Jun 12, 2017 8:18PM

Jesse Heath Gets Real On His Short Film 'Sola' Ft. Cool Thing Mimi Elashiry

Tiny dancer.
Jesse Heath loves an underdog. His work as a filmmaker studies them in a way that's familiarly introspective, and presents them in a way that's stripped of anything too glossy. 
 
His latest short film, Sola, stars one of our fave insta babes, Mimi Elashiry. Shot in Tijuana, it centres on Mimi and the world that she feels seperate from. "I wanted to utilise the location and our protagonist to explore themes concerning one's sense of place and home," Jesse explains. "And how borders, both real and imagined, play into how we define ourselves and the world we inhabit."
 
Watch the Sola below, and get to know Jesse Heath below that.
 
Name: Jesse Heath
 
Nickname: If you know, you know.
 
Star sign: Cancer
 
Where did you grow up and where are you living now? 
I grew up in Brighton, England and am now living in Los Angeles, California.
 
What impact did those places have on you/your work?
I think growing up in England has had a huge influence on my work. In many ways England is a tough place to live; the weather is cold and grey, one's sense of opportunity often feels limited there, and in general there's a lot of cynicism. That kind of environment cultivates a certain scrappiness in people that I've always appreciated. English people are often hard, full of grit, and though they don't show vulnerability easily they are some of the most humble and genuine people. I find that I'm drawn to ideas and visuals that deal with tough people in tough environments; it's what's familiar and interesting to me.  
 
But I've been in America for some years now, and I've fallen in love with the way most people embrace the idea of the American dream in their own personal way. Americans have a lot of guts, they just go after things, and I'm very inspired by that sense of possibility. Living in America has allowed me to feel more ambitious, less fearful of failure, and so I've watched myself grow bolder creatively here, taking more risks, asking more of myself. 
 
What were you like in high school?
I found it kind of hard to fit in. I always had mates but hanging out in bigger groups was difficult; I was never part of a crew the way other kids were, instead I kind of floated in and out of different groups and kept a kind of motley assortment of friendships. I've always valued spending time with people on a one-on-one basis much more than group scenarios. I was generally a nice lad — I smoked weed, listened to grime music and painted a lot of graffiti. 
 
How have you changed since then? 
After high school my best friend and I went travelling and a few months into our trip we were in Thailand together when he was killed in a bus crash. I changed a lot after that — I lost confidence in myself and the world around me and I just hardened myself. Only in the last few years does it feel like I'm finally able to come out of that and discovering filmmaking has been a big catalyst for my personal evolution. It's helped me find renewed confidence and I'm much more open to the world now, because in filmmaking you have to be — you have to be vulnerable and curious and collaborative. All in all, I'm still generally a nice lad.
 
If you had to describe your artistic output in five words, what would you call it?
Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.
 
Can you walk me through Sola? Where did the idea start and finish for you?
I met Mimi through a mutual friend and we talked about doing a short film together that incorporated her dancing, but initially I didn't have a sense of how to approach the dancing aspect in a way that felt relevant and meaningful to me. Some months went by and then on a work trip in Miami I ended up spending time in all these flashy nightclubs, surrounded by people I couldn't relate to, and though I was out among all these dancing, partying people, I felt such a deep sense of loneliness and estrangement. And I came back from that trip inspired with not so much an idea but a feeling I wanted to centre the film around. 
 
We made the film a few weeks after I returned from Miami. We shot over the course of three days with the barest of crews, no script and no schedule. In a way Sola is a celebration of separateness and loneliness, and all the people that are too often familiar with those feelings. It's a raw piece, with a single central character that watches a world from the outside, but feels this world very deeply on the inside. And this internal state is really only expressed in the dance sequences. In the film, Mimi is a stranger in a strange land; alone, perceptive of the environment around her, but separate from it. I wanted to utilise the location and our protagonist to explore themes concerning one's sense of place and home and how borders, both real and imagined, play into how we define ourselves and the world we inhabit. To me, Tijuana was the perfect place, the only place really, to shoot. It's a beautiful, chaotic, and expansive city and like all towns that sit along a border it struggles with these issues in a very real way.
 
What fascinates you about the themes that recur in your work? 
My whole life I've always felt like an outsider. At the moment, most of my work seems to revolve around that theme, at least to some extent. My work is obsessed with underdogs, loners and dark horses because I am too, and I suppose when you are obsessed with something it just means you have posed questions to yourself and you are looking for answers. I'm enjoying this line of inquiry. It's a good one and I'm not sure I'll ever find the answers I'm looking for. 
 
I'm also very keen on simplicity, paring everything down, reducing it all to just the essentials. I think lots of bells and whistles too often interfere with beauty and meaning. Doing something with simplicity is actually very difficult and I'm eager to take on that challenge and hopefully, eventually get it right. 
 
What films did you look to for inspiration? 
A big inspiration was a series of photos taken in Tijuana by Alex Webb in the 90s. The images are raw and gritty but equally beautiful. Tijuana is so colourful and vibrant and the locals are incredibly welcoming. I was much more interested in showing that side of things than the seedy tourist traps.
 
Best piece of advice you've ever received? 
Do a lot of work.
 
Whose work (outside of film) do you admire / who's doing cool things around you at the moment? 
Outside of film there's two artists/graffiti writers, Pantone from Spain and Roid from London, that are making work that I'm really inspired by. I've always been fascinated by the vision of the future that came out of the 80s and both artists capture that aesthetic really well. I also really rate everything that Skepta is about at the moment – I've been listening to him since Channel U days and his commitment to maintaining his integrity in a creative commercial industry is completely on point. It's encouraging to know that there are people out there who have earned a certain amount of success, but still are keeping it real. 
 
What three songs are currently soundtracking your life? 
The Mighty Hannibal - The Right To Love You
DMA'S cover Cher 'Believe' for Like A Version
Carnage X Section Boyz - BIMMA
What would your last meal be? 
Baked Mussels and Hawaiian Roll #2 from Sushi Zone in San Francisco.
 
What's the best thing on the internet? 
Right now it's The Blaze's video for Territory. It's completely inspiring; it's the perfect balance of looking hard as nails while also being incredibly tender and moving.
 
What do you want to be when you grow up? 
I just want the work that I make to be as good as my ambitions.
 
Photo: Courtesy

Hayley Morgan