Jana Segal earned her bachelor's degree in theater from Avila College and her master's in dramatic writing from Brandeis University. Her short screenplay, Model-T Biscuits, won first place at the International Family Film Festival in 2001, and it gathered similar acclaim at the recent Moondance International Film Festival. Segal is also an independent filmmaker, with The Bath-a-holic, Desert Angel and If the Dress Fits to her credit. She is currently organizing the Reel Inspiring Awards Screening and The Reel Visions Filmmakers Conference for her grassroots organization, Reel Inspiration.
Why did you decide to form Reel Inspiration?
We want to support independent filmmakers who choose to make movies of substance, movies that make a difference in our world, and I think Hollywood doesn't support those types of movies right now. Executives are forced to care about the stockholders, so everything needs to be a huge mega-hit, which means they are doing sequels and movies for 16-year-old boys. (They are) the dumb movies, the dumb comedies, action movies with no story. Reel Inspiration is really big on story. I think part of story is also theme, that you are saying something about the world you live in. I miss that in movies. ... I would like to go to the movies and leave the theater feeling good about being a human being.
The Oscar-nominated movies are very depressing, like Monster and Mystic River. There were very few uplifting movies. The one really great movie was Whale Rider. I wish Reel Inspiration had been around then; we would have promoted Whale Rider. That's the kind of movie we want to promote. Right now, we are currently promoting What the Bleep Do You Know. ... We are excited about supporting a diversity of films, and What the Bleep fits our mission statement. We want to promote films that are thought-provoking, films that make you feel, films that are uplifting--and those are all the things that What the Bleep is.
Tell me about the film contest you're sponsoring.
We wanted to do something that would get the name Reel Inspiration out there, because we really can't promote movies if no one knows that we are there. And so we decided to do a contest, and it's also a way of encouraging filmmakers to look a little deeper. I am also president of the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers in town, and we organize a horror contest. When I went to a mixer with applications for the Reel Inspiration contest, everyone there was making a horror film. So I want to encourage filmmakers. Even if you are making a horror film, it should have a theme. Where does the horror come from? Those are the scariest ones, ones that touch some issue in our life.
How are the films you received?
We have 12 finalists. The films are five minutes or less. We got good entries and a nice diversity. We got some that are good for children, a couple of love stories from UA students and a few documentaries. We are happy with that. It's a good program.
How will they be judged?
The films will be judged by film industry professionals on a scale from 1 to 4. There will be the grand prize, the popular choice award (judged by the audience) and the Tucson Filmmaker Award.
What will the grand-prize winner receive?
We have some nice prizes. The winner gets a directing workshop with Jim Pasternak. Kate McCallum--who works at Universal Studios, is a script consultant and writer for Script Magazine--is giving a ... prize of critiquing a script (worth $350).
Tell me about the Filmmakers' Conference you're organizing.
It will be held in Tucson in October 2005. It's about helping filmmakers develop their voice and effectively express that on film. We will have world-renowned screenwriting teachers. If you are going to have a theme or strong story, filmmakers need to know how to write, or else collaborate with a writer who does. We will have filmmaking classes on how to enhance theme, finding your voice as an independent filmmaker, alternate film distribution and more.
What is your goal for Reel Inspiration?
I'd like the Web site to get to such a place where people are suggesting films and people are really promoting filmmakers and giving theatergoers a choice. ... We want everyone to be able to find the movies that are important to them. And this conference is really important. We are about giving choice to the filmmakers. Filmmakers don't only have to make films with what Hollywood calls "edge." They can make movies of substance, too. ... We do have responsibility for what we put out there. What we see in the media does affect our consciousness. So we need uplifting films.