A quick shoutout to Touchwood PR in Toronto for inviting us to chat with writer, and filmmaker Kourtney Jackson, for her short film ‘Wash Day’. An introspective documentary follows three black women as they speak about beauty, life, and their hair—shot on film.
Em: Thank you again for taking the time to talk with me this morning. Let’s start with an introduction. What would be if you could tell us a little bit about yourself.
Kourtney Jackson: My name is Kourtney Jackson. I am a filmmaker from Toronto. I have been making films for the past three-ish years, and everything is still an ongoing, fascinating process.
Em: Cool. Thank you so much. So you’ve mentioned that you’ve been making films for the past few years or so?
Kourtney: Yeah, three years.
Em: Great. Thank you. So how so? How long have you been interested in getting into filmmaking?
Kourtney: I really loved writing as a child, and I was an avid reader. I wrote a lot of whimsical short stories. I just had a very romantic idea that I’d become a screenwriter and write my first film. But I didn’t really understand the scope of the craft of filmmaking. Or necessarily understand the work that went into or was involved in the process. I only recently that I’ve understood the timeline in terms of the production, cost, producers funding, et cetera, et cetera. But I think I’ve always had an affinity for imagery, photography, and films. Rendering what I want on screen in whichever way I wanted to.
Em: Nice. So you started getting into filmmaking, beginning with writing and then sort of transitioned later into sort of the more directing cinematography side? Once you had a better understanding of what went into making movies.
Kourtney Jackson: Yeah, I think it wasn’t necessarily a continuous pipeline from wanting to write and then going into the film. It was like being young and going to high school. Not caring about anything and then going to university and then caring about things and then making a film. It was all very spontaneous, and I didn’t expect to get here the way that I did. But I’m glad to be here nonetheless.
Em: So what inspired you to create this short film, Wash Day?
Kourtney Jackson: Well, you know, this was supposed to be a film song. But I got the opportunity to push the film, the original film festival. And just I think that the film would be better as a documentary. I already had a couple of individuals in mind to talk to. And I think it was definitely a personal desire to connect with other individuals. Have conversations that I had only been having with myself, really. And so that’s kind of where it came from.
Em: Nice. And could you tell us anything about the physical production of Wash Day? So you mentioned that you had the opportunity to pitch the film itself. Then you were able to secure funding after the pitch to be able to create the short film. What was it like to sort of reach that point for the creation of Wash Day? And then what can you tell us about the production of your short film?
Kourtney Jackson: Yeah, so I was really fortunate to win the cash prize for the first competition. Then I applied for another Grant called Queue, which is based here in Toronto. And so I think it was really how I would describe it? I think I didn’t understand how significant it was that I had the resources to make this film. Especially because I pitched it as a project that would be shot on Super 8 and shooting on Super 8, it was something that I was going to do for the first time. I feel like it’s highly expensive and incredibly inaccessible.
So in retrospect, I am so deeply appreciative of the fact that people believed in this project. That I could make it in the way that I wanted to. As for actually shooting it, there were a lot of, I wouldn’t say, obstacles, but it was a really long process. I was essentially the only person, you know, shooting the project, interviewing the women and so on and editing it. And so I got burnt out really, really quickly. It was it wasn’t, you know, sunshine and flowers. I definitely was incredibly relieved when it was all done. And I just finally had to file and show it to everybody. But I was definitely down in the trenches for sure.
Em: Great. Thank you so much for sharing a bit more about what it was like to work on the film. I would like to ask you if there’s any particular part of wash day and this can either be about the production itself or about the film. That was something that was your favourite.
Kourtney Jackson: No one’s ever asked me that question before. My favourite part. I think, well, I think like a memory that I cherish throughout the lifespan of this film. The journey of this film is becoming confident in myself because of it. I had found out about financing my fellowship when I was about 17 years old and had known about it for a while. And then I submitted Wash Day too, I guess, the competition application when I was twenty-two. And so, it felt very full circle.
It felt like I had a win or got a win for my 17-year-old self and just connected me to filmmakers that I had looked up to. A community of fellow filmmakers that I respected so much. And so and also I think was an incredible turning point in my, so my identity as a filmmaker and also my discovery. My self-discovery as an artist. And so it was really that was a significant occurrence for sure.
Em: Great. Thank you. So I would like to ask, so I checked out your website, and it mentions that you do direct cinematography and editing when it comes to washing day in particular. What was it that you worked on specifically?
Kourtney Jackson: I did everything. So I shot the film. I interviewed the subjects, and I edited the film. The only other person that worked on it was the colorist, James, who is lovely. And, you know, we had a running joke that he would be the only other person credited in the film. But I essentially did everything, yeah.
Em: OK! Nice. What was it like to be so hands-on with what is essentially like your baby film?
Kourtney: Yeah, I wanted to work alone just with the fact that I’ve never really had a formal education in filmmaking. I didn’t really have the technical skills. Well, I didn’t have the technical skills that I have now. I didn’t even have the language that is necessary for collaborating. So I felt like I just really wanted to be the only person making these decisions to really see how I work and how I bring my own ideas to life. And so, I think it was a necessary method of working for this project, but I’m definitely looking forward to working with others in the future.
