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"This film will not change the world, but you won't care": Indie filmmaker Jane Rosemont on her latest film Shirts!

Meet the quirky and down to Earth Jane Rosemont as she candidly talks about indie films, the surge of phone photography and why self-indulgence isn't pretty when it comes to films
UPDATED JAN 30, 2020
(Source: Getty Images)
(Source: Getty Images)

Award-winning photographer, filmmaker, writer and director Jane Rosemont has a knack for the unusual. An independent filmmaker, she's been behind the lens for more than three decades now. Originally from Santa Fe, Mexico, Rosemont believes that filmmaking led her to really scratch beneath the surface.

"In movies as in real life, I'm drawn to unusual stories and people, anything and anyone that encourages me to look twice, think harder, perhaps even question what I think I know," she says, a clear reflection of the things she talks about in her films. 

To her, the lens was a microphone. "My camera was my first venture into 'speaking' my own truths and views. It felt invigorating to discover who I really was, and at first, I was shy about letting everyone know because I didn't fit into the stereotype. Mind you, I wasn't off-the-charts-weird, but I was not accustomed to exploring people, places, faiths, etc. different from my own. Exploring diversity with a camera provided a better education than college," she says nostalgically. 

Her comedy, 'Shirts!' just premiered at the Dance with Films festival in Hollywood last week. The film is inspired by her husband, Dick Rosemont's love for shirts. The plot follows the protagonist as he seeks out the perfect shirt. For decades, her husband had sought out unusual material for custom-made shirts. Jane thought it was a great basis for a short film to impart joy and comedy.

"Many friends had suggested I do a film about Dick's shirts but that sounded boring. Who cares? One year, I went through some deep grief, three members of my family had passed away. In the throes of sadness it dawned on me I could convert grief into love in some way. I revisited the idea of doing a film about Dick’s shirts and realized it didn’t have to be a fashion show, that it could have a bit of a twist.

I came up with different scenarios for his shirts and ended up with 13 of them in the film. It was fun, and joyful, just what I needed," she says, adding, "Granted, this is not a film that will change the world, but for the 4 and a half minutes you're watching it, you won't care."

'Shirts!' has got an alien abduction, a miracle balloon animal and a crushing experience with beverage cans. As you can only imagine, behind the scenes would be just as crazy. "Behind the scenes was only slightly stressful. There was plenty of laughter on set by the whole crew, we even had a 'shirt wrangler.' Dick and I are a good team, and we talked at length beforehand about what he should do. He's a humble, balanced human being, so on the set, he was as much himself as he ever is."

Jane has also worked on other short films like 'Pie Lady of Pie Town' and 'Apotheosis'. 'Pie Lady of Pie Town' is narrated by veteran actor Wes Studi has won 18 film festival awards in many categories including best short film, best director, and best music. The documentary tells how Kathy Knapp left her privileged life to bake a pie in a remote town with no motel, no traffic light, no gas station, and no grocery store.

Jane says it was Kathy's personality that led her to do the film. "I chose to do a story about Kathy, the Pie Lady, first and foremost because of her personality. She is charismatic, a good storyteller, funny, and honest. There are many people who have stories to tell, but not everyone is articulate or has the strength of character that comes through on screen. Her story was worthwhile telling and the fact that it all takes place in the Old West made it all the better." 

Her other film 'Apotheosis' is all about a woman who creates dolls. It's based on a story that Jane wrote. "'Apotheosis' is based on a short story I wrote. It's moody, slightly spooky, certainly mysterious," she says. Describing the protagonist, she says that it is a woman who knows contentment.

"She creates her life's work, and the end results are rusty, damaged, yet, she's elated! Personally, I believe perfection is overrated, and 'Apotheosis' celebrates that fact. There is beauty in our faults and blemishes. Not incidentally, the film is also a celebration of photography." You can check out her photography series on the film, here.

Speaking of photography skills, she also points out that it is interesting to see the surge of so-called photographers these days. Every monkey with a camera calls himself a pro. Jane thinks that while it's a window of opportunity, it means nothing if it lacks commitment, she says.

"It's great that our cell phones offer an opportunity for people to record their version of the world. In the end, though, photography as a fine art will rise above the selfies and the enchilada plates," she says before adding, "A cell phone hobbyist can't possibly compare to someone who has made photos through decades, always learning and improving. Consistency pays off. Hobbyists probably don’t know the names Henri Cartier Bresson, Alfred Stieglitz, Mary Ellen Mark, etc."

Her work has always stood out in the indie film scene and it isn't for no reason, she finds stories in the mundane every day and her love for telling stories has always remained undeterred. "To make an indie film takes time, guts, and passion. It's imperative to love the subject matter, and important not to assume you will make lots of money," says the filmmaker. 

She's also quite picky about what she chooses to put on screen. "Every day someone tells me "You should do a film about…." but if I don’t come up with it organically, if I don't have the interest or the passion, then it's a waste of time and money," she says, matter-of-factly. 

Her worst fear? Making a boring film, she says. "One of my pet peeves is that all too often a film is longer than it needs to be. Creating a film is ultimately a gift to the world, so being self-indulgent isn't pretty. Check your ego at the door!"

'Shirts!' premieres on June 11, 2018 at the Dances with Films Festival. The entire festival runs from June 7-June 17 at the TCL Chinese Theaters, located at Hollywood & Highland in Los Angeles.