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Jenna Suru: “Know your dream goal”

Black Lives Matter is an essential movement to support, just like any movement which fights to achieve and promote equal tolerance to all humans. I’m also promoting eco-friendly filmmaking and eager to launch a #FilmGreen movement. As a start and with the support of the Paris International Film Festival, I’m working on educating our audiences […]

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Black Lives Matter is an essential movement to support, just like any movement which fights to achieve and promote equal tolerance to all humans. I’m also promoting eco-friendly filmmaking and eager to launch a #FilmGreen movement. As a start and with the support of the Paris International Film Festival, I’m working on educating our audiences to a more diverse, eco-friendly filmmaking process, both in front of and behind the camera. I wrote The Golden Age to pay tribute to all artists who bring change, and I highly hope I can contribute to bringing change in real life myself. Film is Ecoprod certified, with my company Belle Époque Films I had signed the Ecoprod Chart since its creation, as they are promoting and championing filmmakers to make their films in an eco-friendly way. I’m in talks with them at the moment to bounce back with ideas to promote a more eco-friendly way of making films & TV in our industries. We also champion green in all connected industries, some of our film partners like the mythical Byblos Hotel, have their own sustainable Chart and eco-friendly restaurant, which is a very exciting achievement.


As a part of our interview series with the rising stars in pop culture, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenna Suru.

Jenna is the Director, Producer, Writer, and Female Lead of multi-award-winning period drama feature “The Golden Age” (L’Âge d’Or), her tribute to the World-Changing Charms of 60s Saint-Tropez. “The Golden Age” had its West Coast Premiere at the DTLA Film Festival and sold-out the Opening Night of London IFF last March. She’s the CEO of French production company Belle Époque Films and has been working for Canneseries since the kickstart of their first edition in 2018.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thanks so much, Yitzi for having me on! I believe it really all started when I studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in LA. I had only just turned 17 and had been taking film and theatre classes at the Cours Florent in Paris aside of school for a good few years when I suddenly decided to pack my luggage and pursue my film education in LA. I was greatly inspired by the education there from top teachers including Kevin E. West, who last October -11 years later- attended the West Coast Premiere of my debut feature “The Golden Age” at the DTLA Film Festival.

LA was a huge inspiration to me, and when I turned 20, I sent about dozens of CVs and was chosen to work as a PA on Dahn and Alimi Ballard’s TV show “The Experiment With Dahn and Ali”. I was super excited to be working in production in LA, I was getting my hands on everything I could: preparing the shot list for filming, storyboarding, getting the set ready for the cast and crew… the Ballard Family is such a lovely and inspiring family, they were wonderful to work with and learn from on many levels.

As I was pursuing Media Management studies in Europe, I was very eager to get into the “real world” of the film & TV industry. This is what encouraged me to work at Panavision in Paris, then at the 2 top film distributors in France, which are Gaumont and SND (M6 Group), or at CAKE Entertainment in London as I was studying. These experiences were extremely inspiring for me to get into my specific career path as a Filmmaker and helped me develop the exact skills and knowledge I needed and still are useful for me now, whether it’s in production, marketing, distribution…. This is also what inspired me to say that cinema is “an industry that stands on 3 feet: art, techne, and business”. As cliché as it may sound, I believe it’s essential to make the most of these 3 dimensions and train in all of them.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

It would have to be my debut period drama feature The Golden Age (“L’Âge d’Or”), which I’ve written, directed and produced as the only producer. The film interestingly echoes momentously with the transition times we are living now. First, the film has now become the last drama ever filmed at Notre-Dame Cathedral before the fires. It’s a very ambitious feature for an indie project, my goal was to pay tribute to 60s Saint-Tropez eternal and the many artists (Brigitte Bardot, Françoise Sagan, Mick Jagger and so many more) who’ve flown there from America, UK, from various artistic backgrounds to change that world that didn’t work for them. One of the main challenges of this film was to re-build this unique 60s atmosphere so that our audiences could live or re-live this unique universe now and forever.

To achieve this goal, I’ve been extremely thankful to work with many amazing partners, who believed in my vision for The Golden Age. We’ve filmed in 35 exceptional locations across the French Riviera, Paris and Los Angeles, on a very exciting soundtrack, featuring songs from Jimmy Reed, Chuck Berry, even “I Can’t Be Satisfied” which was performed quite a bit by the Rolling Stones at the time!

