Full Sail University

Film Production Course Director Wins Two Gold Telly Awards for Her Original Film

Jennie Jarvis wrote, directed, and starred in Connection, a sci-fi short that was shot almost entirely on Zoom.

Jennie Jarvis stands in a studio with film cameras and stage lights. She is holding two Gold Telly statues.

Film Production master’s instructor Jennie Jarvis loves to stay busy, but she got the inspiration for her award-winning film Connection when she was stuck at home. In the summer of 2020, Jennie watched Staged, a British sitcom shot over video conferencing software during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jennie took that inspiration and called on her years of experience in writing, directing, and acting to create her own movie using Zoom. The result was Connection, which recently earned Jennie two Gold Telly Awards.

Jennie always knew she would have a future in entertainment — she started acting when she was just five years old, and she attended a high school for the arts. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Film, a master’s degree in English (with an emphasis in Film Studies and Dramatic Literature), and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

Committing to that level of education would be a full-time job for most people, but Jennie continued working as she earned her degrees. She was directing for theater and film while she was still in school, but she struggled to find scripts worth pursuing. That’s when she shifted her focus to writing, which also helped her find work in academia. She started teaching scriptwriting (she is currently teaching Script Production & Analysis) in Full Sail’s Film Production master’s program in 2013, and she’s stayed busy with her work on campus and her professional projects — including Connection — ever since.

Connection is a sci-fi short film set in a distant future where climate change has forced humans to evacuate Earth. Lauren, a woman living on a crumbling spaceship, turns to her ship’s video dating system to try and forge an advantageous romantic connection with someone on a better ship. Connection was shot almost entirely over Zoom, and it recalls the sense of isolation and attempts at connecting over a distance that many people experienced during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had the idea for Connection, and I was like, ‘Okay, what kind of world would you have people interacting specifically through some kind of video platform?’ I tend to write a lot of science fiction and fantasy, and so in my mind I was like, ‘Okay, we have two people talking on different spaceships, and this is how they're communicating to each other.’ Then I just built the story from there,” Jennie explains.

Other parallels between Jennie’s narrative universe and the pandemic are at play throughout the film. When Lauren meets Jeff through the dating platform and finds out that he’s returning to Earth soon because he’s essential to their rebuilding efforts, she says, “It must be nice to be essential!” Jeff replies with, “You know the thing about being essential? It means we’re disposable.”

“Lauren wants to get off her ship, Jeff is scared of getting off his ship. I think we were all dealing with that during the pandemic,” Jennie says. “The people who were considered essential, yes, they're going out all the time, but that means they're risking their lives. It's not necessarily safe. There was a lot of that kind of thing that I was playing with.”

Zoom was essential to Connection’s story, and online communication platforms also helped Jennie’s talented team put the movie together from locations around the world. Jennie directed the movie and played Lauren on one of Full Sail’s soundstages. Her leading actor, Bill Jamieson, played the role of Jeff from Baltimore, Maryland. Connection’s editor worked on the movie from Atlanta, Georgia, while a team in Malta took care of the visual effects and compositing.

Jennie entered the completed film in over a dozen film festivals and contests, and the movie has already taken home two major accolades: a Gold Craft Telly Award for Writing and a Gold General Telly Award for Low Budget (Each Minute Under $700). Connection is also an official selection of the 2022 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. While she’s waiting to hear back from additional festivals and gearing up for future projects, Jennie is encouraging Full Sail’s future screenwriters to take creative risks and jump into filmmaking as soon as they can.

“You can't wait for other people to give you permission to make a film,” she says. “Films are so expensive, and one of the big reasons why people don't make more of them is because they're like, ‘Well, I don't have any money. I don't have any money.’ Well, [Connection] was less than $300 to make, and most of that money went towards food on set… Don’t feel like you have to make the biggest of the big films. Just be willing to make stuff.”