Short film JONES gives us a glimpse into the shame and isolation that often accompanies addiction.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge caught up with director Stacey Maltin and lead actress Marzy Hart to learn about the film, their creative partnership, and much more.
Q: ‘JONES’ is inspired by Marzy’s own personal experiences. Can you talk about these experiences and why you wanted to bring them to the screen?
M: Short-ish version of the story is that I’m Russian and I grew up in New York City. It’s not the most welcoming place for kids because everything is a bar. You have to find your own entertainment.
For my friends and me that was sipping Georgi from brown paper bags or mixed into our Snapple bottles. It started out as a way to pass the time but before I knew it my grades were down and I was a functioning alcoholic. I started bartending at after hours parties towards the end of high school which fed my forming addiction.
I didn’t know I had a problem until I became sober. I did it to see if I could, really. About a year later, I was no longer craving alcohol. I didn’t go to AA because it scared me. I sort of managed on my own. I figured I quit by telling myself it wouldn’t be forever, so putting a “forever” on it seemed detrimental to me and my personal journey.
I started watching the show MOM last year, if you haven’t seen it, it’s amazing. I had no doubt that AA does help people. MOM gave me insight and helped me feel less alone. I knew that I wanted do that for others, to be part shaking off the shame and openly talking about alcohol addiction.
That is why I made JONES. It wasn’t until earlier this year in therapy when my therapist said my experience aligns with harm reduction. I wasn’t sure how to approach harm reduction in a short film, because it’s very off the beaten path, so I ended up going with AA. I personally don’t believe that sobriety is one size fits all.
Q: Where did you (Stacey) enter the project creatively? And how did you connect with the story as a director?
S: Marzy asked me to come on board the project relatively early in the development process. I think it helped a lot how close we are as friends and collaborators.
It’s really inspiring for me that Marzy is so open in sharing her personal experiences and I feel a huge responsibility to do justice to her story while bringing my own creativity to the piece.
As someone who hasn’t dealt with personal addiction issues, I really identified with the part of the story where Jones is in her head when she’s at home and it feels like the clock is ticking incredibly slowly and every sound in the apartment drives her mad. I’ve had that moment and that anxiety so I can deeply connect to the feeling of turning to a bottle to make that inner darkness go away.
I also wanted to bring a surreal aspect to the storytelling to show that Jones is continually running away from this craving inside of her and it’s always there whether she’s actually drinking or not.
M: I’m just so damn inspired by my bestie. I swear she was in my head, encouraging me as I worked on the first draft, eager to send it her way. I’m pretty sure she was part of it from the very beginning, whether she knew it or not.
Q: ‘JONES’ shows us the type of desperate low points addiction can drag a person down to. What did you want to get audiences thinking about/reflecting on with Jones’ struggles?
M: I hope it inspires the audience to check in with themselves. It’s hard to hear it when someone else tells you that you have a problem. You have to be able to take your own inventory, see yourself from the outside. While alcohol is the vehicle in JONES, I think this applies to many things.
S: I hope it inspires people to understand that every addiction is its own story and that no story is the same. Jones wants to stop drinking but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy or that the decision to stop is the end of journey. It’s really important to me to show this in a non-preachy way.
Q: Can you tell us how you met and formed your creative bond?
M: We met when Stacey came to audit an ongoing improv class I’d been studying at for years with the same group of students. I was still under the impression that all women were competition and I was instantly threatened by the talented, cool, gorgeous new girl. We had Ethiopian food on the way home and bonded.
A few weeks later I auditioned for and was cast in Stacey and Dani Tenenbaum’s film The Next Two Nights, which turned into our first feature Landing Up (Bold Compass Films). They asked me to come on board as an actor and producer. I was honestly on the brink of moving to LA because I’d struggled to find the right collaborators. I found my film family in Stacey and Dani and we’ve been working together ever since. Besties Make Movies was formed in November 2017 with the same group.
There are tons of ups and downs in this industry but most of the time, I’m pinching myself to make sure this has all been real!
S: Continuing on what Marzy said, it started with one project that grew to a bigger project and a trust was formed. There are very few people I trust in this world aside from my partner, Dani, and Marzy is one of them.
We share our ups and downs and that makes our creative bond stronger. We don’t bullshit each other so we know that we can trust feedback to make each other’s writing or performance the best it can be. I’m so excited for what’s still to come with Besties Make Movies and truly grateful to have collaborators who put their trust in my creativity.
Q: How do you feel you compliment each other creatively?
M: I think we came together because we have the same goals, values and we are hustlers. We support and respect each other completely, treating each other’s wins as our own. This foundation allows us the space to grow together. There’s a lot of balancing, even when we feel overwhelmed, we know we’re not alone.
It’s also great because both multi hyphenates and we always have someone to run the show if one of us is acting or directing. Plus, our film fam has grown a lot over the last year which has made it easier!
S: I think we’re up front with each other in what our goals are for each project we decide to take on. That allows us each to strive for our respective dreams in a way where we understand expectations. That’s really helpful since in the independent film world we’re often wearing many hats and not just the one we may happen to be the most interested in.
Q: You are both founding members the production company Besties Make Movies. What type of work do you want to produce in the coming years?
M: As content creators our focus is on stories that highlight marginalized voices. We like to play in all forms and genres. That being said, I’m eager to work on some sci-fi and fantasy!
S: I love to work in all genres and we’re currently developing a super diverse slate. The most important thing I think about with projects I write are complex female characters who are allowed to be messy while still giving us someone to root for.
Q: It seems as though you have lots of exciting projects lined up at Besties Make Movies, including ‘Linked’ and ‘Triple Threat’. Can you reveal anything about these projects and what else you have lined up for 2019?
M: Hell yeah! These are a couple of our up-coming works. Linked is a series we created with our bestie Jay DeYonker about people in NYC that find themselves connected because sex and jewellery. The pilot will be screening in March as part of Cinequest 2019!
Triple Threat is a feature film, currently in production, written and directed by Stacey. We’re at the point in our lives when many of our friends are having babies and it feels like they’re giving up on the dream. Triple Threat explores ‘career babies vs human babies’, relationships between friends and significant others and whether or not we can have it all. We’ll be crowdfunding for Triple Threat in the near future on Seed&Spark and are mega excited to give the audience a chance to become part of our team.
S: I’m so thrilled to be screening Linked at Cinequest and to go deeper into development on the full series. What started out as a few short films that all lived in the same world has turned into something so much bigger.
Triple Threat was born out of my undying love for Broadway musicals and the questions that I have around having kids. I am so excited to have a musical element to this film. We’ll be heading into the recording studio soon! It’s also a thrill to act alongside my besties Marzy and Jay and also direct the piece. Stay tuned!