The Golden Age is now a multi-awarded feature in the USA and Europe and sold-out the Opening Night of the London Independent Film Festival in March just before lockdown, a unique opportunity in these transition times to pay tribute to the fight of all those who struggle to bring change, all caught up in the artistic joy of 60s Saint-Tropez.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I remember when I ran the Film Festival when still at Business School in Paris, we were screening these amazing films from all other Europe, all the Filmmakers were attending and one of the Directors brought last-minute a new version of the film material he wanted us to screen. Obviously, we had prepared everything in advance and tested the material, but to make him happy, tested his new material on the spot, and it worked. However, when we screened it during the Festival, for some reason it didn’t want to play as easily as a few hours earlier! That was quite an issue because I had 350 audience members, a prestigious Jury including Olivier-René Veillon (Head of the Ile-de-France Film Commission at the time) and Hugo Becker (famous French actor from Gossip Girl) in the room and we were afraid we’d end up being stuck with a version of the material that didn’t want to play. I made a quick announcement and the waiting only lasted a few minutes, but believe me, these minutes did somehow feel long! Thankfully the material did play up all well, and the funniest point is that the film won the Jury Prize! Such a great turning point, and fantastic night screening wonderful films from around Europe. This taught me the importance of being extremely prepared, but also being agile and making the most of any changes that inevitably happen at some point of an event or production.

On a different note, when working at the distributors’ offices at the beginning of my career, I remember I would welcome some great talents and executives from the industry at the office, having a great chat with them and sometimes only realizing a bit later who they actually were, and how important in the industry… so that was quite a turning point each time! Also, a great opportunity to meet some of the greatest names in the industry, and it taught me how interesting it can be to connect with a talent from a human point of view, before anything else.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I’m Line Producing and cast in a major role in an ambitious period drama feature, filming between France and Germany, called Cheating Charlie, which I’m very excited about. The Writer and Director Cheryl Neve has already filmed the short version of the film and been commissioned to write many successful scripts which are now successfully distributed films, I’m looking forward to working with her more!

Very recently, I’ve also been very honored I was chosen by Paris City Official to perform a beautiful text for the commemoration of the Liberation of Paris. We’ve recently filmed my performance at the Paris Hôtel de Ville, respecting social distancing. I was so very touched Paris City chose me to perform this text, alongside wonderful actors like Mathilde Seigner and Alix Bénézech, whom I admire very much, and on the National Anthem. It’s an enormous honor for an actor, I love Paris and my country tremendously. Acting was unnecessary as the text is so beautiful, and the emotion was so great. Paying tribute is such an important responsibility for us artists, we have a voice and our audiences count on us to spread these important messages. You can stay tuned on Paris City Official website and socials from August 17–29 for the broadcasting of this episode and of the 12 others which retrace this momentous page of our History.

Credit: S. Angeloni

Who are some of the most interesting people you have interacted with? What was that like? Do you have any stories?

There are many names that come to my mind, working with the very best of people has been one of the highlights of my young career. I loved working with Robert Sheehan (Misfits, The Umbrella Academy) as soon as I opened my company Belle Époque Films to co-produce The Bigger Picture he stars in, filmed on 35 mm by an Academy-Award Nominated DP. I love working with A-level actors and am looking forward to working with Robert Sheehan again and more top talents. I’ve also worked with the very well-known Cécile Gaget, the Head of International Production at Gaumont, who’s been one of my biggest inspirations and definitely one of the most amazing talents in the industry.

A story, was when I first heard about Canneseries (Cannes Series Festival) in 2017… I did some research on LinkedIn and sent my CV to apply to become a part of their team to kickstart their first edition. They asked to meet me and I immediately loved their team, working with them to kickstart Canneseries alongside MIPTV was a wonderful challenge. I’ve been working more specifically on the In Development Forum, which has been a huge success from very first edition in 2018. The Festival has only been growing these past 3 years, and we’re going partly online for the upcoming edition in October to enable everyone to join from the safe comfort of home. They’re such a fantastic team to work with, besides it’s a blast to be part of promoting filmmakers and TV Makers around the world and contributing to champion top series from various forms.

I’ve been very inspired by all the wonderful talents I’ve met along the way, from the film-related world, journalists, also non-film related… It still feels now as it’s felt from the very beginning, an absolute blast. Every day was and is a joy.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Sleep. Your mind can’t function correctly when it’s sleep-deprived, and when you’re on set you may be working long hours without much chance to oversleep, so really important to protect your sleep whenever you get the chance. Also, know your weaknesses as much as your strengths and what helps your body and mind be efficient and creative, which depends on each person. Believe it or not, but a couple of days before the first day of principal photography for The Golden Age, I had spoken with so many partners, cast & crew members for so many weeks, 48 hours before the first “action” call I completely lost my voice! You can see it in the BTS of the film, we were rehearsing at the mythical Saint-Tropez theatre a couple of days before filming, and I was literally whispering directions all around! Truth is, I had anticipated that could happen, took a couple of medicine to sort it out in time and the first filming day went wonderful… It’s all about anticipation, really, it’s important to identify what can go wrong and know how to fix it. Also, make sure to rest your body and mind as much as you can when you get the chance, for you to re-generate and be fully creative.

