- Jerry Wood is an Essex, Vermont filmmaker with entries in two of the largest national film festivals: Sundance and Tribeca.
- His family’s love of film, a childhood passion for writing, and taking a chance on an out-of-the-blue opportunity led to a lifetime of video production experience.
- Making connections with nearby filmmakers—and learning from them—gave him the skills to start his own company as a photographer and filmmaker.
- Times got tough. But Jerry’s friends, crew, and his beliefs kept him pushing forward through challenges on set and in his own life.
Jerry Wood is determined.
A Vermont filmmaker living in Essex Junction, Jerry’s ultimate goal has been nearly a lifetime in the making: To see his film screened at the largest film festivals in the country. And now, after over three years of script-writing, casting, filming, and editing, his latest work—Where is She?—is awaiting selection at both the Tribeca Film Festival and Sundance.
Jerry reached out to me, sharing his movie trailer and a bit about the project. The passion for his craft was plain to see.
I had to ask: How did he find himself on this journey?
Expressive at an early age
Jerry’s father loved everything about the movies. As a boy his extended visits to the nearby 25-cent theater got him in trouble—often staying out so late at night that his mother had no choice but to drive to the cinema and pick him up.
Later in life, Jerry’s father found himself constructing his very own home theater (the louder, the better).
Writing became a regular pastime of young Wood starting in the fourth grade after a teacher prompted Jerry to write a short story based on some pictures given to the class. As he grew, so did his expressiveness: He wrote lots of poetry in high-school.
For a while, writing was the creative pastime of choice.
It wasn’t until much later—working at The Teddy Bear Company in the mid-90s—that Jerry discovered his affinity for film and video. Taking a Betamax video camera, he took it upon himself to record a company Christmas party. Every edit was done in-camera: No computer, no software. Just the camera.
“I would spend a lot of my childhood writing short stories or ideas for stories in just about all of the genres. I still have all of my notebooks.”— Jerry Wood
The talk that changed his life
Time passed. Jerry was still writing, but hadn’t done much with his new video hobby. He turned 30.
By chance, he received a brochure in the mail shortly after his birthday: It was an advertisement for a filmmaking seminar in Boston. He went.
The speaker’s words electrified his imagination: Start small, start fast, and start cheap—it’s your idea that counts.
Jerry had been writing short stories for his entire life. “I left the seminar feeling invigorated and with the belief that because I loved writing,” Jerry said. “I could learn to write a script. I spent the 3-plus hour drive home devising a story that I would write.”
His original goal was lofty: To pen a feature-length script and film the entire thing. He soon realized doing so was out of his reach. . . for now. He opted instead to write a number of short scripts for shorter experimental films.
“Start small, start fast, and start cheap—it’s your idea that counts.”
Connecting with local creators
Things were getting serious. Inspired by the seminar, Jerry headed home, determined to pursue his newfound passion.
He looked everywhere for local filmmaking groups: Newspapers, the internet, art centers, everywhere. Before long he discovered a Burlington-based group of film enthusiasts, many of whom had production experience.
He soaked up all the knowledge he could: how to produce, direct, edit, and record. Collaboration was key and his new friends made learning fun. His first movie made with the group was an 18-minute short film that “was a blast to make.”
Over the next five years Jerry would meet many, many like-minds in the area—people he still keeps in touch with to this day.
Striking out on his own
In 2007, five years after joining the Burlington group, Wood felt it was time to do his own thing, starting his own film company, Zen & Chaos Studios.
On the production end of things, he started off small, filming weddings and concerts, creating the occasional short film when he could. His two-car garage was eventually converted into a studio. Jerry would continue honing his photography and filmmaking skills for the next ten years.
But he never forgot about that long drive back from Boston: That fire he felt after leaving the filmmaking seminar. It was his ultimate goal to tackle a longer, more ambitious film.
In 2016, it was time. He began writing a screenplay for his biggest project yet: Where is She?
The first draft of Jerry’s script was a dark comedy—a natural fit for the the subject matter. But over time he realized that morphing his latest project into a truly terrifying tale would challenge him in a way his previous work hadn’t.
Jerry rewrote his entire script.
He enlisted the help of a few friends, too, ordering custom monster masks from a Comic-Con connection and asking others to help him build props. Jerry even asked his friend Chris to convert his garage studio into a full-size film set. Despite its small size, using wide-angle lenses helped disguise the set’s modest dimensions.
Thinking back; Planning ahead
Making “Where is She?” was filled with ups and downs.
Creative people are often racked with self-doubt: Am I doing this the way I should? Is this going to work out? Jerry credits his upbeat cast and crew with keeping him on the right track, as well as his deeply-held religious beliefs.
Among his favorite sayings: ‘Don’t ever give up!’ and ‘this too shall pass.’ “Words to live by,” Jerry says.
“Every time I’ve gotten to the point of questioning why I’m even doing this in the first place or why am I trying so hard to make this the best I can make it be, someone would inspire me to keep going.”— Jerry Wood
The cast and crew saw their film on-screen for the first time this past September at a test-screening inside the local Essex cinema. It was well-received: The work paid off.
With a finished film in hand, Wood began shopping “Where is She?” around to film festivals all across the country, sending reels to Tribeca, Sundance, Festigious, and more. While his films await selection, Jerry embraced his achievement in its entirety, making merchandize, Blu-Ray covers, full-size film posters, and movie trailers.
The Vermont filmmaker fully intends to see his current project to the end, circulating his work to more and more festivals, conventions, and venues, selling merchandise and adding more extras.
Still, Jerry has an inkling of what his next project will be. “I’m considering writing an adventure story loosely based on the personalities of a couple of friends and I,” he says. “Set in totally fictional scenarios, of course.”