Connected Nation

Lights! Camera! Action! Internet? One filmmaker shares how taking her craft online changed her work, opened new doors for moviemaking

March 20, 2024 Jessica Denson Season 5 Episode 9
Lights! Camera! Action! Internet? One filmmaker shares how taking her craft online changed her work, opened new doors for moviemaking
Connected Nation
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Connected Nation
Lights! Camera! Action! Internet? One filmmaker shares how taking her craft online changed her work, opened new doors for moviemaking
Mar 20, 2024 Season 5 Episode 9
Jessica Denson

In recognition of Women's History Month, we're putting a spotlight on women who are leaders in tech or leveraging technology in new ways. 

On this episode of Connected Nation, we talk with award-winning writer, producer, and director Jessica Mathis (aka Divinity Rose) about taking her craft online in the days of and following the pandemic.

Learn how it changed her approach to making her critically acclaimed project titled “Triggered.”  Plus, we explore how it’s informed her screenwriting work since, what challenges remain for filmmakers, and what she sees on the horizon for movie making *outside* of Hollywood’s normal channels.
Related Links:
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In recognition of Women's History Month, we're putting a spotlight on women who are leaders in tech or leveraging technology in new ways. 

On this episode of Connected Nation, we talk with award-winning writer, producer, and director Jessica Mathis (aka Divinity Rose) about taking her craft online in the days of and following the pandemic.

Learn how it changed her approach to making her critically acclaimed project titled “Triggered.”  Plus, we explore how it’s informed her screenwriting work since, what challenges remain for filmmakers, and what she sees on the horizon for movie making *outside* of Hollywood’s normal channels.
Related Links:
Websites: and

Jessica Denson (00:06):
This is Connect to Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds. We talk technology topics that impact all of us, our families, and our neighborhoods. On today's podcast, we talk with an award-winning writer, producer, and director about taking her craft online in the days of and following the pandemic, learn how it changed her approach to making her critically acclaimed project titled Triggered Plus, we explore how it's informed her screenwriting work since what challenges remain for filmmakers and what she sees on the horizon for movie making outside of Hollywood's normal channels. I'm Jessica Sen, and this is Connected Nation. I'm Jessica Sen, and today I'm speaking with Jessica Mathis, AKA Divinity Rose, an award-winning writer, producer, and director. Full disclosure here, Ms. Mathis and I are long time friends, right, Jessica?

Jessica Mathis (01:05):
That's right. We've been friends for a long time.

Jessica Denson (01:09):
It's fun to put our two professions together, which brings me to my opening question. Let's lay the foundation for our audience. Although I introduced you as a writer, producer, and director, your background is much more eclectic. Share with our audience some of your other work that you've done.

Jessica Mathis (01:26):
Sure. I come from a background in standup comedy and journalism. So I, since fifth grade, had been involved with both acting and writing and found a love for theater in middle school. Went from there to in my early twenties, realizing that standup was something anybody could just get up and try and do. And the thought of performing without a mask of a character was fascinating. And then about the same time I got involved with independent film, but I was also at the time writing for publications and learning to work within journalism.

Jessica Denson (02:05):
And you've done some pretty cool things. I know we're both based in Louisville, Kentucky, but you travel for a lot of projects and you do everything from, I know that your base was in theater, but you do a lot in all kinds of things. Talk a little bit more about some of the events that you've produced and performed some of your projects in journalism and maybe some things where people can watch something that you've done.

Jessica Mathis (02:30):
Sure. So I have always been the type of person to just try something to jump in and learn it, to pursue my interests. So theater was something through middle school, high school, early twenties. But I took an interest in independent film and really jumped in working as a production assistant in the art department and just being involved in acting. Actually the first film I ever auditioned for, I got a role across from Nora Dunn that was really cool. And just learning the process of a set and film production through experience and then writing articles for local publications turned into also editing and proofreading. And really all of my projects and performing and creations revolve around story. So I say I'm a storyteller by page or by stage or by screen. I'm a storyteller.

Jessica Denson (03:31):
I love that. I've never heard you say that. How have I not heard that? That's fantastic.

Jessica Mathis (03:35):
Well, sure. Probably because I've never really sat and read my bio to you over a drink.

Jessica Denson (03:40):
That's true. That's true. Yeah. So you've done everything from writing from Food and Dining magazine and doing all kinds of variety shows. You've even done stuff that cross into technology when people were first using the little, oh gosh, what do they call them? The little QR code things that we also QR codes. Thank you. So you've also done some things that we can find on Amazon and things like that. So talk a little bit about some of the projects that we can actually see.

