I sat down at a low-key coffee shop in Venice to meet with Jen Sall. Who is Jen Sall? Jen Sall is a producer who is SKILLED at developing & producing for web and film. Her narrative projects have been screened theatrically and can be seen on Amazon, Netflix and Hulu. She’s also made her way onto the festival circuits.
One of her recently released project? Calvin Klein - Raf Simmons starring The xx - I Dare You short film starring Stranger Things’ Millie Bobbie Brown, Moonlights’ Ashton Sanders and Paris Jackson. You can check out some of her amazing work here by CLICKING HERE. When Jen’s not producing, she’s also the Editor at Large for The Excellent People, an arts and lifestyle magazine.
I think it’s important to mention that Jen quite literally RADIATES vehement creative badass from the second she sits down to the very end of our chat. At first, i’m almost intimidated but I quickly realize she’s not only an amazing and impassioned producer, she’s a vessel of knowledge and she enthusiastically shares that knowledge. Knowledge that ranges from the crucial business skills you need in this industry to succeed to the history of film and the actual artistry used. I think this wide range of knowledge is from her experiences in the business world and her creative flair colliding at the right time.
Jen was born and raised in in D.C. She graduated from high school at 17 and headed to Boulder, Colorado for college and DURING college ended up living abroad in Italy, where her passion for film only burned brighter while she spent her days engrossed in Italian film and art.
“I’ve always loved film as an experience, you go to the theaters and you have this full escape, no phone, no distractions. The film can and hopefully resonates with you, moves you, maybe gives you something to cry about.”
Here’s a look at Jen’s trajectory:
She knew she wanted to get out to LA so she packed up and made the trek.
Within just two years of being in LA, Jen had become a digital publicist at Rogers + Cowan, one of THE premiere entertainment PR agencies. Here she created campaigns that generated over 1B impressions within days of launch including launching Jennifer Lopez for Kohls
She freelanced PR for Sundance films including White Bird in A blizzard - starring Shailene Woodley while trying to get her foot in the door producing
She then moved into a position with Tiny Horse - a production company with clients ranging from NBC, Fox, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Bentonville Film Festival.
Jen is now a producer in her own right, on her terms. But… what exactly does a producer do?
Jen gives me a heavy overview and I’m going to try to do it justice here. THERE IS NO ONE WAY TO GO ABOUT PRODUCING BUT HERE’S AN EXAMPLE for an indie scripted narrative - there are different types of producers; creative and financier. A producer is there from start to finish… to say the least, they:
Find a story
Develop an idea or script with a writer, secure the rights to a script if need be.
Attach the right director for the creative vision.
HIRE BTL (below the line)
Keep the entire team, cast and project on budget.
Plan for distribution and sale
Casual, right? A producer is in charge of the things some people don’t even think about but could make or break a production. When it comes to a low or no budget production, “insurance” Jen says is something that’s often overlooked but so crucial. “What if we’re filming around a pool? We should have a medic nearby, you just never know and the content we’re creating isn’t worth those risks.” And it wasn’t easy for Jen to get started in production, she’d ask friends to bring her on as PA so she could get experience, but they couldn’t justify it because she was technically “too experienced” in the industry. She had to fight and make her own opportunities to get experience, starting with her film for Funny or Die, to get her foot in the door.
That’s why this industry is tough. An endless spiral staircase of ever opening and closing doors and you have to push on to the next one and the next one. Jen did get her foot in the door (obviously). Where she was able to combine her creative nature with her business background to implement successful production strategies - from the initial development of creative ideas to physical production through distribution, giving her an unprecedented edge above others. Project after project - Jen’s work and work ethic spoke for itself - giving her enough business to allow herself to focus on producing without have to moonlight as a digital strategist or freelance PR gigs.
Jen knows what it takes to be a producer. She knows where her strengths and weaknesses lie. Not too long ago, she began to toy with the idea of a film. She knew the idea was there but also knew she wasn’t a writer. So, what did she do? Through a director friend repped at CAA, she pitched the treatment and was introduced to an experienced writer who connected with the story. The script is ready to go and they are on the hunt for production partners and financing.
During our almost two hour conversation, Jen casually breaks down the genius, beauty and worries behind the up and coming VR interest taking over some parts of Hollywood. And best of all? She’s as no bullshit as ever. As we discuss the intrigue of virtual reality vs. film, Jen talks about it’s value, the real purpose, the different story it can tell.
“VR is something that should be used when it’s right, not just to 'do VR.'”
When was it right? For Jen it was BJÖRK’s VR video that caught her eye and made her interested in VR and this year she produced a piece for Warner/Google . Then it’s onto Dunkirk. Jen explained to me that Dunkirk was projected in 70mm in select theaters. What does that mean for us simple folk? That it’s the widest 70mm release in 25 years, a testament to Christopher Nolan’s clout. And what does 70mm do? It’s known for creating crisper more painterly images which we’ve recently moved away from in favor of the cheaper digital forms.
And what does Jen say is crucial to be a successful producer?
“Be organized, resourceful, trust your taste, trust your gut about people. Consume content and go to the movies. Be a leader and follow through. Network! Network as soon as you realize you’ve got a passion for this. It takes a lot of people to recognize you, it’s a big town, go to events for filmmakers.”
In Jen’s eyes, production is a new education with something new to learn every single day. It’s what keeps her going and ensures it never gets stale.
And Jen’s hopes for the entertainment industry in the up and coming years are simple... and a truth we keep hearing about yet see little change on…
“I’d like this industry to be less of a fraternity in a sense.” And she’s right, this industry is extremely hard to penetrate and it feels often like one wrong move or maybe having a difference of opinion can get you easily pushed out. Furthermore she explains that,
“This summer was an indicator itself of the what people actually want to see. We should focus on the GET OUTS and the BIG SICKS of the world rather than the the 6th TRANSFORMERS or PIRATES. This is what audiences are responding to and what are making money at the box office.”
Wouldn’t that be a dream? Do you have more questions for Jen about Producing, PR, Italy, or her life in general in LA? Let us know and we’ll work with her to get you the information!
Want to keep up with Jen? You can find her here: