| photography by Alex Lepe |
Her father was a talented set designer and prop master for films, television and theme parks. She grew up around the film industry and developed an ingrained passion for creative arts and creative people.
Today, the instantly likable and focused Jessica Christopherson puts those passions to work as director of public relations at the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau and director of the Fort Worth Film Commission. Previously she worked for Fox Broadcasting Company and Fox Television-KDFW FOX 4.
“Growing up watching my dad build set models and other things automatically struck an interest in me for film,” Christopherson said. “When I was in third grade, my little brother and I made our first home Claymation video with one of those ‘old school’ video cameras. It was when I got in high school that I became more and more interested.”
Christopherson’s older brother, Jeremiah Dowdy, works as a biomedical engineer and an artist. He lives in Austin. Younger brother, Dylan Dowdy, owns Dowdy Studios with his wife, Pamela, in East Dallas. Their business produces hand-printed shirts and other artsy merchandise.
“Everybody in my family has an art bug,” Christopherson said.
Christopherson’s family moved from her birthplace in Ada, Okla., to Grapevine when she was in second grade. She graduated from Grapevine High School, then attended Stephen F. Austin State University where she studied radio, TV, film and digital communication. Christopherson needed to work full-time to pay for her education, so she came home for better job opportunities and finished her degree at The University of Texas at Arlington in 2004.
Her work ethic, Christopherson says, came from her grandparents, who owned a chain of dry cleaning businesses. She worked for them from age 14 to 18. “I have often thought this could make a good short story or film,” Christopherson said laughing. “I worked in the back sorting clothes and doing laundry. It was so hot. There was no air-conditioning back there and not a place anyone would want to be in Texas summers, but it was an opportunity to work and make some money, and I definitely learned a strong work ethic.”
The Fort Worth Film Commission, under the guidance of the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, opened the curtains in October 2015. To establish a certified film commission, Christopherson completed classes required by the Association of Film Commissioners International, which monitors more than 300 film commissions around the world.
Previously the Dallas Film Commission represented Dallas and Fort Worth. With Christopherson at the reel, Fort Worth is making a significant presence in the film industry.
“Every day is completely different, which is one of the things I love about this job,” Christopherson said. “First of all, we have an amazing team and outstanding leadership. We are in a fortunate situation where our team truly has a family-like environment. No matter how many projects we’re working on, with so many people wearing so many different hats, we are all able to come together and brainstorm.”
Christopherson gives much credit to the Visitors Bureau Vice President of Marketing Mitch Whitten and Visitors Bureau CEO Bob Jameson.
Christopherson’s daily responsibilities range from managing the consumer advertising campaign in the U.K. to working with media. Now, with taking on the Film Commission, she is working with people who are looking to scout locations in Fort Worth, interested in filming in the city, or people who are already in Fort Worth who need assistance with permits.
The commission is putting together its production directory, which will go live on the website soon. Filmmakers will be able to go to the site and look for local crew for hire.
The people dear to Christopherson’s heart are her husband, Bryan, and their two-year-old son, Keaton. The causes dear to her heart include arts and culture, children and education. She supports The Young Storytellers Foundation, Toys for Tots, and FOX Gives.
As to the future of the commission, Christopherson said: “I think there is a lot of opportunity to continue to grow what we have here. There is such a thriving, creative energy in Fort Worth. The city is film-friendly. This is an exciting time to be in Fort Worth, to bring projects in and create jobs...I think there are great things in the future.”