Friday, October 15, 2010

A New York Jaunt, an Intriguing New Film

My friend Trish and I flew to New York City last weekend to attend the feature film premiere of my actor cousin and her writer/director husband’s debut movie, JIM. I’d heard about this work in progress during intermittent visits over the past several years and was always intrigued by the latest developments. I recall our conversations about the screenplay as it was being written, the production plans, and the film shoots, which took place in St. Louis, New Jersey and NYC. Produced by the husband and wife team Jeremy and Vanessa Morris-Burke, the indie sci-fi film drew a large crowd on its opening night.

Jeremy Morris-Burke, who wrote and directed the movie, is a talented and tenacious entrepreneurial type, with a diverse theatre background and a highly creative imagination. Once he had the story in mind, there was no stopping him. My cousin, Vanessa Morris-Burke, is a New York stage actor who has performed in various productions and has worked as a theatre producer.

Playing the cancer-stricken wife of the soon-to-be widowed Jim, Vanessa takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster ride. We’re devastated by her prognosis, encouraged by her near-recovery and then bludgeoned by her sudden demise. Her dying scene is so authentic that her mother (the executive producer of the film) cries every time she watches that scene. A review in the New York Times noted that Vanessa’s work “stands out” in the film.

Notwithstanding my 'cousin' status, I was immensely proud watching Vanessa's dramatic performance. My friend Trish, perhaps a less biased critic because she’d never met Vanessa before, was equally impressed. The lead actor, Dan Illian, also making his film debut, came across a seasoned screen actor, immediately drawing us into his character’s miserable plight. The rest of the acting, the music composition, the special effects, the filming and editing, all came together in a seamless way, engaging the packed theatre for the full hour and forty minute duration.

After the movie was over, we were treated to a Q & A session, where the producers and some of the cast and crew provided insights about the making of the movie. When Jeremy was asked, “What’s next?” he said he needed to focus on the film’s distribution and then take a breather, but I got the feeling from talking to him later that he’s also itching to move on to his next project.

Here’s the plot as described on the film’s website

‘Jim’ is a new science fiction drama that juxtaposes a seemingly inevitable near-future of genetic commercialism against a distant post-human dystopia. A desperate, unemployed widower seeks to salvage his legacy by hiring Lorigen, a biotech firm specializing in genetic wares, to create an enhanced child in memory of his wife. Meanwhile, a corrupt industrialist presides over a dead planet awash in genetic inferiority. Nature intervenes and these two worlds converge through an impossible shared dream which will make or break humanity for the long haul…

The film offers a powerful vision of the difficult choices that advancements in science and technology will be forcing people to make in the not so distant future.

Click on the above website if you’d like to see the trailer and if you want to learn more about the movie and the people behind its creation.

As a writer, I know how difficult it is to make headway in the cash-strapped, competitive, ever-struggling world of ‘the arts’; it often takes years of doggedness to finish a project and then additional years of tough slugging to get your work out into the marketplace. You also need really thick skin to withstand the slings and arrows of rejection and criticism. To put things in perspective, Stephen King wrote five novels before he finally got published (Carrie was his break-out novel).

My hat goes off to Jeremy and Vanessa, the production team, and all the cast and crew who joined forces in making this movie a reality. JIM just may be the precursor of the blockbuster waiting to emerge. The Village Voice, the first and largest alternative newsweekly in the U.S., says, “His (Morris-Burke’s) technical virtuosity and thematic ambition mark him as a filmmaker of promise.”

What a thrill to partake in this occasion and to experience the palpable excitement surrounding the opening of a new film. If you happen to be in LA this week, or in any of the places where the film will be playing in the next few months (see the website calendar), be sure to check it out. You will see a mass of young talent who are sure to reappear in other great projects down the road.

JIM is playing an extended run at the Quad Cinema in Greenwich Village until Oct. 21.


  1. Oh, Carla, I'm so envious of your trip to New York! Sounds like a wonderful movie. I'd love to hear what else you did while you were there!

  2. What a fun trip! It was so exciting to see the premier. Kudos to the whole family for making the film happen.

  3. Sounds like you had a perfect excuse to head to NYC - not that we really need an excuse! I would love to see the film.