Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
Meeting the women of Tempo and seeing the amazing mentorship they were doing for other women — we wanted to find a way to let more people hear their voices and experience their stories. It started as an idea to work with artist Margaret Muza and bring an installation of their portraits and stories to the community, and the idea just kept growing as we realized the potential to tell this story in film and reach even more people.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
From the very first idea pitch to the final cut of the film, it took about seven months.
3. How would you describe your film in two words?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
A combination of time and budget. It was a labor of love but not our daytime job, so we were primarily working evenings and weekends to make it a reality. On the budget side, we had none, so we're beholden to the staunch support of all the amazing, dedicated people of Tempo, Bader Rutter and the Milwaukee film community and beyond who saw our vision and jumped on board to help, donating time and resources. And as filmmakers who were talking about topics like equal pay for women, it was very important for us to find a way to pay our artist, Margaret Muza, for her time, talent, expertise and materials. So we're very grateful to everyone from those groups who rallied to help us raise funds to do so.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
It was so gratifying to hear viewers talking about how inspired they were by the film and to realize it was doing exactly what we intended it to do. I loved hearing people internalize the message to not be afraid to show up as exactly who you are and to make your voice heard — and say that this is a film that women everywhere should see. It also was wonderful to hear that the way the interviews wove together with the tintype art process carried people through the stories in an engaging way that kept their attention. My writing partner, Kate Martin, and I had some real moments of terror when we were faced with the transcripts from about 20 hours of footage (or more), and we started the task of narrowing in on interview clips and weaving those narrative threads together. So it's been great to hear the feedback that it really landed in the way we wanted and that we created something special.
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
I've been involved in many other kinds of art creation, including creative and art direction of spots for advertising clients, but although I've always loved film, I never really thought that I could be a filmmaker. So the idea really hit when we had the idea for this film itself, and then we had to figure out how to make it happen.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
It has to be The Thin Man from 1934. I dragged my parents to a converted corner-garage-turned-classic-movie-theater when I was about 10 years old to see it and then many others, and that kick-started my love of classic movies and film in general.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
The feedback film was so great to see — it would be really interesting to participate in a live feedback event, either virtually or in person.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How have your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
FilmFreeway made it very simple for us to apply to be a part of FEEDBACK Female Film Festival. The information about each festival is easily accessible and the qualifications are listed in a highly visible area. Through its submission process, we were able to easily throw our hat in the ring. I would recommend its use in the future.
10. What is your favorite meal?
11. What is next for you? A new film?
We interviewed a total of 18 women for Direct Positive, and only told a fraction of their stories in the film — there were some stories that didn't quite fit this narrative thread but were just as wise and amazing in their own right. So we are starting to look at a series of short films that would bring those to life.
- DIRECT POSITIVE, 24min., USA, Documentary
Directed by Jessica Ayala
No negatives. No filters. Just raw honesty, as seen through the lens of an antique camera and the stories of Milwaukee women leaders. Through interviews and the portraits taken by tintype photographer Margaret Muza, these women reveal what it takes to lead in their careers and in our communities — and why it’s so important for more women to lead today.
Director Biography - Jessica Ayala
First-time director Jessica Ayala grew up in Waukegan, IL, a first-generation daughter to her migrant Mexican parents. She moved to Milwaukee, WI to attend Marquette University and upon graduation, began working in video production at Bader Rutter’s new post-production studio and production group. Jessica leads creative work for the agency through producing documentary storytelling, traditional spots, and podcast series. Jessica was integral in launching the agency’s diversity and inclusion group, and lends her art direction and photography skills to LUNA, or Latinas Unidas En Las Artes, which empowers the Latina/x artists of Milwaukee. Jessica now resides in Chicago, IL and is continuing to develop work within commercial, BIPOC and nonfiction storytelling.
Direct Positive is born of a partnership between Bader Rutter, a Milwaukee-based ad agency, and TEMPO, a membership organization dedicated to furthering the impact of women leaders. When the two organizations began working together, the goal was simply to refresh and build on the legacy of the TEMPO organization. But as we worked together, a bigger story emerged. Experiences demanded to be shared. TEMPO’s dedication to mentorship merged with Bader Rutter’s passion for sharing Milwaukee’s best stories, and the idea for the Direct Positive project was born.
During two days of portraits and intense interviews, a group of Milwaukee women leaders reveal more than expected — their challenges, inspirations, stumbles, and victories — and their hopes for those women who follow in their footsteps. Those revelations shine light on the ways workplaces have evolved (and must still evolve) to be inclusive of women and women in leadership positions. They reflect on the effects of imposter syndrome, on their paths rising up the ranks, what true qualities make strong leaders, and what it takes to create change. Adding to this string of stories was the parallel universe of tintype photography, the craft we’ve seen shared so thoughtfully around the city of Milwaukee by artist Margaret Muza. She shows what happens when you remove filters, Photoshop, and assumptions to really see the beauty of a single perfectly imperfect moment. A final product we get to appreciate, sharp edges and all.
As a director, beyond interviewing these incredible women for two days, I got to work alongside some of the most talented women creatives. A story from women, about women, for the world. My hope is that viewers take the stories these women share to heart. Let’s all embrace the fact that our world still has work to do to support women, and to empower them to stop trying to fit other’s molds and own their truths. That, to me, is the kind of world all women deserve, and the kind of world we should create for the women after us.