Filmmaker Jay Craven launched the Catamount Arts performing arts program, northern New England’s largest independent arts producer and presenter. Jay creates award-winning films on modest budgets, combining the talents of a regular ensemble with well-known actors like Michael J. Fox, Rip Torn, Ernie Hudson, Treat Williams, Martin Sheen, Kris Kristofferson and Genevieve Bujold. Jay’s awards include the Producers’ Guild of America’s 1995 NOVA Award for most promising new theatrical motion picture producer. His films, such as A Stranger in the Kingdom (1998), The Year that Trembled (2002) and Disappearances (2006), have played at more than 40 festivals, including Sundance. Jay says he likes working with “imaginative students who are ready to try new things and want to get to work.”
“My goal is to tell an inventive and original story,” says Jay of his filmmaking approach that he passes along to his students. “It’s not just about equipment or being able to imitate Hollywood. Marlboro students practice and excel as narrative, documentary and experimental filmmakers.” In the classroom, he focuses on the same basics to which he attributes his own success: writing and directing. He also emphasizes the importance of collaboration—with lighting specialists, actors, cinematographers and designers. “I’m working to build a cross-collaborative film program that draws on Marlboro’s impressive resources of filmmakers, actors, musicians, writers, photographers and visual artists,” he says.
Jay produced the 13-day 2009 Burlington International Waterfront Festival, commemorating the 400th anniversary of French explorer Samuel de Champlain’s lake expedition. The festival featured more than 1,200 artists, including a commissioned dance performance by French-Algerian choreographer Heddy Maalem with 60 dancers from France, Quebec, Vermont (including dance professor Kristin Horrigan) and Native American nations. He has recently completed two new screenplays, a rural country “film noir” based on the novel by James Ross, They Don’t Dance Much, and a psychological crime drama based on Judgement Ridge, by Dick Lehr and Mitchell Zuckoff. Jay is also working on a memoir about his 35 years of work as a Vermont indie filmmaker and grass-roots impresario.