Sabrina Jaglom is going full force with her directorial debut, a psychological thriller titled Jane. The film follows Riverdale’s Madelaine Petsch as a grieving and anxiety-filled high school student, Olivia, who is mourning the loss of her best friend, Jane, while desperately trying to get accepted into Stanford University.
When Petsch’s mental health begins to worsen, she works alongside Chloe Bailey’s character, Izzy, to wreak havoc on her high school community. To make matters worse, Olivia and Izzy are using their dead friend’s social media account to cyberbully and harass those that even slightly inconvenience their lives.
Now playing at select AMC Theaters and streaming September 16 on Creator+, Jane is a dramatic and intense journey from beginning to end.
Pop Crave spoke with Jaglom about the importance of creating complicated female leads, what it was like to work with Chloe Bailey, and how she hopes Jane resonates with audiences.
Congratulations on your directorial debut with Jane! How amazing does it feel to finally be getting this project out into the world?
It feels great! It feels really wonderful! You work on something for so long, you work so hard in this bubble, and so it’s really nice to share it with people because that’s the goal!
I love how you created a film with a young, complicated female character as the lead. It feels like such a fresh and needed choice, and I especially love it with this dark and psychological aspect that’s mostly about mental health. What are some key things you’re wanting audiences to take away from the character of Olivia [played by Madelaine Petsch]?
She is an unreliable narrator, she’s complicated, and she has all of these facets to her that we see. While I wouldn’t say Olivia is a good person, and we should not condone her actions [laughs], I want people to see the internal pressure and see how she is so hard on herself. The parents are like, “You’ll do great!” The teachers are like, “You’ll do great!” Encouragement can sometimes make you feel like you need to do great, even if someone’s not overtly pressuring you. There’s the way that social media and these environments can really contribute to things that we don’t see until they come out. Sometimes they come out in really detrimental ways.
Wow, I didn’t think about that encouragement part. I’m gonna sit on that!
Actually, Melissa Leo said it when I first met with her about the role. She said, “What I love about this is that with the grown-ups in this film, they’re not bad. They’re not good. They’re just kind of there,” and that is sometimes how it feels in high school. Especially in high functioning young people, there’s this expectation of “you’ll keep doing great,” and that creates a different kind of pressure that we don’t really see. The kid is like, “Okay, well I’m going to have to keep doing great!”
I’ve been following Chloe Bailey for a while with her incredible music, and it was so much fun getting to see her in a film role! What was it like working with her on set, and do you maybe have a favorite memory with her from filming?
Chloe was such a joy on set! She has such a bright, wonderful, infectious energy. It’s like her character in a way, too. We were actually shooting outside her house one day – the location, that’s her house – and she was just singing. She has the most amazing, beautiful voice! We were waiting for a storm to pass so we could keep shooting, and she was singing this wonderful old song. It just really lightened the mood and is so indicative of what she brings energy wise!
I read one of your Instagram captions, and it said that the script for this film had been years in the making! Was Jane always going to be the title of this project and the name of Chloe Yu’s character, or was it switched around at any point? Alongside that, is there a certain importance to the character being named Jane?
Yes, is the short answer [laughs]! I think it was always Jane, but the script changed. Before Chloe [Yu]’s character, Jane – before we gave her this backstory and this reality – she was just the social media presence, and it was a fake social media presence as opposed to Olivia’s former friend. That rewrite gave the character, the script, Olivia, and everyone so much depth. It already kind of made everyone start in this place of anxiety and grief. The reason I first came up with the name Jane was because of the “Jane Doe” comparison. She was this anonymous source on the internet that kind of represented everybody… and no one [laughs].
This movie deals with a lot of heavy subject matters, most importantly centering around mental health, grief, and cyberbullying. What are you hoping audiences learn from this film as a whole, particularly younger audiences in similar age ranges to these characters?
This film is not a message film. It’s not grounded in reality. It’s through one character’s perspective, and it goes to this thriller genre place. I do hope that the conversation around it can bring some nuance and depth to what people are thinking. For me, I’d never seen anxiety attacks depicted in film, and that was something I really wanted to do. Also, I find that sometimes in genre films and these heightened realities, it’s actually easier for a conversation to start because it doesn’t feel like real life. People can say, “Oh, I can safely relate to some of this,” or with pieces of it I can say, “That’s complete fiction!” It gives them a little bit of freedom to maybe say, “But here’s my experience!” I’ve had some amazing conversations with people around this film, because I think the heightened removal from reality allows people to find that space a little bit.
Was there a character in this film that was the hardest for you to figure out or understand how to incorporate/develop into the project properly?
Nina Bloomgarden’s character, Camille. I just wanted to make sure she didn’t seem like this bitchy new girl, you know? She comes back later, and you learn the grief that she’s dealing with herself, her own personal struggles, and I believe you gain a lot of sympathy for her. It’s a big turning point for Olivia, Madelaine’s character, because it’s one of the first times where she hears, “Oh, I was a little wrong!” It gives her character a decision: “Okay, do I walk it back or have I already committed to this path?” Of course, because she is an unwell person, she is already committed to this path. That [Camille] was a character, in writing her and developing her, of just making sure she didn’t come across as mean or horrible. You want that nuance and depth, but all the characters have two sides of them like social media. We see one thing, but what you get is entirely different. The reality behind the screen is always different.
Jane is now playing at select AMC Theatres and will be available to stream September 16 on Creator+.
For more information on how to watch Jane: https://creatorplus.com/jane