Jean of the Joneses, is the first feature from director Stella Meghie. A familiar black family drama set in a house full of strongly opinionated women, who’ve done their best to keep the family’s skeletons secret. Time, has other plans and as the secrets are unearthed Jean, a writer struggling to top her first hit, must come to terms with what she’s learned or choose another path.
Perhaps the greatest treat of Jean of the Joneses is the immigrant heritage of the films plays right on the surface. The Joneses are Jamaican and through the generations of women the audience is able to explore how Americanization affects a family. Seeing females from six to ninety interact with a man rarely in sight was such a joy, I sometimes found myself just beaming at the melanin.
I sat down with Meghie to discuss how she got a film she’s had written since 2010 produced and what this film means to her. She described watching the premier as, “Amazing,” and watching Janet Pearson (the head of SXSW Film) introduce the film, “…was an honor.”
The film is stocked with amazing talent including: Sheri Shepherd, Erica Ash, Michelle Hurst, Gloria Reuben, and relative newcomer Taylour Paige, who many know from High School Musical 3 and Hit The Floor.
“I hadn’t seen Taylour before. She came in with hair pulled back in a silk bomber jacket – she led with effortless flair and style,” Meghie said of Paige’s audition.
If you listened to the Black Girl Nerds’ Podcast #62 with Leslie Harris or #64 with Effie Brown, you’ve heard the struggles of Black women trying to get films financed. Harris spoke about her own struggles after the success of Just Another Girl on the IRT. She wrote scripts about Black women, but producers and financiers wanted her to have a male lead to entice a wider audience.
Unfortunately, in the twenty plus years since the film, not much has changed. In the ten years it took to turn the script into a film Meghie was encouraged to keep the grandfather alive longer, but she says she knew what story she wanted to tell. She just had to remain confident in what she knew. Meghie herself grew up in a large Jamaican family.
This film is a strong directorial debut, but Meghie’s not prepared to rest on her laurels. She’s developing TV projects at BET and VH1. She attributes her success to appreciating the cast and crew. I asked her if she had any advice for other Black female directors.
Meghie: “If you have something to say, say it and have your own style.”
You can find Stella Meghie online – Twitter: @stellamink Instagram: @stellameghie