Actress & Director Zoe Lister-Jones Just Took on Hollywood in a Major Way

Zoe Lister-Jones does not drink coffee. In fact, the writer, director, actress, and producer of Band Aid, her new indie film, says “I don’t drink any caffeine.” If you rattled by this (what, how, why, how?) you’re not alone. But there’s a pretty simple reason. 

“I never really started,” Lister-Jones shares. “I was a barista in high school at a coffee shop. I opened the shop one day at 5am and drank about six shots of espresso and got so violently ill that I’ve never gone back.” Espresso barfs aside, she still has her human share of the 4pm slump like the rest of us. But java does not jive with the NYU Tisch grad. Like a true artist, Zoe says, “I just suffer through it.” 

Luckily, the only suffering in her new movie is that of the protagonist couple tortured by all of the things that torture married couples: Dishes, blowjobs, banality.  

In Band Aid we’re witness to the world of Anna (Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally), a married pair hanging on by a pinky promise and some vows. Everything is out of tune, so the duo attempts to salvage their relationship by starting a band called the Dirty Dishes, turning all of their fights into songs. 

The industry vet actress (did you know three-year-old Zoe starred in her mother’s short film?) and writer (her 2009 work for Breaking Upward was possibly the inspiration for Gwyneth Paltrow’s “conscious uncoupling,”) not only took on her first solo directorial role with Band Aid, but she challenged herself further.

Band Aid employed an all-female crew. From producer Natalia Anderson, director of photography Hilary Spera, and a team of female art directors, camera operators, electricians, sound editors— the WHOLE squad was women. Brooklyn Decker, who also stars in the film, told NPR, “Let me tell you, the efficiency on that set was unparalleled. These women are like, I have families to get home to. I have to feed my child at 6 o'clock. I've got to clean my house when I get home. Let's get this shit done, you know?”

As a first time director, Zoe understood that women face certain double-standards. “I think there was a part of me that was looking for as supportive an artistic community as possible.” She’s quick to clarify that she has “wonderful working relationships with a lot of men,” but acknowledges the female crew, “definitely shifted the energy on set in a way that was palpable and impacted the product for the better. The energy on set, it did feel more intimate. It was a really calm, quiet, and supportive energy that allowed for us to go to deeper places in some ways.”

She mentions the physical intimacy in the film. “As an actress, I felt my most free in those scenes to not be encountering the male gaze.” Others on crew and cast were quick to agree. 

“I think what was so exciting every day was that as new actors came to set, immediately they all wanted to talk about the energetic shift that they were experiencing. And as the all-female set had normalized for those of us who had been on set for days or weeks, it was cool to get a fresh perspective on it.” 

She also loved getting feedback from Pally, whom Zoe says was often the only male on set. “He now says he only wants to work with predominantly female crews or at least to push for more female crews. The decks are stacked against us. Until there is more equity you have to put more focus on it.” 

She says, “I think as women we have to walk a tenuous tightrope. We have to be fearless in a lot of ways and lean into our confidence, especially in the workplace, but we also have to play the game because we also are still living in a patriarchy.”

Which brings up the fact that it’s not just Hollywood. Zoe is aware that the inequity exists across all industries (and is quick to praise Brooklyn Decker and Finery “that she’s moving into the tech space, especially as a woman.”)

Zoe claims that the idea that we’ve moved past any issues or injustices is the most dangerous flaw that continues to feed into these broken systems. “It does require such hyper-vigilance because we all have to confront our own biases every day. It requires so much self-awareness and awareness of others in a way that can be irritating to people. People want to continue on with their habits and way of life-- it’s hard for anyone to shift their lifestyle. We all get really stuck in our habits, especially when those habits have gone unchecked for so long. It requires work on everyone’s part.” For Zoe, putting in the work beyond the words is where change occurs. 

“In Hollywood, when it comes to the gender disparity, the number of female directors and crew members has actually gotten worse in the last few years. We can talk about it, and talking about it is important, but so is walking the walk.” It’s exactly why making a movie this way was so important to her.

The LA Times agreed, taking a big stance with their headline: “Zoe Lister-Jones made 'Band Aid' with an all-female crew. Your move, Hollywood.” “That headline shook me. It’s an amazing headline. It’s something that people in the industry definitely read. “And,” the director adds, “it’s scary to be the face of that headline.”

Her indie film also happened to open the same weekend as Patty Jenkins’ superhero box office triumph, Wonder Woman. “It’s been an incredible moment in history to even be a small part of,” Zoey says. “The fact that we opened on the same weekend, it wasn’t something any of us really thought about, but to be in conversation with what Patty Jenkins and Wonder Woman mean in the grand scheme of things and what Band Aid means in the grand scheme of things is really cool. It’s nice to see it all working together.”

Guess she doesn’t need caffeine— she’s a bit of a Wonder Woman herself. 

Arianna Schioldager is Editor-in-Chief at Create & Cultivate. You can follow her @ariannawrotethis. 

Band Aid is currently playing in New York City and Los Angeles and will open in Chicago and other major cities on Friday, June 16.

Photos: Zoe Lister-Jones/Band Aid

Photo Credits: Mister Lister Films