Jessica Mathis (04:15):
Yeah, so I first of all would say that a lot of what I've done was producing out of necessity as a writer and a performer. I wasn't the type to sit around and wait for somebody else to make my stuff. So I started learning to make it and then got involved with doing that for others as well. So over time, it was a lot of live. I did over 400 live art showcases in three years that I produced at mc and booked other artists for. So you can't really find that to watch. But then I started to evolve and I made a proof of concept on Amazon called Dating Horror Stories as reenacted by classic movie monsters. It's kind of like really bad B horror comedy purposely, but it's real bad dates that people told me about. And one of them actually is one of yours. I won't say which one, but one

Jessica Denson (05:06):
Was, yeah, keep that secret.

Jessica Mathis (05:08):
Yeah, I was going to confess that. But yeah, so there's that, but that's not really the best quality project that I've done. I also was a producer on a TV show called Relative Justice that you may be able to find online. It was mostly on networks, and I've been a part of other things that aren't really available to watch publicly triggered, has made some festivals, but it's not really put out there publicly other than going to the website for now and keeping up with where you can watch it. But I hear if you go to the tele award site where they announce the award, they actually put the whole thing up there to watch, so you can I guess find it that way.

Jessica Denson (05:56):
So yeah, let's talk about some of the accolades and some of the great programs you've been in. And then let's really break down triggered, you were a finalist from some pretty high profile and respected screenwriting programs. Talk a little bit about those. That's pretty exciting. Sure.

Jessica Mathis (06:10):
Yeah. And that's important when you're having a discussion about the usefulness of internet connectivity in the film industry. It was only because of the internet that I can submit to these fellowships from Louisville, Kentucky and make headway in Hollywood. So in 2019, I was really interested in television writing. I wrote what's called a spec script where you write a script for a show that already exists, like your own vert episode for it. And then at the time, I really wanted to submit to Disney A B C's writer's fellowship. And at the time, they wanted one spec script and one original script, like a TV show. That was your idea that you wrote a pilot script for. And then when I finally had one of each, because I had been a single mom for a long time, and it took me some time to get through that, they changed it 30 days before the deadline to two original scripts.

So I had to bang out another one. But that year I submitted to three. I submitted because I was not interested able or interested in going to Hollywood for the fellowships where you're not paid, it's just free learning. I wanted to submit to the ones that at least paid travel or paid you a stipend while you were there. So I submitted to Disney, A B, C, Sundance Episodic Labs, and Ron Howard was running an incubator called Imagine Impact, and I made it to the finals of all three, which are very competitive depending on which one receive up to 20,000 Ries entries. And to make it to the finals is the top 25 to 50, depending on the

Jessica Denson (07:46):
That's fantastic. And your work is award-winning, received lots of grants to produce some of the stuff you have concepts for, and you've also won a lot of awards. Do you want to talk a little bit about what you've received, the accolades you've received?

Jessica Mathis (08:04):
Sure. So Kentucky is very lucky to have an organization called the Kentucky Foundation for Women. They offer grants to feminist artists in Kentucky. And because I had made it that far in the fellowships and could say, I've done this and show experience on some of the stuff, I'd made myself gone ahead and just done on whatever money I could find from my couch to make a project I could show experience, which helps a lot when you're applying for grants or trying to get other people to support you. So over time, I've received I think seven grants from them for various projects that were in alignment with their values. And I've since started a company called She Dreams, content Development and Production, which focuses on female forward projects. And so those early grants would be for a lot of writing. One was to write a script about, from a more diverse perspective about the PAC Horse librarians in Kentucky during the Great Depression. One was to write and produce the backbone for a mobile app for young girls where they traveled through time to restore women's stories to a futuristic museum. One was to produce a comedy special by a very talented rising comedy starlet, Mandy McKelvy about body autonomy. So the grants were very helpful and then triggered was one of the granted projects, and it won three tele awards and it won an audience favorite at one of the festivals, one of the three festivals it's been at so far.

Jessica Denson (09:47):
Yeah, some pretty incredible honors. In fact, Jess and I joke because she won the Gold Tell for rock craft riding, and I won the silver telly, so we swept that.

