Jessica Oreck makes projects large and small that instill a sense of wonder and invite viewers to question their relationship with the natural world. Her most recent feature-length documentary, Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys, premiered in competition at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. Her first film, the award-winning Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, played theatrically around the world and aired on PBS’s Independent Lens series. She is currently in post-production on a new feature film and several short animated projects, including the recently released web series Mysteries of Vernacular. Jessica considers her second home the American Museum of Natural History, where she has worked as an animal keeper and educator periodically since 2006. (Press materials)
give us your description of the film.
Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga is about the way that humans
look at and interact with wilderness. It’s about memory, folklore, traditions,
war, human nature. The usual.
you to this story?
at this stage, it’s sort of hard to say. I started this project more than 5
years ago. I was just finishing my first feature, Beetle Queen
Conquers Tokyo, and I was sort of casting about for something else to work
on. I knew that I wanted to keep making films about ethnobiology, but I don’t
remember exactly what it was that set this project in motion. I just remember
diving into the research with this deeply seeded idea. Most of my ideas are
like that — they just sort of germinate overnight — like some tooth-fairy muse
has planted it deep in my brain.
Much of my
creative process is very intuitive — I often don’t remember writing or editing,
or even working at all. It feels like I am just channeling some other entity. I
realize how unhip that sounds, but it’s honest.
was the biggest challenge in making the film?
always difficulties. Our camera started having speed and registration issues
about halfway through production. And everyday we would pack a five-person crew
into a crushed and cramped car in extreme heat, bumping over nearly
non-existent roads. We would get stopped at borders, lose equipment in the mud,
get food poisoning, get lost. But overall, I think those things sort of blur in
my memory, and I am left with a misty, romantic nostalgia for that place and
advice do you have for other female directors?
the biggest misconception about you and your work?
know! I’ve never really considered that. I tend to make work that’s pretty open
to interpretation. I hope I encourage people to take away what they will from
the films. So I supposed there are plenty of readings that wouldn’t necessarily
align with my goals, but I think I’m okay with that.
your favorite women directed film and why.
Travail and 35 Shots of Rum. I can’t even begin to
summarize why these are my favorites. They are just perfect.