Sabrina Jaglom’s first feature as a director and screenwriter is called “Jane” (2022). It’s a dark psychological thriller about anxiety and the pressures that young people face today. Olivia, played by Madelaine Petsch who also produced the film, struggles with grief from the recent loss of a friend, Jane (Chloe Yu). Determined to succeed, she teams up with the popular Izzy (Chlöe Bailey) to use Jane’s former social media profile and attack those that stay in the way of their success. As things get out of control and Olivia sees a physical manifestation of Jane, Olivia’s alter ego forces her to embrace her inner dark side to get ahead.
The film deals with several serious subject matters, including mental health issues and cyberbullying via social media, and is now available on Creator+. I had reached out to Creator+ for stills of the film, but they didn’t respond.
Sabrina Jaglom (b. 1991) is the daughter of art-house film director and editor Henry Jaglom (b. 1938) and actress Victoria Foyt (b. 1958); as a child, she played bit parts in their films and in recent years she wrote and directed several shorts. She came over to the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival (BIFFF) to present her movie and talk about how she made her debut film.
“Last Summer in the Hamptons” (1995, trailer), the first film Sabrina Jaglom appeared in when she was a child
Ms. Jaglom, the power and the impact of social media among high school students, was that maybe your starting point when you wrote the script? Take the social media and develop a story from there?
My starting point was developing a story about the anxiety and the pressure that high school students and young adults face. It’s a very unique time because at that age, they’re facing these pressures to be an adult and they’re forced to make decisions that will impact the rest of their life. Particularly in America, the college admissions or the university admissions process is very intensive; it’s also that period of time when you’re growing up and everything feels so serious, and social media is a huge factor. So I wanted to tell that story through a different lens. When I was in high school, we also had social media, but not like teenagers do today: it has gotten even more intensive and more pervasive. I think you can’t tell a story about young adult anxiety without having social media be a factor, and I developed the script like it almost became a character in itself the way social media can take over. To me, it’s less about what happens on social media, and more about how the characters interact with it and with each other because of social media. I hope the film helps to open up conversations about anxiety. I think that genre-leaning films can make it easier to connect with the subject matter because it is so removed from real life.
When you create your characters, such as Olivia, played by Madelaine Petsch, do have a specific approach?
It’s difficult because, obviously, at the end of the film she does something very bad and you don’t want to like her, you don’t approve of all of her actions, but you have to care about her at the beginning to understand how she goes to that place. I think Madelaine showed that vulnerability, as we see it from Olivia’s perspective and point of view. So we’re rooted in that perspective and we’re in her head to understand the anxiety she feels, the panic attacks, the pressure, and the vulnerability from a firsthand perspective. But, logically, what she did, is very bad and so wrong.
“Jane” is a psychological thriller. Are there any traps you need to be aware of when you’re making this kind of movie?
Yes. As a psychological thriller, I wanted it to be rooted in her psychology more than the thriller element. But you need to feel that the pressure is mounting, I wanted to make sure that there weren’t ever moments when it feels ominous just for the sake of it, or someone is watching or chasing just because of it. I hope that the way I shot the film gets you that feeling of unease without it being too forced. You shouldn’t feel something is coming after you. I think it’s scarier what happens inside people’s minds often and the reality of the situations can be scarier than these forced scenarios sometimes.
You worked with a very impressive cast. How did you cast the actors? Because you were also able to cast Academy Award-winning actress Melissa Leo, that makes it very interesting for your poster when you can mention, ‘Academy Award winner.’
[Laughs] Yes, that’s very nice. The first person we cast was Madelaine Petsch who plays Olivia, the lead. I wrote the script and started taking meetings with the actors before we had financing and before we had a studio. We had to find an actor who could not only carry the film from a talent perspective, but you also need to believe her at the beginning as this perfectionist, this very good student, and at the end, you have to believe her as this dark-twisted person who will go to these extreme lengths. Madelaine was one of the only actors I found in that range who could embody those sides of the character believably; I thought she did an amazing job. We met and talked about the script and it resonated with her, and Melissa Leo was willing to read it and come on board as well. I reached out to her through a personal connection. She said something I appreciated, ‘The script is not about the adult characters’—and it’s not. It’s about how they’re not serving the kids; none of the adults are bad, they’re just not actively involved and they don’t know how to talk to kids. It’s not that somebody did something wrong; they didn’t know what to do. For them, it’s easier to just check in, but not to dig too deep. So Melissa came on board too; she’s an Academy Award winner and a very talented actress, and the rest of our cast we found with the help of our casting directors. We did chemistry auditions and I’m thrilled with everyone’s performance. I think we got a lot of talented actors who embody pieces of the characters they play, and it was very exciting to see them bring it to life because there are pieces of themselves that they brought forward.
