The Sitdown: Feminist filmmaker Jennifer Reeder tackles the tough teenage years
Jennifer Reeder is about to make her 44th film.
And this one’s her most ambitious, she says. “Blood Below the Skin,” a short film about three high school girls who bond over an unanticipated incident, is Reeder’s most expensive and dialogue-heavy project.
The Hammond resident is using Kickstarter for the first time and has already hit the $8,000 goal of her crowdfunding campaign, which ends Sunday.
Other successes for the feminist filmmaker include recent awards at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen in Germany, Vienna Independent Shorts and the Chicago Underground Film Festival. But for Reeder, a film professor at University of Illinois at Chicago and mother of three boys, the victory comes in creating something people will remember:
When I was a teenager I felt really influenced by John Hughes movies because I actually did feel like there was something that reflected me in a relatively accurate way. Sort of how Sam Baker from “16 Candles,” and her parents forgetting her birthday. All of the awkwardness.
The title came from “bruise” and what a bruise means. I thought that was a perfect metaphor for a lot of characters from “Blood Below the Skin” because a lot of them are really sustaining this kind of low-level trauma that hasn’t quite healed.
I didn’t have to break up any fights on set, and these girls were really coming from lots of schools around Chicago and the suburbs. At the end of the third day, they were all exchanging numbers and connecting on Facebook.
I like utilizing the same actors. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.
In these films I always go back to the ’80s. Partially because it was the music that I listened to when I was a teenager, but there’s also a sense of autobiography in the songs that I use. I’m a big Smiths fan, I’m a Madonna fan, I’m a Blondie fan. It’s still the music that I go to on a good day or a bad one.
I’m primarily interested in telling stories about women’s experiences. It’s based on things that I’ve been working out for 10 years. It’s about teenagers, it’s for teenagers and also for women. I can’t tell a story of an adult woman’s experience without considering her adolescence.
The funniest thing I did between the summer of undergrad and grad was I was an assistant for a wedding videographer. Going to dozens and dozens of weddings over the summertime paid the rent but it was a weird job.
Teaching is a way for me to engage with people who are just starting to make films. I love being in a classroom with enthusiastic young people. The students at UIC are so rad and so curious and really committed, and teaching also forces me to keep current. I don’t ever want to teach the same syllabus every semester.
It’s been really humbling to basically beg for money, but I don’t want to use Kickstarter again. It’s been great but there’s a lot of work you have to do before they launch it. You have to figure out what your rewards are going to be, the financial stuff.
There’s no time to get lazy. Having three boys has made me think, “Maybe I should make a film about boys.” Maybe even with my boys; they’re really wild and active kids. Unfortunately, they want to make a zombie movie, which is not really my jam.