Interview With Writer and Filmmaker Jill Morley

By Ruth on January 26, 2017 in Interview, movie, television

Last April (2016) when I made my inaugural trip to the Artemis Film Festival, I came in contact with the works of a filmmaker that greatly intrigued me–Jill Morley. Although I didn’t meet her, nor screen her work at the festival, I have discovered that if Artemis promotes a filmmaker, it is worth my while to investigate the person. And that is exactly what I did. A few months back, Jill and I had the opportunity to chat, and in spite of her busy schedule, we briefly discussed her work within the indie film community, her various films and projects, and her “in-progress” works and future aspirations.

RH: What caused you to go the route of making films?

JM: Well, I started off as an actor. I wasn’t getting cast as much as I wanted to, so I started writing my own material and producing it. I tried my hand at waitressing to make ends meet, but I kept getting fired–I didn’t seem to have any talent for that career. I was in New Jersey, and I happened to meet someone who made a living as a go-go dancer, and this person seemed really nice and smart. So I decided to become a go-go dancer too. I figured this was the best material of all, and I decided I should write about this. I wrote a one-woman show called True Confessions of a Go-Go Girl. I produced it myself, and I wound up getting really good reviews. It almost went on Broadway, but there was a problem that kept that from happening. They wanted a review from a more established newspaper or magazine like The New York Times, and of course, that wasn’t going to happen.  The girls in the show played characters that were based on the girls I had met in the business.

Later on, I started making a documentary about them where I was able to talk directly to these girls, and I was going to portray them on screen. I was really interested in their stories, and I knew I wanted to tell those stories in a real way. But then as time went on, I wasn’t as interested in performing, and I became more interested in people’s stories. I started putting their stories on camera in 1995, and I finished that film in 2001. It is a documentary entitled Stripped.

Wow, that was a long time! I understand documentaries take a long time, especially when you’re going the route of independent film. 

Yes, that’s what this one is, and it took six years to film it. It’s always a massive thing to stick with for such a long time, but that’s the way the business is.  It’s like boxing. You learn that making a film doesn’t happen overnight, and boxing requires a lot of work, too. And it can be tedious sometimes, but in the end, it’s always worth it.

How do you keep the momentum going when it takes you five or six years to produce a film like this?

Well, I felt a responsibility to the other girls that were in it. But besides that, really I felt like I had an important story to tell. And in the meantime, when I’m working on a long project like that, I do a lot to keep me busy. I do workout videos. I also produce other things. I write. Independent film is a passion of mine, but it’s not something where I can make a living as of yet. That’s why I have to do all these other things to support myself. Indie films do tend to eat up my money. With Stripped, I felt a real responsibility to tell the story. I had screenplays and other stories that I started, but I didn’t finish ’cause I didn’t feel there was an important story that the world needed to know like I felt with this one.

So with these indie films, do you take them to film festivals to get the word out about them?

Yeah, you start by taking them to festivals. You hope you get into some good ones. From there, you try to get distribution, which we did with Fight Like a Girl. Not as much as I’d like, but honestly we’re on video on demand so it’s available on a lot of different platforms. It’s just a matter of getting the word out so people can see it.

I noticed that there were at least three films listed that you had produced. The most recent one listed was Cris Cyborg, is that correct?

Yes, that’s a piece that I did for Vice magazine. I was a host, and I helped produce it. I had been fascinated with her for a long time. I knew a friend of hers said she was very sweet and nice and actually girly, though a lot of people don’t think that she’s like that when they think of her. I reached out to her and did this small piece on her with Vice. I was very proud of our work.

So between your two films Confessions of a Go-Go Girl and Fight Like a Girl, which one seemed to have the best reception do you think?

It’s hard to say. It’s been so long between the films. The first film got into more festivals, and we got a broadcast distribution. But now so many more people are making films.  I still don’t feel like Fight Like a Girl has reached its full potential. When we do play at festivals or even at women’s events, people are very responsive. They seem to respond strongly in very emotional ways.