The interaction between your actors is very important. How did that play out during the casting process?
Well, first of all, all the characters other than Olivia represent pieces of what she envies, they represent something that she doesn’t have or something that she wants. So they’re all very different, which I like. Every character and every actor is very different, but they still need to fit in the same ecosystem, particularly when you’re casting actors that play high school students. They need to be in the same age range. They have differences, but need to fit in the same world. For Chlöe Baily who plays Izzy and for Madeleine’s character, we needed this chemistry. You have to believe that they were once really close friends. Even if they grow apart, if you ever had that closeness at one point, it never leaves you, even if things are tense, or as adults, you have a fight or you separate. You have that familiarity from growing up together; that was important to me. And because we cast Madelaine first, it was very important to find someone who fits with her, and Chlöe Bailey not only gave an amazing performance on her own, but the way that they worked together, you could feel the tension, but also the familiarity. That was very special.
Did Covid make it difficult for you when you were making the film?
Very. We shot the film last Summer and I contracted Covid while directing, so we had to shut down and I had to quarantine from everyone, but we started back up with a new schedule, new locations, and new crew members. I had to direct remotely from my hotel room for two days because we couldn’t shut down for that long and keep on track. But, otherwise, it was normal Covid protocol, like wearing masks, testing…
What was your shooting schedule like?
We shot in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for about three and a half weeks.
That’s a pretty tight schedule, isn’t it?
That’s a tight schedule. And we had a Covid shutdown in the middle, so we ended up shooting for longer because we postponed the shoot.
“Jane” (2022, trailer)
Did that have any consequences budget-wise?
Definitely. We had Covid contingencies, I think most films have had to do that, but you never expect the director to get it, for some reason. But it was difficult. We had to shut down, we lost some locations; also because of the schedule we lost some crew. It had some budgetary consequences. But the studio was really good about getting us going again and keeping us on track.
How tough is it now to make an independent film? I mean, it even costs a fortune when you have to market your film.
Yes, it is crazy how marketing has doubled the budget of a movie. It is very difficult. But what is interesting, is that there are a lot of alternative financing models other than the studios these days. Our financiers, Creator+, are launching their own platform, so you can rent or buy the film directly from their site. That is a new model and part of what they plan to do is use the actor’s social media presence and following to market the film directly to consumers and to their fans, which hopefully will help cut cost the marketing, but also make sure that people who are interested in the film can directly purchase it. So it’s a new model, but hopefully, it’s a solution to that very real problem.
What was the timeline of “Jane” like?
We wrote it over a few years, started shopping around, and then rewrote it, started shopping around again, and then with Covid, it was all on hold for about a year. We found the deal with Creator+ in April or May 2021 and then we started shooting in July. From beginning to preproduction to the end of postproduction was about a year, but writing was a few years prior to that.
And “Jane” is available on Creator+?
Yes. “Jane” will begin streaming there on September 16. You can rent or buy it there, and you don’t have to subscribe to their platform. You can pick and choose the film, and then after 30 days exclusive on their platform, it will go to other online platforms. Creator+ was very supportive of my vision; we had a lot of budgetary restrictions. They were watching out for those and they were making sure that we put the money in the right place, but creatively they very much let me execute my vision. They didn’t ask me to change anything in the script or editing; the only changes I made were condensing a few locations to try and help with the budget, but besides that, they were very supportive of my vision.
What were the reactions like when the film opened at AMC theaters in Los Angeles in late August?
They were great. It’s still a weird time for theaters, I think; people are still not used to go, also young adults, which is a different market because they’re so much more used to streaming. It was great to have the film in about 32 theaters in the U.S. which was a great release for a movie this size.
