Zoe Lister-Jones didn’t set out to make a socially conscious film, despite the fact that her familial roots laid the path to a very specific kind of future.
A still of Zoe Lister-Jones from her new movie, Consumed.
Zoe Lister-Jones didn’t set out to make a socially conscious film, despite the fact that her familial roots laid the path to a very specific kind of future. As the daughter of a media artist father and politically minded video artist mother in an activist household, it feels like destiny that Lister-Jones ended up creating an Erin Brockovich-esque independent film with her husband and creative partner, Daryl Wien.
Consumed, which is now available for streaming or digital download, is a political thriller set in a world where genetically modified food has taken hold. Lister-Jones plays a single mother who ends up diving into the wormhole of our nation’s food supply after her son falls mysterious ill. A timely film – and one with the full backing of Erin Brockovich herself – it deals with a CEO grappling with his son's autism, an organic farmer in danger of losing his livelihood and two scientists on the brink of a major discovery.
The genesis for the story happened seven years ago, when Lister-Jones and Weir read an article about genetically modified organisms. At the time, GMOs weren’t so much part of the public discourse as they are now, but still she feels there isn’t enough light being shed on the issue.
“Something struck a chord,” says Lister-Jones, who shops at a local farmers market, Whole Foods and other local health food stores. “I was raised with a lot of consciousness surrounding the food that I ate, but to learn that these new organisms were so pervasive in our food supply and that they aren’t being labeled in this country like they are in 64 countries around the world, that dichotomy immediately caught our attention.”
Earlier this month, Lister-Jones co-hosted a screening of Consumed on Capitol Hill with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut in order to promote discussions for a strong, mandatory GMO labeling process. At the end of last year, the Food and Drug Administration determined that a new genetically modified salmon product did not need to be labeled as such for consumers, and for her part, Brockovich believes the film could not be more timely. In an op-ed for Time she wrote, “[The FDA approval leaves] American consumers in the dark,” adding that, “Like many food and environmental safety activists around the world, I’m outraged.”
Lister-Jones reached out directly to Brockovich before her film premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival last summer, and has found a source of support in the consumer rights activist, "This film has re-inspired and educated me,” says Brockovich. “[It’s] very entertaining, relatable, suspenseful and informative and a real eye opener to what is going on.”
Lister-Jones is having what they call “a moment” in her career. She has a role in the much-anticipated HBO movie Confirmation, which tells the story of Anita Hill accusing future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. She’s playing opposite Colin Hanks in CBS’ hit show Life in Pieces, and her directorial debut will get under way this summer. And while Lister-Jones isn’t naïve enough to think that she’ll change the world with her Big Food confronting indie film, she’s happy to be a part of the conversation.
“We wanted to make a film that was entertaining and also could spark a dialogue in this country,” she explains. “One of the reasons we [didn’t make a] documentary, had a great cast and took the audience on a thrilling ride, was so that we could access a larger audience who might not necessarily know about these issues, that it could serve a larger purpose so that the conversation around the food we're eating in this country could be broader and wouldn't be an elitist conversation.”