Jess was a legend in the documentary world and firmly believed in the power of great filmmaking to transform individuals and societies. In 2005, she co-founded Doc Society, an organization committed to supporting and championing filmmakers to tell critical stories and harness the power of film for social change.
After 18 years of what Jess described as “nonstop creative collaboration, dedicated craft, joyous partying and fierce camaraderie”, she publicly announced her diagnosis in July, in a rallying cry to us all to remember that “There. Is. No. Time. Like. The. Present.”
Jess knew the power of convening people and exchanging ideas to create long-term, sustainable change and was a regular moderator at The Skoll World Forum, IDFA, the Thompson Reuters’ Trust conference and Doc Society’s Good Pitch.
She brought that same energy to MSI, remaining a committed supporter of our mission from her first visit to one of our clinics in Nicaragua in 1988 where her mother was working for us. She was passionate about fairness, justice and inclusion and consistently challenged, pushed and inspired us to think differently, do more and be better.
While at Doc Society (formerly BRITDOC) Jess supported documentaries such as the Academy nominated Virunga, The Square, The Look of Silence, and the Academy winner CITIZENFOUR. Together with the Ford Foundation and Sundance Institute, she also helped create and run the Good Pitch, which connects filmmakers with NGOs, foundations, and brands.
Prior to her appointment as CEO of BRITDOC in 2005, she was commissioning editor at Channel 4 and a founder of Shooting People, the online filmmakers network.
She was also a board member of the UK think tank IPPR and crowdfunding company Kickstarter and had an MBA from Cass Business School.
Amanda Seller, President of MSI United States, said:
“Jess was without question, one of the most charismatic and life-enhancing people I have ever encountered. She was passionate about fairness, justice and inclusion and–as our Board Chair–consistently challenged, pushed and inspired us to think differently, do more and be better. All of us at MSI US feel fortunate to have known her and to have had the honor to work with her. She will be sorely missed.”