Arts

90-Year-Old Playwright Bolsters Struggling Town In New Film

Jared Callahan's new documentary focuses on his grandmother Janey, who writes plays for her community theater in Rio Vista, California. Callahan interweaves the struggle of putting on a community play with the struggle a small town faces in the aftermath of the recession.
CREDIT CHADWICK GANTES
Jared Callahan's new documentary focuses on his grandmother Janey, who writes plays for her community theater in Rio Vista, California. Callahan interweaves the struggle of putting on a community play with the struggle a small town faces in the aftermath of the recession. CREDIT CHADWICK GANTES
Credit Chadwick Gantes

City Lights producer Gabbie Watts talks with filmmaker Jared Callahan.

Compared to a lot of people in Atlanta’s forever-expanding film scene, Jared Callahan is a recent addition to Atlanta independent filmmaking. He moved here last year and spent the last few months of 2014 editing his first documentary feature, “Janey Makes A Play,” which screened at the Atlanta Film Festival.

The film centers on 90-year-old Janey, who is the playwright and director of the community theater in Rio Vista, California. She is also Callahan’s grandmother.

Callahan and his filmmaking team followed Janey as the community theater troupe put on her 18th play. The play is set during the Great Depression as the people of a small town fight against money-thirsty builders and bankers.

The musical and comedic melodrama mirrors what is happening in Rio Vista in real life. The small town, like much of small-town America, was severely hit by the recession. Businesses remain closed; homes remain foreclosed.

By weaving these two threads ─ the process of coercing a ragtag team of performers to show up to theater practice and the desperation of the recession ─ “Janey Makes A Play” highlights a host of vibrant and spirited characters on the backdrop of hardship.

While this is Callahan’s first feature documentary, he has worked on his own short narrative and documentary films. As a native Californian, he has also worked on bigger independent productions like “Short Term 12” and “I Am Not A Hipster.”

“24 FPS (Frames Per Second)” is a weekly segment on “City Lights with Lois Reitzes,” where we hear from local, independent filmmakers.

In these segments, they tell us about being a filmmaker in Atlanta, their projects and the how-tos of film production.