Jessica Mathis (10:00):
Yeah, and it was because of you that I had submitted to begin with because I had helped you with a project at one point that won awards and it was your project, but the whole team got the award, so I was like, I want awards for my project. So I submitted and then got the gold and you got the silver. So we just, yeah,

Jessica Denson (10:17):
That was awesome. I loved it. It was so great to see. We're so talented.

Jessica Mathis (10:24):
Look at us.

Jessica Denson (10:25):
Yeah. So let's get into Triggered. So tell our audience what Triggered is essentially about

Jessica Mathis (10:32):
Triggered right now is a collection of 10 short animations, about two to two and a half minutes each that are stories from 10 different women with post-Traumatic stress disorder. I say right now because the goal is to use these as a basis to expand it into a feature length documentary or a ongoing series. But this was a proof of concept granted with a small grant and then did some additional fundraising and interviewed 10 women. And honestly, the interviews could go for two or three hours. Sometimes they were very sensitive and emotional, but then condensing each person's story down to about two to two and a half minutes. How they, go ahead.

Jessica Denson (11:16):
Go ahead. No, finish your thought.

Jessica Mathis (11:18):
They really focus on each woman's suffering or what they struggle with trauma response and kind of what they've done to treat it and a moment of hope for the future.

Jessica Denson (11:34):
And what made you decide to tackle such a difficult topic?

Jessica Mathis (11:39):
I myself have post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had been through a lot as a child and even a teenager and young adult. I had been through foster homes as a kid and various types of abuse when I was in the foster care system. So it's really important. It became important to me when I realized I knew I had this experience in my past, but I didn't know I had PTSD for the longest time and nobody else did either because it's for so long been touted as just something that veterans deal with, when in reality there are millions of people walking around every day with PTSD that are diagnosed and tons more who aren't. So it's not just a veteran's issue. It's really can be for anybody who's experienced trauma

Jessica Denson (12:31):
And share what it's like to fund or produce a project like Trigger or even other movies at the local level. It's something that's obviously a passion project for you, something you really care about and doing well, but that takes funding. So what was it, how difficult is that to really navigate that for filmmakers like yourself?

Jessica Mathis (12:54):
Sure. I mean, funding is the most difficult part of any art form, especially in America. America doesn't seem to have the support for the arch that other countries, some other countries do, but there is some, and I will say I think it's easier almost to fund things like this than scripted narrative films that are fictional because these at least are an issue that this in particular is an issue that many people can relate to. And people would ask, how did you find people to be involved you? I wish it was harder. Like every woman I know has trauma response stories or experiences that caused them a need for some sort of therapy or help. And in these days, it is no secret. The world has become very complicated and there's a lot going on that can traumatize people. And trauma doesn't have to be severe. It can just be anything that really shocks your brain suddenly and injures your brain in a way that it responds to its stimuli and environment differently going forward. So funding something like this was a bit easier than saying, oh, I have a comedy film. I want to make everybody help me make this comedy film. Because there's organizations around trauma, there's people who have trauma, there's family members of people who have trauma, and it's becoming more apparent that it is a worldwide pandemic. It is an issue that needs discussion and needs to be pursued.

Jessica Denson (14:36):
Did it surprise you that you found so many people that had these stories worries?

Jessica Mathis (14:42):
I don't know that it really surprised me because I honestly kind of just reached out to people I had met along the way. I did have in place that the women who were interviewed had to have been through some treatment and they had to have a therapist that they could call on. They had to be through enough treatment that they could identify if they were feeling triggered while we were talking or if the project was upsetting them in some way and they had to have that therapist. They could call in if they needed to. So I don't think I was really surprised. I think that every person has trauma to some degree. It may not impact others in their lives as much as people diagnosed or seriously dealing with PTSD, but everybody has things that can set them off,

Jessica Denson (15:31):
Things that they've gone through that they maybe haven't dealt with.

Jessica Mathis (15:35):

Jessica Denson (15:36):
Yeah. These stories are told using animation. I know originally you'd planned to shoot these stories in a more traditional format. Explain how and why that shifted.

