I guess ultimately I love supporting and nurturing people,” she responds, noting how the key function of a producer is in helping a director achieve their vision. I like to be, kind of, the support network in that…And on a more practical side, I have skill sets that I think are assets for the producer role. I'm incredibly organised. I'm very persistent. Tenacious, I've been described as. If I'm passionate about something, I think that really comes across and helps with the selling or the pitching of the project.”
“I love supporting and nurturing people.”
Adams has recently teamed up with partner Rua Wani to form Adani Pictures. “We're really looking at projects with specific viewpoints that aren't necessarily seen in the commercial space,” she stresses. “Viewpoints that have something positive and hopeful to say about the world. That was a realisation that I came to producing Something You Said Last Night, because on that film I really witnessed the power of the film, I guess, in being part of the conversation towards social change – social, political, positive change in the world.”
Adams and Wani are producing Sweet and Sore, a TV comedy series centred around the Egyptian diaspora in Canada, with creator Reem Morsi, as well as a new doc from award-winning Andrew Moir which explores Queer elders navigating their changing gay village in Toronto. A third project in the pipeline is a satirical adult animation by writer Joanne Sarazen.
And so, four months on from the world premiere of Something You Said Last Night and on the eve of its European premiere at IFFR, how does Adams feel director De Filippo would describe her producer skills? “I'd say probably she’d described me as a creative problem solver,” Adams responds, a little reluctantly at first, before warming to the question. “And as a continuous cheerleader. Even despite terrible odds or bad situations, I feel like optimism is important. I'd hope that she could describe me as a support person, someone that she can talk to in her darkest moments and someone that she can celebrate with in her best...”
Talent development at IFFR 2023
More than 160 emerging talents join us at the festival for IFFR Pro’s training programmes.