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Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013 03:17 pm

Feet first

Kimberly Conner’s Jump In has red carpet premiere

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Midway through the filming of Jump In, director Kimberly Conner of Springfield faced a day of personal reckoning.

“We were on day five of a 10-day shoot,” she recalls. “My emotions were basically everywhere, I was facing my greatest fears.” It had become clear that the tightly budgeted film was going to require several more days of shooting than originally planned, meaning that the entire cast and crew would need to be reassembled, a potential scheduling nightmare. “I remember thinking, ‘What’s going to happen? I have these people here now, we have to finish this film!’”

A friend who was working as an extra on the shoot responded to Conner’s crisis by presenting her with a homemade necklace bearing the inscription: “For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee” (Isaiah 41:13). “From that point I wasn’t afraid anymore,” says Conner.

The storyline of Jump In finds its heroine overcoming multiple fears of her own. The romantic comedy-drama follows the adventures of Troy, a single mom and recent divorcee who is in the process of studying for the bar exam when she learns she has breast cancer, throwing her plans into turmoil. “It’s not just a story about breast cancer,” Conner points out. “It’s also a story about love and forgiveness, about not being afraid to take risks in life.”

The process has been a long one. The film’s screenplay was originally written 15 years ago and received positive attention at screenwriting festivals, including the Hollywood Black Film Festival Screenplay Competition. Once the decision was made for Jump In to make the leap from the page to the screen, the cast and crew were assembled largely using free media outlets, including websites for casting agencies as well as the Illinois Film Office. There was a casting call held in Chicago at the Screen Actors Guild in July of 2011 and filming commenced in March of 2012. “And here we are, a year later, ready to screen the film,” Conner gushes.

One lesson that came from helming her first feature film was just how collaborative the filmmaking process is. “It takes many, many people to complete a film,” she says. “Probably a dozen people just in the crew, another dozen in the cast, and that doesn’t include the number of people that you have as extras and things like that.” She says it boils down to a matter of respecting one another, and appreciating the expertise each crew member brings to the set. “Even though I’m the director of the film, I have to respect what the sound person says, because that is not my department.”

A social conscience is at the heart of the creative impulse for Conner. In 1997, after completing the first draft of Jump In, Conner was diagnosed with breast cancer herself, an experience she is sure to address during the question and answer session after Saturday’s screening at the Hoogland. “I’m a two-time breast-cancer survivor, so that’s one of the causes that I get behind,” she says. “The main goal in doing the film is to raise awareness about it and get people thinking about social issues that don’t just affect us but can affect our society and the world that we live in.” Connor also views the event as a way of giving back to a community that has been supportive of her film work in the past.

The film has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/JumpInTheMovie along with the official website at www.jumpinthemovie.com, featuring cast and crew bios as well as a store where copies of the film can be purchased. The red carpet event will be held at the Hoogland Center for the Arts, 420 S. Sixth, at 6 p.m., with the screening scheduled for 7. Admission is $10, with a portion of the proceeds going to Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

Scott Faingold is a frequent contributor to IT. He can be reached at scottfaingold@gmail.com.

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