Jessie Barr’s Sophie Jones is a new coming-of-age film about its titular character, 16-year-old Sophie Jones (played by Barr’s real-life first cousin, Jessica Barr, who also co-writes the script with director Jessie Barr), who is trying to make it through high school and feel something as she tries deals with her own grief after the death of her mother. The film also stars Skyler Verity, Claire Manning, Charlie Jackson, Dave Roberts, Tristan Decker and Elle.
For this episode of The Filmcraziest Show, I was able to talk with director and co-writer Jessie Barr about Sophie Jones as she shares stories of writing and collaborating with her cousin and how this experience has brought them closer together.
Also discussed in the episode is the film’s emotional rawness and some of those moments; the grieving process and advice for people who may have not experienced significant losses in their lives; as well as the music of the film, like picking the soundtrack and using original songs. The film is also shot in Portland, Oregon, so we discuss some of the landmarks featured in the film.
If you want to listen to the full conversation you can either watch the YouTube video embedded directly below, or click here to download the podcast version. (I’ll insert a player at the bottom to just listen to it directly from this post.) I’ve also included a sample Q+A from our conversation below, which has been edited for clarity.
Daniel Prinn, Filmcraziest: What was it like co-writing this with your cousin Jessica Barr?
Jessie Barr: It was such an intimate experience, I think also because it’s such a personal story. We share the same name. We’re both named after our great grandmother. Our fathers were brothers. We both share the loss of a parent at the exact same age, so it was definitely a lot of intimate conversations, a lot of sort-of bearing our souls to each other, a lot of sharing the truth of who we were.
Originally I had never really spoken about losing my dad, I never really talked to anyone about those experiences. And then, it was right around the time where I had been alive without him [for] as long as I’d been alive with him, that I started to feel like an opening to that. I started to write some things about it and write a script. It was at that exact time and I believe in synchronicity, especially [because of] this film, as my younger cousin Jessica sent me this early draft of a very raw script.
I was so moved and inspired by her experiences grieving the loss of her mom when she was 16, and… I don’t know, it’s not a rational thing, it was so emotional [laughs], so non-strategic I just felt this need to be the person for her that I needed when I was younger. I also felt like giving voice to a sort-of shared experience. I also felt like there was a film here and felt like narratively this could contribute hopefully to something in the coming-of-age genre that hadn’t yet been done before.
We just started working together and I gave her a lot of notes. Initially there were flashbacks and there was a different title, but the heart of Sophie the character was there and what I felt I really wanted to lean into was making it as immediate as possible. Although it’s not a documentary, it’s not a recreation, it’s a scripted narrative; but she is playing a version of herself. There is a lot of mirroring and reflexivity just built into the film and making of the film and that definitely started even in the writing level.
Sophie Jones was released on March 2, 2021 and is available to watch online (here).
Again, you can watch the conversation above in YouTube form, download here in podcast form or listen to it below.