Janey & Jared

As a young African-American female I surprisingly connected with Jared Callahan’s film Janey Makes a Play. It was not because I have spent the past 16 years at a predominately white school or because I am a woman. I believe it was my past experiences in the theater that made me enjoy the journey of Janey’s creation. A few scenes that I connected with were when the football player struggled to make it to rehearsals and when we learned about Kianna’s death. I didn’t play football but there was a point in my life where I had to chose between basketball and musical theater. Janey mentioned that she would have fought over her actor. As I watched this scene I couldn’t help but laugh because this is exactly what happened to me. My basketball coach and musical theater director emailed back and forth about my attendance to their practice/rehearsal. In the end my basketball coach won since we were in the middle of districts but it was refreshing to see Janey win in this scenario.

When the updates about the cast members were shown at the end, I was saddened by Kianna’s unexpected car accident. It was as if the film bookended itself, in the beginning another teen talked about the future and how she couldn’t wait to paint her future on the senior sidewalk. For Kianna, her future was shortened and I felt the town’s pain as if I knew her myself. It’s not just the fact that we grew to love her in the film but also because of her youth and how many of us can relate to losing a friend during high school. I always find it ironic how in many situations you expect the sick or old to have that update at the end of a film not a young girl with her whole life ahead of her. I partly blame Jared for making us fall in love with her so much making her death so much more impactful.

When Jared spoke with us it was refreshing and exciting to learn about his film methods. I could tell he was passionate about the films he creates and his notion of having the audience fall in love with his subjects was gold. I always strive to make my films meaningful and to have a message but Jared taught me that I don’t have to put the message out in front of my audience’s face, I just need them to love my subjects and most likely the audience will connect with the issue my subject is facing. It seems so simple but I never would have thought of it and I feel like I will go in a different direction with my filmmaking now. It actually relaxes me in knowing I don’t have to prove a point I just need to showcase my subject in a sense. In just that short class time Jared taught me so much and I am so grateful that Professor Alexander gave us another great opportunity to connect with these professionals that have so much experience, insight, and different methods.

Jared Callahan

Truthfully, I fell in love with Jared’s documentaries as well as his personality. I admired his strong enthusiasm, open curiosity, and the positive energy he presented when visiting our class. You could tell he truly has a passion for filmmaking, and he had a genuine interest in our own creative ideas and endeavors. He also displayed an admiration for his films’ subjects and a desire to convey simply who they are as people rather than primarily focus on a certain issue. I felt this was different from what we’ve experienced with previous films and filmmakers in this class, particularly Imba Means Sing and Homemade. For Jared, from what I understand, his main mission is to make the audience fall in love with the character(s), and then by doing so, he can shed light on a certain issue. From my personal experience watching his films, I felt this was an effective approach. In Jared’s own words, “by understanding the subject(s), you understand the concept.” This also tied into his last piece of advice given to us at the end of class, which was to “tell a big story through a small window.” Jared found this to be an important concept in filmmaking and storytelling, offering this message to us as we embark upon our own film projects. That being said, I also appreciated Jared’s advice on filmmaking itself. He tapped into what’s important in making/directing a film and delved into the creative process, giving us insight and advice on how to go about our own projects. There was something about the way Jared explained ideas and concepts that really made me feel exposed to the mind of a creative filmmaker. Other points of advice he mentioned were to tap into how films affect a wider audience, to spend time in the messiness of things, and to always have multiple ways to write ideas. I think Jared’s visit, at least for me, helped inspire the importance of creativity and how we can develop and grow as artists and creative thinkers.