Rising Star Jess Parker: “I would love to see more people get the help they need to take care of their mental health and raise awareness for those who are struggling”

I would love to see more people get the help they need to take care of their mental health and raise awareness for those who are struggling. I know from personal experience how crippling it can be to deal with something that affects every aspect of your life, but no one can see it. Many […]

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I would love to see more people get the help they need to take care of their mental health and raise awareness for those who are struggling. I know from personal experience how crippling it can be to deal with something that affects every aspect of your life, but no one can see it. Many people have these struggles and moreover, many people do not have the money to access the professional help that they need. I would love to help these people and let them know that, you are not alone. We hear you, we care, and we will help you through this.

As a part of my interview series with popular culture stars, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jess Parker. Jess is a Canadian actress, singer, writer, and filmmaker. She recently founded her own production company, Indie Nerd Films, where she works to create new artistic works focusing on characters and storytelling all whilst promoting and supporting Canadian content and women in film.

Thank you so much for joining us Jess! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

For as long as I can remember I’ve always loved performing. I grew up doing musical theatre and watching and admiring the performances of classic stars like Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, and Audrey Hepburn. The longing to perform and be on the stage was inside me from a young age. The only problem: I used to have severe stage fright. Although I loved singing and performing, every time I went on stage I was absolutely petrified. I powered through this fear because I loved the arts and wanted to be a part of the magic of storytelling, but the thing that really helped me get through this was the love and support of the artistic community.

Growing up, I always felt like a misfit, someone who just didn’t belong, and I was always searching for acceptance and inclusion. However, through meeting other artists and performers, I realized that each and every one of them had their own quirks and eccentricities that caused them to be unique and see the world differently from everyone else. I remember one time where me and the entire cast of our production stood up on the tables bursting into showtunes, not caring what anyone thought. We were just having fun. We were free to be whoever we wanted to be. We were free to be ourselves. That’s when I realized that being different wasn’t such a bad thing and I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. Through my passion for the arts and the exceptional people I’ve met along the way, I was inspired to make my art the way I want to make it and tell a variety of different stories focusing on various perspectives, because everyone’s story deserves to be told.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

Well, there was this one project I was acting in. It was a microbudget short film and we had been shooting all day and late into the night. It was cold, it was damp, and we were getting taken to the next location for the last shot of the day which was also the last shot of the production. Instead of waiting for someone to come pick us up, me and some of the crew just jumped into the back of this pickup truck and sat in the truck bed as we rolled down the old country roads towards our final location.

Not very safe, I know, and I don’t want to encourage any dangerous behaviour, but there was something beautiful and quiet about that moment. I call it my Perks of Being a Wallflower moment. We were all exhausted and had been working hard for days, but in that moment none of us cared. We were all just happy we got to be working and getting paid to do what we love. It’s always a little bittersweet at the end of a shoot when you know you may never see some of these people again, but you know you’ll always have those memories and this tangible creation you were all a part of making.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Always, always, always triple check your emails and packages before you send them out. As an actor and as a writer, a lot of the job is queries, cover letters, pitches, and emails. It can be very tempting to just send out the same template over and over again instead of putting in the work to really learn about the person/company you’re writing to and making it personal to them. I’m not saying you shouldn’t use a template, but, speaking from personal experience, when you send out the wrong cover letter to the wrong person, it definitely doesn’t look professional. I’ve also forgotten to attach my headshot and resume before.

Luckily, none of these things had any dire consequences for me, and the recipients took it in stride and even found it humorous, but people don’t always take these things so lightly. I have had an agent show me a letter he received that started with, “Dear (insert agent’s name here)”. Needless to say, that actor did not find representation with that agency. You only have one chance at a first impression so make it count.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Last year I started Indie Nerd Films with my sister, writer and director, Sarah C. E. Parker, and we have begun to kick off some exciting projects. We are currently in post production for our first short, Please Find Me, and are starting pre-production on our proof of concept, Star-crossed. Star-Crossed is a coming of age story I wrote about two young women who fall in love in a conservative small town. I am very interested in telling stories that challenge how people think and show the world through someone else’s perspective. I also have begun writing a musical with my friend, singer and composer, Paige Johnson, that hopefully will be finished and ready for its Canadian premiere next summer.

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

People who work in the arts can be weird. That’s probably why I feel so at home here. Everyone has their own interesting ways of doing things. One thing that seems to be different every time is what is asked of you by a casting director. Sometimes it’s pretty standard. Do the scene, sing your song, a couple of questions, maybe a redirect and you’re out of there. Sometimes it’s not. I’ve had to go in do a cold read and then improv entire scenes and scenarios without knowing anything about the character. I’ve had to transform into a giant monster and come up with a variety of different voices on the spot. I’ve had to take a prop and create an entire movement-based piece around it in only a couple of minutes. I’ve been asked to tell stories and jokes on the spot. The thing is, you never really know what to expect, so be as prepared as you can be, then just show up and have fun!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Take care of your mental health. As actors, we are generally aware that it is important to take care of ourselves physically: eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep (or at least trying to 😉), but when it comes to our mental health, we are often neglectful. The job of an artist can be very strenuous, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. We must be very vulnerable and open to do our job effectively, and if we are not in a good head space, this can become quite difficult. Many people have discussed and debated whether there is a link between mental illness and being an artist. As I am not a phycologist, I won’t give a definitive answer, however there are a high number of artists who struggle with mental illness.