Jessica Mathis (15:48):
Well, when you receive a grant, depending on the organization you receive the grant from, you'll likely have reports that you have to turn in and deadlines. We were reaching the one year mark for the grant reporting deadline, and there had been interviews had been done, some writing had been done, things like that and planning. But the truth is, we got the grant, I think July, and there's a one year deadline to turn in a final report. That doesn't necessarily mean you have to finish the project by then, but you have to report on what you've done. And the pandemic started to evolve during that time. And then the lockdown started, and I was reaching a point where I had hoped to have at least some voiceovers or things done and shoots planned by the final report. But the pandemic, when we got around to that point, people lockdown was easing up, but every time people went to set, everybody would have covid, it would shut right back down. So I was, and then I got covid, and so I was pressed to feel like I wanted to accomplish more. I had planned to have two animated because of elements like fire that I didn't want to have to worry about on set, set safety, and that triples your budget or whatever. So I was going to originally animate too. But when I had covid and there was just all this risk to bringing people all together in one place, I decided to animate them. And

Jessica Denson (17:36):
How did that turn out? Do you feel like it changed the tone of the project?

Jessica Mathis (17:42):
Yeah, it was the best thing that could have happened. Honestly, the animation serves as such a nice buffer, like psychological buffer. If you were watching an actress tell this story or reenact one of these stories, it would be so heavy and hard to watch. It's a heavy topic, but the animations, they're very simple animations with just very basic emotions shown on the faces are much easier to digest. They're much easier for an audience to take in. So it was the best thing that could have happened. Happy accident.

Jessica Denson (18:18):
Yeah, happy accident. So how do you choose an animator and how do you go back and forth with developing an animation style, especially if you can't necessarily meet in person? Do you just do that over online or how does that even

Jessica Mathis (18:31):
Work? It was a really interesting process. I really lucked out. Everybody was in such a disarray and chaos with the pandemic that there was a problem with the animator I've used in the past. I was reaching out to other people who knew animators or animators. I kind of knew, but they were leaving the industry or they were sick or for whatever reason, I couldn't find one that I could afford through typical channels. And even looking for ones that I would've raised more money for or whatever, I just couldn't find any that could work within my timeframe. So I just went to Fiverr. I went to the website Fiverr, and I really wanted to find a female artist because part of my initiative with my company is to create opportunities for women in the industry and provide paid roles to women in the industry, paid work.

So I found this girl from Indonesia, and she was amazing. She caught right onto what I wanted for the emotion. She caught right onto what I wanted for the story. I would send her a script that was a breakdown, kind of like a commercial script where it's not like a screenplay for a film where it's a straight through script, but instead it's like a two column page where one side has the voiceover and one side has what's happening on the screen side by side for each scene. And then she would send me back a rough storyboard and some character drawings. I would email her back with feedback. She would email me back any changes, and then she'd emailed me a draft and I'd give her notes, email her notes, and then she'd email back until we had the finished product that I was happy with. And then I would have to take the voiceover in that and then work with an audio engineer, send it to a composer, sorry, to do the music, which I found also worked with online. I had met them originally at a convention in Atlanta, a monster they were playing at. But they do this cool electronic base, but I worked with them online too. And then it would go online to the audio and work with him the same way. Everybody kind of just emailing files back and forth and giving notes.

Jessica Denson (20:54):
And you did that 10 times, right? There's 10 different animations or stories, correct.

Jessica Mathis (20:59):

Jessica Denson (21:01):
That's a lot of work. It was. When you talk voiceover, for our audience sake, explain what that is and how you would approach that

Jessica Mathis (21:10):
Now that one, for the most part, we utilized a resource here in Louisville, Kentucky. One of our libraries has a podcast studio that you can book time in for free and go and use the mic and recording software. I'll say it's a semi soundproof studio. It blocks out some sound, but when kids are running around and bouncing in the library, you can still hear 'em. But we try to schedule and work around that. And so for the most part, I would meet an actress, just the two of us with masks over there, and we'd record the script that I had written after Dening down the story from the individual I interviewed to make sense and a streamlined story of all the information I'd gathered. And so I'd work with the actress, she would read it, we'd cut if we needed to, we'd try it again and then edit down the final file and then send that to the animator so that she would work from that for her pacing and everything. And we did have one girl that was originally from Kentucky and she had moved to la, but I wanted her to be one of the actresses doing voiceover, and she recorded from LA and sent me the file.

Jessica Denson (22:34):
I mean, that's pretty incredible, putting all those pieces together, writing the stories, having to do that. How long did it take you before you finally had your final project?

Jessica Mathis (22:44):
Probably, well, from the time we got the grant and I started doing interviews, I think two years.

Jessica Denson (22:53):
Two years. It's a lot of work. Do you think

Jessica Mathis (22:56):
Around other projects and the actresses and the animator were paid, but it's still a juggling act when you're working with freelancers for sure.

