Often, a filmmaker’s career is kick-started by a short film. Quentin Tarantino made My Best Friend’s Birthday, Martin Scorsese made What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This? and Kevin Smith made Mae Day. In continuing our Emerging Filmmaker Series, we are happy to introduce you to a filmmaker to keep your eyes on. She’s directed several short films and is currently at the Cannes Film Festival with her latest short, in hopes to attract interest from the film world and launch her career. Today, our Guest Blogger Jaclyn Gramigna, talks to us about her early influences and starting a career in film.

JG1Writer/director Gramigna on the set of Downtown, photo by Vladimir Weinstein

Jaclyn is a Brooklyn based Director and Screenwriter, a graduate of NYU. Her newest short film, Downtown, has thus far garnered a great response and will be having its world premiere in the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival. She recently received the top prize for “Best Play” and “Best Director” in NYC’s growing “Take Ten” theater festival, for her interpretation of a new play called, “Disappearing”. Jaclyn is also hard at work on two feature-length screenplays, hoping that one of them will become her feature length directorial debut. She is slated to direct music videos for amazing new bands, Holland Patent Public Library and Dashel Hammerstein & The Joint Chiefs this summer. Jaclyn loves to collaborate with all types of people and experiments, often, with music, photography and the culinary arts.

Downtown1Actress Aurora Heimbach on the set of Downtown. Still by DP Caitlin Machak.

I’ve always had a knack for storytelling but unlike many aspiring filmmakers, who devote themselves to cinema at a young age, I’d like to think that film found me. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved movies, but I was in love with the theater. Acting was my passion but unfortunately, I never landed a leading role and thus my confidence faltered. At 17, I searched for summer theater programs and instead found a filmmaking workshop at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Making a film had never crossed my mind but as soon as it did I couldn’t shake it. On a whim, I applied for the program–if I get in, maybe it’s meant to be? To my utter surprise, I was accepted into the workshop! I learned that I knew absolutely nothing about what goes into making a film but seeing the film you created, from concept to finish, on a big screen for the first time is like nothing else. The more I learned about the process, the more films I watched with new appreciation and the more I was convinced; this is it! My love for cinema grew quickly, exponentially. I had a lot of catching up to do with my filmbuff peers, who responded with disgusted faces when I admitted to never having seen Miramax must-sees like, Pulp Fiction or Trainspotting. (If you’re worried, I have since watched said classics, along with hundreds of others.) Like most directors, there are some films that continue to shape me into the filmmaker I am today.

Fernando Meirelles’s, City of God, is very special to me and helped me realize the importance of films in our society. Somehow, this film made it possible for a 17-year-old white girl from Westchester to put herself in the shoes of a young man whose life is in danger every day because in the town he lives in, it’s nearly impossible to avoid being caught in the cross-hairs of ever present gang wars. Lucky for me, I’ve never been in a situation like that, yet I emoted like I was living in it, right next to Rocket. Mind blown.

A good film has a magical ability to allow people of all kinds, from all backgrounds, to relate to characters they would otherwise have no earthly chance of connecting to. It’s a huge reason why I love it. It’s a huge reason why I think films are important, have amazingly real potential to “change the world” and is definitely something I strive to accomplish.

One of my all time favorites and something that has definitely influenced my own stylistic choices is Jean Pierre Jeunet’s, Amélie. Amélie Poulain lives in a world that is similar to our own but some of the rules are changed, leaving room for whimsy. It displays the sheer artistry of cinema while challenging the audience’s comfort zone and coaxing them into seeing situations from a different perspective. The world, however strange, is consistent and the characters are surprisingly human which, to me, makes it a real gem in Miramax’s roster.

As far as you’re concerned, I’m a nobody, one of millions of aspiring filmmakers hoping to break into the business. It’s a good thing that I like challenges and that I love making movies more every day. It’s also good that I’m willing to do a lot of things to make money (not that) until I can do this full time. Miramax guest blog! I want to prove to the world that I can be that leading lady, in the director’s chair; leading the way for other women hoping to be taken seriously in such a male dominated industry. My newest film, Downtown (about a girl who has a very private moment, in a very public place), is part of the Short Film Corner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, a dream come true in itself. Look out, world!

Contact Jaclyn here to watch her Cannes short, Downtown.

Check out our First Films Clip Gallery to see your favorite scenes from My Left Foot, Reservoir Dogs, Clerks, Gone Baby Gone, Swingers and many more.

*all photos of Jaclyn Gramigna by photographer Vladimir Weinstein

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