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Exclusive Interview: Jared Callahan Discusses Janey Makes A Play

Inspirational new documentary Janey Makes A Play will release in cinemas on June 24.

The film, expected to be one of the most talked about documentaries of 2016, will get a digital release on June 28. Janey, from director Jared Callahan, follows 90-year old Janey (Callahan’s own grandmother) as she writes and directs her latest original, socially relevant community theater production for the small town in which she lives. Battling through the current recession, the colorful troupe of faithful townspeople cope with their own struggles by telling their story on stage. Janey Makes A Play is produced by Callahan and Brent Ryan.

BIOGAMER GIRL: And for those that don’t know, Jared, you’re related to Janey…

JARED CALLAHAM: Janey is my grandmother. I was home for Christmas in 2011 and we were sitting outside talking before dinner. She started this theater troupe when she was 80-years-old. Janey was telling me all about the play they had just performed. I asked, “Do you have any ideas for the next play?” Of course she did! Janey rattled off all these pieces of an incredible idea explaining how hard the recession had been on the farmers and folks from small towns. The villain was a slick businessman from the big city. Instantly I knew we had to film that play, because she was telling the story of her small town on stage. I typed the idea into my phone, and eight months later I was in their community theater building filming auditions.

BGG: Were you always close?

JC: We were as close as you can be when your grandmother has 26 grandkids! Honestly, I was always impressed that she could remember all our names and birthdays. Years later I found she kept a cheat sheet by her phone! I found a lot out about my family through making the film. We found some archival 8mm film from the 1950s that contained footage I had never seen. It was amazing.

BGG: And from memory, was she always the same person we see in the movie?

JC: Yes, Janey certainly never modified her actions in any way for the camera. She loves dance, children, and the arts. It makes sense that after dedicating her whole life to these things, that in “retirement” she would still find ways to invest in the community. She is a dynamic woman, and her full self comes through in the film.

BGG: How long did it take you to acquire the resources to get the movie going?

JC: I called in a decade’s worth of favors from crewing the films of my friends, said please and thank you, and then fronted all the money to get the movie filmed. Once we had completed principle photography, I began trying to raise money. After over 50 denials, I had an investor pay to get a rough cut put together. They liked what we had, and so Toy Gun Films came on board to get us across the finish line. Through Kickstarter, our community helped us raise funds to secure footage and music licensing rights. In the end, I am extremely proud of the quality story we were able to put on screen, which was entirely built on the foresight and generosity of a community that believes in the story.

BGG: Was it a chore to cut down? How much did you have to lose in the editing process?

JC: Our editor Brad Kester is a miracle worker. Once the plot was solidified, we would go back and forth on scenes to refine the way the feelings of the different characters were conveyed. It was a complex edit because there are really three main characters: Janey, all the members of the troupe, and the town. During editing, e played with different versions, changing the order in which you meet different elements of the story.

BGG: It is getting a scattered release across the country. Which area are you from? Will you be present at any screenings to answer any questions?

JC: I grew up in Northern California, then moved to San Diego where I went to college and then lived for the last 15 years. I am a transplant to Atlanta, and was recently named one of the Atlanta Film Society’s Filmmakers in Residence. The film is being released in Los Angeles, then is expanding to San Diego and Atlanta. I’ll be attending the Los Angeles and Atlanta Premieres and doing Q&A sessions. My favorite part of screening the film is getting to interact with the audience afterwards.

BGG: Though community theater lovers will get something out of it, I also feel females will really enjoy this movie. Do you agree?

JC: It seems to be something mothers, daughters, sisters will love… I am proud to have made a feature film with a strong female lead. Janey has an energy that motors this whole community theater troupe as they produce two plays a year, and now she is 94-years-old! What a dynamo. By the end of watching the film you’ll want to hug her and also question what you’re doing with your life. The film makes you want to call your mom, grandmother, or just hug someone you care about. 

To learn more, visit the official Janey Makes A Play website.

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