From Interning At Sony To Junk(ed): Producer Jen Emma Hertel Gives Us A Peek Behind The Scenes At The Movies
Jen Emma Hertel is an American director, producer, writer and actress who has produced four feature films and a slew of shorts, as well as production-managing commercials and music videos for major brands and labels.
She started her career as an intern at Sony before she started appearing on TV as an actress. She was a stand-in on ‘Gossip Girl’, acted in other TV shows and small films and then performed at the legendary Living Theater – the oldest experimental theatre in the US – under the late Judith Malina. After receiving her Master of Arts from NYU (her thesis focused on American avant-garde theatre), she began working as a production manager, casting and producing with Digital Seven in New York City.
Jen Emma is a member of the Film Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), Writers Guild of America (WGA), and the Directors Guild of America (DGA). She is also a dramatic writer and three of her plays have been mounted. One, ‘Reform’, dramatised the origins of the American penitentiary system and the reality of US prisons today.
How did you get involved in film production?
I got involved in film production as a production assistant and a videographer for a small company that did business interviews. At the time I was a musician, and being a production assistant was always a good and flexible job. I soon fell in love with being on set.
Who do you usually work with on set and what are your day-to-day tasks?
I usually work side-by-side with my assistant and the second assistant director. Most of my work as a producer is in pre-production – I like to say that I make the clock, and then if I do great pre-production, the clock runs on its own once we’re on set. On set, it’s usually overseeing things to make sure that we don’t go overtime with actors; make sure lunch is coming; make sure the data wrangler is dumping the footage on the hard drive. I have to order things for day-to-day operations, on small budgets – I run payroll, props, and do runs.
What are your best projects to date?
I am very proud of most of my work, but I think ‘The Grind’, a TV pilot, was the best project. I wish we could shoot the whole series. I’m also proud of an NFL commercial I made, and I managed the production and did casting and promo for Musicbed and Equal Standard.
Can you tell us about your next project?
‘Junk(ed)’ is a mystery based on the disappearance and murder of Teresa Halbach, the victim in the Steven Avery case – the subject of the ‘Making a Murderer’ documentary. It begins on the morning of her disappearance (she’s named Trisha Hoffman in my screenplay), and leads up to the arrest of Steve Anderson (who’s based on Steven Avery).
Which celebrities have you most enjoyed working with?
Some of the famous folks who have come onto our sets are: Ice-T, Liev Schreiber, Peter Greene, Cam’ron, Teyana Taylor, Fredro Starr, Chris Tardio, Judy Kuhn, Yanina Studilina, Chris Kerson, Maurice Benard, Robert Clohessy and Federico Castelluccio. When I performed with the Living Theater, tons of celebrities such as Al Pacino would come to our plays. I was also an actor/stand-in on a film called ‘This Is Where I Leave You’ starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda. That was a great summer.
Keep up-to-date with Jen on her Official Website.
Photo credits: Cherise Madigan from the Manchester Journal, Melissa Lynn, David Noles