As the daughter of film people, born and raised in Los Angeles, what was it like for you to grow up there?
Even though I was raised in Los Angeles, I grew up in a very independent art-house film world, that’s very much outside of the ‘Hollywood world.’ But it was very special from a creative perspective. Growing up, my brother and I did improv games with my dad after dinner, and my mom used to write all these short films that we all shot and edited. That was very creative and inspiring. My father worked atypical to Hollywood and I work very differently than him, so it was just great to understand I can do this my own way—whatever it looks like—but fostering creativity first and foremost. And when I was about 10 years old, I think, my dad gave me a list of like 100 movies to see. We would do a movie night once a week, going through this list. I think when I got older, though, I realized I had seen a lot of these movies when I was a little too young to appreciate them; I saw “8 ½”  when I was 11 years old, and I didn’t get it. I loved it, it was beautiful, but I didn’t understand it. And then I watched it again as I was older, and thought, ‘Oh yes, now I understand it.’ But I liked everything from the French New Wave to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and all the modern ones that were coming out. So I watched a lot of films when I was growing up.
“8 ½” (1963, trailer)
Did that shape you as a filmmaker during those formative years?
At first, I thought I wanted to act, but when I started directing at a young age, I realized this is what I want to do. I went to film school at NYU and a lot of my classmates had only started to realize what they wanted to do because there are no other film programs. So I was lucky that I was able to explore that earlier and that helped shape me.
How do you convince financiers, or the audience to go and see your film? You have to convince everybody because you do everything yourself?
First of all, for me to care about a movie, it has to be about something I care about. That doesn’t mean that it has to be a message movie by any means, but “Jane” for example is about anxiety and internal pressure that one faces. All the projects I’m drawn to say something but they’re usually different, unusual, or unconventional. My dream is for people to have a conversation and think about it, and if you want to convince people, you have to believe this is the story you’re trying to tell, and this is why and who this person is. For me, a really important part is a strong character. That’s how we connect to stories, through people, and through the characters, by having a strong character that you’re interested in is a way that I hopefully can connect people to this movie and convince them to watch it.
How do you work with your actors on the set?
I learned that every actor needs to be spoken to differently and they take their direction differently. Some people are best on their first take, some need to warm up and others first need a conversation. So a big part of directing is figuring out each actor’s style and how to work with them as an individual. I have a very strong idea about the characters, who they are and what they want, but I’m also very collaborative. So I love saying, ‘Here are my notes, but let’s talk about it if you want to,’ or offering actors just to do a take for them however they want it. And sometimes those takes are not what anyone wants, or they’re just something to try, and sometimes you find some kind of truth in it because it does not feel like a serious take, it feels like a free take. So maybe you can find something unique in it that you can build upon. It starts with a conversation about who the character is and what each scene is about; every scene should serve a purpose in a film and whether that’s building tension or illuminating a piece of a character, getting to the heart of each of those moments helps figure out where to go.
Does that help you when you’re editing the film?
Knowing the story you want to tell makes it easier for you to edit the film because you’re looking for that thin line, you don’t get distracted so much. I love having options and takes—that being said, we did have a tight shooting schedule, we didn’t shoot a lot of extra material and the script had been edited a lot too. So we were pretty streamlined, but the editing process is really fun because maybe you can shift the order around or swap out a different take and see how it changes the chemistry of the composition. But we didn’t have a lot of room to shoot extra stuff on this shoot.
Did you do test screenings?
Yes, we did two test screenings in the editing process, which was helpful. On this film, we could not shoot/reshoot, which is sometimes what people take out of a test screening. But it was helpful to understand, ‘Okay, here’s a moment that doesn’t make sense.’ In particular, something that I saw when I watched with an audience was when Olivia sees Jane in a scene, I added more time after a test screening to let the audience breathe a little more.
Is the result of the film close to what you had originally in mind?
Yes. Very close to what I had in mind. I realized in the course of making it, it becomes its own thing completely, in some ways exactly how I envizioned it, and in some ways completely different because I saw the locations in my head, we had approximations but in the end, they’re different. And now, when I think about it, I see the set, not the one that I saw when I was writing it. I wrote the script with Rishi Rajani and it was interesting to talk to him after he first saw the film, and he also said, ‘It’s totally the script we wrote that comes to life and it’s also this own new creature.’