I noticed you because of the Artemis Film Festival this past April, and they kept mentioning you and your works. 

Oh cool! We were in that festival the previous year, and we won best documentary.

I love the fact that you are a woman who is involved in production because even though there are more women involved in films than there used to be, there still seem to be less women involved in that end of production. Have you found it difficult to be involved in production as a woman? Have you experienced gender inequality in the industry?

You know, I really try not to think about it. I just operate in my own little way. I think of my first documentary Stripped. I would go into a strip club, and the owner would ask my camera guy, “What do you want?” And I’m like, “No, I’m the director.” {laughs}That was a direct thing. In other ways, I was told when I started making the film Fight Like a Girl that no one wanted to see women fight. But that was before it became a normal thing in movies and TV. I didn’t really pay much attention to all that criticism because the way I see it is that  if that’s what you want to do, you just have to find a way around somehow and do it. Now people seem more willing to give us a shot and give us more chances to do things. So that’s exciting.

Do you have anything else that you’re working on that you can mention?

Just working on writing and developing a couple screenplays. I’ve also been working on a kind of tour of women’s institutions or women’s studies for colleges with Fight Like a Girl where I go and I talk. We screen the film, and I do Q & A. Then I teach a boxing class. I have like twenty pairs of boxing gloves that I take with me. And that’s been going pretty good too. In fact, I will be at George Mason University next month and then Villanova in April.

I’ve also produced a small piece for Playboy–it’s kind of interesting. It’s a web series they’re doing. It’s a cool series. It’s more real. It’s run by a woman. It’s more behind-the-scenes of certain things that you never would have thought of before. It’s pretty cool. You know, Playboy has changed over the years. They don’t have nudes any more. It’s kind of fascinating to be a part of this new Playboy.

If someone wants to see your films, where can they watch them?

Stripped is available on my official website. I tend to not put that one out there for everyone to see. That one is more of a hidden gem partially because it was my first film, and I didn’t know what I was doing when I made it. But I still think the women that are in it are amazing. I just don’t think the production value is that great. So I just keep it to the side, and if people really want to see it, they can see it. Fight Like a Girl is available on iTunes, Amazon, and basically all other digital platforms.

I am consistently astounded by independent filmmakers and their incredible stories. I often think the tale of their filmmaking process is as noteworthy and entertaining as the finished product. In Jill’s case, her tireless devotion to relate stories that need to be told and that are dear to her heart has produced a handful of works that are not your typical network nor cinema film. Jill has chosen to tell the real story in her films, and for that I salute her. Maybe her movies are not everyone’s cup of tea, but there is no denying the fact that Jill’s passion for telling stories has driven her to create films that feature remarkable people through a lens of grace, dignity, and realism that mainstream films may not be as inclined to develop. There is no repudiating the fact that Jill is strong, vibrant, and hard-working, and I fully comprehend the dilemma of supplementary work to provide income so that you can fuel your passion. But in Jill’s case, nothing has deterred her from making these films, and her determination has bequeathed this world with something unique, tangible, and distinctly different from the conventional studio. I praise both her and her work, and I greatly anticipate what is yet to come for this fierce and powerful woman who is willing to do whatever is necessary to uncover the stories of real woman that need to be told in an edifying manner as opposed to the sometimes demeaning fashion seen in today’s media. I would invite everyone to check out all of Jill’s links below, and even if not every film is something with which you connect, there is a good chance you may find something either now or in the future amongst Jill’s works that resonates with you on an authentic level. 







Shooting Ninjas Productions (her film company)


Fight Like a Girl



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About the Author

RuthView all posts by Ruth

43-year-old single mother of an active 14-year-old girl
Born in Tacoma, WA; lives in Yelm, WA
Entertainment Writer
Available For Interviews and Reviews
Substitute Teacher


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