BAND AID: Zoe Lister-Jones, A Bonafide Sextuple Threat
[Published at Film Inquiry] Mark my words. The weekend of June 2, 2017 will go down as one of the most pivotal and crucial three days in the history of film. While Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot shattered industry gender confines for big budget filmmaking by breaking records with the incredible Wonder Woman, undoubtedly paving the way for more major studios to choose women filmmakers to direct blockbuster films, Zoe Lister-Jones quietly forged an unprecedented path in the independent filmmaking world. Band Aid is one of the first films to ever be made by an entirely female crew. It is also the most impressive filmmaking debut since Sam Mendes’s American Beauty.
To word it rather bluntly, Lister-Jones puts her industry peers to shame, writing, directing, producing, acting in, songwriting, playing guitar and bass, and singing for Band Aid. She creates a hilarious, raw, profound, and genre-redefining romantic dramedy with seeming ease. Band Aid is emboldened by an exemplary supporting cast starring Adam Pally, Susie Essman, Fred Armisen, Ravi Patel, Retta, Brooklyn Decker, frequent collaborator, Hannah Simone, and a flurry of fun cameos including friend Colin Hanks, Chris D’Elia, Jamie Chung, and Erinn Hayes.
The Future Is Female
About 50,000,000 Americans would be pissed off right now if they read those words again; it reminds them of Hillary Clinton’s empowering revitalization of the popular slogan. But in reality, they fear it, because it is true. “The future is female” slogan was created in the 1970s by the founders of a women’s bookstore, Labyris, and famously used in the March Against Media Arrogance (MAMA) in New York City on May 10, 1975, led by Florence Kennedy. That was over 40 years ago. Today, we are still dealing with issues of underrepresentation of women in media and entertainment, the global workforce, and governments all over the world.
I’m going to simply ask a question. Has it ever occurred to anyone that the reason humanity has been self-destructive for the past two or so millennia might be because it has been run by men? Well, let’s use a small example, say, a film set, to explore this question a bit. Lister-Jones had this to say in an interview about the all-female production crew: “Sadly, it doesn’t happen accidentally these days. It was amazing. It was a very nurturing and calm and patient and highly efficient set. So I highly recommend it.” Sounds like an idyllic and productive set to be apart of, if you ask me.
Fortunately, more and more industry leaders are confronting this prejudice and welcoming the inevitable change in more female representation behind the camera and in positions of power in film. I had the opportunity to ask Lister-Jones what the most difficult aspect of bringing her script to life was, to which she replied, “Well, I guess financing, probably, especially in the independent film world. That’s always the biggest hurdle, because that’s what you need to bring it to life, is funds. But on this film, I was really lucky that our financiers came on board really, really quickly and gave me a lot of creative autonomy.”
A Modern Musical, Through And Through
Band Aid is an innovative blend of music and film. Some critics may argue that the film doesn’t fit into the musical film genre, but that would imply that the genre is confined to a particular convention. Musicals come in all forms, and Lister-Jones brilliantly uses her main characters, Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben’s (Pally) arguments to bridge the gap between their musical aptitude and acting talents. Never have marital clashes been portrayed in such a comical fashion than in Band Aid. Never have they been so honest and heart-rending.
Lister-Jones and Pally’s band is called The Dirty Dishes (a reference to one of Anna and Ben’s first and most recurring fights). Believe it or not, they’re an actual band, even performing four live concerts across the country since Band Aid’s Sundance premiere. I recommend giving the film a watch first, but if you can’t wait, check out The Dirty Dishes’s new EP on iTunes. With Fred Armisen (who plays the recovering sex addict, Weird Dave in the film) on the drums, Lister-Jones on bass and vocals (and guitar on the entrancing and poignant track, Desire), and Pally on guitar and vocals.
According to Lister-Jones, Armisen was the most essential part of bringing The Dirty Dishes together as a sound: “He’s a legit drummer, and that was really important because we played all of the music live in the movie. And usually when you see music in a movie onscreen, it’s to playback, but we really needed to be able to play as a band. So Fred was essential, because he was an amazing drummer in addition to being an amazing comedian. He helped us understand rhythm.”
Conclusion: A Dramedy Of Errors And Heartbreak
Beneath all of the comedy in Band Aid, which turns in to wonderfully executed slapstick at times, there is an intelligent and sincere commentary about societal gender expectations. Anna is a thoroughly written and complex character, but most importantly, she is relatable to both women and men. As Anna and Ben challenge gender confines, the film’s emotional depth shows its head, particularly towards the end, and when it rains, it pours. But it’s a much-needed rain, softening a drought that has existed for too long in the entertainment industry.
Not once does Band Aid walk the line of becoming pretentious or cloying, as some of the more formulaic entries into the romantic comedy genre can do. This is a testament to Lister-Jones’s multifaceted abilities. She not only writes realistic characters, but she directs them with an immensely thoughtful eye, capturing every seemingly mundane moment, prop or tangible, inanimate object of their surrounding environments.
She’s a patient observer behind the camera, but she loses herself in her performance in front of the camera. Band Aid is the Lister-Jones show, and what a privilege it is for the audience watch in awe as she effortlessly, simultaneously shines in more capacities at once than most talented artists will in their entire lifetimes.
Are you excited for Lister-Jones’s next film? What is your favorite The Dirty Dishes track?
Band Aid was released theatrically on June 2, 2017, and is available on digital streaming platforms as of June 9.