What was the budget of the film like?
Under $1,5 million. That was difficult, but with Covid and tax credit we made it work. It was tough, but I didn’t need to rewrite the script for the budget. Yet, it was difficult because we have stunts, we have visual effects, we have a lot of background actors, and a few locations. So it was a challenge, but I’m glad we made it work. I credit a great cast and crew who cared a lot about making the movie and who cared about the integrity of the film. My producer, my composer, my editor and my DP all cared about telling the same kind of story. Everyone put the work in beyond the budget and was not satisfied with something mediocre. And the people of Creator+ were willing to move quickly so that we could shoot within the window of Madelaine’s availability.
When you made “Jane,” were you in any way influenced by certain films you had seen in the past?
“Black Swan”  was a big influence on the writing process; the way pressure is shown, the way that it’s really about anxiety, and the blurring lines of reality when following this woman’s journey. I don’t intend to do a lot of high school movies, but there’s something special about high school because feelings are so high there, young adults feel so much that you can go to these more heightened places. “Heathers”  was a fun camp movie, a little dynamic between the alter ego character, and I watched some Hitchcock movies while we were shooting and see him play with the voyeurism of the camera in a way that you follow the story, but you feel that there’s something off about it.
How did you collaborate with your cinematographer Diana Matos?
Prior to getting to New Mexico for prep, we met on Zoom many times. We first worked with the script and then again based on location scout, and also changed things while we were shooting. But she and I went through each scene and talked about what we wanted it to feel like and because this movie is one character’s journey and her devolution and her falling apart, the camera kind of tracks that. In the beginning, Olivia starts off very orderly, the camera is more static and more symmetrical. And as she starts to lose her mind, we play with that a bit and in finding the camera language for the panic attacks, we had a different lens for when she passed out, stuff like that. So it was great to collaborate with her.
To what extent are you familiar with what a camera can do?
I have been lucky to make a lot of short films and have been able to play with the camera before. Sometimes it didn’t work out what I had in mind, but I tried it. I tried it more in conventional shots and you don’t need coverage from every angle. At NYU I learned to shoot on film, not digitally, which is rare these days, and you have to learn to be conservative with your shots. I learned you shoot to edit, then you’re making a decision and you’re telling the story more specifically. While if you don’t shoot to cover the whole scene, then you’re just getting footage. That was a great learning experience for me: there’s a limit, you’re only able to do a few takes if you only have so much film. Obviously, we shot “Jane” digitally, but I took that lesson with me.
Are you working on a new project already?
Yes, I’m starting to write again. I’m writing a film that I will hopefully direct, and I just wrote and directed a scripted podcast, a radio play called “Listening In” that stars actress Rachel Brosnahan and we’re right now turning that into a TV show. So early development; I’m also reading scripts and reading books, but mostly just early development.
There are so many films coming out on various digital platforms. Is it easy to get enough coverage in the U.S.?
There are so many films released at any moment that it’s easy for stuff to get lost. People don’t go to the theater as much, and even big streamers like Netflix will release a movie and then it gets buried because there is so much content all the time. So I guess we’ve been lucky; we have a very specific audience that is eager to watch new things and there are actors right now that are getting a lot of attention for other things, so that’s very helpful. But it is an interesting time in cinema: a lot is being made and we have our small movie.
Did your father get to see it?
Yes, he did [laughs]. He saw one early cut in the editing process and gave me some very helpful notes. He didn’t give any notes on the script or anything, but on the cut. And he was at our premiere in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.
You worked with Nancy Meyers on “The Intern”  and “Home Again” . How did that go?
She’s so talented and great to learn from. Watching her work was a wonderful step in the process of getting ready to direct my own feature. You also understand the way films get made; you work on your creative process, but also work in development and production, and you understand the process, who gets hired to do what, and the order of things. That helped me to get very prepared going into this film.
You are credited as an associate producer on “Home Again”  starring Reese Witherspoon. What did you have to do exactly?
That film was produced by Nancy Meyers, and written and produced by Hallie Meyers-Shyer [Nancy Meyers’ daughter]. I did anything that was needed, from the beginning of preproduction to the end of postproduction. Helping out in casting, working with the department heads, working on the trailer—just kind of everything that needed to be done. That was also an independent film and everyone lend a hand the way he did.
