Jess Kennedy on My Sisters

August 5, 2021
The actor/writer/director writes for us about her topical short film.

Having been the lead actor in numerous award-winning shorts, I’ve seen the immediate impact films can have in a short span of time. It’s incredible to think, when executed well, this form can engage audiences in discussion and capture unique moments of humanity.

In early 2020, with COVID an ominous background presence, my motivation was to expand and further develop my writing abilities. After receiving US acting representation and auditioning for a slew of projects, I realised there were certain themes deserving of more intense and open exploration.

My Sisters is a short film that tackles the social and familial pressures of not being in a romantic relationship. It challenges the audience to ponder why society can’t comprehend people feeling satisfied and whole without being in one. For our protagonist June, she is navigating that notion in an even deeper sense; questioning whether she in fact fits within the construct of a romantic relationship at all.

Although it’s slowly changing, I grew up mostly watching female characters strive for romantic love. Even if the story was centred around other dreams and follies, the ultimate need for romantic relationships often seemed to serve as the moral lesson. No character ever seemed to question whether living entirely outside this concept would provide a happy, satisfying life and ending.

While honing later drafts, I spoke with a writer friend who openly identifies as Asexual and came on as a script advisor. During a conversation, she discussed something that really resonated with me; the value of exploring the turmoil of not knowing. Living in this head space, regarding your identity can be excruciating. The need to feel understood is paramount for anyone questioning where they fit in terms of their sexuality.

Although I’d worked as an actor on set, I’d never studied film production as a craft. I felt that focusing on a deceivingly simple conversation that unfurls over one night was complex enough as a first-time filmmaker. I’m lucky such talented Heads of Department and crew trusted in the story.

As for COVID restrictions, we were exceptionally fortunate with our timing. We filmed during the brief 2020 interim where rules in Melbourne had relaxed slightly, allowing us to legally film with a skeleton crew. The news of our city’s second official lockdown was announced whilst we were on set. We wrapped in time, waking to the first day of Melbourne’s longest, strictest lockdown. Since then, it’s been a matter of finalising the film and gearing towards a film festival circuit.

My Sisters provided me with an invaluable hands-on learning experience. It was an opportunity to explore new professional territory and most importantly capture a conversation that will hopefully resonate deeply with certain audiences. A member of set recently shared with me their takings from the film, how it enabled them to question their own personal pressure regarding the subject. To have My Sisters provoke personal and social reflection is the ultimate achievement for me.

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