Last January, I had the honor to watch as female film actress Zoe Lister-Jones (New Girl, Breaking Upwards) not only made her debut as a director, writer and producer, but began to challenge the perspective of women on Hollywood sets with her all-female crew at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Her raw comedy “Band Aid” (2017) premiered in beautiful Park City, Utah and, since then, has been sweeping the independent film charts with rave reviews from The Hollywood Reporter to The New York Times and more.
The film is about a couple, played by Lister-Jones and Adam Pally (Dirty Grandpa, The Mindy Project), who can’t stop fighting. After being advised to sort out their quarrels by their therapist, they recall their mutual love for music and decide to start a band. Once their first practice at improvised fight-singing is a success, they decide to take it to the next level, adding weird, next-door neighbor Dave, played by Fred Armisen (SNL, Portlandia), as drummer.
“Band Aid” immediately begins with a shot of a dripping faucet, an instant attention grab, as both the sound and closeup of the drip reels the viewer in. The short montage of the dirty kitchen to establish the scene is then followed by the introduction of the couple and their instant argument about who should have cleaned the sink. This exchange between the two is as witty as it is dark, with their jokes ranging from drug overdosing to the Holocaust. Yet, this modern dark humour had the entire theater of its premiere in absolute uproar over the course of the film.
The spirited banter and pristine comic timing found within the film aren’t the only thing that gets critic’s attention, though. Within the one-liners and visual gags, the script also deals with the commonalities of dual-gendered relationships and the idea of the male-female divide.
After the screening, I got the chance to listen in on a Q&A, as Lister-Jones answered questions about her inspiration for the film. She shared, “As a screenwriter, I was thinking about what I’d have the most fun writing and I’ve always had a lot of fun writing songs. Really, the birth of the story was looking for something that could have music as its center.”
Lister-Jones told Vulture in the week after Sundance that she also approached the writing process of “Band Aid” with the question, “If one could accept that we are distinctly different creatures, would that allow us to be in a relationship with more ease?” The couple she wrote about in the film slowly began to realize that the mending of their relationship is less about the lyrics they’re expressing and more about the understanding of one another, an idea that Lister-Jones is personally passionate about to explore in every aspect of her career, including on her own set.
During the Q&A at Sundance, Lister-Jones began by inviting up all her crew members to stand with her. The whole theater went wild as fifteen of her all female crew stood out of their seats and made their way to the stage to take in the empowering experience.
Lister-Jones’ decision of populating her first directorial experience with all women was sparked by the idea that women are constantly undermined and underrepresented behind the camera. The choice wasn’t a rejection or denial of men, but a celebration for female power. Lister-Jones shared in Vulture, “These are all women that don’t get the opportunities. To not only be given that opportunity, but to be in this slight universe where everyone has an opportunity and nobody’s being interrupted, it influenced the work we were making. I wanted to be in an environment that would make me my best artist.” Having women operate mostly male-dominated jobs, such as gaffer, grip and truck driver, it gave the women on set a sense of empowerment over the art they were all helping to create.
Since the work was acquired and distributed by IFC Films last year, Zoe Lister-Jones has been asked to attend more and more production meetings, and has seen a small, yet present, influx in Hollywood studios wanting to hire female directors.
In response to the question of why all women, she responded to IndieWire, “I don’t really have a moment where I remember making that decision. For some reason, it lived in me for a really long time, that this was something that I want to create in this world: A place where women, in a collective, get to do work that has otherwise been sort of difficult for them to break into.” She continued to explain, “The reality is still very bleak, but I hope more people are inspired to do so and inspired to sort of step outside their comfort zones, so that more changes can be affected”.
Rachel Blumberg can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org