Jessica Denson (23:06):
So the grant essentially paid for, not necessarily for your time, but for just the people that you paid outside of it to do some of the work.

Jessica Mathis (23:18):
Well, when you apply for a grant, it's totally acceptable to put artist fees, including your own.

Jessica Denson (23:25):
That's good. Yeah,

Jessica Mathis (23:28):
But I'll be very transparent. I'm, I'm really coming from a background as a single mom artist, I am pretty good at getting things done for way under budget. I work with whatever I need to get it. So I believe we probably got total between a couple. We actually got two small grants from them for this, I think like $5,000 I think total. The project was a $16,000 budget.

Jessica Denson (24:01):
Oh wow. So did you end up paying some out of pocket fundraising? Oh, fundraising. Okay.

Jessica Mathis (24:06):
Well, we did fundraising. I probably paid some out of pocket, but we did some crowdsourcing as well. And I think when I say 16,000, I think some of that might be donated in kind contribution. But yeah, total and myself, I probably got 2,500 of that. So not a lot. It is more a passion project for sure, to develop it to expand into something bigger.

Jessica Denson (24:40):
Just striking to me though, that there should be a line item where the person who's creating this gets paid without apology, but

Jessica Mathis (24:50):
Just, yeah,

I think it's a matter of how willing the person in charge is to make sure the project gets done no matter what or how firm they are. And I'll only do this if I also get compensated upfront. For me, it was kind of an investment in myself because I would be able to use it to show what I can do and then won the awards and stuff. And that's definitely elevated my skillset and being able to sell myself as a producer. So that was a consideration for me as well as now it's developed enough that people get the concept and I could raise potential series funding to make a bigger version.

Jessica Denson (25:38):
Do you think some of the online work creatives were forced to turn to during that time will impact the film industry long term?

Jessica Mathis (25:46):
I think it already has. There are far more people jumping online to meet with people. It wasn't as common. But now, for example, I went to Atlanta recently and I wanted to expand my circles and I was emailing other producers there that I found online or LinkedIn, and I was like, Hey, I am in town, but we can always jump on a Zoom call. I'd just love to meet you and have a general meeting. And that's just made it so much easier than having to go to LA to meet with somebody. For example, I got to be a part of an LA screenwriting groups where we trade scripts and give feedback, partially met these people because of the Ron Howard finals opportunity where I made it to the finals of that fellowship. They put some of their, well, they put all their alumni and some finalists into a community to meet and network.

And because of that, I got to be part of a professional screenwriting group that helped me grow tremendously because we met online and then had networking meetings online, and it did diminish some after the pandemic, but there's still so much more happening online than there ever used to be. I even have Zoom rehearsals for live shows that are with locals now, just so we all don't have to with our busy lives, go somewhere for our rehearsal and be there and worry about food and drink and then drive home and just add that traffic and drive time and the gas cost to your rehearsal.

Jessica Denson (27:18):
As we mentioned earlier, you're in Kentucky, which is really outside the mainstream of Hollywood channels, which you've talked about a couple of times and mentioned what's the film industry in the bluegrass state?

Jessica Mathis (27:31):
Kentucky has film incentives now, and we got 'em not long before the pandemic then, so everything came rushing back after the pandemic. But we have film incentives now, so we're kind of a little baby state, a little baby industry where people are curious and they're coming here and they're using the incentives and they're making films. But in so much so that when I got on a plane to go to LA last time, I was in between two other filmmakers, big time people coming to Kentucky to make films now, which is, wow, what a weird coincidence to be coming out of Kentucky. And you're sitting with other industry people. So it is definitely growing. I hear it's a lot like Atlanta when it first started because while we have talent here and all these resources and incentives, we don't have enough trained crew to really handle a bunch of productions at once. So we're still growing. There's a lot of people who see and recognize the need for more education in our area and the development of trained crew members. So it's growing.

Jessica Denson (28:46):
So for crew members, do they travel as well when there are sets or is it better to have people that are there already established?

Jessica Mathis (28:56):
Well, in Kentucky specifically and other places with incentives, oftentimes hiring local crew is how you get incentives or part of why you get incentives. So I'd have to look at, I haven't looked in a while. I have to look at our incentives package, but I think it's like you're supposed to hire 30% local or something like that. The benefits of bringing people in from LA is that you're probably bringing in people you've worked with before if you're from there or that have been trained properly or they're part of a union. Kentucky's a right to work state. So there's some lines there that are interesting. But there are benefits to hiring locals because they know the area and they can provide resources. And honestly, Kentucky are super friendly. People here are super, super friendly. Everybody says that when they come here. But at the same time, if they're not trained for specific roles well enough, they can cause a lot of problems and additional costs to our production when they suddenly have to fly somebody in from LA unexpectedly to take over.

