Jennifer Esposito first got the idea for "Fresh Kills," a mob movie with a female perspective, back when she was 16 and living on Staten Island.

While she respected the classic hyper-masculine mafia genre, she was more interested in telling stories about the women behind the men in those movies — the women who were little more than window dressing.

What You Need To Know

  • Jennifer Esposito first got the idea for "Fresh Kills" as a teenager living on Staten Island

  • She wanted to tell the stories of girls she grew up with, many of them children of mob families, who had no choice about what they would do with their lives

  • She spent the last 13 years bringing "Fresh Kills" to life

  • "Fresh Kills" premieres Friday at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival

"And a woman’s hand comes in and like puts, you know, pastry or hey, you want lunch, or they're at a table in a strip club and you see girls on a pole," Esposito said. " I want to follow that woman. I want to follow where their hand comes out and goes to the next room. I want to know what she’s thinking. I want to know how she survives this."

That theme — women finding their voice in a world that often tells you not to have one — has deep meaning for Esposito, who felt pigeonholed in her own career.

"It was something that haunted me seriously throughout my career. So, I was just to the point where I was getting so frustrated with roles," Esposito said. "So, I was like okay, I have to write this or I’m quitting. Because I was just so unfulfilled.”

Esposito spent the last 13 years bringing "Fresh Kills" to life — twice mortgaging her home to finance the project and fighting to retain control along the way despite pressure to bring in a male star or use an experienced director.

But like the characters in her film, this process has allowed Esposito to find her own voice in an industry that tried to keep her in a box.

"I get so emotional because it's been such a journey. The only thing I ever wanted in this business — I didn’t care about fame, I didn’t care about the money, I don’t care about any of that stuff — I just wanted to connect with people to make art and make you feel something. Let's talk about something. Let's understand something," Esposito said.

In the end, Esposito did exactly what she dreamed. She made the movie that she had carried around in her head for more than three decades — every word, every scene, every lighting, every sound exactly as she had envisioned.

"I'm so happy this movie is going to get out to the world. Because it was, it was everything. It was my morning, my noon, my night, my dreams," Esposito said.

"Fresh Kills" premieres Friday at the 2023 Tribeca Film Festival.