Work in a healthy environment: keep your environment as tidy and organized as you can, not only in your workspace but also in your social life. Surround yourself with people that want to see you succeed and whose goals and ethics make you want to partner within the long-term. There’s no success possible or worth living just by yourself, so make sure you honor the great persons in your Life. Turn out the notifications on your phone, put it in airplane mode when having a meeting, make space for your mind to thrive.

Can you share with our readers any self care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Kindly share a story or an example for each.

I’m on intermittent fasting all year, which helps me a lot. I’ve started it a bit before filming The Golden Age and it’s felt so good it’s become one of my self-care routines. I only drink lemon juice in the morning, which I recommend to boost your system — even if that can sound a bit daunting at the beginning, your body is worth the try! Sports is also at the very top of my list, I go to the gym 5 times a week and train with top coaches to keep my body ready for filming and free my mind. I’m definitely a sports addict!

As I’ve been teaching for almost 10 years now, education is also essential to me. I need my daily amount of training and knowledge. I check the Screen Skills website regularly to apply for training schemes and get myself updated on the changes of our industry. It’s also a great way to connect with top industry talents and bounce back with ideas on your upcoming projects. I also listen to a lot of podcasts, like the BBC Academy podcasts, which are really insightful, or Basilic by Jeane Clesse, a French podcast that promotes eco-friendly, positive initiatives in various industries.

Knowledge is power, this is why I constantly educate myself and also organize a panel about every two weeks at the Paris International Film Festival I run. These are happening on Zoom and tackle various topics, every attendant receives an ebook prior to each session with some resources that are specific to what is being discussed during the event, so they can come with their notebooks and questions and benefit from it as much as they can. Each panel lasts an hour and communication with fellow participants and panelists is highly encouraged to network and meet new talents to partner with.

I also make time to spend great moments with my friends and loved ones, even in lockdown I get on regular Zoom meetings, and always make sure to laugh a lot and make them laugh and feel happy! I couldn’t imagine my life without their love, sharing the joy of my work and adventures with them is beautiful.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Know your dream goal. Long-term (5 years) and mid-term (1–2 years) and build your monthly, weekly, daily schedules based on them. A colleague of mine I had on a recent panel at the Festival, Charlotte Atkinson, runs a successful masterclass on this and many other related topics, to help you start and thrive as a filmmaker. She’s the one who got me to create my filmmaker’s tagline: “I do films about artists struggling with acceptance of their roles in the world”, which suits me and my work perfectly. I highly recommend her.

Educate yourself. Coming from a family of engineers, educating myself to the film & TV world through all the resources available have played a huge role in me getting prepared to start in the industry. It’s the only way to avoid the most common mistakes filmmakers and similar businesses have made before you and avoid them. There are tons of wonderful resources available now even in lockdown, I love listening to The Entrepreneur Way podcast by Neil Ball, who’s interviewed me about running Belle Époque Films and many other entrepreneurs. Not only does he provide many tips to run a business, but it’s also a wonderful way to network and get in touch with top talents.

Be prepared. Unprepared plans even on the most fantastic ideas are rarely successful. Make sure you come in as prepared as you can, build a precise schedule for your projects and create pitch decks and any related documents to share your vision with your team and partners. Have a cuppa with yourself regularly to make sure you’re getting the short term results you want. This will help you achieve your mid-term and long-term goals and turn your projects into successful achievements. For The Golden Age, I had built a huge, detailed shot list, storyboarded al the film scenes, rehearsed with the whole cast, written documents with recommendations for every department and discussed prolifically with each crew member prior to the filming, which hugely contributed to making this filming so special for us, as every dimension of the film had been anticipated and discussed in advance. This is when the magic happens!

