Caytha Jentis is an American writer, producer, director and filmmaker. She is also ambitious and clever. She also understood the symbiosis between theatre and film long before the pandemic created this burgeoning hybrid.
Jentis’ feature films include And Then Came Love, which stars Vanessa Williams, Ben Vereen and Eartha Kitt (in her final film appearance). The movie was filmed at her alma mater, Syracuse University, where Jentis gave university students the opportunity to be interns, assisting with pre-production and post-production activities.
Her directorial debut was in 2011 with the coming-out film The One, starring Jon Prescott, Margaret Anne Florence and Ian Novick, Jentis also produced and wrote the script for the movie. The film is a romantic dramedy about a man who plans to marry a woman, when a month before his wedding, he falls in love with a man from his past. Jentis said she wrote the screenplay “after spending several nights with friends discussing true love”, and it was the fastest script she had ever written.
Bad Parents, released in 2012, is based on her award-winning play It’s All About the Kids, and was produced, written and directed by Jentis. The film stars Janeane Garofalo, Cheri Oteri and Kristen Johnston, and was inspired by Jentis’ personal experiences as a soccer mom. The film was shot entirely in New Jersey and used several kids from local soccer teams in the area where Jentis once lived. The movie won Best Feature Film in 2013 at the Hoboken International Film Festival.
In 2010 Jentis wrote and produced Dream House, a short directed by Darien Sills-Evans, that explores the dark side of the suburban dream. Jentis is also creator and director of The Other F Word, a comedy web series that premiered in September 2016 on Amazon Prime. The series is set in New York City, where Jentis now resides, and stars Steve Guttenberg, Judy Gold, Michael Boatman, Gilbert Gottfried and Reiko Aylesworth.
Her production and management company, Fox Meadow Films, produced all three of her feature films and the web series The Other F Word. She also wrote and produced the short film Dream House in 2010. Jentis was selected as one of Good Housekeeping’s 50 over 50 in 2016.
According to Jentis, the “F” in the show stands for being in your forties, fifty, friendship, fearless, family and fun. Jentis also went out of her way to include many commercial products in the series that were developed by women entrepreneurs. Season 1 was a top-ranked show on Amazon for over 4 months, season 2 premiered in September 2017.
“I have been telling stories since elementary school, worked in the film business in my twenties, pivoted to raise my kids and became a filmmaker when my kids were in middle school. I am a writer first and foremost,” exclaimed the highly visible and important filmmaker, “I love to tell stories – either in script form for theater or film/tv as well as write memoir essays. I produce and direct as well as a way to further stories along – mine and others,” she continued.
We were lucky to find a moment when she was not writing, directing or producing for this interview. We’re especially lucky as her most recent film, a millennial coming-of-age roadtrip comedy, Pooling for Paradise is running both as a film and a play!
Where do you get your ideas … your inspirations?
My ideas come from life. I see a human condition, ponder it and then typically refer to philosophy and psychology to did deeper into what it is that draws me to the idea.
You are making an active crossover to live theater. What promoted this decision?
I am not making an active cross-over per se, I am just trying to focus more on that art form. I have always loved theater as it’s live and so connected to the audience. Also, with theater it relies more on the written word.
What was the hardest decision you’ve had to make in your career (so far)?
The hardest decision I made was pausing my career to raise my children. I knew it was the right choice, but knew I personally couldn’t be good at both simultaneously when my children were very little.
What obstacles do you face a female filmmaker/producer?
It’s a reality I faced after my first feature – a romantic comedy about a donor inseminated single mother played by Vanessa Williams. I got a deal with Warner Brothers. My last feature is a dark comedy about suburban sports parents and is on HBO right now. My films typically are about motherhood and have all found audiences and have been successful, but I have yet to find a manager or agent or some power that be that truly values my work and help get me meetings. It’s a tough business that values youth and I re-started in earnest in mid-life, so it is what it is….
Do you find obstacles in the theatre are the same? Different? How?
Regarding theater, I assume it’s the same but don’t really know. I know that some of the places that consider new works want it submitted through an agent, and I don’t have one. It’s tough for all artists though. There are a lot of very talented playwrights and just so many theater companies. The thing with theater though, is there are inventive ways to find audiences for your work.
I have a couple of new works in various stages of development that hope will find a stage and have been writing essays for Medium as well as producing a storytelling YouTube channel.