At work, Jerry Janda is a mild-mannered guy. But in his free time he dreams up new ways to curdle the blood of movie audiences.
Working as a marketing and communications specialist, Jerry Janda is a typical SAP employee. Though he may describe himself as a “middle-aged suburbanite,” during his free time Jerry undertakes the extraordinary: he makes horror films.
“Making a film really appealed to my sense of creativity,” Jerry explains, “I love being creative. That’s why it’s fortunate that I work for Studio SAP, a team that does a great deal of work as the company’s in-house creative agency.”
Though Jerry has taken on acting parts, as well as producing and scriptwriting, he’s never had formal training in any of these roles. A mix of motivation, passion, and fascination for filmmaking fuels his practice of this particular “hobby.”
“I wrote my first scary story at the age of eight,” Jerry recalls, “It wasn’t particularly good, of course, but I knew early on in life that I wanted to write…and that I loved horror. And here we are nearly four decades later.”
Jerry’s participation in the making of horror films began in 2013 with Rob Dimension’s Baggage, an award-winning short film detailing the odd behavior of a seemingly average workingman. Wishing to simply be part of the filmmaking experience, Jerry decided to help fund the project, earning him the title of associate producer. When he was later offered a small acting role in the film, Jerry accepted, more than happy to actively take part. In a short time span, the experience had more than inspired and kick started Jerry to undertake a project of his very own.
On January 1, 2014, with the turn of a new year Jerry finally decided to follow-up on this. In the course of a single day, Jerry completed the script for his short body horror film, Painkiller.
“It sounds clichéd, but it really just wrote itself,” Jerry says, recalling his one-day writing frenzy, “I just sat down and wrote.”
Not everybody likes watching horror films as a form of entertainment, but those that do understand that it is not all about the gore and a chilling sound track. There is something to be said about facing your fears head-on and understanding them. As someone who had to undergo neck fusion surgery on two different occasions, Jerry is well-versed on the concept of constant pain and all the hardship it entails: “I wanted to show the horrors of chronic pain, toxic relationships, and addiction, and I chose to address these real-life struggles through an allegorical horror film. The fit was just natural.”
As an initial project, Painkiller granted him invaluable experience in the filmmaking process.
“Producing a film requires a great deal of people management.” Jerry explains, “You’re working with a diverse group of creative people, and you need to make sure that they all operate in concert or the end result suffers. It’s an experience comparable to managing a team in a corporate setting. I considered the experience a crash course in film-making. The crew was fantastic, so I pretty much sat back, watched, learned, and let them do what they were there to do.”
The actual making of the short film was done on weekends. The overall experience lent itself to some entertaining, if somewhat awkward, situations. Jerry recalls one in particular: “There is a blood gag in the film. The blood was supposed to spray on a very small portion of the set, but it went everywhere. It went all over the furniture, the rug, the ceiling, and the walls. And we did two takes – each equally as messy.
“We shot the film in New Jersey, and I had to drive to and from Pennsylvania – about a 90-minute ride each way. At the end of each day, I loaded up all the garbage from the day, put the bags in my trunk, and threw out the trash when I got home. But now I had to deal with a “bloody” rug. I ended up stuffing the rug into two trash bags – so the “blood” wouldn’t leak out – and putting it in my trunk. As I was driving home, I kept thinking, ‘I hope a cop doesn’t pull me over and look in my trunk. I’m going to have a hard time explaining this.’”
Jerry’s Painkiller has gone on to receive positive feedback from horror fans and critics worldwide. The film recently won the category for “best short” and was also under the nominations for “best actress” and “best director” in the annual Horror Hound Weekend Film Fest. All in all, it is not too shabby for a first try.
5 Facts about Jerry Janda
- He is the proud father of identical twins (10-year-old boys)
- Enjoys studying martial arts (currently Iaido and Brazilian jiu-jitsu)
- Had his photo taken with the entire cast of The Blair Witch Project
- Continues to write scripts in his spare time
- Considers ALIEN to be the first “real” horror film he saw in theaters
Learn more about the film
- IMDB: Jerry Janda
- An Interview with Jerry Janda
- Painkiller: Reviews
- Horror Happens Interview with Jerry Janda
Top image: Shutterstock