‘Good Girl Jane’ Director at Tribeca Festival Wins Debut Feature – Entry Deadline

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz moved back to New York this month after spending seven years in Los Angeles while training Good girl Janeher feature film debut, which has just landed to critical acclaim, winning Best Narrative Film and Best Actress for Star Rain Spencer at the Tribeca Festival.

Speaking to Deadline, Mintz describes the long journey and motivation behind the drama of teenage alienation and addiction, inspired by her real-life freshman year of high school. “Substance abuse brings with it a lot of shame and a lot of misunderstanding,” she said. “What mattered was to shed some light on the isolation I was feeling. I know if I had seen that kind of isolation on screen it would have really impacted me and made me feel less alone.”

The film follows lonely LA teenager Jane (Spencer) as she struggles to fit into a new school after being bullied at the old one and devastated by the aftermath of her parents’ recent divorce. She meets a drug-addicted crowd and is smitten with her charming delivery man, Jamie (Patrick Gibson). Jane’s exciting new drug-fueled popularity soon wanes, and eventually her family helps pull her out of a world she’s reluctant to leave. Andie MacDowell plays Jane’s troubled mother, Ruth.

(Responses have been edited slightly for context and clarity.)

MEETING: You said Good girl Jane started out as a very different film. As?

Sarah Elizabeth Mintz
Rock Williams

MINTZ: I had a first draft of the feature script in 2014. It was called Junk Food Diaries. I sent it to a number of screenwriting programs and it made it to the 2017 Sundance Writers Intensive. But I threw away the script I brought to Sundance. The feature I went in with is the same story, but the design I went in with looked very different. It was mostly the style of the narration, the style of the film, the way it was written. It was a top-down voiceover. The voiceover was in the form of a blog, a live journal. It was very punchy and had a lot of fast cuts and one-liners, a super stylized version of what ended up being a movie with very few punchy one-liners… There’s a scene in a closet, in Jane’s closet, where she does drugs alone for the first time after she has a conflict with her mother. This scene runs non-stop for a few minutes and we only watch this girl in the most private moments. You are forced to watch. We have cuts where we were cut out very soon but I couldn’t take that – it was watching her sit there and also have that roller coaster ride of feelings and relief. But the context is still the same, Jane and Jamie, and the trajectory inspired by one I’ve had with my own addiction and struggles with mental illness. I think for someone who is going through similar experiences, or someone who is confronting it, or a child who is going through it, hopefully being able to open my darkest aspect and be vulnerable to it can be of support.

MEETING: You mentioned you just moved to Brooklyn. About what?

MINTZ: I lived in New York until 2015 when I moved to LA for seven years to put this film together. I’m from LA, born in Santa Monica and raised in Pacific Palisades. I went to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, then woke up in sophomore year and found I was only doing film studies and film studies. I transferred to NYU/Tish as a sophomore. I wasn’t sure if I was going to direct. I knew I wanted to immerse myself in the film. I started thinking about what kinds of stories I wanted to tell. I’m interested in coming-of-age stories, probably started thinking about this film in my senior year thesis short film transit with Dakota Johnson.

MEETING: After school she continued to work as an assistant to Alejandro González Iñárritu the revenant, Joachim Trier further Louder than bombsand Cary Joji Fukunaga on HBO True detective. This is an amazing group. How important were these relationships?

MINTZ: I would say that all three influenced me. They are all three writers, all three are uncompromising in their vision and make work that I really admire. In my freshman year out of college, I worked on season 1 of True detectives. This gave me the confidence and reputation to help with more challenging projects and I heard that Joachim (Worst person in the world) was looking for an assistant for a film he was shooting in the backcountry. And that support has really changed my life. It was the first time I had a real mentor. The film, Louder than bombs went to Cannes. My experience with this project was completely different. It was quite small and intimate. When I won, I reported to my family and then to Joachim. He is a close friend and mentor. I also started working Good girl Jane exactly the year I started working with him.

MEETING: How did you find Rain Spencer?

MINTZ: Rain came in by audition. I was very direct with everyone that I was looking for lightning in a bottle and trying to catch something. Not knowing when that person would enter the room. I didn’t know how to find her. I saw every girl, every actor working when we had these open calls, and Rain just walked in one day. For me it was really immediate. I knew it would be her. I worked with her for a while after that, bringing her in for callbacks and the chemistry with Patrick was great and sealed the deal for the creative team. This is her first feature film, her first major work. It’s such a gift to introduce them, taking a big leap hand in hand.

MEETING: How did the victory feel?

MINTZ: When the film won I was so surprised. I never expected that to happen. I had just left a screening. We had one scheduled that day and I went back for a Q&A. i’m over the moon I cried very ugly in front of many people. I want to see this if someone has a video. Or maybe not.

MEETING: What are you working on now?

MINTZ: After that I wrote another film jane was shut down in March 2020, ten days after production started for Covid. Luckily we packed Andie MacDowell. I wrote and am working on another feature film with a production company from March 2020 until its shooting in March 2021, but I cannot say more. Hopefully soon.

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