When director Kandeyce Jorden found herself at a personal crossroads, she went looking for a creative project that would open her eyes to a new way of life--and she found it in the world of women DJs.
Such is the journey of Girl, Jorden's documentary feature charting the course of some of the electronic music world's top female DJs--including DJ Rap, DJ Irene and turntable powerhouse Sandra Collins. The film started coming together during a time where Jorden was questioning what her life, both personal and professional, was really meant to be.
"Ten years ago my then husband David (Veloz, screenwriter of Natural Born Killers and director of Permanent Midnight, among others) was hired to write and direct a love story about a guy meeting a girl who became the first major female DJ in the world," Jorden recalls. "It was a studio film--one of those Cinderella-type stories--and it really got under my skin because it felt superficial. So it inspired me to do research, and I discovered this is a world filled with tough and talented girls. So I decided to shoot some behind-the-scenes companion piece meant to go along with his movie."
But things took a turn for Jorden as she found herself sinking deeper and deeper into the club world, which led her to confront her own creative needs and desires--and determine if being a wife and a mother was enough, or if there was more she should be searching for. Indeed, the film does take an interesting turn midway through when Jorden finally connects with Sandra Collins, who proves to be elusive in the beginning... but once the two connect, Jorden and Collins travel the world together as Collins spins--and fights against sexism--in the club world, while Jorden lives vicariously through her and loses herself in the process.
But the decision to juxtapose the two stories, balancing the DJs tales with her own personal journey, didn't come until Jorden decided to shoot a confessional amid the mayhem of a trip to Russia with Collins. After partying all night long and imbibing a bit too much, Jorden returns to her hotel room and turns on the camera to record her emotional thoughts amid losing her wallet, having Collins abandon her, losing her luggage, and feeling that she was making way too many compromises personally and professionally.
"I didn't want to tell my story at all, and I fought it as long as I could," Jorden laughs. "I had been an actress, repped by CAA and had been through all of that, so I was thrilled to not be in front of the camera. So all of the self interviews you see in the film are flukes--camera tests and sound tests. But after looking at the footage I'd shot of the girls, and some of those confessional pieces I did, I found framing the story with my confessionals helped bring it all together. And ultimately, the girls I interview are in a way telling my story, just as I'm telling in theirs. We shared a common bond."
That bond found itself rooted in a fierce and feisty attitude that refused to say die and let a driving ambition feed their goals, no matter their rough childhood backgrounds or the gender disparity they faced in their respective occupations. And even as Rap, Irene, Sandra and others managed to create amazing careers and an intense fan following--something Jorden says fascinated and inspired her--they found themselves dealing with an unfair double standard that Jorden's camera was on-hand to capture.
For example? While male DJs are encouraged to fraternize and party it up, when female DJs flirt and drink, they're thought of as unwieldy, untrustworthy and unprofessional. And Collins would often find her sets getting cut short, usually right when she was getting started. Of the top 50 DJs in the world, none of them are women--and most of the women have to fight to get paid.
As Jorden observed, "I think it was typical of the club scene, but as a woman in it, they had to protect themselves more. They had to be more guarded, and yet more assertive. They had to trust these strange promoters from other countries who would pick them up and take them to their hotels, and that made for a more vulnerable place. Guys don't have to think about those things."
Even so, Jorden didn't want to make a film about men versus women--as she puts it, "It doesn't come down to that. At the end of the day, it's about talent." And while she does acknowledge that much with any other industry there's a glass ceiling that requires women to work harder and prove themselves more in DJ land, strides have been made to the point where female DJs are no longer a novelty.
"As the dance culture becomes bigger and bigger, which is really about branding, there's more and more opportunity for women to break through," she notes. "It's so easy for people to have gimmicks, like being the super sexy girl, or wearing masks or adopt some other kind of fad, but in terms of who's making it big? The lead girls have the longevity to get up there, get in front of the crowd, read them and lead them. That takes real talent."
Meanwhile, Jorden has made peace with her journey through making the film--a process that started ten years ago, and is about to reach its pinnacle with its release at Hollywood's Egyptian Theater this Thursday. She's able to look at the experience more objectively, and be more kind to herself in the process.
"I'm much more compassionate with myself now," she admits. "I was struggling a lot, and I think now I see that at least in the midst of debauchery, the camera was rolling and I could still focus. I was really trying to figure out who I was and what was important to me. I did realize that all my life, I was looking outside of myself and thinking I needed to get a husband, get a baby, get a house... all rights of passage women feel obligated to in a way. But I felt unsettled. I was happy to have them, but through that journey I really did find myself and a stronger sense of myself. Before that, I kept thinking someone or something else was the answer."
Next up for Jorden is a feature she's written and plans to direct. Called Frankengirl--"Everything is girl," she says with a laugh--it charts the course of a mad scientist that works to clone his ideal woman...but something goes wrong when people start to see the monster side of her. And while it, too, is a semi-autobiographical journey, Jorden feels her ultimate goal in her storytelling is to encourage other women to get up, get out, and find their inner muse so they can express themselves in an artistic way, too.
Says Jorden, "If Girl can inspire women on any level, whether it be DJs wanting to DJ, a woman wanting to pursue her own career, a filmmaker trusting her own story, a writer finishing her novel... I hope seeing this inspires the creative in anyone to pursue their own story and their own art. And I hope it inspires them to ask more questions of themselves."
For more information on Girl, check out www.girlthemovie.com.
A Canadian ex-pat with a passion for pop culture, Carly Milne has contributed to Glamour, Variety, Rolling Stone, Esquire.com, Maxim, the Chicago Sun Times and many others. She's also a multi-published author, public speaker and screenwriter. She lives in Los Angeles. Check out her website, CarlyMilne.com