Em: Nice, thank you. This one’s a bit of a long question, so I will pace myself. There’s a section in the description that stood out to me, and I’m going to quote it directly. “The act of washing one’s hair and body serves as the touchstone for Wash Day, an intimate exploration into how private domestic acts such as washing your hair or putting on makeup become a significant reacquaintance with the body before and after navigating the politics of once outwardly appearance.”. So I would love to ask you how this theme. This desire to sort of seeing this message in the film’s different elements. This can be the directing, the cinematography or even the colour.
Kourtney Jackson: So the first part of your question cut out; I only got the second part.
Em: Sorry. I would like to ask how the theme of sort of like washing hair, is a very intimate act, sort of with yourself, and then before you go out into the world, how is that theme reflected in the film’s different elements?
Kourtney Jackson: So I wanted to use the shower. The acts. of washing one’s hair as a landing space for the ideas and share the sentiment in the film. Because of something Jill Andrew, an MP in Toronto, the moderator at a panel that I was in earlier or last fall, said. Something along the lines of how, you know, in the shower, you’re washing off the experiences, any complications you have white supremacy, you’re washing off, the complications you have with patriarchy.
I felt that was a very apt metaphor to describe the framework that I wanted to have, these conversations, these conversations about identity. And about Blackness in the film. So I think that wash day, or showering and washing your hair can be a mundane activity to a lot of people. Still, I think for Black folks and for Black folks with Afro-textured hair, it kind of encompasses everything that you know about your body, your hair and your Blackness, which, all of which are highly controversial and political in our society. So I definitely think it was an, I guess, recurring visual and emotional motif, I guess.
Em: Thank you so much for sharing. Let’s see my next question. What happens after the completion of filming? So once the short film is complete, what did it feel like to reach that part of the creative journey?
Kourtney Jackson: Well, it’s funny. I was running behind on getting a final cut of the film since it was premiering on Christmas week. So I was still in overdrive trying to finish the film. After completing it, I just had to dive fully back into my other freelance projects. So there wasn’t really any time to kind of sit back and reflect until I got to the premiere.
It was a lovely event, and my friends were there, and they give me flowers. And then, you know, shortly after everything, well essentially the entire world went into lockdown. So it was, I think, like having to see the film, you know, travel the world and screen at different festivals from my bedroom has been an interesting experience. But it’s been, you know, the only experience outside of being in a theatre, with other people who have seen the film just one time. So I think I am incredibly grateful for all of the people that it’s moved and resonated with. I’m incredibly grateful for all of the people that I got to connect with, you know, through film, through digital means. And so, yeah, I feel like Wash Day definitely is a digital festival era type of film. And I’m more than okay with that.
Em: All right, so you’re taking part in the future of Film Showcase, which is a short film festival featuring 11 works from Canada’s most promising new voices for those aged 40 or younger. So how did you come to be involved in this showcase?
Kourtney: My distributor actually submitted the film! We went back and forth talking about it. Like my Canadian certification about the film and then not really knowing what was happening, where the film was going, and then I got an acceptance email from FOSF.
I was really excited just because I originally heard about the festival when I came back to the city after finishing school. Just really appreciated the fact that there was a festival that was carving out space exclusively for Canadian filmmakers. I think Canadian film and TV generally don’t get much recognition in the scope of media making and storytelling. So to be included in the program is really an honour. And just, you know, the name of the festival itself: Future of Film Showcase and to be in a program with other films that are really unique and boundary-pushing is really exciting. And is such an honour.
Em: OK. I only have about two questions left, so we should be able to wrap up here shortly. All right, my second to the last question is, is there anything that you’re most looking forward to as part of the Future of Film Showcase?
Kourtney: Yes, I’m going to open my laptop because I have the program up, but I don’t remember the name of the film off the top of my head, which is slightly embarrassing but they don’t know that. So some of the films that I’m really looking forward to are, “Tulips are my Father’s Favorite Flowers” by Nisha Platzer and I think it is Sophie and Jacob by Max Shoham, who I think is a lovely person.
Em: Yeah, that’s more than all right. And then my last question for you is, if there’s one thing that you hope that viewers will take away from seeing wash day, what would that be?
Kourtney: Well, I think, listen to Black women, let Black women speak and I will say those two things. And also the fact that I didn’t necessarily have a specific message to convey or have people take away, but my primary goal was that people listen to the women in the film. And I guess that can, you know, expand to the people around you and to make space for people’s stories, even if they make you feel uncomfortable or guilty about your complicity, complicity in the system that, you know, harmed Black women and Black people.
Em: Well, thank you so much again for taking the time to sit down and chat with me today. I would like to ask just. Lastly, this isn’t an official question, but if there’s anything else that you would like to share with us, and this could be either about yourself or your film, we would love to know.
Kourtney: I think that’s all. I’ll also say thank you for bearing with me. I’m just a little frazzled because I have three hours to sleep last night. So I feel like I wasn’t entirely sensical, but thanks for bearing with me.
Em: No need to apologize. You know, this has been great. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me and for sharing your film with Off Colour!
Kourtney: Thank you, and it was my pleasure!