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||Two-time Emmy® Award-winning filmmaker and GreenLight Women member Jerri Sher is having a very good year. The Fall River, Massachusetts (of Lizzie Borden fame) native has two hot projects; her award-winning documentary Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain, which is an Oscar® contender, and her 12-part television series Live Life: Awaken Your Inner Power, which will be distributed by Tri-Continental Distribution in 2022.
A prolific director, writer and producer, Sher has made and completed 22 film and television projects. Step Up, a short documentary that was part of a larger collaboration called Santa Monica Cares, brought her two Emmy® Awards, in directing and producing. GreenLight Women sat down with Jerri to talk about her new projects and her strategy for success.
GLW: Congratulations, Jerri, on the momentum of Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain and Live Life: Awaken Your Inner Power.
JS: Thank you!
GLW: You didn’t start your career as a filmmaker, is that right?
JS: That’s right. This is my 3rd career. My first career was as an Art Professor. I got my BFA from the University of Massachusetts and my MEd from Springfield College and taught at Springfield College and Endicott College. But I was only being paid $8,500 per year. I saw an ad in the Boston Globe for an International Freight Specialist, and I thought, “I love to travel and I speak a couple of languages,” not knowing exactly what the job entailed.
GLW: Very different from teaching art.
JS: I have a good head for math, and I decided to go for it. It was one of the best decisions of my life. I learned all of the skills I needed to be a producer, budgets, Teamsters, solving problems, everything I do today. The company was called GOD (Guaranteed Overnight Delivery) and we had big clients like Gillette, Digital and Raytheon. They used to call me “the woman from GOD.”
And I discovered a part of myself that wasn’t being tapped as a teacher. I liked pitching and selling and negotiating deals with corporate America. I guess I became very good at it and as the first female in the trucking industry in the early 80's, I became well known.
GLW: Did you miss teaching?
JS: Not at all. I was getting many job offers in the transportation industry, and I started writing a screenplay about a woman in the trucking business. That was the launch of my 3rd career, the movie business.
I started to learn everything I could about the film business while living in Massachusetts. I apprenticed on movie sets, where my daughter was a child actress. I met guys at Harvard, NYU and USC who were working on their film thesis, but I could see I was smarter than they were and that I could direct films just like they did. So, I kept getting film work through word of mouth, then my husband and I decided to move to LA.
GLW: Much of your work is focused on mental and physical health, well-being and healing. How did that come about? Are these stories you sought out?
JS: The fact that a lot of my work focuses on health and healing is totally organic. The universe has brought me these projects in very serendipitous way. I tell people, I am not a doctor, or a healer or a psychologist, but I was put on this earth to tell these stories to help others and influence society in a positive way through the medium of film and television.
GLW: Tell us about Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain.
JS: I was approached by the editor of the book Tales from The Blast Factory, written by two brothers, Andrew and Adam Marr. It’s the true story of a Green Beret who suffered from Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) after three tours in Afghanistan. It was heart-breaking and uplifting at the same time. Beth, the editor, knew my work and thought I’d be a good match for the material. In a crazy coincidence, she was also from Fall River, I was her babysitter when I was 16. She wanted me to make the movie. There’s a doctor in California, Dr. Mark Gordon, who was having much success with new methods to treat this silent illness. Andrew came out to California to see him, and that’s when we met. I showed Andrew two episodes of my Live Life series and he said, “You have the rights to my book.” I told Andrew I would do this project under one condition, it had to be one third military, one third athletes and one third civilians. He agreed and my journey to write, direct and produce Quiet Explosions began. In the documentary we follow the stories of 10 different people – some athletes, some veterans, a firefighter, a gymnast, etc. – and watch them go from despair to having the hope of a real life with the right treatment.
GLW: Quiet Explosions has received numerous film festival awards; that’s powerful recognition.
JS: Yes, thank you. It’s very exciting and also humbling. We won the Award of Excellence at the 2021 IndieFEST Film Awards for Best Documentary Feature and Best Director. We won Best Original Score, for our composer Omri Lahav, Best Documentary Feature and Best Directing at the 2021 International Independent Film Awards. There are 12 awards, you can see the full list on IMDB.
GLW: You get terrific media coverage too; you’ve been on FOX News and Joe Rogan and a number of podcasts. And you have an impressive on-line presence. Are you self-distributing?
JS: No, our distributor is Cinema Libre Studio in Burbank. There is always a constant push to get the word out about the film and it is a very important, topical subject. Especially since the symptoms of Covid, depression and anxiety are addressed in the film and there are ways to heal without using pharmaceutical drugs. Joe Rogan is in the film so, of course, he promotes my work. I network constantly with every organization all over the country. It is a 24-hour job. I don't get much sleep.
GLW: You have a big event coming up on November 9 in Austin, Texas in honor of Veterans Day. You are screening Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain to the Texas House of Representatives
JS: That’s right. It’s to commemorate Veterans Day and to acknowledge and celebrate the passage of bill HB 1802, which allows the use of alternative medicine for Veterans being treated for PTSD. The screening is going to be in the Texas Capitol Building in Austin. Rick Perry, former Governor of Texas will be attending along with Speaker of the House, Dade Phelan. President George W. Bush has been invited; he has a cameo in the film. It’s an honor and a privilege to show the film to military families and government officials on this auspicious occasion.
GLW: This is the question everyone wants to ask. As a documentary filmmaker, when do you start to make money on your projects?
