Feast studied and worked in theatre before researching her first documentary in the late 1990s. She worked as a director on a series about the 2000 Rockquest, which won both the Qantas and NZ Screen Award for best children’s programme.
While living and working in Berlin, Feast came across the subject for her hour-long documentary, Cowboys & Communists. Centred around a hamburger bar and nightclub called White Trash Fast Food, where Feast worked for more than a year, the film explores life in post-wall East Berlin – a place where libertines and die-hard communists co-exist, not always harmoniously.
Made on a shoestring, the film premiered at the 2007 New Zealand International Film Festival. The same year it won the Golden Key award for best documentary by a young filmmaker at Germany’s Kassel Documentary Film Festival. Festival judges labelled the film “entertaining, thrilling, and of great lightness without ever slipping into the banal”. Cowboys & Communists later screened on the Arte television network in Germany and France.
On returning to New Zealand, Feast worked as a development executive for Wellington production house The Gibson Group. She has directed segments for the award-winning arts programmes The Living Room, and The Gravy — plus 2002's Gather Round, a one-hour documentary in which comedian Te Radar visits South Island music festival The Gathering.
Feast worked with Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement on Flight of the Conchords – a Texan Odyssey, a documentary about the comedy duo’s early attempts to break into the American music market. Keen to show "the view from the wings" in late 2008 she travelled to China with the Royal New Zealand Ballet to make Black on Red. The documentary screened in TVNZ’s Artsville slot. Feast also journeyed with Oxfam to film residents of the Cartaret Islands of Papua New Guinea, to raise awareness about climate change.
The 2013 round of New Zealand film festivals saw the debut of Feast's Moa award-winning, feature-length documentary Gardening with Soul. To make the film, Feast spent a year following the life and work of 90-year-old nun Sister Loyola Galvin, a woman committing to nurturing all living things, especially those which "don't get a good start".
Feast works with her partner Robert Appierdo at Wellington company Storybox. where she develops and directs content. Her Storybox work includes co-directing a number of large outdoor installations.
Joe Sheppard, 'Jess Feast on Cowboys and Communists' (Interview - broken link) Lumiere website. Loaded 7 August 2007. Accessed 8 February 2008
'Jess Feast' NZ International Film Festival website (Broken link). Accessed 26 July 2013
'Black on Red' Gibson Group website. Accessed 26 July 2013