LGBT Feature Screenplay Winner: Jess, by Sean J.S. Jourdan, Danielle Prall

On the hard edge of the urban west, Jess, an ex-con and single mother, strives to provide for herself and her own in the face of desperate poverty.


Various: Nikolai Afanasev
Carlos: Peter Mark Raphael
Narrator: Carina Cojeen
Jess: Kristen MacCulloch
JJ: Kyana Teresa
Various: Kaleb Alexander

Writer Statement

Danielle and I live in Denver, CO. It’s a confluence. Rivers meet here (anywhere else they’d be considered large creeks). Highways, too. People. In many ways, it’s the best of the West and the best of the Midwest. The weather is temperate. Some of the best skiing can be found a short drive away. Mountain biking, yoga, and live music. It’s all here, including a rapidly rising real estate market. The migration of the tech industry to its new Midwest hub, as well as the legalization of cannabis, has brought cutting-edge ideas and a population increase. At its peak, it was estimated 3,000-5,000 people were moving into the state per day, many of them to the capital city and its surrounding suburbs. This new population, with money to spare, has also brought a substantial cost of living increase and rapid gentrification – pushing people already at the margins of society further out; sometimes completely out of their homes. This purple state, ripe with many contradictions, can be seen as caught between two identities – a Cowtown at the foot of the Rocky Mountains that rolls out to the edge of America’s farmland, and a modern high- tech, progressive city, nick-named “The Other Silicon Valley.”

Even as this Cowtown shifts, its heritage endures. The heart of the city boasts a massive stock complex and cattle are still paraded through downtown to kick off the annual National Western Stock Show & Rodeo. Touted as the best of the heartland, families arrive to shop for the latest tractors and auction off prize-winning livestock. However, there’s a dark side as it was at this very event that the FBI rescued six minors in a sex trade sting operation. It’s an open secret that sex workers descend on the town for that two-week event. This story is an attempt to understand the life of a woman, caught up in an ever-widening pit of poverty, who enters that world due to a lack of alternatives, as a means to provide for herself and her family.

We live at time when income disparity is increasing at an alarming rate. Rents are rising dramatically, for individuals and small businesses, driving them to bankruptcy. A quick search for “being poor is expensive” elicits a number of alarming responses. We live in a time where many Americans do not have even a hundred dollars in their bank account, let alone savings for retirement. What happens when you are caught in this trap? What happens when a child needs critical surgery and parents cannot afford the co-pay? What happens when you get fired from your job because you’re late, once again, due to your dependency on public transportation? Where is the empathy? Kindness? By exploring this dark and exploitative world, we hope to help shine a light on it.

Our mantra throughout the writing process is: “Where is the love?”

The idea for this film had been gestating for some time – based, to a large extent, on two factors. The first, well covered in the local reader, “Westword,” highlights the plight of those living on the fringe of a prosperous city, forgotten and pushed out. The annual Stock Show was the other source of inspiration. On one hand, it’s an agriculture and rodeo symposium. On the other, it is a hidden world of human trafficking and sex work. We wanted to explore the dichotomy and hypocrisy of both elements – a well to-do-city and a flag-waving-all-American Stock Show – with a character who is trapped within them.

Producer/Director: Matthew Toffolo

Festival Moderators: Matthew Toffolo, Rachel Elder

Casting Director: Sean Ballantyne

Editors: Kimberly Villarruel, Ryan Haines, John Johnson

Festival Directors: Rachel Elder, Natasha Levy

Camera Operators: Ryan Haines, Temitope Akinterinwa, Efren Zapata, Zack Arch

By lgbttorontofilmfestival

Festival occurring twice a year. In Toronto in June. And in Los Angeles in September. Showcasing the best of LGBT Short Films and Screenplays from around the world.

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