- Why did you decide to work in this industry?
It came to me not the other way round. I have always been creative from an early age. I kept journals of writing and I studied pure math. When I graduated, I turned down a lot of money in banking and instead traveled the world as a nomad. I was working on my own self development, my fears and weaknesses. I took an acting class to help with my fear of public speaking. I had no idea I would fall in love and make so many independent films. Then, I wanted better females role to play so I started creating my own TV series and writing a pilot. I did not expect to be represented on a major platform with 3 Arts Entertainment. Similarly, when I was selected by my theatre ensemble Primitive Grace on my acting work, after studying with co-artistic director Paul Calderon, I did not expect to put up work for stage and write plays. I then realized writers still don’t have all the control, and I thought about directing. I had no clue I would be asked to direct an episode in Marlene Rhein’s award winning series “The So So You Don’t Know” with actress Sachi Parker, of Shirley MacLaine fame. None of this was planned. There was never a decision for film school. I am an autodidact in the industry. My work is now awarded scholarships and fellowships (The Dramatist Guild Institute, Robert Mckee, Rohm Literary Agency) which is great as they taught me the rules, but more vitally, they confirmed my intuition is good. My journey evolves from this intuition—my life algorithm or mission—to gravitate to an exploration of the unknown and to work outside my comfort zones. I am not afraid of risk. I can live with high stakes. This lends readily to creating dramatic stories for screen or stage and having the endurance needed as an artist. This is why the industry works for me. It is the only way I can decide to have my life—as a creative artist.
2) What’s a defining moment in your life?
All my personal defining moments have come from failure—in my ability to re-generate at this point, in getting back up and starting again, or trying something another way. There is still a dialogue in rejection, because if you listen you are being told what someone does not want. That is still a basis for a good working relationship. If you can adapt it can prove valuable. Adjusting is an essential part of the work for an actor-director relationship, and as filmmakers we deal with more rejection than anything else so it is an important skill. A defining moment in my career is to be nominated at NY Webfest 2019 for my debut screenplay for best film and best mystery suspense film, and being selected at Catalyst Content festival in 2018 for an HBO sponsored top five broadcast of my short play. I loved writing fade out on my TV pilot for the first draft of my series. It went straight in the bin, rightly so, but it dawned on me this world of make belief is my job. Like acting, it’s not a bad grown up job. I can handle it and it makes me happy. To be defined by something that makes you happy and that you can do well—that is the dream.
3) What is your biggest concern with the future?
Where to start? I’m going to keep this positive, and apart to say the climate is fucked, I have enjoyed working with Create2030 at United Nations which is dialogue for incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals into the arts and filmmaking. This is an awareness to the re-distribution of wealth, poverty, climate change issues, equality, inclusivity and diversity. Regards our industry? That despite the Me Too Movement, and thankfully people seem to be listening, still nothing in terms of work employment and equal pay are changing — the statistics for female directors for example is the same 4% to 96% male directors since 1998. Watch The Other Half of the picture with leading TV director Rachel Feldman and other great female directors, hear what they have to say. It’s important.
4) What is a successful moment in your career so far?
I am now eligible for an artist Green card. This is the result of years of grueling hard work. It is a really big moment as it opens up the next chapter on the same platform as American actors and filmmakers and bigger studio auditions. There is no faking it. I am immensely grateful to everyone that has made this journey possible—my films in post production with star cast, my press, the festivals and my award nominations and official selections. It is a major achievement for any independent artist. I am a multi-hyphenated artist as a writer, actor, jury president, and women’s activist. It’s a lot of work. Signing with 3 Arts Entertainment was a key component to my success as they have sponsored my talent in US across the board for acting and literary. When you have a top tier Hollywood talent agency behind you, things start happening, but we have been waiting for getting through the red tape. I’ve lost a TV break role to this extra paper work, so when I was informed it was happening, it felt that everything could now come into focus. I can be in US and do my creative work on the full platform it deserves. I am excited.
5) What advice do you have for other women in the industry?
Forge supportive female networks—go to panels, talks and events that are specifically championing female talent or diversity. This way you automatically have one mission in common. You are going to be surrounded by women and likeminded creators that wish to and are tackling inequality in our industry. They are going to unconditionally open doors, make the introductions, mentor and support your work. You can bring your expertise and network to help in the same way. Always be prepared to push other females ahead of you. It directly makes your work environment fairer for you and for everyone. It’s these type of collaborations and mutual empowerment that will keep you going when it gets tough.
6) What do you collect, if anything?
I used to collect Japanese art, but I loyally collect old classic books—rare or masterful works. I have always been an avid reader. I don’t have book shelves so there are stacks and piles of books like a maze around my house. I think the best writers are the best readers, so the stacks have to stay. I am now a member of SAG in US and my plan is to start collecting income next! I’ve learnt so much from indie sets and with the freedom to pick scripts I am most passionate and proud about—the story of writer and sculptor Baroness Elsa Von Freytag Loringhoven is a great example, and this screened at The Whitney Museum—but the journey is hazardous. Artists need to paid and properly. You want to know the journey will come to fruition, that you will see the end product of your hard work on screen distributed without further budget issues, and, perhaps, one day, you will buy some book shelves and a big oak library for the book collection too.
7) Where can people find out more about you on social media? What is next for you in your career?
More of the same passions: acting and writing! I made a pilot performing as a principal character for a series called “Street Smart.” It is about the opioid epidemic. A play I wrote was read with academy award screenwriter/director Bobby Moresco at his workshop. He compared it to Harold Pinter’s Dumb Waiter. We are chatting about casting and directing with Amanda Moresco and rehearsals will start in January. My full play just finished a rewriting scholarship at the Dramatist Guild (as one in eight picked). I have two plays in workshop sessions with my theater ensemble under the guidance of artistic directors Paul Calderon and David Zayas. My TV series has Phil John, Downtown Abbey and Marvel director supporting on my series bible and interest from a Games of Thrones actress for my lead, so I am working very hard towards writing fade out on my final draft. I used to think you couldn’t put a deadline on creativity. I was wrong. Now, I love deadlines. They get the job done. So, on that note, thank you so much for chatting with me and giving females in film this networking opportunity. For future collaborations, like having me in your writers room or movie—you can find me on:
Twitter and instagram @joannapickering
My latest films on imdb from my small role in Danny Boyle and Nick Moran film Creation Stories to principal cast in Alice Fades Away with William Sadler (Green Mile), Blanche Baker (Handmaid’s Tale) and Paxton Singleton (The Haunting of Hill House) http://www.joannapickering.com