Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:
Gia and her best friend Lila survived a rough childhood in a neighborhood where every kid has a sad story to tell. Now, as teenagers, Gia struggles to use her gift of writing to reclaim what the world has brutally taken away.
Director Biography – Jessica Rae
Jessica grew up mixed-race in a minority, working class neighborhood in Minneapolis. Expression through storytelling has always been Jessica’s preferred form of communication, whether it was directing neighborhood shows on her front lawn as a kid, or directing self-written mainstage productions in college because it created a necessary conversation. As she developed her storytelling skills, her understanding of film and television and the global impact it can have was realized. Her experiences straddling two worlds, while navigating issues of institutional racism and poverty, and facing the challenges working as a woman in the film industry are imbued in her films that focus on issues of social justice, feminism, and class.
Jessica has staffed on numerous feature films and television shows such as “Star Trek – Into Darkness”, “Alexander and the Terrible No Good Very Bad Day”, “American Horror Story”, “True Blood”, “Bosch”, and “Get Shorty” among others. She is also entering her tenth year of working with the Los Angeles Dodgers DodgerVision Team and you can find her on any given day running the floor for Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, The Tennis Channel, and many other sporting/entertainment events in LA. She was also privileged to teach a course in Theatre Directing in Mexico City. She holds an MFA from UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television and a BFA in Theater Directing from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse.
While working as the Content Producer for Cuéntame, Jessica directed and produced the highly successful LGBT Latino Youth series An Honest Conversation, which aired as a feature length documentary on Hulu. Her short film, Soleil, aired on KCET and was honored with the DGA Latino Film Jury Prize Award. She is also the first recipient of the Bad Robot Diversity Fellowship, a program sponsored by J.J. Abram’s production company.
Jessica’s first feature film, Raise Your Hand, is an inner-city high school drama set in the 90s where two young women fight to find their voice in the face of tragedy. She is an Advisory Board Member of the Creating Creators Foundation as well as a board member of BEN, the UCLA Bruin Entertainment Network. Finally, she may be small, but she is scrappy.
Thank you for taking the time to view our film Raise Your Hand. This film is deeply personal to me, the collection of stories represented are those based on my own memories growing up and those of my close friends and family.
The motivation to make this film came after attending a class lecture where the instructor carelessly, with excitement, exploited the concept of rape for a superficial discussion topic. As a survivor myself, I made the decision to take a personal risk and share my story, because I didn’t want those precious and painful biographical memories to be told without the honesty and truth they deserve. Being able to make a film about perseverance over police brutality, rape, underserved communities and their lack of opportunities, and friendship is a privilege in itself, but to be able to tell the stories of young people conquering their challenges through the arts is what makes this film so special to me, because that was me and my friends in high school.
It’s because of my real-life champions, some who are represented in this film, that I am now able to share his story, and all the stories represented in this movie. Not only are the character’s lives based in truth, but as the cast and crew joined together to make the film, they began sharing their own personal connections with the material, their stories of assault, of family struggles, of confrontations with the police. Our co-lead playing Lila, Hanani Taylor (The Orville, Criminal Minds), shared with us that her mother had an experience with sexual assault by a police officer when in school, and her mother talked her through the difficulties of the role to create the performance you see today.
The Raise Your Hand team is an eclectic mix of diverse members with mostly women in leading roles, including those of Director of Photography, Producer, Costume Designer, Production Designer, Editor, Composer, and Sound Designer just to name a few. Many of these crew members donated time, energy, and resources to the film, and lifelong friendships have been formed and strengthened through the process.
It is important to credit Miss Jearnest Corchado as our lead in the film, portraying the character of Gia, with grit and truth at its highest caliber. You can also see Jearnest in the recent Netflix release of Sneakerheads and Apple TV’s Little America to name a few. Also important to recognize are Joel Steingold (How to Get Away with Murder, Hawaii Five-0, and Shameless) who plays Amaris, Gregory Scott Cummins (Bosch, it’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) who plays Officer McCance, and DaJuan Johnson (Bosch, Grey’s Anatomy, and Agent Carter), who plays Gia’s stepdad.
We’ve put everything we have into this film, and it’s been a long five years of blood, sweat, and tears to make sure we did everything we possibly could to do justice for every frame seen on screen. From losing four days of production sound and having to ADR without a guide track, to endless sleepless nights from working sometimes three jobs a day to pay for the film costs almost all out of pocket, to setback after setback after setback. From the tragic loss of our incredibly talented composer’s husband to the birth of new babies, we have seen it all and then some, but the perseverance of this film speaks for itself. No one ever gave up on it because every single person involved believed in these stories and believed in our team. I’ll always be forever grateful to them. In the words of our lead character Gia, “No one will hear our stories unless we tell them”.
Thank you so much for your consideration,
Writer/Director Raise Your Hand