icon icon

Meet Jessica Zeait: Celebrating Women in Screen Business

To commemorate International Women’s Day 2024, we’re putting the spotlight on our incredible Master of Arts Screen: Business (MASB) alumnae, highlighting their achievements, their perspectives on leadership in the screen industry, and the impact of education on their careers as screen business leaders. 

Jessica (Khoury) Zeait focuses on programming, acquisition and distribution as the Founder and Co-Director of the Lebanese Film Festival Australia, she is the Head of Brand and Marketing for Propic, a startup delivering AI solutions.  

Tell us a little more about your current role or focus area.

As the Founder and Co-Director of the Lebanese Film Festival Australia, I’m immersed in the vibrant world of film and cinema, focusing on programming, acquisition, and distribution while overseeing every aspect of the festival. I have a passion for creative storytelling, I collaborate with diverse talents globally to bring compelling narratives to life and to bring incredible stories to Australian screens. Alongside my festival work, I run a consultancy in film and arts and I also recently concluded a role as Head of Marketing for an AI startup. Everything I do is driven by a passionate belief in the transformative power of storytelling and a commitment to leaving a lasting impact on communities.  

How do you approach leadership in the screen industry, and what perspectives can you share about fostering inclusivity and gender equality within this sector?

When I first started out in the industry, I started out as a grip (the only female grip in the team). Each day on set, I reaffirmed to myself that my presence was indispensable; they required my skills as much as I required their collaboration. I made a solemn vow to never tolerate mistreatment. This became my shield and I found that my passion for diversity and my confidence won the hearts of all the cast and crew.  

Leadership in the screen industry demands a blend of creativity, empathy, and vision. I believe in fostering an environment where every voice is valued and respected, regardless of gender or background. I prioritise honesty and creating inclusive spaces so that diverse talents can thrive and learnt he things that I had the privilege of learning over the years. By actively seeking out and supporting women and diverse voices, I aim to challenge traditional norms and promote a more equitable industry landscape.  

In honour of International Women’s Day, could you elaborate on what tools and mindset you draw on to challenge traditional gender norms and advocate for diverse voices and stories in the screen business?

International Women’s Day serves as a powerful reminder of the ongoing fight for gender equality. To challenge traditional gender norms in the screen business, I believe mentorship, networking, and advocacy are key to challenging the status quo. By amplifying diverse stories and perspectives, I strive to dismantle stereotypes and create more opportunities for underrepresented voices and help them reach and enrich people and places they never though they could reach. Honesty is the cornerstone of my work ethic and mindset; without it, the foundation crumbles, integrity is compromised, and trust dissolves.  

Is there a female or female-identifying leader in the screen sector whose work you have found particularly inspiring?

It’s challenging to single out just one inspiring female leader in the screen sector, given the abundance of talent. However, three remarkable women stand out: Leah Purcell, Rachel Ward, and Joanna Murray-Smith. Having had the privilege of collaborating with them, I’ve witnessed first-hand their extraordinary impact. Leah’s dedication to authentic, diverse storytelling and indigenous representation, Rachel’s resilience and passion for Australian cinema, and Joanna’s evocative storytelling prowess all embody a commitment to excellence and diversity. Working alongside them has been both an honour and an invaluable learning experience, reaffirming the transformative power of authentic storytelling in our industry. Their humility and genuine sincerity are particularly noteworthy to me.  

Reflecting on your journey through the Master of Arts Screen: Business, how do see your leadership and the skills you developed advancing the screen industry?

I see a profound evolution in my leadership style and skill set. Armed with a deeper understanding of the industry’s nuances and challenges, I am better equipped to navigate its complexities and drive positive change particularly with championing different catchments and communities in Australia. The program has empowered me to lead with confidence and purpose, shaping my trajectory as a forward-thinking leader in the screen industry. The program also introduced me to people from all walks of life, some that I still collaborate with. I have been able to open my own consultancy successfully off the back of the creative leadership skills that I had absorbed completing program. In 2022, I successfully released a popular Lebanese Film on the theatrical circuit, I put the financial skills and projections from the course in action and it had proven to be extraordinarily successful.  

What leadership skills do you see as being essential for the next generation of screen leaders?

Authenticity, resilience, and a commitment to lifelong learning. In an ever-evolving industry landscape, the ability to innovate and collaborate across diverse teams is crucial. Additionally, a strong foundation in business acumen and strategic thinking can empower emerging leaders to navigate challenges and seize opportunities. This is what the MASB course will home in on. It opens your mind to sustainable yet impactful practices in the industry.  

What advice would you give someone considering studying the Master of Arts Screen: Business?

Embrace curiosity and seize every opportunity to learn and grow. The program offers a unique blend of theoretical knowledge and practical skills and opportunities, equipping students with the tools they need to succeed in the competitive world of screen business. Additionally, network and foster meaningful connections with industry professionals, as these relationships can be invaluable throughout your career journey. Prioritise financial planning for your business development/s, even if maths and money are not your forte, understand how it works in screen business. Above all, stay true to your passion and vision, and never stop advocating for positive change within the industry.  

Read more interviews here. 


Link to
Mid-Year Applications Now Open for the Master of Arts Screen: Business

Apply now for AFTRS’ Master of Arts Screen: Business, Australia’s foremost screen business program, and succeed as a leader in the screen business and media sector.

Link to
Master of Arts Screen: Business (Mid-Year)

Designed for a new generation of screen leaders, AFTRS’ Master of Arts Screen: Business is Australia’s foremost creative screen business course.

Link to
Mastering Leadership: Celebrating Women in Screen Business

This year International Women’s Day coincides with the launch of our Master of Arts Screen: Business (MASB) mid-year application window – a course that champions innovation and acceleration for current and future screen leaders.