BA Alumni Anna Mimi Jayson talks provocative graduate film Hot Seat
By Danny Kelly
16 February 2017
Over recent months we’ve been busy adding many fabulous examples of student work to our website for your viewing pleasure. This week we decided to delve deeper into one project in particular – Hot Seat – directed and written by BA (Hons) Practical Filmmaking graduate Anna ‘Mimi’ Jayson. The graduate film was a success at our Smart Screen Creative Awards in November, where it was awarded the prize for Entrepreneurship by the COO of BBC Studios, Anna Mallett.
The film focuses on two adolescent friends who seem in over their heads when attending an inappropriate photo shoot at an acquaintance’s house. However, the tables soon turn, and their true reason for visiting is unveiled. The film confronts the serious issue of child sexual exploitation with confidence and verve, with a wickedly satisfying conclusion to boot. You can watch the full film at the bottom of the page.
We caught up with Mimi to discuss the process of making Hot Seat, as well as to get her recommendations of similar films worth checking out.
Why did you decide to make Hot Seat as your grad project?
Three of my close friends have been sexually assaulted, one of which was at an audition for a film. The ‘Director’ locked her in the room, and started to touch himself whilst simultaneously filming her begging to leave. All three girls sadly still think it is their fault; “I shouldn’t have got drunk”; “I shouldn’t have worn a short dress”; “I shouldn’t have been walking alone.”
There is a scene in the film FAME in which Coco Hernandez goes to a filmmaker’s flat to do a “test shoot for a film that he plans to shoot in the south of France”. This scene has stuck with me for years. My dad actually sat me down and made me watch this scene when I was 7 or 8 and said, “don’t ever let a man treat you like this”.
This memorable scene in the film, and hearing stories of my friends’ experience began my thought process behind Hot Seat.
It manages to be entertaining while still dealing with sensitive subject matter. What challenges did you face in finding the right tone?
It was important for me to maintain a comedic aspect for the duration of Hot Seat, since the film’s main theme is such a dark and twisted normalcy. It looks to show how frequently events like these take place, and also how we, the online generation, feed into it, through our ceaseless craving for likes and followers. It is an example of how far some people will go to increase their online presence and popularity. We are all fame obsessed, and all as bad as each other. It’s a little circle.
I was essentially mocking the advertisements and music videos we see every day showing half naked girls twerking. I actually uploaded Hot Seat to YouTube and used a still of the scene when Lara and Marie are bending over on the bed for the thumbnail. I did this intentionally as I thought about how ironic it was that people so often choose to watch videos based solely on the thumbnail, and mine was about sexual abuse. Sex sells, and I know if I saw that thumbnail I would click on it!
The film’s ending introduces a very effective & contemporary twist – almost reminiscent of a mischievous Black Mirror moment. Was this idea present from the start?
In all honesty, I didn’t even know Black Mirror existed until I screened Hot Seat. Then people starting coming up to me, saying “Dude! Have you seen Black Mirror? Your film is like an episode”. So I watched Black Mirror… and I was like ‘f*ck.. they beat me to it’. But yes, having a little twist at the end was always my intention. It tended to the idea that social media is a circle, and we are all constantly in need of acceptance and acknowledgement from the online world. #ICanDoItBetterThanYou kind of thing.
At November’s Smart Screen Creative Awards the film won the prize for Entrepreneurship – what made you submit to this category?
I looked at all the categories and pretty much applied for all of them (as one does), and yes, I won the entrepreneurship award! But it wasn’t as easy as that. Our team managed to raise over £2,000 by crowdfunding online. We used Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tinder to hashtag the sh*t out of Hot Seat, and harassed hundreds of people to contribute. And it worked! We even got published by an online Magazine called Persephone’s Daughter in their film division. This magazine is dedicated to woman who have been abused or degraded at some point in their lives, so that really hit home. I feel so honoured to have been given the platform and opportunity to reach out to women across the globe through our film.
It’s a really cool award to win especially from the COO of the BBC! All filmmakers are entrepreneurs if you think about it. We are basically writing notes to form a script that will get investors to believe in us, then putting it out on the market for people to love or hate.
Finally, which other pieces of feminist cinema would you consider to be ‘essential viewing’?
I think if you enjoyed my film and the whole ‘girls gone wild’ feeling, then I would first suggest watching ‘La femme Nikita‘ by Luc Besson, and then head straight on to ‘Baise Moi‘ by Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi, because I assure you these girls are some bad ass bitches. But the main three I consider to be essential viewing are the classic ‘Thelma and Louise‘ by Ridley Scott, the incredibly beautiful film ‘Wild‘ by Jean-Marc Vallée and the insane and awesome ‘Thirteen‘ by Catherine Hardwicke.
Mimi is currently working on her next project, ‘Not Guilty’. The short is a thematic companion piece of sorts – looking at the double standards surrounding sexual exploitation on the internet. Find out more through the film’s Indiegogo page.