Interview with Jenn Lee Smith and Zandra Vranes of “Jane and Emma” (Segullah)

Sandra: Tell us a bit about yourself how you came to your creative work.

Jenn Lee: I’m a writer and film producer who focuses on underrepresented stories, particularly of women. On Jane and Emma (released October 12), my roles are as producer and executive producer. Beginning in 2001, with helping to start a micro-loan program for women, I have engaged in gender-balancing work. I’ve worked in nonprofit organizations for women and researched race and gender discourses in religion. A few years ago, I met a filmmaker named Dane Christensen who was planning to make a short documentary on gay male Mormons. I suggested he make one on lesbian Mormons — one of the most marginalized and invisible groups. He agreed and brought me on as producer. I found my passion in the process: collaborating with other creatives to share raw, authentic stories.

Connecting. Bridge-building. Showing that we have more in common with each other than we thought. This is at the heart of Jane and Emma and at the heart of all the films I’ve produced.

Zandra Vranes: Back in 2014 Tamu and I were having a convo about whether or not members of the LDS faith were destined to be friendly with each other or if we could truly be friends. LDS folks often tout, “focus on our similarities,” afraid that our differences will become divisive. Yet as Darius Gray says, “God is the author of diversity.” Therefore, true unity in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is inclusive of our differences. In our conversation, Tamu pointed out Jane Manning James and Emma Hale Smith as examples of women whose similarity in faith allowed them to embrace each other’s distinct lived experience. We wanted to know more about how these women were able to do something in the 1840s that we still struggle to do in 2018, and that sent us down a path of research and then presenting Jane and Emma’s history around the country. When we had an opportunity to pitch a film to Excel and Deseret Book, Jane and Emma the movie began to come to life.

Read the full Sandra Clark Jergensen interview with Jenn Lee Smith and Zandra Vranes at Segullah

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