Jayne, a 2022 graduate of the University of Oklahoma’s film school, was drawn to the Assistant Director field but hadn’t received formal training in the job.
“I had only ever worked with one real Assistant Director, so I was just doing what I saw him do,” Jayne said. “I met with Jordan Wilson, and she told me about the class at Meridian.”
Jordan Wilson is the instructor for Meridian’s First and Second Assistant Director course. With more than 20 film credits, she predominantly works as a Writer, Director and First Assistant Director. Her film experience ranges from independent short films, live-action and scripted television shows and full-length movies.
“I wanted to take a class in assistant directing when I first started but I only found one in the UK,” Wilson said. “When I was approached about teaching this at Meridian I realized that it could be what I wanted to take back in 2019.”
Wilson has a degree in Digital Film Production from Oklahoma City Community College. In 2022, OCCC was named one of MovieMaker’s 40 Best Film Schools of 2022 in the U.S. and Canada.
During her first semester in film school, Wilson worked on NBC’s hit show American Ninja Warrior.
“I was almost working in film full-time before I graduated,” Wilson said. “I would work 12-hour days on set then go to class.”
The range of experience Wilson brings to the First and Second Assistant Director class is invaluable to the students. Because she’s worked on small and large budget projects, Wilson is able to teach students how to scale their work based on a production budget.
“Jordan taught us how to use specific software and programs I would have never known about,” Jayne said. “Even just that was immeasurable help because I would have kept doing the work the same way I did through college.”
After the class Jayne and Wilson worked together on a short film “Niece Day”, Wilson saw Jayne’s work ethic outside of the classroom.
Wilson found herself in the director’s chair at her next gig and when it came time to hire her First AD, she reached out to Jayne.
“When it comes to hiring a first AD I am really picky,” Wilson said. “We ended up working really well together, and it was great to see his work ethic outside of the classroom.”
Since completing the First and Second AD class at Meridian last fall, Jayne has hired a classmate to work as a production assistant on a film.
“He was a good student and he takes direction really well,” Jayne said. “It was a small class but that was a great connection.”
Wilson and Jayne recently returned from Cannes Film Festival in France. The film they worked on, “Leak”, was shown at the event. Both are currently working on film jobs in Oklahoma. Wilson has hired Jayne to work on a TV show filming in Tulsa later in the summer.
“Twenty years ago, you couldn’t have stayed in Oklahoma for film,” Wilson said. “This is where I grew up and it is really nice to be able to do what I want for work without having to go somewhere else.”
The film industry in Oklahoma continues to grow and Meridian’s film classes are helping bridge the gap in the workforce.
“Oklahoma is an attractive location for filmmakers because of the state’s central location, picturesque landscapes and cultural diversity,” said Cara Adney, Project Manager for Film and Special Training Projects. “These elements combined with film-friendly incentives and comparatively low production costs make coming here an easy choice. The challenge however, was finding experienced crew members who could support this influx.”
Housed at Meridian’s South Campus in Guthrie, the First Capital Film Crew Institute was created to meet this growing demand.
When FCFCI began, project managers collaborated with industry professionals to develop courses tailored to build up the below-the-line crew. Initial classes have focused on building foundational skills to work as a production assistant, makeup artist, assistant director, screenwriter, producer and more.
This collaboration still exists as they bring in industry professionals to train the next generation of Oklahoma’s film workforce.
“What’s unique about our training is that in many instances students are learning how to do a job from the people who are oftentimes the department head on Oklahoma productions,” Adney said. “They are the people who make the hiring decisions. So, in essence, our classrooms are both learning environments and mock job interviews.”
The classes are short, specialized and cost-effective. The students are work-ready upon the completion of each course.
“No matter what your interest is, you can find something in film to really enjoy and excel in,” Wilson said.
Meridian Technology Center has been a driver of economic development since 1975. With a mission to educate, enrich lives and secure economic futures, Meridian offers full-time career training programs, short courses, workforce and economic development assistance and entrepreneurial support to residents from the Agra, Carney, Glencoe, Guthrie, Morrison, Mulhall-Orlando, Pawnee, Perkins-Tryon, Perry and Stillwater school districts. The school has locations in Stillwater and Guthrie. Meridian is one of 29 schools within Oklahoma’s CareerTech system.