Earlier you mentioned the French New Wave. Were there any New Wave filmmakers there that you admired?
Growing up I loved François Truffaut, I had a great appreciation for his work. Agnès Varda was also a big inspiration to me—speaking of female filmmakers. “Cléo from 5 to 7” [1962, originally titled “Cléo de 5 à 7”] is one of my favorite women-directed films because I love how she embodied the New Wave and made her films feminine on her own. It’s hard being a female film director in many ways, it’s traditionally a male job and you’re usually on set with a lot of men. In my crew, we had a lot of women too, but she didn’t try to make masculine films. She just made her own films and was true to her expression. No matter what your gender is, that is what every filmmaker should do: you ought to tell your story and not fit into the idea of the type of story you’re expected to tell.
“Cléo de 5 à 7” (1962, trailer)
Finally, are you a big social media person?
No. I use it, but not too much. I know that when you put something out there, you have to realize that everybody can interpret it differently. It can impact people, especially younger people.
Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival,
September 10, 2022
LAST SUMMER IN THE HAMPTONS (1995) DIR – ED Henry Jaglom PROD Judith Wolinsky SCR Henry Jaglom, Victoria Foyt CAM Hanania Baer CAST Victoria Foyt, Viveca Lindfors, Jon Robin Baitz, Savannah Smith Boucher, Roscoe Lee Browne, Andre Gregory, Melissa Leo, Roddy McDowall, Holland Taylor, Henry Jaglom, Sabrina Jaglom (Member of the Theater Audience)
DÉJÀ VU (1997) DIR – ED Henry Jaglom PROD John Goldstone SCR Henry Jaglom, Victoria Foyt CAM Hanania Baer MUS Gaili Schoen CAST Stephen Dillane, Victoria Foyt, Vanessa Redgrave, Glynis Barber, Michael Brandon, Vernon Dobtcheff, Graydon Gould, Anna Massey, Sabrina Jaglom (Child on the Beach), Simon Orson Jaglom
FESTIVAL IN CANNES (2001) DIR – ED Henry Jaglom PROD John Goldstone SCR Henry Jaglom, Victoria Foyt CAM Hanania Baer MUS Gaili Schoen CAST Anouk Aimée, Greta Scacchi, Maximilian Schell, Ron Silver, Zack Norman, Peter Bogdanovich, Jenny Gabrielle, Alex Craig Mann, Sabrina Jaglom (Child Watching Blue), Simon Orson Jaglom, Louise Stratten, William Shatner, Faye Dunaway, Holly Hunter
GOING SHOPPING (2005) DIR Henry Janglom PROD Judith Ryan SCR Henry Janglom, Victoria Foyt CAM Hanania Baer MUS Harriet Schock CAST Victoria Foyt, Rob Morrow, Lee Grant, Bruce Davison, Mae Whitman, Jennifer Grant, Juliet Landau, Sabrina Janglom (Young Girl Who Wants a Purse), Katharine Kramer, Charles Matthau
HOLLYWOOD DREAMS (2006) DIR – SCR – ED Henry Jaglom PROD Rosemary Marks CAM Alan Caudillo MUS Harriet Schock CAST Tanna Frederick, Justin Kirk, David Proval, Zack Norman, Melissa Leo, Karen Black, Keaton Simons, Eric Roberts, Seymour Cassel, Sally Kirkland, Sabrina Jaglom (Zoe, Child Director), Henry Jaglom, Katharine Kramer
IRENE IN TIME (2009) DIR – SCR – ED Henry Jaglom PROD Rosemary Marks CAM Hanania Baer MUS Harriet Schock CAST Tanna Frederick, Andrea Marcovicci, Victoria Tennant, Karen Black, Lanre Idewu, Jack Maxwell, Zack Norman, Sabrina Jaglom (Gigi), Simon Orson Jaglom, Louise Stratten
