"$15 Kicks" (excerpt from film)

Jenn Shaw

Unaffiliated

1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
A few years ago, I was directing my own narrative short projects. My first professional job was $15 Kicks filmed in 2016. I almost fell out of my chair when ESPN Films told me that Spike Lee would be my executive producer. Insane.

2) How did you get into directing? 
I went to NYU film school. But It took me a few years as creative producer to transition to being a director. I didn’t see enough women and certainly enough women of color getting their stories told. I figured- I’m willing to work hard and have a passion to command a vision so why not me?  I invested in my own projects to build a director reel. I allowed myself to get frustrated, get rejected and grow. I just wanted to be ready for my break as a director. And here I am, a director.

3) What is your most recent project? 
My most recent project was a digital series for HarperCollins publishing promoting the book “Carve the Mark” written by Veronica Roth. She also wrote the Divergent Series. In the series, a group of designers created costumes based on characters from the book. Veronica and the cast and crew were fantastic. Such a great atmosphere on set.

4) What is the best part of being a director?
Collaboration. Seeing something that you envisioned in your head move into the physical space is wild. From working with talent to the crew, witnessing years of expertise contribute to a production is humbling on all levels. As I get to do bigger projects, I just learn to appreciate the talent in front of me because not every idea contributed was completely my own. It’s a collaboration for sure.

5) What is the worst part of being a director? 
For most professions, you get trained for a skill and you just start applying for jobs.  As a director, there is no set formula for success with a lot of unknowns. You have to cross a certain threshold to be able to direct and pitch, re-pitch, pitch again, and did I say pitch? The process takes you through lots of twists and turns. That might be the worst but when you book a new project it’s so worth it in the end.

6) What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 
Narrative television for cable, film, and branded content is where I am headed. Still open to documentary of course. My specialty is drama and dark comedy. By the end of 2018, I would like to green light my first feature directorial debut. I’m also energized by all of these streaming platforms offering up so much phenomenal content. Netflix and Amazon #yes.

7) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
First of all, I’m lucky. I was born to two amazing mentors. My mom and dad didn’t work in the industry but taught me to earn my place in this world. Marie Morreale at Scholastic Magazine, executive producer Marjorie Clarke, and director Evan Sliver have encouraged me every step of the way. I learned that opportunities come and go but sometimes life takes over. There will always be the next move or moment. Invest in yourself and show integrity. I was an intern for Marie Morreale when I first got out of college. I would go to her with every new idea or random thought. She never doubted me even when I failed. She continues to teach me courage and strength. I will forever be thankful.

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 
Oh...This is a hard one. Spike Lee is one of my favorite directors and no one forced me to say that because I worked with him. Ha. School Daze, Inside Man...so many classics. Spike has a way of bringing out the best in his talent that just screams realness. Gina Prince-Bythewood has a breathy visual touch that I admire too. I obviously can’t pick just one...Quentin Tarantino too! His ability to craft a performance masterpiece with character, music, and design...wow.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 
Wizard of Oz hands down. As a kid, I watched it over and over. My obsession continued into college. I wrote a paper breaking down the many layers of the film. Favorite television show is Law and Order! That show has been on TV most of my life and I have probably seen every episode of each spin-off at least twice. It’s always on in the background while I’m working.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I’m black American and grew up in Lexington Kentucky. I had one of that type of “middle America” college sports town type of upbringings. I was a gymnast, cheerleader, and ran track. I’ve had every job a teen could imagined. I worked at a mall stand, Applebees, Walmart, an ice company, seems like every teen clothing store ever created. Senior year of high-school, I picked up a camera for a class project and boom, I was hooked.