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Jess Gabor’s Short Film, BARBIE

Our star from our short film, “Sky Fighter,” JESS GABOR, has written and directed a short of her own, and it’s terrific! Link above, but in case that doesn’t work:

The film is BARBIE: “Obsessed with Barbies and the plastic world they inhabit, a girl impersonates her favorite toy to distract herself from the smoke stained motel she’s being trafficked out of.”

I was blown away by the Steadicam work, long, unbroken takes and the performances—especially by a six-year-old actress. We had a child actor on Sky Fighter who didn’t have any lines, and he was a terrific kid with super nice parents, and I still found it intimidating to be a grown man telling him what to do.

I can’t imagine directing a six-year-old girl—and as the father of seven-year-old twin girls, I actually have way more experience than most people in this area.

More than the technical aspects, Jess has great taste in dealing with difficult subject matter (child trafficking). I had to call her to ask how she did it, and the short answer was, a lot of rehearsal. I’m really impressed.

When we were casting Sky Fighter, we were behind the eight-ball due to my own decision not to hold auditions, but to identify and pursue professional talent and make offers. Our female lead backed out 48 hours before filming (thanks a lot), and we were scrambling. Jess was shooting her recurring role on Shameless, quickly said yes and did our short on the weekend, then went back to Shameless on Monday.

It helped to be working with Christine Sheaks, whose long career in casting includes a little movie called Boogie Nights—a cast so phenomenal, she was actually complimented by name in the Sickle & Ebert review.

I personally like casting and think I have an intuitive sense of it. Certainly I think it worked out for us on Sky Fighter, where our leads (Tom Maden and Jess) embody the roles as I imagined them:

I was excited to get Jess because I believed she actually could fix and fly that spaceship. But during the shoot I was taken by how well she held the screen:

This is something actors either have or they don’t: an inner life that draws you in. When they have it, it’s money in the bank as a director.

It was especially interesting because the character in Sky Fighter has to be somewhat desperate, scheming and secretive—which Jess, in real life, is completely not. She’s basically a cheery and willing person: “Nice to meet ya!”

This is, I suppose, why they call it acting.

So I knew Jess could act, and I’ve been pleased to see her acting career continue with some super cool parts, most recently in a project called The Machine.

But I didn’t know she could write and direct, and I’d love it if people could watch Barbie to confirm I am not losing my mind.

I’ve been pretty vocal about my opinion that most short films stink, and for all the myriad reasons why, it usually comes down to the filmmaker not having any kind of understanding—let alone something to say—about human behavior.

Jess certainly does, and has the skill and determination to get it on screen in a way that would probably be beyond me now, let alone when I was in my twenties.

So well done on a very difficult project—and I hope people check it out. For more on Jess, follow her Instagram page.

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