Azazel Jacobs ’94
Writer/director Azazel Jacobs’ film education began long before he attended Purchase. His father is Ken Jacobs, a renowned experimental filmmaker.
The younger Jacobs ’94 has been routinely lauded as an extraordinary and unique voice in independent film—making lists such as Filmmaker magazine’s “25 Faces of Independent Film” in 2007, MovieMaker magazine’s “Ten Directors to Watch” in 2008, and Cinemascope’s “50 Best Filmmakers Under 50” in 2012.
He recently directed French Exit, currently in post-production, with a screenplay adapted from a novel by its Canadian author Patrick DeWitt and starring Academy Award nominees Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges.
His 2011 film Terri, which he wrote and directed, was nominated for many awards, most notably the Sundance Grand Jury Prize.
He ventured into television when he co-wrote and directed a faux reality series called Doll & Em (2013–2015) for HBO.
And he wrote and directed the film The Lovers, which the Chicago Reader lauded as “the most underrated movie of 2017” and whose screenplay was nominated for a Independent Spirit Award (2018).
His first ambition, to become a cartoonist, was derailed when Cooper Union rejected him. He came to Purchase thinking he would just stay for a year and reapply to Cooper, but a couple of months into the program, he was here to stay. Cooper Union’s loss was clearly Purchase’s gain.
Q&A Reprinted from 2014 PURCHASE magazine
PC: Is it possible to characterize the type of filmmaker that Purchase seems to generate? Are there any hallmarks of Purchase film grads, in your opinion?
AJ: At our base, even when it seems impossible, or that no one is interested, we figure out ways to cobble together what we want, what we feel we must. At least with the people I am still in touch with, they all hold art above rent.
PC: What did you take away from the foundation in filmmaking received here that’s had the most lasting impact on you professionally?
AJ: “What did I have to say?” I felt this question was asked of me over and over again until I could not evade it. Through assignments, conversations, screenings, and really living film, we were asked what was driving us and then given the skills to express it. Now, having that answer, not so much in words but in intentions and aims, it continues to guide my way.
PC: You said in an interview, “What I want is for people to see that my movies were made by the same person, but never that they’re saying the same thing.” So how would you define or describe what Azazel Jacobs films have in common?
AJ: The same thing I would say about everyone: that we are individuals, and that even if our left eye and right are close to each other, even in ourselves we are seeing different things, putting it together as best we can. I want to respect that. I’m hoping to speak the way I want to be spoken to.
PC: Are there any aspects of making films that you still find challenging?
AJ: Yes, of course. If I ever feel otherwise, it’s a sure bet my films will suck.
PC: What’s your next project?
AJ: It’s a film about some people that I don’t know, living in a place I don’t. It’s got me worried in a good way; I’m driven to find my way in.