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Jillie and Thomas Simon, a filmmaker couple, are no strangers to film festivals with their thought-provoking films and music videos.

Jillie is an actress, singer-songwriter, producer, director and screenwriter. Most recently, she wrote, co-directed, co-produced and played the lead role in
The short film “Hungry”, co-starring Oscar-nominee Eric Roberts.

“Hungry” has been accepted to thirteen film festivals and won seven awards so far, including three acting awards for Jillie’s role as Allison Lenare, a grade school teacher who confronts a congressman about children going hungry because of federal cuts. On November 4, 2016, the film was screened at the Big Apple Film Festival in New York City.

jillie-simonOther film and television credits include a principal role in the indie film “You Have the Right to Remain Violent” directed by the multi-award-winning Roberto Monticello, roles in indie film “Confess” (Best Screenplay, Hamptons Film Festival), in the Academy Award winning film “A Beautiful Mind”, directed by Ron Howard, a recurring role on the U.S. soap opera “As the World Turns and the title role in the romantic comedy short film “Hannah Henri” by Akiva Penaloza (a NewFest award-winning screenplay).

Her husband Thomas Simon is originally from Vienna, Austria who moved to New York City to expand his horizon of his life in art. He is a musician, composer, producer and director who composed the soundtrack for the award-winning film La Redempcio de Peixos (Spain/Italy/USA), for which he was nominated for Best Music/Best Song at the Milan International Film Festival in 2013. Thomas also produced, edited and did soundtrack work for the a documentary feature Lucky Express and most recently was commissioned to create a music video for Romanian rock star Eugen Nutescu of Kumm. Together with his wife Jillie, he produced four award-winning music videos.

As a musician, Thomas produced and recorded ten CDs – four solo albums, two with the project Love Alien, and four with his latest band Musiciens Sans Frontieres (MSF)(Musicians Without Borders) and released them on his and Jillie’s independent label, Endorphin Records. “Affection”, off MSF’s album “Satellite” was placed on the GRAMMY ballot in 2008. He composed the music for rock opera “The Damned”, which ran for six weeks in Nov/Dec, 2001, to sold out houses (Kraine Theater, NYC), directed and co-written by five-time Emmy winner William Electric Black) and performed live with the cast.

After having placed music into independent feature films “Copy Shop” (as yet unreleased), Thomas was commissioned by Saucon Films to create ambient pieces and segue-ways for their feature “Black Wine”. His first film produced in 2003 was a documentary/musical travelogue called “Thomas Simon: Walkabout” (USA/Nepal/India/Brazil).

With Jillie and Thomas’s current band, Musicians Sans Frontieres, which combines alternative rock with world influences and their prior incarnation, cult favorite Love Alien (alternative rock), they have toured together in Europe, the U.S. and the Middle East, played Yasgurs Farm in the Woodstock Delirium Concert (a Woodstock Reunion Concert, on the bill with Buzzy Linhart, Melanie and Country Joe) and has also been on the bill with Deodato, Spacehog, Marky Ramone & The Intruders and opened for Dale Bozzio (of Missing Persons). Numerous benefits include the Salvation Army Benefit for Hurricane Katrina victims at Pier 66, New York, a Benefit for IndyMedia (with Ricanstruction), and for the 9/11 Firefighters.

Find out more about Jillie and Thomas in the following interview.

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How did you two meet?

Jillie: I walked into Sidewalk Cafe in the East Village and saw this laughing beautiful man at the other end of the room and thought, I have to meet him. So I stood next to him in the line for the unisex bathroom and our eyes met. Then I left it up to him, the spark had been ignited! (We kept glancing at each-other till he came over to my table)

How did your creative careers get started, Jillie and Thomas?

Jillie: I’ve been acting since I was a teen, went to university for it, worked in theaters on Long Island, then Off-Off-Broadway, Off-Broadway, regionally, then started getting cast in films and television as well. And I’d been writing songs on guitar since I was 13 and when Thomas and I began dating, we also began collaborating musically…

Thomas: Which turned into a touring project. Besides playing downtown NYC clubs regularly, we toured internationally and nationally, and played festivals and benefits. Then I began getting into soundtrack work and I was also working on film sets, which got me into making my documentary and music videos. I learned by watching others (how to edit, how to shoot, etc.)

Who came up with idea of your film “Hungry” and why did you want to
produce a film with that subject?

Thomas: Knowing that Jillie is a terrific writer, after we’d made a string of music videos that had won us numerous awards at film festivals all over the world, I felt we were ready to make our own narrative and I kept urging her to write a story. And by chance, I was reading in newspapers, short articles on teachers who found out that kids in their class were going hungry because of the cuts to the SNAP program (State Nutritional Assistance Program) who then paid out of their own pockets to get the kids lunch.

