Collaborating with big names for her next feature film project
NOVEMBER 3, 2022 BY ABIGAIL MARTIN
While on a research and maternity leave, Jaye Davidson, an assistant professor of film production at the University of Mississippi, is working on several interesting film projects.
“At the moment, I am focusing on writing, producing, and directing. I’ve done other things, like I’ve edited professionally and shot photography for other projects, but I’m at a place where I’m most interested in writing, directing, and producing,” said Davidson, who graduated from University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a BA in Video and Film Production and Cinema/Religious Studies and an MFA at Florida State University before working for a few years in Atlanta, Georgia in the film and commercial industry.
“My latest directing project is called ‘The Lady Edison,’ a short film about the inventor, Margaret Knight. It’s been to several different film festivals like the Bolton International Film Festival and the Imagine This Women’s Film Festival, which I attended in New York. I got a Sarah Isom Fellowship—they do two-year fellowships for all kinds of different backgrounds. They gave me a fellowship to turn this into a feature script.”
As a short film, “The Lady Edison” has premiered at 19 film festivals across Colombia, England, and several US states as well.
While Davidson is currently working to turn “The Lady Edison” into a feature length biofilm, that is not her only big project. “One of the movies I’m working on is called The French Italian. I’m helping them get the resources they need for post-production (people who edit the shots, add music, etc.). There’s a whole team that goes into this part of the filmmaking process,” she said.
She describes her role as a producer, “Producing is like logistics—but keeping the story in mind. You have to really understand the story and the director’s vision to find the right people for each project. What I do is help the main team find people to fill certain positions. For example, right now, I’m working with them to find a composer.
“Producers have several different logistical roles. They might help raise money, arrange pay, organize food, insurance, give story feedback, and find locations, crew, and actors. They can also find partners to put the project into theaters.”
Her experience as a producer is expansive, covering all the odd jobs. This involvement has revealed her filmmaking strengths and taught her the aspects she most enjoys about the process. “I have had the privilege of doing a lot of these roles, but I found myself saying ‘okay, what am I good at’ and determining what I liked best—I’ve married myself down to these things,” Davidson said.
“I’m interested in producing on a bigger scale, and then building my career towards directing and writing on that bigger scale.
“Producing is nice because you can really help a project, but it’s less of a commitment. And right now, with a baby and working at the University of Mississippi, it’s hard to go work on my own movie for two years. I’m very committed to my child and the university, so it’s easier to help another person’s project and share input and resources for it.”
As for her latest co-produced project, Davidson explains why this project, in particular, is so exciting.
“For The French Italian, I worked with several recognizable names and that gives it traction to go somewhere. Jon Read, one of the producers for Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, is our producer, the female lead is Cat Cohen, who has a comedy special on Netflix, and the male lead is Aristotle Athari, who was on SNL and Silicon Valley,” she said. “The director is Rachel Wolther, who has been written about in Filmmaker Magazine, and the lead producer is Miranda Kahn. What that means is there’s good prospects for this project.”
“People can be a little stuffy in any occupation, but they’re not. They’re really open and excited about the movie. They’re excited about helping other people. They remember when they were in college and they would have loved to learn from a process like this, so they are also excited to share their knowledge with UM students through me.”
Davidson shares her passion for filmmaking and provides a metaphor to explain the effect of collaboration in the field. “I love that you have this dream and then you get to share it. It’s kind of like having a child—you birth your film idea and other people love it with you. It takes a village to make a movie, sometimes hundreds of people can work on my movie.
“What I like about film is you take this beautiful dream, and you get to see it grow up, or you get to help raise someone else’s dream. You’ve had an impact on their baby and hopefully that means it’s a stronger, more creative child because you were a part of it. It’s the most beautiful thing to see people’s personalities and influences on this product that you never could have done by yourself,” she said.