Born and raised in a small town near Rotterdam (The Netherlands) Jessica always knew she would be a world-citizen. At age 17 while recovering from a deadly disease, she dropped out of school, packed her bags and went to Florida to attend an international college during the summer. Some of her family lives in Michigan, so she always thought of the US as her second home. At age 21 she got a scholarship from her employer Microsoft, and that made it possible for her to go to a University in the Netherlands called HBO. While working and studying, she learned more about her real passion: people's stories. She focused on communication and journalism.
In 2006 at age 25 and fully recovered, Jessica started her own TV production company. In 2008 she debuted as a director and producer with her film 'Roots of Evil, word from Dutroux'. It was documentary on the childhood of Marc Dutroux, a notorious serial-killer in Belgium. The film was controversial because she was the first one to interview him and through the entire film she did not judge anyone but was purely focused on behavior. The film was sold to 14 countries (including the US) and started a range of human interest documentaries, many of which were nominated and internationally broadcasted. The past 10 years Jessica has specialized in human nature (pathology) with a focus on violent-related topics, but always from the human perspective. If you really knew her, you'd know that she is interested in why people turn violent because she truly believes that no one is born violent or hateful and that it’s possible to have peaceful world. In the Netherlands, Jessica is mostly known for her ethics and her personal way of interviewing people with very strong trauma or backgrounds.
In 2008 she saw Lisa Ling on the Oprah show talking about the Challenge Day at Monroe High School in Michigan (isn’t that a coincidence?) She was so touched, because she had been focusing on spree-violence among teens. This could very well be a key to that. She flew to San Francisco, volunteered at a few Challenge Days, and flew her best friend to California because she wasn't sure how to explain it. Eventually, she asked for permission to make a documentary about Challenge Day. As a result, Jessica has produced four documentaries about Challenge Day in schools called Over de Streep (Cross the Line) and one 8-episode series about the adult work of Challenge Day's Be the Change Workshop called Als Je Me Echt Zou Kennen (If You Really Knew Me.) Over de Streep has received numerous nominations and resulted in Challenge Days in Belgium and Uganda. Als Je Me Echt Zou Kennen follows various different groups going through the work of Challenge Day for adults.
Jessica set up a partnership with Challenge Day and is the Executive Director for Challenge Day Nederland in Amsterdam. Right now there a lot of Challenge Days a year in the Netherlands, four amazing Challenge Day Leaders in Europe that have been trained by Challenge Day, and a circle of passionate Challenge Day supporters.
If you really knew me, you would know…
- That my life is all about taking risks. I'd live with the belief that you'll never know unless you try.
- I need humor in everything I do.
- I truly believe in a nonviolent world.
- I'm a big advocate for justice.
- That I still can't believe I'm living my dreams: I do what I like most and work with the people I love most (and are the best in our industry).
- I usually say awkward things when people stare at me.
- A smile can actually make my day.
- I cry at commercials.