Jane Premiere | Newport Beach Film Festival | October 1st to 11th.
Contact: Natalija Vekic – firstname.lastname@example.org
From 1969 to 1973, Jane helped counsel, educate and refer an estimated 11,000 women helping them find safe abortions at a time when suicides, self-induced and botched abortions were the norm.
Most of the Jane members were not radicals, but ordinary housewives with children, who dealt with unscrupulous doctors and eluded the police to ensure women got the best care possible.
"People who say that don't know anything about your life. You have to do what's right for you and your family." Teresa
TERESA is the sheltered daughter of working class Puerto Rican and Mexican immigrants parents. By working alongside the Janes, everything she knew about the world and what was expected of her is thrown into question. Seeing first-hand the fear and desperation of the women she counsels, propels her to take this radical step. Teresa perfectly embodies the spirit of rebellion and innocence of the time.
"We have to do this ourselves. There's no one else to do it." Josie
JOSIE has the charisma and zeal of an evangelist. She's felt the humiliation and lack of control women have over their bodies and lives. She's determined to change this for every woman who comes to Jane and for the group. Edgy, committed, and driven –– Josie pushes the group to stop relying on Mark, their doctor, and learn to do abortions themselves. She is a surrogate teacher, mentor and friend to Teresa and helps her awaken to her own freedom and agency.
"I can't seem to make it right in my mind. No matter what I decide the baby won't live." Verna
VERNA exudes a quiet strength and power. In her forties, she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. Verna must make the right decision for herself and her family, but given her limited options–– it’s a terrifying prospect. Emotionally and morally conflicted, Verna must work through her own feelings, while also figuring out if she can trust the Janes.
"Then we shut down for the weekend. Have them come back." Carmen
From her French manicure to her Bloomindales outfit, CARMEN resembles a socialite not a radical. She offers a sobering dose of reality to Josie and Teresa about their plans. Carmen’s not one to join marches, but she’s committed to the cause and wants to help women directly.
"Am I gonna be arrested? I can't go to jail. My family will disown me." Rosario
Rosario’s young and wears her emotions on her sleeve. Pregnant and scared, she finds herself in the Jane waiting room terrified, on her own and with nowhere else to go.
BIOS OF KEY CREW MEMBERS
WRITER & DIRECTOR: NATALIJA VEKIC
Natalija Vekic is a screenwriter and director. She won a Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival for her short film Lost & Found, and was the recipient of a Princess Grace Award in film. She was invited to participate in the Film Independent Screenwriting Lab, selected as an honoree in the WGAW Feature Access Diversity Project and was a top ten finalist in the Page International Screenwriting Awards with her feature screenplay Jane. Natalija is a graduate of the UCLA MFA screenwriting program. Her recent directing work includes a short documentary about Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green and a portrait of illustrator and designer Shyama Golden. She received a "Special Project Grant" from the Princess Grace Foundation to write and direct the short, narrative Jane. The film stars Mishel Prada (Vida/ Riverdale), Mekenna Melvin (Chuck) and Tyra Colar (Twenties/ Cougartown). Jane is based on Natalija's feature screenplay about a real group of women who ran an underground abortion service in the era before Roe v. Wade. The film recently premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
Natalija is Bosnian and Serbian and immigrated to Chicago when she was a pint sized six-year old. She’s convinced that not being able to speak English didn’t just ostracize her from her classmates, but taught her to be a keen observer and sparked her love of storytelling. Dreaming up stories was a way to regain her voice and make sense of her new home. Her experience as an immigrant, growing up with a single mom profoundly influences the stories she writes. Natalija writes and directs gritty, suspenseful dramas from the perspective of immigrants, outsiders and women who boldly shape history, but are often forgotten. She loves to tackle complex women characters.
PRODUCER: REENA DUTT
Reena Dutt is a member of the Lincoln Center Directors’ Lab (New York City), Directors Lab West (Los Angeles), and an experienced producer. She is a past producing fellow at the San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Project Involve at Film Independent, and Trans Atlantic Partners with the Erich Pommer Institut.
As a producer, her credits include Sundance 2018’s Akicita: The Battle Of Standing Rock (LP, 2018), John Legend’s Penthouse Floor (over 10M views on Youtube), and a PSA in support of the #MeToo campaign (As seen on Huffpost, NowThis, and USA Today coming soon). Her other films have been seen at over 75 film festivals internationally including Outfest, Frameline, NBCUniversal Shorts Film Festival, Whistler, HBO’s SAIFF, and Los Angeles Film Festival. Dutt most recently directed, Too Many Bodies, a music and dance video about gun reform, which was picked up by Alyssa Milano’s company, NoRAnow.org and Executive Produced by Penelope Wong.
