- The Washington Times - Monday, June 12, 2017

Filmmaker Zoe Lister-Jones knows how unusual it is to have an all-female crew — but she held her ground, insisting that was how she wished to make her new film, “Band Aid.”

“A lot of people say, ‘Is it an accident that you hired an all-female crew?’ Sadly, it could never be an accident in the climate of the industry as it stands now,” Ms. Lister-Jones told The Washington Times.

However, she believes that even such an unorthodox move as this is part of a greater attention to gender disparity in Hollywood decision-making.

“I think that while dialogue is really important, it also needs to lead to action,” she said. “And taking action means uprooting some pretty longstanding practices.”

Ms. Lister-Jones, who directed the film from her own screenplay, conceived of the story for “Band Aid” when pondering how to create a relationship on screen that she felt was truly authentic. In her screenplay, Anna (Ms. Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) are a millennial couple who discover a novel way to dissipate their arguments: They will turn all of their fights into songs and start a band to perform them publicly.

“Portlandia” mainstay Fred Armisen is their drum-playing goofy neighbor, Dave.

At first the couple’s band sees some coffeehouse success, but the trouble that was brewing before they took to music becomes increasingly tense as the film progresses.

“My favorite films are ones that sometimes defy genre and that can occupy really different emotional spaces,” Ms. Lister-Jones, an alumni of the “Law & Order” franchises — as four different characters — said. “Especially in terms of comedy, I think the best comedies are ones that can go to dark places.”

The filmmaker cites the work of Woody Allen and John Cassavetes as among the influences on “Band Aid“‘s high-wire walk between comedy and drama.

“I think it’s hard in terms of creativity and production to go to the monitor as an actor/director,” she said of both acting in and directing her own script, adding that drilling every scene with her crew helped save time on set.

“In terms of shaping performance, I actually found it really helpful to be directing some of the scenes from within,” she said. “If you’re standing at the monitor, you’re looking at an image that is compressed of someone who is quite removed from you. It’s the opposite of someone looking directly in the eyes [where] it’s really easy to tell whether or not they’re telling the truth” in their acting, she said.

One thing Ms. Lister-Jones also shaped was the film’s songs, the lyrics for which she actually penned into the script itself. She then collaborated on the music alongside composer Kyle Forrester.

“[The songs] evolved slightly but not dramatically once we took them on ourselves as musicians,” Ms. Lister-Jones said of performing the songs on film alongside co-star Mr. Pally after much one-on-one rehearsing.

“Fred [Armisen] needed no rehearsals because he’s like a legitimate drummer,” she said.

Ms. Lister-Jones said she also had the faith of her producers, who both backed her decision to hire an all-female crew and to produce the film as she envisioned. She realizes how rare it is for a filmmaker of her relatively unknown stature to have such creative control.

“I really wanted this film to be totally ‘mine,’” she said, adding the producers were always “very supportive. That was really nice as an artist to feel that.”

While the writer-director is proud of having made “Band Aid” her way and with the crew of all women she desired, Ms. Lister-Jones said it is incumbent upon Hollywood decision-makers — both women and men — to continue to try to level out the industry’s gender disparity.

“It’s [important to be] vigilant, because it’s easy to lose sight of,” she said, adding that some of the fight for fairness may have been lost in what she called a “post-feminist” culture.

“If someone thinks of themselves as progressively minded, that [may be] enough for them, but it has to be put into practice,” she said. “It does require confronting one’s own biases — even for women.”

“Band Aid” is now playing at the District’s E Street Cinema.

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