Jessica Denson (30:03):
So it's definitely a benefit if there are trained crew locally,

Jessica Mathis (30:09):
Definitely. Yeah, we really need to grow our infrastructure. In the time I've spent in Atlanta, because they're a little further along in that, everybody I've met there has such a growth mindset where they work together and they all are doing whatever they can together to get more people to bring their films there and educating themselves and attending events and things like that. And that's starting to happen here. So that's really exciting.

Jessica Denson (30:32):
That is exciting. So I asked you to join me in honor of Women's History Month because of Triggered and your work as a woman in arts and entertainment. So let's touch on triggered just a little bit more. Why do you think this resonates so much with women?

Jessica Mathis (30:47):
Well, I think especially coming out of the Me Too movement, we now, okay, now we know there's trauma. Now we all know we have this trauma in common. Now what do we do with it? So I think that's why it's so important that there is now a resource for people to learn, and not just for women, but a lot of groups who have faced oppression in the past, that we have a resource to learn what to do with those experiences. Because if you look up PTSD documentary, even if you type civilian PTSD documentary, there's nothing. It's all about veteran PTSD.

Jessica Denson (31:33):
So you really feel there are more topics to explore in this area?

Jessica Mathis (31:40):
Yeah, I think that, I didn't know I had PTSD and honestly felt like a black sheep and had been judged and even punished for a lot of things that were actually classic textbook PTSD symptoms. And so there are so many people out there probably, well, I know because met them and in my own experience think they are bad people or there's something inherently wrong with them, don't understand why they can't get it together so to speak, or why they react to certain things the way they do. And they could be living tremendously different lives with just a little bit of treatment because what they're experiencing and what others you're experiencing from them is not a just because they're purposely being obstinate or causing a problem, it's that they have a brain injury and they need to rewire their system,

Jessica Denson (32:43):
Basically seeing the world in a different way. And others aren't understanding that.

Jessica Mathis (32:49):
Correct. Yeah. When you experience trauma, it actually rewires you. It shifts your perception, it shifts your brain's ability to make connections. And there's all sorts of interesting research about trauma that really needs more attention. Like the fact that there's been a study about generational trauma where when somebody has experienced trauma, there's a certain gene that's been flipped, and you can pass that down to your kids so that your kids can exhibit that same kind of behavior, even though they weren't the original ones to experience the trauma.

Jessica Denson (33:24):
So it changes your makeup as well. Yeah, there's probably so much that we don't even know that people are still learning regarding it. Correct.

Jessica Mathis (33:34):
Yeah. I think we're just now where the discussion is getting bigger and that will drive further exploration and realizations.

Jessica Denson (33:46):
I think it would be interesting to see what else they learn for sure, especially within this. And as a woman, let me turn to you as a woman in the filmmaking world, are there some unique challenges or opportunities for women or things that you've experienced that you would share good and bad?

Jessica Mathis (34:07):
I think that I laugh because I don't think it's just the film industry. Every woman I know who is in charge of teams faces the difficulty of men not respecting them as leaders. And not all men of course, but most women I know have experiences with the men under them, challenging them constantly or having problems with feedback and feedback and whether somebody disagrees with it or not. It's always like, there can always be contention, but it just seems like they have a harder time with a woman saying that might be, but this is my decision and we're going with it.

And I say this because I've worked with those same men where we were all working for a man side by side. And so I think that it can be a challenge as a female who is compassionate and tries to give men multiple chances or work extra hard compared to other leaders who might just like, this is what your expectation is and you're going to be held accountable. Women sometimes bring more emotion to it or growth mindset where they want to work with the person, and sometimes that just gives them too much freedom to, I don't know, I don't want to say talk back, but feel validated and challenging your leadership more. And so I've started having to just kind of have separate zooms with guys sometimes and let them know that they're being disrespectful and typically they'll apologize and move forward. But I've had experiences where I didn't do that with them, and I just finished out the job and dealt with it and then didn't hire 'em again. And later they'd come around apologizing and hinting that they wanted more work.

