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Independent Filmmaker and Honors College Graduate Works to Reclaim Narratives

Jalea Jackson, an LSU Ogden Honors College graduate and independent film director based in Atlanta, was recently featured along with her film, “Things With Feathers,” on Louisiana Film Channel’s Wednesday Night Movies series. The short film addresses the cultural silence that Black women adhere to, to cope with sexual assault. 

Jackson joined the Honors College her junior year as a continuing student, which is one way LSU students can become a member of the Honors College if they didn’t apply or get accepted as an incoming freshman. Jackson was intrigued by the thesis option and it was one of the main reasons she decided to join the Honors College. As a theater major with a concentration in film and television, she produced a documentary titled Redefining The Word, which explored the use of the N-Word within the Black community.

Jackson’s thesis project propelled her into the world of professional filmmaking. In 2016, LSU’s theater department hosted their first film festival where her senior thesis project won Best Documentary, while she was awarded Best Director honors. 

With that experience under her belt, she submitted the film to the New Orleans Film Festival while she was still a student at LSU. “I learned so much the first time around. That following year, I pitched Things With Feathers at the same festival, but in the next tier, and won.” Having that experience definitely helped kick start her career. “I learned about the ins and outs of film making, including things like budgeting and scheduling, things I wouldn’t have been able to grasp just sitting in a classroom,” Jackson said. 

Things With Feathers is loosely based on Jackson’s life and experiences. As a student, she crossed paths with a mentor from the Nate Parker Foundation who said, if you're sitting on a story that you're unwilling to share, then you're being selfish. And so, within 6 months, Jackson moved to New Orleans, wrote the story, and started filming. 

While she made progress very quickly, the award-winning film did not come without challenges. “I think, because of the subject matter, just making sure I really connected with my actors and letting them know, trying to be very transparent about the topic. Since we had a young girl, Lailah Cain, at the time she was 12, so trying to find a young girl that wasn't too young, but still mature enough to understand the topic. Also, really having that dialogue with her mom to make sure she was comfortable with me and vice versa. I put a lot of emphasis on that relationship and also with the person that played her cousin that assaulted her in the film.” 

Things with Feathers had successful screenings in New Orleans (New Orleans Film Festival), Los Angeles (Pan African Film Festival), and Atlanta (Atlanta Independent Film Festival).

Jackson is now a producer, editor, and mentor for the Nate Parker Foundation — a non-profit organization that seeks to break the barriers in the film industry by empowering young voices of African descent to “tell their unique and diverse stories that may otherwise not be heard.”  She recently wrapped up two short films that focus on Black experiences with COVID. She continues to strive to reclaim the narrative of stories that are often misconstrued or untold.

To learn more about Jalea Jackson and her work, visit https://www.jaleajackson.com/.