PRODUCER/ACTOR: MISHEL PRADA
Mishel Prada (Teresa) is best known for her role as Emma on Starz’s critically-acclaimed series Vida, which recently won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series. She was a featured character on AMC’s web-series Fear the Walking Dead. Mishel’s other credits include indie films The Two Dogs, Tell Me How I Die, and There Is a New World Somewhere.
PRODUCER/ACTOR: MEKENNA MELVIN
Mekenna Melvin (Josie) is best known for the role of Alex McHugh on NBC’s Chuck. She has also appeared in numerous television shows including her first role on Fox’s Lie to Me alongside Tim Roth a well as ABC’s Once Upon a Time, CBS’s Vegas, ABC’s Castle, ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, and CBS’s CSI. To name a few. She can also be seen in films like The Bad Guys, which premiered at the Austin Film Festival. Mekenna co-created and starred in Amber Lake, an independent film directed by Joe Robert Cole. Most recently she co-wrote, produced and co-starred in the short film Stuck. She is currently working on a new short narrative that she wrote and plans to direct.
ACTOR: TYRA COLAR
Tyra Colar (Carmen) Born and raised in San Jose, Tyra has been working in entertainment since she was a teen. After relocating to New York City, Tyra began making regular appearances on the CBS soap opera, Guiding Light and booked several guest appearances on the ABC soap opera, One Life To Live. In addition, she made her film debut as the lead in the Showtime film, The Choices We Make. Following the cancellation of Guiding Light, Tyra moved to Los Angeles and immediately began working, appearing in The Mentalist, Cougar Town, and as Jane Fairfax in the Emmy award-winning show, Emma Approved. Additionally, Tyra booked roles in Haunted Hathaway's, Karma's A B*tch, Me, Myself & I, and in the feature films: And They’re Off, 8 Slices, and Super Cool. Tyra currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Atlanta. You can see Tyra in the new Verizon, Geico, and Choice Hotels national commercials and on ABC's 'Alex, Inc'.
ACTOR: LEAH MONETTE
Leah Monnette was born in Nurnberg, Germany and at the age of 11 landed her first acting role in the play version of Swan Lake. All she wanted was to play a swan in the background but she ended up playing the lead role of Clara. As a “military brat,” she learned at an early age to be adaptable, having moved several times early in her life. Once her family settled in Kentucky, she pursued an education in business and finance and then migrated to Los Angeles, California. Believing that it’s never too late to pursue ones dreams and goals, she dipped her toes into formal acting training at Playhouse West in North Hollywood and honed her skills under the tutelage of Aaron Speiser and Shannon Sturges at the Speiser / Sturges Acting Studio. She can be seen in the timely, short film Jane directed by Natalija Vekic. She has also worked behind the scenes in All Part of the Game: Part 1 and Part 2 directed by Brandon Thomas; and You, Only Better directed by April Shih.
ACTOR: JONETTA KAISER
Actor: Jonetta Kaiser (Rosario) grew up in a conservative Christian community in southeast Louisiana. She's grateful to her mother and grandmother for raising her to have an open mind and love people unconditionally. This has shaped her as human being and informs her work as an actor. Even as a little girl she knew she wanted to act and now that she's working professionally, it’s more rewarding than she could have ever imagined. Acting and collaborating with filmmakers makes her feel alive. Jonetta is especially drawn to underrepresented characters and stories that haven’t been told. Jonetta can be seen in the Snapchat series Two Sides, she’s the lead in the web series College Girls that will air on Facebook Watch and was featured in The Lonely Island’s most recent work on Netflix, The Unauthorized Bash Brothers.