Jessica Denson (36:16):
Yeah, it's something I think a lot of women have struggled with, and none of us want to be a man in the workplace. We still want to be ourselves and manage how we want to manage or should manage without having,

Jessica Mathis (36:31):

Jessica Denson (36:32):
No, go ahead, Jessica.

Jessica Mathis (36:35):
I really only run into problems where my own competency makes a man question his own. If my competency makes somebody feel insecure,

Jessica Denson (36:50):
You mean where you may know more than them? And so they're unsure,

Jessica Mathis (36:54):
And no matter how gently I try to explain something to 'em, or once they get their feelings hurt, they pull attitude or they not, their feelings hurt. That's not the right word. I don't do anything to hurt their feelings. I just mean that if you point out something that's a weakness, even if you do it gently or you try to do it in a way that's supportive or what have you, they don't like that I've had them do everything from cuss me out to quit, to just pulling attitude and trying to rally other people to be upset. And the other people are like, dude, she's right.

Jessica Denson (37:36):
So you're really saying it's not just a film industry thing that's just across the board that you've experienced that in the different areas that you've worked?

Jessica Mathis (37:44):
Yeah, I have. And I've seen other women too, from power groups and networking groups. And

Jessica Denson (37:52):
Are there any great women screenwriters, performers, or movie makers that you really admire?

Jessica Mathis (37:58):
I have a DHD. So anytime people ask me a question like that, I almost short circuit my autistic tendencies, almost short circuit so many options. But the one that I can say without any hesitation is Tina Fey. I think Tina is an amazing performer, writer, comedian, and yet because she can do sketch, but in my brain is very exaggerated sketch comedy all the time, which is very funny after talking about something triggered. But that was a personal project, but she manages to it and balance it in a way that it's just right. And she could do stuff that's not that over the top as well.

Jessica Denson (38:44):
So you admire her for being able to strike that balance and do both things,

Jessica Mathis (38:49):
And to be able to be both a performer and a writer and a director to be able to do all of those roles.

Jessica Denson (38:57):
Have you heard that the guy who started SNL is talking about having her take over SNL when he retires for No, it's pretty cool. What's his name? They always make fun of him. I can't think of what his name is.

Jessica Mathis (39:11):
Lauren Michael.

Jessica Denson (39:12):
Yeah, Lauren Michaels. Yeah. What advice would you give other women who want to explore making movies or screenwriting

Jessica Mathis (39:20):
Connect with other women? I will say I've been a part of a screenwriting group where I was the only female and a screenwriting group where it was all females, well, a couple groups where it was all females, and I've been a part of one that was mixed pretty evenly when I was the only female. This is the kind of stuff I dealt with. I posted in the forums where you're supposed to introduce yourself, everybody introduces themselves and what they've done, kind of how far they've made it. And I just mentioned, Hey, I'm Jesse. I've made it to the finals of these fellowships, including Ron Howard's Imagine Impact. And one of the guys in the group responded, how the heck did you do that? I've been trying for years. What are you, Ron Howard's love child or something. I couldn't just be better than him.

Jessica Denson (40:09):
So belittling it. Yeah.

Jessica Mathis (40:11):
Yeah. And I was like, I just played it off. I didn't want to start that group on a contentious note. And I was like, well, I don't know. My dad and I am a ginger, so maybe mainly Ron Howard's my dad. I don't know. But that group was all men, and they were very focused on when they give feedback on your script, most of the times it wasn't like, I see what you're doing there. I think this might work better, or whatever it was. Here's how I think you should change your script to fit my idea of what it should be. And when I am in the women's screenwriter in groups, they're much more like, what's your overall goal with this? Or I see your end goal. I don't think this serves it. Can you think of another way to do that? And they're much more focused on what you want to achieve instead of suggesting how you should redo everything based on their ideas of what your project should be. And I don't know that it's necessarily inherently bad. I think it's just how they operate differently, but that connecting with other women, I do think that most women would feel more support. And also I have found that women make less excuses and just get things done.

Jessica Denson (41:27):
So that brings me to my next question. How important is it for women in the industry to lift up other women?

Jessica Mathis (41:34):
I think any industry, it is extremely important for women to lift up other women because that's who you're going to lean on, and that's how you're going to build up a support circle for yourself. So the more you're offering that to other women, the more you're going to find it.

Jessica Denson (41:55):
How do you see the internet impacting women in the industry specifically? And can it open more doors or are there additional challenges that arise from your point of view?

