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Industry Insights: JESSICA SHAW

JESSICA SHAW

Jessica began her career in DVD and Blu-ray, firstly in technical operations and then onto project management/releasing. Her background also includes key roles in digital home entertainment distribution. Notably working at eOne and Technicolor. She has recently joined Curzon as the new General Manager for Curzon On Demand.

Why do you think you are a General Manager, on Demand?

My interest in film distribution started whilst researching my dissertation at university. When I graduated, I found my niche in DVD and Blu-ray Home Ent, mainly in a technical environment. Knowing how to author was a rare skill! As the popularity of “on demand” rose, I made sure I knew all of the latest specs. I was the technical go-to person. I wanted to be more involved with people, so I moved into project management. I always kept my pulse on the changing market. I’d say its paid off massively as now I’m GM of a unique innovator in on demand same-day releasing.

What’s your elevator pitch to describe the kind of films and/or filmmakers you like working with the most?

I like working with people who are just as passionate about a project as I am. One of my favourites was The BFG, just because everyone put their heart and soul into it right from start to finish. Too often we don’t allow ourselves to take a moment and feel a sense of achievement when something magical has been created.

What is it about such material or teams that you find the most inspiring?

We tried so many new things and everyone brought their passion through – I find rule breakers and risk takers the most inspiring. Someone always needs the be first to bring new ideas to the table.

If forced to give one tip to new people coming through what would it be?

Think about how you can stand out. Big companies can look great on the CV, whereas smaller companies can offer you the opportunity to shadow people, pitch in, and give you an idea of where you would like to develop.

And what pitfall would you say is essential to avoid in your sector when starting out?

Film distribution is changing rapidly, so make sure you keep an eye on new developments, don’t get stuck in a rut. Surround yourself with people who are innovators/challenging the norm.

Tell us about where you come from or where you live now and how it filters into your work?

I grew up in Kent, just outside of London. As soon as I was old enough, I moved into the city to get close to the action. As much as London is my home, I would like to eventually have some more green space! The problem is this industry is still so focused around the capital. I feel my options are limited. With the advances in technologies, some distributors now work remotely, and that could start becoming commonplace.

Tell us about the latest film / exhibition / book / public figure / article to have inspired you?

My recommended read is “Backwards and in Heels: The Past, Present And Future Of Women Working In Film” by Alicia Malone. She shines a light on the forgotten female pioneers of cinema. Really motivational stuff. The title comes from a quote by Ann Richards – “After all, Ginger Rogers did everything that Fred Astaire did. She just did it backwards and in high heels.”

What frustrates you about what you do?

Having come from working in DVD/Blu-ray, you come across a lot of “old ways” of thinking. Pessimism as well, that the industry is over, and not a lot of “reactive” thinking.

How do you overcome this?

Looking outside of the industry to see how others have overcome new technologies, such as LP’s regaining a foothold in the music industry – due to it being seen as a more tangible way of owning music.

Do you believe in the ‘female gaze’ and what does that mean to you?

The female gaze is an important part of cinema and deserves a wider audience. To make it happen, there needs to be a greater shift in attitudes – Once again, there were no female directors nominated for this year’s Oscars. Reclaim The Frame is doing excellent work to celebrate the female P.O.V.

Parting shot – Why are programmes like FUTURE LEADERS IN DISTRIBUTION important to you and what does gender equality in film and society mean to you?

I feel honoured to be considered in the same realm as the amazing women on the programme. I’m not even exaggerating when I say I’ve never seen so many powerful industry women in the same room! It’s really struck me how all of the obstacles I’ve faced over the years, these women have shared.  It’s absolutely vital that more women can be recognised for the work they do.

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