I know from personal experience that art can be very therapeutic. Our job gives us the opportunity that is not present in other professions, to use our pain and channel it into something beautiful. That being said, in order to give 100% to our work, we must be operating at 100% in our day to day lives. Take some time to yourself, meditate, check in with your emotions and be honest about what you’re feeling and why. Remember the passion and joy that got you into this business in the first place, and most importantly, breathe.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to see more people get the help they need to take care of their mental health and raise awareness for those who are struggling. I know from personal experience how crippling it can be to deal with something that affects every aspect of your life, but no one can see it. Many people have these struggles and moreover, many people do not have the money to access the professional help that they need. I would love to help these people and let them know that, you are not alone. We hear you, we care, and we will help you through this.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Celebrate your wins and don’t dwell on your losses. Yes, getting the job is a win, but so is getting a callback or an audition. Don’t treat every audition you don’t get as rejection or failure. You got in the room. You got a chance to showcase what you’ve got, and you got a chance to perform. Hearing no after no and never a single yes can be disheartening. Believe me, I know. That’s why when something good happens, take a moment to really enjoy that, and if something bad happens, learn from it, dust yourself off and keep going.
  2. Don’t stress over things you can’t control. It took me a while to learn this one, but once I did, it changed how I viewed everything in my life. After the audition, I have no control on whether or not I get the part, so I just do my best, and then focus on the next project. What about peoples’ opinions about you? About your work? About that project you put your heart and soul into? I definitely have been crushed by the words of another in the past. Someone tearing down something I wrote or something I created. But why? Everyone has a different opinion and that’s ok. Not everyone is going to like you or what you do. If I’m proud of what I made or what I’ve done and I know I worked as hard as I can and gave it my all, then that’s all I focus on. The rest is out of my control and worrying isn’t going to change the outcome.
  3. You’re on your own journey. Don’t stress about what someone else is doing. Being an artist is hard and there is no corporate ladder for you to slowly climb. Some people find success very quickly, others do not. I have had many setbacks including moving out of a film city I could no longer afford to live in. That was hard. I felt like I had let down all the people who believed in me and proved right all the people that didn’t, but eventually I realized that I had to start making decisions that were right for me and my life, not what other people told me I should do. I know I’m going to continue to make mistakes and have setbacks, but that’s life. One second you’re up, the next you’re not, but you just have to keep going and remember that everyone’s journey is different. Just keep doing you!
  4. You don’t have to be perfect. Of course, you should strive for greatness and work as hard as you can, but if you are constantly obsessing over whether something came out perfectly or not, you’re never going to get anything done. I’ve had projects slow down to a stop just because it wasn’t turning out exactly how we’d imagined it. Remember, having something that could be improved upon is much better than having nothing at all. There will be a lot of rough first drafts and performances you wish you could redo, but that’s ok. You’re out there working and learning from your mistakes so you can be better tomorrow.
  5. Be yourself. This one is cliché by now but still needs to be said. I almost quit this industry many times because of how many people were telling me I wasn’t good enough or how I needed to change. Everyone has an opinion on who you should be and what kind of person succeeds, but the more I tried to change and become this perfect little starlet, the more unhappy I became. I was losing what made me love acting and filmmaking in the first place and more importantly, I was losing myself. There are millions of artists trying to make it in this industry and if you try to be just like them, you’ll blend into the crowd and be forgotten. Don’t forget what makes you special. Maybe people won’t like it, but the ones that do will love the real you, and that’s much more important.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have a tattoo that says, “Everyday is a new beginning”. There have been lots of hard times in my life as there have been in everyone’s lives, but no matter what happens, I take a deep breath, let go of all the bad things that happened that day and remember that tomorrow is a new start. No matter what happens today, tomorrow brings new opportunity and new beginnings.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My sister Sarah is also a writer and she was the one who taught me how to write screenplays in the first place. She also works as my editor, helps produce films with me, and is always there for me as a mentor, a sister, and a friend. More than the things she has helped me with personally, I am always inspired by her drive. We are both spontaneous and never think things through, but at least we can look back at our lives so far and say that we’ve lived. Whether she is self funding her own short films, publishing novels and creating entire worlds from scratch, or traveling the world, she always goes after what she wants, and that’s something I try to emulate.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Chris De Burgh. I grew up listening to his music and admiring how it’s possible to tell such incredible stories through lyrics and take people on a complete journey in only a couple of minutes. His music inspired me to write a musical entitled, Road to Freedom, about a British soldier during World War I and I would love to meet with him to discuss the possibility of moving forward with that project with his permission and blessing and just to say thank you. There are so many artists who have inspired me with their work, but his music has really shaped me as a singer, songwriter, and screen writer.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

instagram: @thisisjessparker

facebook: @thisisjessparker

imdb: Jess Parker (IV)


Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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