QUEEN OF THE LOT (2010) DIR – SCR Henry Jaglom PROD Rosemary Marks CAM Hanania Baer ED Ron Vignone MUS Harriet Schock CAST Tanna Frederick, Noah Wyle, Christopher Rydell, David Proval, Zack Norman, Paul Sand, Peter Bogdanovich, Dennis Christopher, Jack Heller, Mary Crosby, Sabrina Jaglom (Zoe Lambert), Simon Orson Jaglom
JUST 45 MINUTES FROM BROADWAY (2012) DIR – SCR Henry Jaglom PROD Rosemary Marks CAM Nancy Schreiber, Hanania Baer ED Ron Vignone CAST Tanna Frederick, Judd Nelson, Jack Heller, Diane Salinger, David Proval, Julie Davis, Harriet Schock, Mary Crosby, Simon Orson Jaglom, Sabrina Jaglom (Judy Cooper), Jack Quaid
THE M WORD (2014) DIR Henry Jaglom PROD Rosemary Marks PROD ASSISTANT Sabrina Jaglom, Sole Uriarte, Zach Laliberte, Eric Johnson SCR – ED Henry Jaglom, Ron Vignone CAM Hanania Baer CAST Tanna Frederick, Michael Imperioli, Corey Feldman, Frances Fisher, Gregory Harrison, Mary Crosby, Eliza Roberts, Zack Norman, Ron Vignone, Simon Orson Jaglom, Harriet Schock, David Proval
OVATION (2015) DIR Henry Jaglom PROD Rosemary Marks SCR Henry Jaglom, Ron Vignone CAM Hanania Baer ED Ron Vignone CAST Tanna Frederick, James Denton, Stephanie Fredricks, Cathy Arden, Simon Jaglom, Zack Norman, Brandon Kirk, Diane Salinger, Ron Vignone, Sabrina Jaglom (Zoe Lambert), David Proval
BAD HURT (2015) DIR Mark Kemble PROD Theo Rossi, Pamela Thur, Jamieson Stern, Nicholas Carmona, Emma Tillinger Koskoff PROD ASSISTANT Sabrina Jaglom, Joseph Weston, Matthew Sucher SCR Mark Kemble, Jamieson Stern CAM Igor Kropotov ED Jennifer Lilly MUS Tina DiGeorge CAST Karen Allen, Theo Rossi, Ashley Williams, Johnny Whitworth, Michael Harney, Dorothy Lyman, Barry Primus, Joanna Sanchez, Sabastian Tillinger
THE INTERN (2015) DIR – SCR Nancy Meyers PROD Nancy Meyers, Suzanne Farwell PROD ASSISTANT Sabrina Jaglom, Harrison Jaffee, Alexis Hughes, Lucas Field, Chrysti Cook, Jill Christiano, Graeme Butler, Charles Alberto IV, Jonathan Potter Barnes, Matthew Andrade, Kory Banning, Max Winik, Karen Zack, Courtney Wheeler, Louis Troche, Randy Troy, Caroline Stevens-Sommers, Luke Smith, Buck Shipley, James Sandlin, Amanda Sanchez, Jon Pater, Christopher Patrikis, Ray Persaud, Samantha Miller, John Morgan, Tiffany Morrell, Jeremy Lloyd-Styles, Joel McGlumphy, Marisa Mazzo CAM Stephen Goldblatt ED Robert Leighton MUS Theodore Shapiro CAST Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Anders Holm, JoJo Kushner, Andrew Rannells, Adam Devine, Zack Pearlman, Jason Orley
HOME AGAIN (2017) DIR – SCR Hallie Meyers-Shyer PROD Nancy Meyers, Erika Olde ASSOC PROD Sabrina Jaglom, Tanja Tawadjoh CAM Dean Cundey ED David Bilow MUS John Debney CAST Reese Witherspoon, Michael Sheen, Candice Bergen, Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky, Nat Wolff, Lola Flanery, Eden Grace Redfield
JANE (2022) DIR Sabrina Jaglom PROD Madelaine Petsch, Nick Phillips, Deborah Liebling SCR Sabrina Jaglom, Rishi Rajani CAM Diana Matos ED Shelby Hall MUS Anna Drubich CAST Madelaine Petsch, Chlöe Bailey, Melissa Leo, Nina Bloomgarden, Kerri Medders, Grayson Berry, Jordyn Arora Aquino, Calhoun Koenig, Chloe Yu, Victoria Foyt