Jessica Mathis (42:08):
I do think that the internet opens more doors in any circumstance for anybody. Like I said, I couldn't have been part of those screenwriting groups from LA or made the connections that I did without the internet. When I did get a chance to perform at Flappers in Burbank, I had more audience members there than the locals. And that was from people I had met originally online. And so I think that for women, for Men, it's opening doors. I do think that the internet also opens doors for us to get messages, inappropriate messages from people in and outside your industry. And I've definitely had a share fair of men. I tried to approach professionally that immediately took it to trying to get me to come over at night and stuff. So the internet is just open gateway of contact, so you have to know what your boundaries are.

Jessica Denson (43:02):
So in other words, sometimes women are at risk as well, and you need to be aware of that.

Jessica Mathis (43:08):
Definitely need to be aware of that. I went to a coffee shop meeting with a guy that was to pitch him on a creative concept. He worked in an ad agency, and next thing I knew he was texting me to come over at night and things like that. He had been going through a divorce and didn't want to meet out in public, wanted me to come to his house. And there's a lot of that in the industry where, I mean, that's where the whole Me Too movement came from, where there've been producers who want you to come audition or chat with you, but it turns out it's at their house or at their hotel room or what have you. And the internet just gives a little more freedom for people to connect to you and maybe not get you to a certain location and be harmful, but to send you content that you're not receptive to or send you advances that you're not receptive to.

Jessica Denson (44:01):
Understandable. I mean, yeah, it's something we all have to look out for.

Jessica Mathis (44:06):
And another challenge for every industry is if somebody doesn't like something you've done, they can instantly go and try to smear you all over the place online. So that's something you have to consider and be aware of

Jessica Denson (44:17):
And keep an eye out for at all times. Right. Yeah. It's funny what people are willing to say when they aren't sitting in front of you rather, and they have autonomy of the internet, you know

Jessica Mathis (44:32):
What I mean? I've had to send a legal system desist before for somebody who was spreading untrue information.

Jessica Denson (44:40):
Well, are there any projects you're working on or excited about that you can share with us?

Jessica Mathis (44:45):
I'm really excited. I have a short film called Blocked, and it's funny, it was actually inspired by that guy that I had the meeting with. It's a comedy about this awful guy trying to date. And I also have, the comedy is special by Mandy McKelvy. We did a live taping back in November that we're going to be working to screen, we'd like to hit five cities this year with screenings as we seek streaming platform distribution, because the election year, it's a really important topic. It deals with body autonomy, but it's hilarious and it It's

Jessica Denson (45:23):

Jessica Mathis (45:23):
Women, all sorts of people. Yeah, you got to see it.

Jessica Denson (45:27):
It's hilarious.

Jessica Mathis (45:28):
Yeah, it's super powerful though. People were in tears while we were taping it. They were laughing, they were crying, they were forming support circles in the bathrooms. We did not expect that at all, but it was great. So that I'm working on the post-production in that, and I have a feature length Christmas comedy that I have some producers interested in that think they could find funding and are interested in producing. So I am waiting with bated breath on that. So yeah, hoping that goes through this year.

Jessica Denson (46:01):
Very exciting. Well, Jessica, I love you. I've got nothing but love for you. As we've mentioned at the top. We've been friends for a long time, but it's really amazing all that you do and how talented you are. So thank you for joining us today.

Jessica Mathis (46:15):
I'm so kind of you. Thanks so much for having me

Jessica Denson (46:22):
Again. My guest today has been Jessica Mathis, AKA Divinity Rose, which is her performance name. She's an award-winning writer, producer, and director. She also has accolades and comedy and other performance art. I'll include links to her triggered stories and company's website, and a description of this podcast

Jessica Denson (46:40):
Still ahead. This season on Connected Nation, we'll talk to the co-author of a new report that examines how states are approaching reforms to telehealth laws, from allowing access to specialists across borders, to creating flexibility for innovation. Plus, we'll talk to an internet service provider that's using what it calls flexible deployment to bring access to everyone from rural communities to inner city households. I'm Jessica Denson. Thanks for listening. If you like our show and want to know more about us, head to connected or look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.


Mathis background
Mathis history in screenwriting programs
Mathis critically acclaimed project "Triggered"
Work in animation
How Mathis funded "Triggered"
Why"Triggered" resonates with women
Advice for women who want to go into screenwriting
Mathis upcoming projects