Jillie: I agreed that was a hugely important and topical subject. And we wanted to shine a spotlight on that subject that children shouldn’t have to go hungry – anywhere in the world- especially these days when there really is enough to go around (and in some places there’s a surplus of food). It’s all political, complicated by wars—

Thomas: -and global multi-national corporations-
Jillie: It’s tragic. And in the U.S. when they cut food programs in 2014 to give more money to Big Agriculture, that resulted in children coming to school and going through their day hungry, which means they can’t focus or learn. So we wanted to add our spark to help make the conversation burn bright enough to hopefully create change. – But our story “Hungry” is a drama-adventure that is also laced through with humor, because that’s an integral part of life.

Was it a challenge to create the fictional story?

Jillie: Though it was my first film I’d written myself (I’ve mainly written songs), I think actors who’ve worked on a lot of plays and film, read a lot of plays and who are always observing life, are often very good at creating dialogue. And I also do improv, been in shows in NYC, at Upright Citizens Brigade and with Grown-Ups Playground, which is great for everything. Structurally, I had the help of a couple of wonderful mentors, the terrific filmmaker & film professor Devi Snively, who Thomas and I met in Cannes. (Who we’ll also be working with, me as actress and Thomas, a composer, in her upcoming short film “Dr. Stein and his Bird Bride” as well as on a feature still in development) and Eileen Deutsch, who I know from working together on her very funny bedroom farce “Take Me You Fool”, which I’d been cast in.

What are your dreams and goals in filmmaking?

Thomas: Continuing to produce, to create, while upping the production
value more and more – being able to finance that. I’d love to shoot on
actual film stock.

Jillie: Yes, to always do better and better work and get it out to wider and wider audiences. To continue to strike a chord with audiences and make positive ripples. To have the opportunity to put out something meaningful and wonderful which is a terrific gift to yourself and to the world. Which hopefully leads to collaboration with many of the terrific directors, writers and fellow-artists around the world! But whatever topics we’re dealing with, we want to bring a little more light onto the planet.

Thomas: It happened with “Hungry” and with our music videos before that, after screenings at various festivals, people approached us and told us they hadn’t known of the issues before. With our music video “So Many Ways (For Safe, Green, Sane Energy)” they hadn’t been aware of how dangerous and poisonous fracking is or with my music video “Condor Jam”, about the fragile balance between civilization and indigenous life in the Amazon. I think as artists we have the opportunity to reach people. And that’s the
way to implement positive change from the grassroots up.

Video “Condor Jam”

Thomas Simon, Condor Jam from Thomas Simon on Vimeo.

How do you finance your projects?

Thomas: So far everything’s been self-financed. We’re hoping the great momentum we’re having with “Hungry” will get us help with future financing of feature length projects.

Who in the world of entertainment inspires you most and why?

Thomas: There’s no one person, but early on, Iggy Pop and Ennio Merricone. I’m very inspired by world music like Tinariwein (Mali). And Michael Moore, whose films are perfect examples of making a point and wrapping it in an entertaining package.

Jillie: Musically, Neil Young combines powerful music with great lyrics and speaks out against injustice, Susan Seidelman, who we first met when she spoke at a Screen Actors Guild Panel “Script to Screen” and who makes such terrific films, Steven Spielberg who is always looking for and showing humanity, and – “Hungry” was shown together with “Lean on Me” at the Chesapeake Film Festival where director John G. Avildsen was receiving a LifeTime Achievement Award and we were in the Q & A with him afterwards, and listening to him was inspiring as are so many of his powerful, beautifully made films in which the underdog ends up triumphant.

Thomas: I learned so much talking to him about his process of filmmaking.

Jillie: And Audrey Hepburn stands out eternally as an amazing performer who was also an awesome humanitarian and a beautiful soul.

What are you currently working on?

Thomas: We’re in the middle of shooting a new short film. I just released my new music video that’s starting to make the film festival rounds, am working on two new albums, one Musiciens Sans Frontieres, the other my solo project, and I have a live shows coming up, next one is at The Bowery Electric on November 28th in NYC. Also looking to take the band on the road in 2017.

Jillie: I’m playing the lead in a short by Ange Arabatzis that we’re co-producing, have a role in feature film, “Infiltrated” by MarvaLee Peart, shooting in 2017 (it’s a crime thriller, but my role is the comedic relief), will be doing an industry reading of a new comedy by William McCauley in the New Year, and am waiting to hear about when three other feature films I’ve been cast in will happen. They’re still waiting on getting all the funding together. So meanwhile, when Ange asked me to be in his short theater piece “Be Still” last winter, and the writing was so good, I asked him, “Would you like to do this as a film?” – and we’re in production right now.

Trailer for “Hungry”

Music Video: So Many Ways

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