Jessica Featherby The Gathering DVD Interview

Jessica Featherby The Gathering DVD Interview

Jessica Featherby The Gathering DVD Interview

Cast: Jessica Featherby, Madison Pelzer
Producers: Janet Armarego and Nick Heydon
Genre: Drama, Documentary
Rated: Warning: This film contains frequent coarse language and adult themes.
Running Time: 27 minutes

Synopsis: The DVD, called The Gathering, highlights a typical adolescent gathering which spirals out of control due to an over supply of alcohol and the arrival of gatecrashers. The hard hitting themes in the film include sexual assault, violence, glassing and alcoholic poisoning.

The 2008 National Drug Research Institute found that, on average, one in four hospitalisations of 15-25 year olds happen because of alcohol. In addition, four Australians under 25 die due to alcohol-related injuries in an average week.

Mayor Russell Aubrey said the script for The Gathering was written with the input of more than 150 teenagers who described the real and dangerous situations in which they find themselves.

"Teen binge drinking can and does lead to a number of horrifying situations. These can include car accidents, sexual assault, violent attacks, hospitalisation and even death," he said.
"This DVD resource is designed to engage young people in discussion and raise awareness about the harms associated with binge drinking. The resource depicts drunkenness as undesirable and discourages the secondary supply of alcohol to juveniles by parents, older siblings and friends."

The Gathering will be accompanied by resource material to assist teachers and facilitators in effectively engaging young people in discussion about strategies for staying safe when socialising.

Several years ago the City identified the need to target young people in alcohol education programs. The script developed for The Gathering was created after discussing typical events occurring at teenage parties.

The script was then workshopped with teenagers to ensure the credibility of the characters, scenario and language. The DVD will be provided to all senior schools in the City of Melville free of charge. Schools and organisations outside of the City of Melville will be able to purchase the DVD resource.

Additional funding for the project was sourced from Lotterywest, Healthway and the Cities of Rockingham and Perth.

Release Date: Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Interview with Jessica Featherby

Jessica Featherby plays Jess in the film, the main character. Jessica Featherby was also one of Ja'mie's best friends in the series, Summer Heights High.

Question: What made you want to play the role of Jess, in The Gathering?

Jessica Featherby: I was initially attracted the project as it was an opportunity to act in something that had such a strong message, purpose and hopeful resulting effect on its target audience - I thought the character of Jess in particular would be quite a dramatically challenging role, something really meaty, emotionally intense and quite different to a lot of the other work I've done and it was a fantastic script so I was thrilled to be given the role.

Question: Can you talk a little about the character of Jess, in the The Gathering?

Jessica Featherby: Jess is really just your average teenage girl who experiences all of the temptations and peer pressures that any 16 year-old girl would, though I think deep down she has all the right intentions and an innate sense of what's right. She's still innocent and very impressionable which I think is really demonstrated within a number of scenarios in the film - she doesn't really know how many drinks are a lot of drinks, she doesn't anticipate that the party could get out of control and she doesn't know how to cope with it all when it does because it's something she's never been exposed to and she is easily swayed by her friends, particularly those who she wants to impress like Georgie. I think she's the perfect example of teenager getting caught up in a situation that was something she could have never imagined and didn't have the skills, knowledge or adequate support to deal with it.

Question: How do you think social networking sites and technology have changed the behaviour of teenagers?

Jessica Featherby: There's no doubt everyone's information is far more accessible through these mediums now and while this is great in the fact that we can all connect on a whole new level, I think it can often be detrimental to young people in terms of acting as another platform where there is a certain image to uphold, certain types of behaviours young people want to display and it seems that their online profiles are often designed to portray an image of how they wish to be perceived rather than who they really are. I think it's probably easy for a lot of people to hide behind something like Facebook, through selecting certain images and posting certain comments, which I think in turn changes their behaviour in real life. I would hope that social networking sites can still have a positive effect in expanding social networks and simply acting as another communication tool rather than acting as an outlet where teenagers can exercise harmful behaviours.

Question: Did it surprise you that four Australians under 25 die due to alcohol-related injuries in an average week?

Jessica Featherby: As much as I am aware of the fact that a binge-drinking culture exists and is becoming more prevalent amongst Gen Y and that there certainly seems to be a continual increase in alcohol-related injuries, I am still surprised by the number of actual deaths. I think that probably has something to do with the fact that young people generally seem to think they're invincible and until you're actually directly exposed to an incident like this it doesn't really affect you. That's why I think this film is so important and can hopefully act as a substitute for the real thing.

Question: How important was it to you and your character that the script was workshopped with teenagers to ensure the credibility of the characters, scenario and language?

Jessica Featherby: I think that this was one of the most important elements in creating an effective and powerful film as teenagers in particular are now so over-exposed to alcohol abuse, sex, drugs, violence both in film and television and to a certain extent in real life, so in order to produce something that was going to actually captivate the audience, something they felt they could actually relate to and feel moved by and I guess had a point of difference, it was incredibly important to portray believable characters in believable scenarios that most teenagers could place themselves in from previous experience. I think the language, the identifiable character types that everyone can place within their own social circles and also the extreme rawness of the film - as in there were no special effects, nothing was glorified, you could picture yourself there - all contributed to a character and script that remained true.

Question: What do you hope the film will achieve?

Jessica Featherby: Ultimately I hope the film will just make teenagers think about the consequences of their actions - I don't think anyone can just walk away from seeing this and feel totally unaffected, it forces you to confront your own behaviour in these types of party situations and to think about whether this could have potentially ever happened to you or someone you know. And as a result I of course hope it will reduce the number of teenage alcohol-related injuries.

Question: Have you personally been involved in a party that went wrong?

Jessica Featherby: I've certainly been at parties where a number of alcohol-related incidences have occurred, including injury and having some seriously sick friends from alcohol poisoning, but I have been lucky enough to have never known someone to experience a fatal accident. When it comes down to it, I think it's absolutely fine to drink at parties and have a great time, as long as it's in a controlled environment, you are with friends and will all look out for each other, and you can ultimately acknowledge when you've had enough. I think the key message of this film is that if there is someone at a party who is highly intoxicated and becoming ill, you simply must not leave them on their own.

Question: How have you seen the 'party atmosphere' change your years of going out?

Jessica Featherby: Of course - when I was younger it was certainly much more of a 'drink to get drunk' culture and on a much more regular basis. Nights out were much bigger and alcohol was a huge focus - in saying that I was lucky enough to have amazing friends (many of which I lived on campus at uni in a college with) who all looked out for each other and I know we were all sensible enough to never really let things get way out of control. If we were going to a 21st there would always be a designated driver and if someone was ever in trouble you could always rely on one of us to be there. I think as I've gotten older and busier, the party atmosphere is more about catching up with the people you want to see and going to events you actually want to be at like music festivals or gigs, and while alcohol is certainly still present, I'd say it's more complimentary to a night out rather than it being the focus.

Question: Are you working on any other upcoming projects?

Jessica Featherby: I recently shot a pilot for a potential new television series - a comedy about a group of personal trainers working at a dysfunctional gym called 'My PT'. I played the role of Katie which was a lot of fun and a very different genre to this film. It's currently being pitched to a couple of networks so fingers crossed we get a bite. I'm also working full-time at PR agency Undertow Media which I'm really enjoying so just doing my best to juggle my acting career and PR career at the moment.

Interview by Brooke Hunter and Morgan Sutherland.