Meet Jay Craven

We're pleased to introduce you to long-time Festival friend Jay Craven, Writer/Director or NFF18's Northern Borders, as well as Program Director of NFF's Teen View Programs and Writing Labs.

The Nantucket Film Festival’s Teen View program this year launches an innovative new documentary program for its 2013 installment with “intensive learning that enlarges meaning through the shared experience of joint action." The new round of Teen View Labs brings Nantucket teens together for a series of weekend workshops that will invite them to discover a non-fiction story, seek out characters, shape on-screen relationships, and plot dramatic action. For production, students work and rotate in a variety of roles, as directors, cinematographers, sound recordists, editors, and more.

Continuing his interest in hands-on education, Northern Borders was uniquely produced with 20 filmmaking professionals and 34 students and recent grads from 15 colleges. The film tells the story of 10-year-old Austen Kittredge, who is sent by his father to live on his grandparents’ Vermont farm. It’s 1956, and Austen sees the farm as a magical place populated by eccentric people, including his stubborn grandparents, whose thorny marriage is known as the Forty Years’ War. A humorous and sometimes startling coming-of-age story starring notable actors such as Bruce Dern (Coming Home, Hitchcock’s Family Plot) and Jessica Hecht (Sideways, Seinfeld), the film evokes Vermont’s wildness and sublime beauty, a haunted past, and an aura of enchantment.

Learn more from Jay about his approach to teaching and filmmaking below, and check out Northen Borders at NFF18!

NFF: What have you learned about filmmaking from working with students?

Craven: I've tried to create an environment for intensive collaboration and dialogue where we work to shape a creative community of people who focus and deliberate and prepare together for what educator John Dew calls "intensive learning that enlarges meaning through the shared experience of join action."  When working with students--you share what you know, combine talents, and invite them fully into this dialogue and process where everyone participates -- and contributes substantially to something larger than any of us.

NFF: Will you continue to integrate student filmmakers onto your sets in the future?

Craven: We are planning to shoot a film next spring on Nantucket.  We're recruiting now--working to bring 20 students from multiple campuses to Marlboro College--for seven weeks of literature study, film study, visiting artists, workshops, and pre-production, followed by seven weeks of production on Nantucket.  We start the semester with a week at Sundance.  Students get college credit for this "semester away" -- that they take back to their own schools.  The new film will be based on French writer Guy du Maupassant's seaside novel, Pierre et Jean (Peter and John)--about love, family, class, legitimacy, and self-discovery.

NFF: What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

Craven: I hope they'll be entertained by a good story--and maybe given a moment to reflect, especially on relationships, I guess.  The story centers on a ten year-old boy who is sent to live with his grandparents whose thorny marriage is called, "The Forty Years War."  He has to navigate this difficult emotional terrain, as we all do at some point.  But he learns things and has experiences that propel him forward. Maybe people will think about kids--their intelligence and vulnerability.  And maybe they'll think about grandparents. And place.  And the idea that the film was made by a collaboration between college students and professionals. I hope they'll also think about the terrific performances they actors bring to the film--which illuminate character, emotions, family history.

NFF: How did you decide to work on documentaries for this year's Teen View program?

Craven: NFF director Mystelle Brabbe proposed it and I liked the idea.  I think all filmmakers should make documentaries at some point--especially before tackling narrative.  Docs help them develop skills in close observation and visual storyteling where they shape narrative using the elements they find in life.  Students also learn camera, sound, and editing skills that will always serve them well.

NFF: Are documentaries harder to work on/teach than narratives?  Why or why not?

Craven: Once you have a script, you can set a narrative film in motion--and be fairly sure something resembling the script will emerge.  With a documentary, there are mysteries and unknowns and chances for discovery.  All of that is exciting. But this work requires that students develop instincts that allow them to start thinking of the shape the film may take, even while they're filming.  This takes time and experience.  But you've got to start somewhere, which is what we're doing.

NFF: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Craven: I mentioned the project, Peter and John, which is now in development--to be shot next spring. We're excited and working to make it happen.  Anyone wanting more information about it--or any college students who would like to know more about how to enroll for our "semester away" film intensive, can contact me at jcraven@marlboro.edu -- or go to www.Movies.Marlboro.edu.