Tributes have been paid to Margate resident, documentary maker and founder of The Doc Society Jess Search.
Jess, who led A Better Arlington for fellow residents at Arlington House, died yesterday (August 1) some seven weeks after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
She passed away aged just 54 with partner Beadie Finzi, their children, and friends at her side.
Jess had previously been a Commissioning Editor at Channel 4 and a founder of Shooting People, the online filmmakers network.
She was also a board member of the UK think tank IPPR and has an MBA from Cass Business School.
Her work included gorilla protection film Virunga and the Oscar-nominated Citizenfour, about whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In a tribute from the Doc Society it says: “ As a fierce supporter of independent artists and co-founder of Doc Society, Jess spent the weeks following her diagnosis focused on her passions laid out in her recent announcement, No Time Like the Present. Her greatest wish was to continue to secure the Doc Society mission of unleashing the transformational power of documentary film to address the two critical and intertwined issues of climate change and democracies in crisis.”
Close friend Jools Moore, who owns Lillie’s in Cliftonville, has dedicated to Jess a Pride flag that he made and placed on a tidal marker.
Jools said: “Since I met her 18 years ago she was my best friend. If I ever needed any advice on anything in my life she knew the answers and what to say, how to help me. She helped me out of a great depression 10 years ago that put my life on a path to where I am today.
“Jess is the reason I moved to Margate 5 years ago. She and Beadie had bought a place here and when I was leaving London she said “what about Margate?” And here I am.
“Jess was a social justice campaigner, a leading force in documentary film, women’s rights, the list goes on and on.
“She touched so many people’s hearts and minds all over the world via The Doc Society company.
“She will be missed by so many and can never be replaced. She was one of a kind and the best kind of person you could ever hope to meet, know, or be lucky enough to be her friend.
I remember meeting her all those years ago and thinking how lucky I was she was interested in ME! I am going to miss her for the rest of my life.
My flag on the tidal marker is now my tribute to her and her family.”
Friend Cllr Rob Yates, who was formerly an Arlington House resident, has organised drinks in memory of Jess at the Little Swift in Margate tonight (August 2) at 7pm.
He said: “Jess was a towering figure in Margate and we will be raising her favourite drink tonight in her beautiful memory, a Margarita from Little Swift at 7.30pm
“When she saw problems, she wouldn’t complain, she would organise.
“Nothing highlighted this more than her influence with Arlington House, where she lived with her like-minded partner Beadie. She collaboratively set up a new Arlington Residents Association that received formal recognition. She met with Council officers to ensure that future Arlington House works would not bankrupt tenants, collected money for individual residents after flooding and setup WhatsApp groups to keep residents updated.
“She was a power player in her multiple jobs, meeting philanthropists, politicians and billionaires to discuss film making, government policy and climate change. And she was well loved by all those that knew her.
“Her cheeky smile and energy will be sorely missed.”
Anyone with memories can send them to her loved ones at Love@docsociety.org
A tribute from A Better Arlington says: “Jess was the driving force behind the residents’ association, and it would never have existed without her vitality, enthusiasm and tenacity.
“She cared passionately about the people, the building and the whole of Margate. Eternally optimistic, endlessly creative and always great fun – she will be hugely missed.”
Jess and Beadie, who married at Margate’s Sundeck, were also passionate supporters of Margate Pride.
A statement from Margate Pride says: “As we mourn her loss, we remember the profound impact Jess had, not only on the global documentary community but also on the people of Margate, who will forever cherish her presence. Her resilience and commitment to the craft have left an indelible mark on the industry.
“Our hearts go out to Jess’s partner and their two children during this incredibly difficult time. May they find strength and solace in the memories of their time together and the profound impact Jess had on the filmmaking community.
“We will forever cherish her legacy, and her work will continue to inspire storytellers around the world.”