A Conversation With Jena Moreno, Journalist and Filmmaker

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There are more than 21 million quilters in the United States, so you probably know at least one. If you don't, then perhaps you can relate to the art because of a moving AIDS memorial quilt or patchwork in recognition of those suffering from Alzheimer's that you've encountered.

Recognizing the power of a few simple squares to bring people together, Jena Moreno, by day an award-winning international business reporter for the Houston Chronicle, set out to make Stitched, her first documentary. In her spare time, Moreno followed three quilters as they prepared entries for the largest quilting show in the nation, a competition that brings both fame and fortune.

Here, the reporter discusses the power of film organizations, the need for aggressive self-promotion, and how new technology is making the filmmaking much more affordable.

What do you say when people ask you, 'What do you do?'

I'm a full-time newspaper reporter and a part-time filmmaker. My husband and I, along with friends and relatives, made a film about art quilters. Stitched was released in April. We're now working on a DVD about stretching for quilters because one of the featured quilters in Stitched is an exercise aficionado and he teaches stretching to quilters. We hope to start another documentary next year.

What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on the filmmaking world?

Newer digital cameras have such high image quality and they're affordable. They're so small. You can carry them in a backpack and be unobtrusive when you are out shooting footage. With today's airline bag fees, it helps that cameras are so small. We're using DSLR cameras.

What's something that most people just don't understand about your area of expertise?

People really like the film and think that it will soon be broadcast on television, screened at theaters in their towns, and streamed online. But when everyone involved in the film has a full-time job and no real filmmaking experience, things move a little slowly.

What's an emerging trend that you think will shake up the filmmaking world?

Self-distribution. I think more and more filmmakers will sell their films on their own websites instead of hoping to ink a deal with a distributor and then share the profits with that company. We're selling Stitched DVDs on our website and at screenings across the country. If you are going to go this route, you have to be aggressive and hard working.

In April, we drove a DVD-stuffed car from Houston to quilt shows in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Paducah, Kentucky. Museums and quilt shops are hungry for content to provide to their customers and I'm amazed how easy it is to book screenings. All you have to do is produce an entertaining, quality film, contact venues, and get publicity. We've had to think of venues such as libraries, quilt stores, and empty shops since we can't afford to rent a theater. To help spread the word out about the film, I email press releases to quilt guilds and journalists. Many quilting websites and magazines ask me to write essays about the film and the filmmaking process because they need content.

Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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