For her directorial debut, Jess Paul sought to capture a slice of life. Jess Paul is best known as an actress in the feature film “Brew House” and the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Selection, “The Immaculate Reception”.
Her charming microshort, “Promenade”, seems to capture a fleeting, yet definitive moment that encapsulates the transition from adolescence to young adulthood — and the sometimes awkward, sometimes painful recognition of self and of others that defines our young adulthood — and the backdrop she chooses to tell this coming of age story is a familiar touchstone in most anyone’s coming of age story: The High School Prom.
(Or; more importantly the personal and interpersonally significant exchanges and conversations that take place just immediately outside the prom – ).
“To speak to my figurative subject matter (without giving away the ending),” Paul explains, “I tackled this subject because it was the main theme of my first feature screenplay I wrote in college and plan to produce. I’ve spent years in Pittsburgh honing my own crafts and finding those filmmakers I collaborate with best.”
“Everything is more challenging when it’s your first time directing and producing something you have both written and starred in,” Paul admits. “Driving the entire project made for a healthy challenge in multitasking and code switching. We filmed exclusively in the dark and fought sleep around already full schedules.”
But, Paul was not without help. Director of Photography Benjamin T. Wilson and Assistant Camera Garrett Langer captured an atmosphere and a look that enchants and isolates the intimate conversation between two classmates. Connor McNelis played a rare role behind the camera in recording the scene’s sound: both soft, private conversation and late-summer crickets for a realistic moment. And, Krista Graham and Matt Metzger rounded out this small, down-to-Earth cast, presenting unparalleled performances as young teens in love and loss.
To us, “Promenade” captures that feeling of social acceptance or rejection — that self-discovery that comes along with your first time — first time accepting yourself, first time directing a film — a world of firsts opens up to you when you accept your ambitions, and face your dreams and your true desires.
Paul’s journey to enter the world of directing is significant to the theme of this film — when asked how she was looking forward to screening “Promenade” at Indie Oaks (the same fest where she met Wilson and McNelis in 2016), Paul said:
“I find my people at Indie Oaks.”