The Office of Documentary Filmmaker Jessica Oreck

The Office of Documentary Filmmaker Jessica Oreck

Amy Azzarito
Apr 16, 2009


Documentary filmmaker Jessica Oreck's first feature-length documentary, Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo is a magical look into the Japanese interest and obsession with insects in nature and beetles as pets. (The film is playing at Anthology Film Archives on Saturday as part of the Migrating Forms Festival!). We were interested to see how Jessica's drive to create cinematic wonder translated into the space where she weaves such fantastic stories that explore perceptions of beauty and nature. In the same way that her film is slow to reveals itself, the space is a small cabinet of curiosities. Each corner holds something more intriguing than the last.

From the vintage warthog on the wall to the specimen jars lining the bookshelves, there's plenty to look at in this tiny space. Nearly everything is vintage. One of our favorite accessories in the space are those specimen jars. Jessica loved the specimens in her high school science classes and she would beg her teachers to let her take them home to no avail. Shortly after her high school graduation, she got a call from a favorite science teacher who told her to come to the high school and bring a box. Once there, she was told to take as many specimens as she could carry and to hurry. As the school moved toward teaching more molecular biology there was no longer a need to study the specimens in jars. Jessica snatched her favorites, took them home, and they've been with her ever since.

AT Survey
What is your greatest inspiration? In terms of design, I would have to say the look and feel of old natural history museums and cabinets of curiosities. But I love almost anything early 20th century—European or American.

What is your favorite element of your office? That's a hard one—it changes all the time. My critters never fail to inspire me, but I also love to organize things into small boxes, or bags or drawers, so all of my little drawers are important too. My books are also important—that is where I focus. All of my ideas are drawn from books, all of my research, and a good deal of my spare time comes from and goes into those books.

What is the biggest challenge of your office? I don't get any direct sunlight!

Other Inspiration: My parents both work in architectural and interior design restoration—taking something old and restoring it to its original glory (but with a green agenda). They work well together, with my dad handling the technical stuff and a lot of the grand architectural ideas, while my mom focuses on the details and the interiors, getting the perfect lamp shade to fit, not only the era and style of the house, but also to match the rug, the couch, and tie in the curtains. And they really compliment each other—together they have great taste.

Resources: There are many great places in NY for antiques but they are mostly so overpriced. A lot of my stuff either comes from flea markets or from where my parents live in Colorado.
Furniture: My favorite places in NY are Obscura and A Select Few (on the Upper West Side). Obscura is like a cabinet of curiosities in itself and they always have awesome and crazy stuff—both furniture and accessories (like all my drawers and a few animal pieces) and they are very reasonably priced. A Select Few is a bit more refined, focusing on Arts and Crafts, Wiener Werkstätte and Gothic aesthetics. He is also very well priced, and he makes his own pieces, which are beautiful as well.

Accessories: Obscura and flea markets.

Lighting: I've had that Emeralite Lamp since I was a kid, but I think the other lamps come from Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn.

A still from Beetle Queen. A butterfly collector searches the flowers for new specimens.

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