When Elizabeth Weitz enrolled in Xavier’s M.B.A. program, she wanted to develop a business plan for her older sister’s film company that incorporated the non-profit system. “At the time it was like, ‘Well, this isn’t how movies are made,’” says Weitz’ sister, Julie Hassett, a Los Angeles actress and attorney. “When I look back, though, I realize I was such a fool for thinking that way. So we started working on it … and working on it.”
Their first project was a script Hassett wrote after the death of their father four years ago. The plot tells the story of three sisters on the day of his death as they search for meaning despite their grief.
Meanwhile, Weitz finished the business plan but never got the chance to implement it. She died from pregnancy complications before she could complete the M.B.A. program. She was only 27.
“When she died, I just wanted to throw the script away,” says Hassett. “It was far too painful to have worked so hard with her on that.” Finally, Hassett rewrote the script to include her sister and titled it “Joy.”
“That’s her middle name, and it’s also what each of the characters are truly trying to understand,” Hassett says. “There’s a lot of magical realism in the script.” To capture some of this enchantment, Hassett filmed the movie at Jungle Jim’s International Market in Fairfield, Ohio, a place known for its whimsy. The cast and crew worked overnight while the market was closed to the public.
To further preserve her sister’s memory, Hassett founded the Foundation of Joy, a public charity dedicated to promoting parenthood through adoption programs, fertility research, pregnancy wellness and mentoring programs for kids. The foundation co-produced “Joy” and will benefit from the profits of the film. “I realized that Elizabeth was right,” Hassett says. “I really did need to incorporate the work of non-profit and combine it with filmmaking. What Elizabeth really loved was the artistic world and the business world. And she loved that combination.”