Jesseca Ynez Simmons is an award winning documentary filmmaker. Her interests are rooted in exploring the documentary genre and finding ways for the form to be an extension of content. Some reoccurring themes in Jesseca’s work include: nature, poetry, gender and female perspectives.
Jesseca has been recognized by the American Society of Cinematographers and was a Southern Exposure Film Fellow for the Southern Environmental Law Center in Birmingham, AL. Jesseca recently completed her first feature documentary I Can Only be Mary Lane, which took home the Director’s Award for Artistic Merit at the 2018 Santa Cruz Film Festival. The film follows one of the last legendary Blues singers that made the Great Migration from the American South as she attempts to record an album at age 82. Gigwise said: “This is a film for all true music lovers. It gives you belief in classic music, as well as the inspiration on how we should all grasp life and squeeze it for all it is worth.” In addition to directing, Jesseca regularly collaborates with other filmmakers as director of photography and camera person. Her images have been seen at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Hot Docs Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, DocLisboa, Sidewalk Film Festival as well as on National Geographic.
Originally from the Bay Area, she received her BA in Politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She then moved to the Midwest to earn her MFA in Documentary Media from Northwestern University where she was invited to continue post-MFA as Filmmaker in Residence. Jesseca is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Dayton.
In addition to filmmaking, Jesseca works in crafting stained glass windows, painting and poetry. Her feelings on art are ever-changing, but today she has chosen to evoke the words of Georges Bataille, “There are explosives everywhere that perhaps will soon blind me. I laugh when I think that my eyes persist in demanding objects that do not destroy them."