At the same time, be agile. Be always ready to change and adapt to your environment, whether you’re starting your own business or are already number 1. Adaptation is the key to long-term success. Stay open-minded and listen to what your peers are doing and encourage you to do. When you’re filming, there’s so much that can change last-minute anyway. For instance, when we filmed the very last shot of The Golden Age, it suddenly rained and got stormy. I had imagined a great shot in which my character Angèle Devaux walks to an exceptional 50s car, and the scene turned out into this even better one, where you can see my character being driven through stormy Paris, a rare atmosphere many filmmakers dream to capture! Being agile and adapting to your environment can lead to the most fantastic, unexpected perks.

Surround yourself with the very best people. You can join fantastic organizations like WFTV I’m glad to be part of, whether you’re in the USA or the UK. The script of my upcoming feature For The Love Of Music has just been picked up for a table read with them, which I’m greatly excited about. I also enjoy being part of Film Fatales in the USA, they’re a fantastic community to support and network with. Aside from organizations, you can also involve in online panels, virtual Festivals & screenings, get to meet fellow talents in the industry and follow-up with them.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“I didn’t get there by wishing for it or hoping for it, but by working for it.” — Estée Lauder

When I had just turned 20, I directed a short documentary about a couple of foster cares in New Delhi, India. These children I’ve filmed in the foster care, who were working hard to graduate from the best universities after living the most horrendous past in the streets of Delhi at a very young age, greatly inspired me to believe any goal is possible to achieve, regardless of your background. As Estée Lauder says, it’s about the work you’re putting into your dream goals.

It may sound a little extreme, but I’ve always worked on my craft as an athlete. That’s one of the biggest perks of being a filmmaker and an actor, I wake up every single day being really excited about what I’m going to do, and want to bring the most exciting projects to my audience, in the best way I can. This is also what enables me to bring change and have a positive impact on this world.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I’m immensely grateful to Tropezians and all our wonderful partners in the Saint-Tropez Bay Area and Paris. Without them, The Golden Age, which was a dream film for us to make, would only have been a dream. They’ve trusted me all along the way from the very first day to make this magical film happen, even if this is my debut feature and I’m putting on so many roles. They immediately understood what I wanted to achieve with The Golden Age and gave me unconditional support. I’m immensely thankful and happy to share this beautiful adventure with them along the way. They were the very first audience members to watch The Golden Age in Saint-Tropez. It was very important for me to organize a private screening in June last year exclusively for them, at the mythical Saint-Tropez cinema, co-organized by the Mairie de Saint-Tropez and Saint-Tropez Tourism Board. Their wonderful reactions to the film and sharing this magical night with them were my biggest reward at the time.

I’m also incredibly grateful to my grandmother, who’s taught me the power of unconditional love, in relationships as much as in projects. She’s been taking enormous care of my grandfather who’s been stuck in a wheelchair for the past 10 years, and recently left us. I’ve paid tribute to them both in The Golden Age, as we see a picture of them on their wedding day in one of the major scenes of the film. They’re both I know immensely proud.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Black Lives Matter is an essential movement to support, just like any movement which fights to achieve and promote equal tolerance to all humans. I’m also promoting eco-friendly filmmaking and eager to launch a #FilmGreen movement. As a start and with the support of the Paris International Film Festival, I’m working on educating our audiences to a more diverse, eco-friendly filmmaking process, both in front of and behind the camera. I wrote The Golden Age to pay tribute to all artists who bring change, and I highly hope I can contribute to bringing change in real life myself. Film is Ecoprod certified, with my company Belle Époque Films I had signed the Ecoprod Chart since its creation, as they are promoting and championing filmmakers to make their films in an eco-friendly way. I’m in talks with them at the moment to bounce back with ideas to promote a more eco-friendly way of making films & TV in our industries. We also champion green in all connected industries, some of our film partners like the mythical Byblos Hotel, have their own sustainable Chart and eco-friendly restaurant, which is a very exciting achievement.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

Definitely Damien Chazelle. I would love to discuss his films and our common inspirations more. I felt a very special connection to his work as soon as I saw Whiplash. I remember I was in the train to Cannes for the Film Festival at the time, and though I was watching the film on a computer, I was still blown away by his wonderful execution. Since then I’ve kept studying his work, obviously binge-watched The Eddy as soon as it was released on Netflix last May. We share the passion for Jacques Demy’s films like Les Demoiselles de Rochefort or Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, we both have a Franco-American background and share a deep love for music. I even named Sebastian character in The Golden Age after Ryan Gosling’s character in La La Land. I’d love to get to work with him.

How can our readers follow you online?

@jennasurureal on Instagram, Jenna Suru on Facebook, @jennasuru on Twitter

@belleepoquefilms on Instagram and Facebook, @bellepoquefilms on Twitter

@lagedorfilm on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

@parisintlfest on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational!

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