Jessica Earnshaw - Director/Director of Photography/Producer
Jessica is a documentary photographer and filmmaker whose work explores themes of criminal justice, and familial relationships. Her photography has appeared in National Geographic, The Marshall Project, Mother Jones Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR, amongst others. In 2015, she received the prestigious Rita and Alex Hillman Foundation Fellowship & Grant to photograph aging in American prisons and received unique unrestricted access in Maine State prisons. In 2016, her Aging in Prison work received an honorable mention by FotoVisura Grant, was published in National Geographic, Huffington Post and PDN Magazine, and named one of the most interesting photo essays of the week by Buzzfeed. In 2017, the next chapter of her aging in prison work, centering on re-entry after a life sentence, was published in Mother Jones and The Marshall Project. Jessica is a graduate of the International Center of Photography's photojournalism program. Last year, she won the Albert Maysles Best New Documentary Director Award at the Tribeca Film Festival for her first feature film, JACINTA, which was released by ABC News as a Hulu Original and received a New York Times Critic’s Pick. She was selected for Doc NYCs “40 under 40” list in 2020.
Nimisha Mukerj - Producer
Filmmaker Nimisha Mukerji’s award-winning work spans features, shorts and episodic television. Her debut film 65_RedRoses, a portrait of a young woman on the transplant list, was lauded by the New York Times as "Illuminating... an affecting, unnerving portrait of one family's encounter with the harshest of realities." It was selected by Oprah Winfrey for her Documentary Club on OWN, helped raise over 3 million dollars for Cystic Fibrosis research and went on to be acquired by Netflix and Hulu. Her follow-up feature (also as director/producer) was Blood Relative, about a non-profit worker helping Mumbai's Thalassemic children. It premiered at Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, as did her subsequent film, Tempest Storm, which was released theatrically and broadcast internationally. Jacinta is her fourth feature documentary, produced through Nimisha’s company Shotglass Productions. In addition to her nonfiction work, Nimisha continues to explore issues surrounding economic disparity, education and gender inequality in her narrative projects. She co-wrote and produced the short Beauty Mark, which was selected by Telefilm’s Not Short on Talent Program for Cannes, and she has also written and produced segments for HBO/PBS's Sesame Street. Her directing work for television can be found on Disney, Lifetime and Nat Geo. She is an alumni of TIFF's Talent Lab and splits her time between Vancouver and LA. For more information, visit nimishamukerji.com.
Holly Meehl - Producer
Holly is a producer who guides films from original inception through distribution. For the past seven years, she’s produced award winning narrative and documentary features and short films through her company, Lunamax Films. Recent credits include the feature documentary, JACINTA (dir. Jessica Earnshaw), which launched to critical acclaim at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2020 and won the Albert Maysles Best New Documentary Director Award. The film was picked up ABC News and was released as a Hulu Original in fall 2021. Through Lunamax, Holly also produced the critically lauded documentary, FOR THE BIRDS (dir. Richard Miron) as well as the festival favorite romantic comedy, IN REALITY (dir. Ann Lupo). Holly’s co-producing credits include the 2015 CNBC released feature doc, (DIS)HONESTY: THE TRUTH ABOUT LIES (dir. Yael Melamed) and the upcoming Chef Charlie Trotter documentary, LOVE, CHARLIE (dir. Rebecca Halpern). Holly also worked as a coordinator on the fiction feature, NANCY (dir. Christina Choe), which premiered at Sundance in 2018. Holly is an Impact Partners Producing Fellow and was named one of Doc NYCs “40 under 40” in 2020. She graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2011 with a double major in film studies and creative writing.
Making The Film
While working on a photojournalism project on aging in prison, I met Rosemary and her daughter, Jacinta. They had a deep and complex love between them and I was curious as to how Jacinta had followed in her mother’s footsteps. Once Jacinta was released, she allowed me to follow her on the outside. From there, our lives became closely intertwined, as months turned into years and the project evolved into a feature-length film.
Jacinta and I come from different worlds. I grew up middle class on the west coast of Canada and had a stable childhood in comparison. Yet our lives have affinities that resonated with me. My mother was abandoned as a child by her mother, and this impacted how she raised her children. My mother struggled to set healthy boundaries with myself and my siblings, and when I was younger, I felt a huge amount of responsibility for her, as if our roles were reversed. I saw the same feeling of responsibility in Jacinta towards her own mother and then again later when I filmed Jacinta’s young daughter, Caylynn. Although I could relate to this mother/daughter dynamic, I also recognized that I was an outsider documenting a world that was not my own. To better understand Jacinta and her family, I did hundreds of hours of research, and recorded interviews with dozens of people in her life and community, few of which appear in the final film.
Throughout my 10-year career as a photojournalist, my priority has always been my subject’s well-being. When Jacinta relapsed, I had to balance my personal concern for her health with my desire as a filmmaker to capture the truth of her situation. As her addiction took hold, she and I spoke often about whether to keep shooting. She made the choice to continue, explaining her decision came from the hope her story could aid others in understanding addiction.
After Jacinta’s relapse I did attempt to connect her with treatment and recovery help, efforts that were not successful. Since Jacinta was released in 2020, I worked with members of the Maine recovery community to connect her with housing, employment and recovery resources to help her stay sober and restart her life. Jacinta has also now watched the film six times, the first time taking place before we locked picture. The film has become a tool of empowerment for her as she’s shared it with her sociology professor, her therapist, as well as her peers from the prison.
For the past six months, we’ve been supporting Jacinta's daughter, Caylynn, with trauma therapy. Her therapist recently decided that Caylynn was ready to view the film. We set up a viewing with Caylynn, her therapist, and Jacinta. The screening went well and Caylynn expressed that it helped her to better understand her mother's struggle. I’m hopeful that the film will be a positive force in Caylynn and her family’s life and other families like hers that are affected by loved ones in cycles of addiction.
– Jessica Earnshaw