CRC professor’s screenplay, ‘Jakob’s Wife’, to premiere at film festival


Courtesy of RLJE Films

Cover of the horror film “Jakob’s Wife,” which premieres this week at SXSW. The film is directed by Travis Stevens.

Film and Media Studies Professor Mark Steensland is having a film he wrote, titled “Jakob’s Wife,” premiering at Austin, Texas film festival South by Southwest this week.
Steensland said he finished the script back in 2015 and entered the script into Shriekfest, a horror film festival in Los Angeles. He won the top prize. Recently, Barbara Crampton, a horror film star from the 1980s, had a recent revival, and Steensland thought she fit the lead role perfectly.
“I knew that Barbara was friends with the festival director, and I decided to take a chance and see if I could get it to her directly,” Steensland said. “She contacted me right away and said that she absolutely loved it and wanted to play the part.”
Steensland said Crampton was also getting into producing, so she decided to develop the script as well. Over the next four years, writers were brought in to tweak the script until a final version was delivered by Kathy Charles, who is credited as a co-writer.
The film wrapped principal photography right before the pandemic, Steensland said.
For Steensland, his interest in horror began way back when he was a child, and his parents took him to see “Rosemary’s Baby,” thinking he would stay asleep in the car. He recalls listening to the film and hearing the date of birth for the baby in the movie and sitting up, exclaiming it was his birthday as well.
“Everybody realized that I wasn’t asleep and had been listening to the whole thing,” Steensland said laughing. “It’s something that is burned into my brain.”
He said that his father’s death was a key moment in his life that caused him to be fascinated with aging and, ultimately, death.
This lens of inspecting aging is something that guided the process for writing “Jakob’s Wife.” Steensland said he wanted to focus on writing an older couple since Hollywood tends to skew toward the younger crowd in their films.
“I wanted to do a movie about a woman in the second stage of life, battling against a relationship that feels restrictive,” said “Jakob’s Wife” Director Travis Stevens to The Austin Chronicle.
For Crampton, the inclusion of an older couple into the film, especially for a woman moving toward something new interested her. Stevens noted that this meta-nature of the film and its parallels with Crampton’s life resonates with him as well.
Steensland said that his inspiration came from an older couple he worked with back in his early filmmaking days in Pennsylvania. He also added, with some chagrin, that he himself is getting older, and that tended to influence his creative decisions.
When it comes to the premiere, Steensland said he is most excited about the reviews.
“You hope that, as an artist, your work connects with an audience,” said Steensland. “And the reality is if people like your work, they’ll want to tell other people about it.”
Though he hasn’t seen the film’s final cut, he was able to view two cuts beforehand and found them wonderful. Even though they weren’t exactly what he envisioned when writing, it is part of the collaborative process of filmmaking and a part he enjoys very much, Steensland said.
For Rashad Hurst, 27, a film and television major, having a professor on campus who has sold scripts is an invaluable resource.
Hurst is a writer who attended Steensland’s writing class. Hurst said that Steensland had gone out of his way to mentor him.
Though he wasn’t aware of “Jakob’s Wife,” Hurst said that this has given him even more confidence in the feedback Steensland has been giving them during their conversations around Hurst’s own writing.
“As somebody who has aspirations to be a professional filmmaker, it feels like it connects a little more because I know that he’s been to the places that I’m trying to go,” Hurst said.
“Jakob’s Wife” screens Wednesday, March 17 at 6 p.m. It is available to stream for registered attendees of SXSW through the festival website.