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Gillian Jacobs on life after making ‘community’ films and documentaries

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In the new film “I used to go here”, the actress plays a writer who struggles to achieve his dreams. But as Jacobs tells IndieWire, she has a lot of creative passion to keep it going.

Gillian Jacobs hasn’t shot a movie in months, but that hasn’t stopped the perpetually busy artist from getting a lot of work. The actress has spent the last few months on lockdown through various concerts, from recording the second season of the “Blood Ties” podcast to new voiceover work, including the comic-inspired series “Invincible.” “. Jacobs and his “Community” cohorts even got into the “Zoom Reunion” fashion early on, hosting a tabletop reading and Q&A in mid-May.

As might be expected, the event renewed the call for a ‘community’ film, although all Jacobs will say at this point is that she feels’ lucky that I’m a part of something. thing where people want more ”. For now, however, she has a lot to do, including a burgeoning career as a documentary maker.

And she’s on the virtual promo track for her latest indie gem: “I Used To Go Here” by Kris Rey, who finds Jacobs playing a struggling writer who returns to his alma mater, only to find himself falling back. in old college habits (both good and bad). The film was set to premiere at SXSW in March, where crowd pleasures would likely have resonated; even without a festival premiere, it was greeted warmly by critics before its VOD release.

Jacobs said she and Rey had a number of conversations in the weeks leading up to the festival, which was ultimately canceled in early March, marking it as one of the first major US entertainment events to be suspended due to of the pandemic. “I’m just sad because I’ve never seen him in a theater with people,” Jacobs said in a recent interview with Zoom. “I hope audiences find it and I’m really proud of the film.”

Jacobs had been a fan of Rey’s work for some time and had dreamed of working with the filmmaker ever since 2015’s “Unexpected”, in which Rey cast another beloved sitcom actress (Cobie Smulders) in an emotionally resonant drama. The character of Kate Conklin, who has yet to keep all of her college promises, has spoken to Jacobs.

“I used to come here”

Gravitas Ventures

“She felt like someone who was at a critical point in her life, but she felt like a slightly different type of person than I had played before,” Jacobs said. “I could understand the crisis this character was going through and maybe some of the not-so-important decisions she was making.

The actress said Rey’s casting only heightened her affection for the project, and so did her character – who stumbles with a group of whipsmart college kids during a weekend visit to her old college. – she liked to bond with the group that Rey had gathered. (She particularly caught the attention of fellow actress / filmmaker Hannah Marks, who stars as Kate’s rival in the film. After filming “I Used To Go Here,” Jacobs shot a few scenes in Marks’ upcoming movie, “Mark, Mary & A Few Other People.”)

Even now, Jacobs nostalgically remembers the making of the film, which was shot last summer in Chicago. “I get very sentimental because I don’t know when the next time I’m on set will be,” she said.

Between her busy acting career and all manner of voiceover gigs (she has also lent her talents to animated series like “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” and “Adventure Time”), Jacobs finds her way into another side. the cinema. “I have a weird side to my career as a documentary director that I didn’t see coming,” Jacobs said, noting that his “Community” teammates Ken Jeong and Danny Pudi both made “30” shorts. for 30 ″ for ESPN, who kindled a fire in it. Do the same thing.

“Honestly, it was born out of jealousy,” she laughs. His association with the cast led to a meeting with ESPN executive Dan Silver, but his own initial ideas did not connect. “I threw him a sports doc [ideas], and I think he quickly realized that I didn’t know anything about the sport and that I had very strange grounds, ”she said.

But after ESPN acquired FiveThirtyEight.com and started making short documentaries on exciting topics as part of this site’s “Signals” series, Silver reached out to Jacobs, asking if she had any interest in making a movie about. Coding legend Grace Hopper.

“I didn’t know anything about her, and I said yes, then I had to find out who she was,” Jacobs said. The result was “The Code Queen”, which examines the life of the extraordinary Hopper, who worked on the first computer and led the team that created the first compiler. When Silver switched to Disney +, he offered the young filmmaker another project, a short documentary about women from Marvel Comics, which is set to debut later this year as part of the service’s “Marvel’s 616” series. streaming.

“My episode is about the women who have worked in Marvel comics over the decades as writers, editors, artists,” she said. “It was really fun for me because I love to learn. It was really fun for me to learn more about the comics, to read the comics these women worked on, to find out more about Marvel. I enjoyed the challenge.

Jacobs also has another side career besides directing: she sometimes interviews interesting women for print publications. In March, she interviewed “Wolf Hall” author Hilary Mantel for Glamor, a major win for a self-proclaimed “fantel”, and an experience so upsetting that Jacobs said she cried when the couple got on the phone. “do not gently, ”she added.

“I used to come here”

SXSW

That’s not to say the actress has given up on acting, although she is keen to step out of the “Community” box, citing Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favorite” as an inspiration (“I want to be in something like this“) And Gena Rowlands like any other (” She’s my acting heroine “).

Jacobs’ future projects bear witness to this eclectic bent. In August, Disney + will release the comedy “Magic Camp”, a family comedy in which Jacobs stars alongside Adam Devine, Aldis Hodge and Josie Totah. Also on deck: Focus Features cooler “Come Play,” the long-talked-about stage adaptation of popular “Fear Street” books, and Chris Pine star actor “Violence of Action.”

Jacobs knows that it can be difficult to find a guideline in his work. “It’s a strange career,” she says. “I started making very dramatic independent films to the point where no one wanted to see me for a comedy. And then I feel like after the “Community”, people didn’t know that I had done anything other than comedy. So maybe after “Community” I try to do both. “

Gravitas Ventures will release “I Used to Go Here” on VOD on Friday August 7th.

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