Artist Inquisition: Jessica Hackett

Jessica Hackett is screening her short film, 'Journey of a Thousand Smiles' this week at The Butterfly Club. Her film explores the Australian Government's treatment of asylum seekers, her efforts to combat the discriminatory laws in place and her walk from the State Library in Melbourne to Parliament House in Canberra to deliver a petition of 17,000 signatures.  

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Tell us about your upcoming show. Why did you want to explore this theme?
I've always been passionate about social justice issues and this one really gnaws at my heart. Refugees and asylum seekers are people just like us and they're asking for our help. The way they are being treated makes me feel humiliated and horrified. But I'm the kind of person who focusses on the positive. I think we all do, just to get through it all. This show tells the story of the generosity and welcoming spirit of Australians across the country. I know I'm not exaggerating either, because I experienced it first hand when I walked from Melbourne to Canberra. This country is brimming with caring and compassionate souls who are pining for the opportunity to join hands with newcomers.

How long have you been creating art? 
I graduated from acting school (BA Arts (Acting)- Ballarat Arts Academy) in 2006. Since then I've been involved in many Independent Theatre productions in Melbourne and I've studied some Indonesian Performing Arts. This is the first show I've written. It's been a challenge because it's my own true story and it's so personal. I'm so happy to share it though because it's an amazing journey and I think people will be very inspired.

What's your favourite thing about being an artist?
Sharing my art with other people and building/exploring that relationship with the audience.

What's your least favourite thing?
The self doubt. I'm a perfectionist and sometime that can get in the way of creative fun, but it helps to remind myself to let go and enjoy the ride!

How does Melbourne influence you?
Melbourne is brilliant! I feel so free here because everyone is so different. So many artists from all backgrounds are trying new things. Just yesterday I saw a street performance on my way to the tram. These two men were performing an act with metal rings and I was giddy with the thought; "I never would have thought of that!" I guess Melbourne will always surprise me and therefore inspire me to keep trying new things and push those creative buttons.

Who or what do you turn to for inspiration on days when creativity just isn't flowing?
My sister plays the violin in an orchestra. Sometimes we will go to a recital or a gig and the ideas will start flowing soon enough. On the way home in the car, she'll put on more music and discuss ideas together.

Do you have a favourite artist? Or maybe a favourite genre/theme?
Geoffrey Rush. I remember seeing him at the Malthouse in Ionesco's Exit The King. Wow. His whole body was engaged in the character. From the tips of his fingers to the tips of his toes. I love how plays on stage, adding the tiniest of details to draw us into the story. 

What's the worst piece of advice you've ever been given?
Don't wash your hair during the run of a show.
What else do you do besides create excellent artwork?
I'm a Drama and English teacher at a high school in Springvale.
Live the life of an activist - I'm not great at protests, I prefer to tell stories about social justice!
See as much theatre as I can.
Spend time with my family and wonderful partner.
 And finally, what are your plans this year?
Last year was the biggest year of my life - with the walk and everything. This year I'm going to focus on touring the show and spreading the word. I have a new leadership role in the Performing Arts faculty in my school so I want to find more ways to inspire the students and get them excited about creating their own stories.

'Journey of a Thousand Smiles' by Jessica Hackett opens from 18-22 January at The Butterfly Club


'Journey of a Thousand Smiles' is screening at The Butterfly Club 18-22 January. Get tickets here.


For more information on Jessica and her work: The Welcome Petition

--- Words: Julia Howland Images: Courtesy of the gallery/artist.

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