JS: I am not in it for the money. If I ever calculated the amount of work and hours I put in, compared to the monetary rewards, it would be pennies. I always figure God will provide what I need, and the universe gives me what I need when I need it and with my faith and tenacity, I know I was put on this earth to do this work. The gratifying rewards outweigh any amount of money. I get calls, texts and emails from around the world - Taipei, Taiwan, Paris, France, Lucerne, Switzerland, Canada - “Are you Jerri Sher?” - folks telling me I just saved their lives. They were suicidal, they watched Quiet Explosions and know there is hope and will not take their own lives. And they thank me. My husband, Alan, hears all this and says “you should feel like a million dollars.” I guess that is where the money is.
GLW: Tell us a bit about your TV series, Live Life: Awaken Your Inner Power. Is it based on the short film Live Life A-Z? There was a special screening of the pilot in Hollywood recently.
JS: Live Life: Awaken Your Inner Power is about alternatives to Western Medicine. Each of the 12 episodes deals with a different character and a different illness: migraines, obesity, alcoholism, cancer, diverticulitis, etc. It is very uplifting to see the methods these people have encountered to heal when Western medicine had given up on them. The pilot, about a little boy, Will, with a brain tumor, played at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood as part of the Holly Shorts Film Festival. Live Life A-Z, the 5-minute short, was put together during the 10 years it took me to complete that project. It won the George Lucas Global Education Award and the My Hero International Film Festival. You can view it at www.jerrisher.com.
GLW: Which of your skills have you found to be most helpful in your filmmaking career? What advice would you give to women considering a 2nd or 3rd act career change into filmmaking?
JS: The most important skills are perseverance and tenacity. In this business you can never give up and the word NO is not in my vocabulary. I always have a solution for everything, and I have a backup for my backup. It is the only way to exist in this filmmaking world where 22 problems crop up every day. I tell people; I eat, drink, sleep and dream my films, there is never a moment in the day or night that I am not creating and making the work better. I become consumed and it takes over my being and my life. You cannot get into this business if you don’t have nerves of steel and I tell people I have to be able to move mountains, it is the only way to complete a movie or television project. Luckily for me, I have a very loving, supporting husband and family who are by my side every step of the way.
For me, the motivation to do all this incredibly difficult work is the idea, the story. It’s a very organic thing. I make films about things that matter, to me, to other people, stories that will positively influence society. If I feel passionate enough about it, I’m willing to do anything and everything it takes to realize it. Of course, there are aspects of filmmaking that are very challenging – finding the funding for your project. Someday, perhaps, I will be given the funds from a philanthropist to create more great content that will help save and heal individuals around the globe. That would be my dream. I am in production now about the homeless situation in California and the United States. It’s a positive story of a homeless man who went back to college and got a degree in mathematics. He is now teaching. The world needs to see and hear these uplifting stories.
GLW: Thank you very much, Jerri, for taking the time and sharing so much with us.
To our readers, please check out the links below to learn more about Jerri and her projects. And be sure to watch Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain on your favorite streaming channel.
Jerri Sher, EMMY Award-winner Director's Reel - YouTube
JERRI - SOCIAL: IMDB | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter
QUIET EXPLOSIONS SOCIAL: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Tiktok
|JERRI SHER – BIO
JERRI SHER is an Emmy® Award-winning filmmaker. A member of the Directors Guild since 1998, she has completed 22 film and television projects. She wrote, directed and produced Quiet Explosions: Healing The Brain, a documentary feature about Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) in veterans, athletes and civilians. It has just been the awarded The Most Important Film of the Year 2021 by TMIF and the best Doc Feature and Best Director from AOF. The International Independent Awards gave the film Platinum for Documentary feature, Original Score and Best Direction. IndieFest has awarded it the Excellence award for Director and Documentary Feature. The movie won Best Documentary Feature at the NoHo CineFest FF and the Lilac Award at the SpIFF Int. FF and was released in November 2020 on Amazon and Vimeo by Cinema Libre Studio.
Live Life (healing through alternative medicine), her 12-part docu-drama television series was
co-produced by Discovery Communications and distributed by Tri- Continental Distribution. Her short film Step Up is part of the presentation Santa Monica Cares which she created for City/TV Santa Monica and garnered her 2 Emmys®. It was Ms. Sher's true honor to be selected to create and produce the Retrospective Tribute Film honoring Kathryn Bigelow for the DGA’s 75th Anniversary Gala. She also wrote and produced a film honoring Betty Thomas, Mimi Leder and Patty Jenkins for the Women’s Steering Committee of the DGA. Live Life A-Z won the George Lucas Global Education Award and the My Hero Int. Film Festival. Her documentary Soul Of An Empire, about the rebirth of 42nd St. NYC, won the Best Documentary Feature Award at the Big Bear Lake Int. FF, and the Special Jury Award at The Savannah Film & Video Festival.
A native from Fall River, MA, Jerri earned her BFA, Cum Laude from the University of MA and an MEd, Magna Cum Laude from Springfield College. Ms. Sher was the keynote speaker on the Princess Cruise Lines World Tour from Papeete, Tahiti to Sydney, Australia, including topics of “Creative Writing” and “Using Documentary Films to Make the World a Healthier Place.” She has taught and guest lectured at several universities throughout the country and abroad. Jerri was the recipient of the Distinguished Alumna Award 2019 from Durfee High School, chosen from over 50,000 candidates.
Ms. Sher entered the transportation industry in the early eighties. She worked for Preston, the 151 Line and GOD (Guaranteed Overnight Delivery), where she was trained by Tony Robbins. While working in sales and marketing in the trucking business, she learned the necessary skills to become a producer. Her third career of directing and screenwriting emerged when she wrote a novel about a medical mystery about the cure for HIV/AIDS, The Twig Painter. Her book How to Have a Successful Bridal Shower A to Z became a national #1 best seller on Amazon. She is a member of the DGA, IDA, AWD and GreenLight Women and lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Alan. Jerri's mission is to work on projects that will positively influence society.
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