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: CHRISTIAN BRUNO
Christian Bruno is an award-winning filmmaker and cinematographer. Pie Fight ‘69 (co-directed with Sam Green) won top prizes at Sundance, Chicago Underground, and Black Maria Film Festivals. Ed & Pauline (co-directed with Natalija Vekic) about film critic Pauline Kael’s early years, premiered at Telluride in 2015. His cinematography can be seen in several acclaimed films, including Brian Davis’ hit feature documentary, The Million Dollar Duck. Visions Not Previously Seen about the life and work of groundbreaking designer Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, was recently nominated for 2 Webby Awards. He is currently shooting and co-producing Chris Russo’s feature-length portrait of 6 women navigating the world of legal cannabis, entitled Lady Buds. Christian has been awarded grants from California Council for the Humanities, San Francisco Foundation, The Pacific Pioneer Fund, Film Independent/HBO Documentary Fellowship, and has been in residence at The MacDowell Colony.
Puppett is a seasoned director and editor. Her work has screened in over 60 festivals, including Slamdance, Inside Out Toronto, Outfest Los Angeles, and Sedona International. While primarily a narrative film editor, Puppett recently edited Seed&Spark's first original content: a stand-up comedy special and accompanying short documentary episodes. Additionally, Puppett recently produced and edited Too Many Bodies, a music video dealing with gun violence in America. Inspired by the Golden Globes errors of 2019, she edited a parody trailer for Hidden Fences, which was viewed over 3k times in its first 24 hours online. As a director, Puppett has premiered work at Slamdance, Outfest, and Inside Out. She has a short film in post-production and is developing several scripts.
COMPOSER: CARLA PATULLO
Award-winning composer Carla Patullo, also known as White Widow, has created rich and diverse soundscapes for film and television productions that have won awards including a Daytime Emmy, a BAFTA, an Independent Spirit Award, and the GLAAD Media Award. Skywalker Sound and the Sundance Institute selected Carla as a Composer Fellow for the 2018 Sundance Film Music and Sound Design Lab, during which she developed her haunting and vocally-driven score to Keola Racela’s horror comedy “Porno” which premiered this year at SXSW. According to Variety Magazine, “Carla Patullo’s score is a nicely poker-faced channeling of fantasy-action soundtrack tropes from a generation ago.”
She is currently working on three documentary features: “Shadowmaker,” about animation pioneer Lotte Reiniger; “Canta di Liberta,” about the renowned Italian singer Milva; and Gregorio Davila’s LGBTA doc “LA: A Queer History.” With a sound that ranges from raw industrial to lush orchestral, Carla’s other credits include HBO’s My Name is Maria De Jesus, the award-winning Sundance selection Spa Night, and the Outfest selections “Letter to Anita,” “Jeanne Cordova,” and the animated horror film Pizza Face (Comic-Con 2017).
ADVISOR: JENNIFER KUSHNER
Jennifer Kushner serves as the Director of Artist Development at Film Independent and oversees all Artist Development programs, which support over 100 filmmakers annually through professional mentorship, labs and grants. The programs include Global Media Makers, the Film Independent Labs for directors, producers, film and television writers and documentary filmmakers; the Fast Track film finance market at the LA Film Festival; Film Independent Project Involve, a program dedicated to mentoring visual storytellers from underrepresented communities and working toward an inclusive industry; and a Grants and Awards program which gives over $850K in cash and services to filmmakers every year.
Past films she has helped develop with Film Independent include Afternoon Delight, C.O.G., Imperial Dreams, LUV, Mosquita y Mari, Nancy, Natural Selection, Songs My Brothers Taught Me, Tallulah, Spa Night, and the documentaries Call Me Kuchu, Kusama-Infinity, Minding the Gap, Rich Hill, Sunshine Superman and United Skates.
ADVISOR: APRIL BARETT
April Barett began her career in branded entertainment for Oprah Winfrey's OWN. In 2011, she transitioned into scripted television production and she’s worked as a production coordinator and production manager on television series that include–– Counterpart, Baskets, Dice, Love, Silicon Valley, True Blood, and The Comeback. She currently works as a Production Executive at Endeavor Content, a joint venture between William Morris Agency, IMG, and Endeavor. As much she enjoys working on large-scale productions, she’s excited to be collaborating with Natalija on her creative vision in the more independent world of filmmaking.
SET PHOTOS: CAST & CREW
BLINDFOLDS were used to protect the doctors' identity. They're a recurring motif, a reminder of the lack of power women had and the terrifying aspect of getting an abortion –– being in the dark and putting your trust and life in a stranger's hands.
The women met to set up counseling sessions, arrange doctors and discuss which doctors were worth working with and ones they did not trust. Later, when Jane was running an underground abortion service, they would arrange the "front," a waiting room, and a revolving set of borrowed apartments called the "place" where abortions happened.