Jocelyn Millana, an assistant professor in the Media, Journalism and Film Department at Missouri State recently returned from a Red Carpet Premiere of Jacob, Broken by God – a film about a man finding God after his life spiraled out of control. Jocelyn, the film’s producer and director, describes the project as an “urban, faith-based film” and reveals that the film should be streaming by March of 2023.
Path from Houston
After premiering in Houston, Texas, the filming location, the next big step is to premiere in Los Angeles, California. Jocelyn explains that before the premiere happens in LA, however, they will try to make a profit by renting out theatres in locations with a built-in demographic including Birmingham, Memphis, and Atlanta.
Becoming the Producer
Networking is important in many industries and Jocelyn details its importance as it relates to the film industry. When Millana lived and worked in LA as a freelance filmmaker, she “thrived on getting any gig” and explains that during that time she applied to be a first assistant director with Jeffrey Taylor. After keeping in contact for years with Taylor, Jocelyn was contacted about an opportunity to co-produce Jacob, Broken by God. She explains that she is “very fortunate to know him and that we have a good relationship.”
Jocelyn mentioned that she didn’t want to direct the film when Taylor first offered her the role. In her own words, “He offered me the role as director, and I actually turned him down because I didn’t want to be known as a faith-based director.” Millana perused her contacts and network in an attempt to commission another director. She quickly realized that her contacts either have scheduling conflicts or otherwise can’t work on the film.
Jocelyn explains that when she realized that she would have to be the one who directed the film, she went through a period where she reflected and spoke to her mentors, eventually negotiating a great deal for her second feature film. Her negotiations gave her creative control and director’s cuts.
Time to Film
The project was filmed during the pandemic and utilized a lot of extras, many churches, and homes. Between the day she accepted the role of director and the day filming started was about 12 or 13 days. From Springfield, Jocelyn hired her crew while Taylor, in Houston, hired the musicians, cast, and other essential roles. She also completed all post-production in Springfield which included commissioning our Associate Professor, Andrew Twibell, as editor, Daniel Ketter, an in Assistant Professor in MSU’s Music Department, and Robert Murdaugh, a graduate student in the MJF Department, for sound design.
A Balancing Act
When I asked Jocelyn about balancing film obligations and teaching responsibilities, she explains that first of all, “filmmaking is not a one-woman job.” She says that sometimes the film credits seem just as long as the film itself. It takes a group of people, a network, to get something done. While filming and teaching, Jocelyn reiterates the essential nature of social platforms and technology like Zoom and text messaging used in tandem with in-person meetings to meet deadlines and balance her academic, producing, and directing responsibilities.
“Most of the time teaching doesn’t feel like teaching because I’m doing what I’m doing.” – Jocelyn Millana
Jocelyn actively blends her obligations as a professor and her filmmaking, since she teaches elements of producing and directing at Missouri State. She explains that it goes both ways; there have been instances where she has invited current and former students to work on her projects.
Advising the Future Film Maker
Jocelyn explains that the hardest part about becoming a film professional is realizing your career path. Screenwriting, producing, and directing are just a few avenues into the industry.
Here are a few things students can be doing right now to prepare themselves for a future in the film industry:
- Maintain a network
- Seek mentors
- Ask questions
- Avoid self-persecution
- Find your support system, “whether it be your family or your found family, surround yourself with those people.”