Jenna Payne: Filmmaker & Founder/Program Director, Dinner with Dames

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My name is Jenna Payne. My first short film FELINE FRENZY won the One of a Kind Award at the 2010 Royal Flush Film Festival. I have written two feature-length scripts, TV pilots, a webseries, developed ideas for future projects, and created a series of lo fi animations called the #GlamLife. For the last six years, I have worked in production as a freelancer, overseeing features, commercials, and digital content.

I have directed multiple projects, including putting together a live performance of ZOMPIRE VIXENS FROM PLUTO! in collaboration with Women in Horror 2013. One of my most complimented and renown pieces is the improv short called DARKTOWN that I directed in the blacked out, concrete canyons of Manhattan during the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in between commercial production days. I look forward to developing my Appalachian Godfather series SHINER for television and am working to direct my first feature – a Flint, Michigan slasher called THE BIG THREE ARE AFTER ME.

In addition to my creative endeavors, I partner with the 501c3 non-profit Cinefemme to support and promote women filmmakers in the industry. I am the founder and Program Director of Dinner with Dames, a monthly dinner mentorship series that brings together emerging women filmmakers with industry movers and shakers to create empowering mentor relationships.

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What do I do best?

My creative problem solving skills and unpredictable leaps of imagination are my source of strength. This applies to both my storytelling and my persistence in pursuing my dream of writing and directing (and getting paid for it).

What makes me the best version of myself?

My sense of humor never fails me even in the toughest of times, and I’d like to think I’m a fun member of any team and a great boss on my own projects.

What are my aspirations?

I love storytelling and want to be able to write and direct my own projects. I look forward to directing features as well as running my own show on cable (FX – call me!). I also want to integrate my mentorship work, like with Cinefemme’s Dinner with Dames, into my career as it continues to grow. I want to help the next generation of women and underrepresented visionaries get their feet in the door.

My Biggest Success?

My Dinner with Dames program through Cinefemme has been a huge success at putting women at the table with important people, pushing the conversation about inequality and obstacles, and even getting women long-term mentorships. There are a lot of ways to tackle this problem, and I’m proud to be part of the solution. Also, when I moved to LA, I bought a car for under $2k. She breaks down from time to time but what an accomplishment!

My Most Challenging Moment?

I’ve certainly had my share of challenges and could talk about my struggles with depression, poverty, or the uphill climb that is establishing an ambitious career as a woman. My most recent challenge, though, came from my own body and truly had me thinking that my life (as I knew it) was over from a disease no one could diagnose, and some doctors didn’t even want to try. I’m happy – and relieved! – to announce that after a very hard year of searching for answers I am nearly recovered. I’m also turning this challenge into a short horror film about my body and chronic illness.

My Motto?

Keep going! Whenever I feel stuck I look for any stone unturned and flip that sh*t ASAP.

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Tough question! I tend to take what works for me from this person and that person and kind of roll it all together, so this list might never be complete. A big shoutout to my very supportive boyfriend Levi Bailey!

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

Though I’m now in Los Angeles, I lived in New York for ten years and truly believe the city itself had a massive part in shaping me as a young adult. I don’t know that LA is my forever home, so sometimes I find myself dreaming about Providence, RI, Truckee, CA, and east coast beaches. I love getting out of town as it’s the best and almost only way I can turn off work for a few days. Always an adventure!

My Favorite Products/Objects?

I have a massive amount of media – books, records, and movies – that have survived all of my moves, including the unexpected one across the country, and I’m so grateful to have them still. I’m available to DJ! Hahaha

My Current Passions?

As ever, my passion is storytelling. I want to reimagine the world – and other worlds – as places of equality. I want to create narratives where people of different genders, races, sexual orientation, and economic classes all function as worthy individuals in society, and I hope that by making equality par for the course, these stories can help achieve fairness. We have the power to influence our culture and cultures across the globe with our storytelling, and this is a watershed moment for diversity and equality. I hope to make major progress in the parity and representation struggle, and I push for perspective shifts through my own storytelling along with my work at Cinefemme.