Jennifer Sue (Jen) Gerber (1979–)
Jennifer Sue (Jen) Gerber is a noted filmmaker and teacher from Hot Springs (Garland County) who served as executive director of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (HSDFF) for six years. Her movie The Revival, filmed entirely in Hot Springs, received positive reviews from critics.
Jen Gerber was born on June 25, 1979, in Wichita, Kansas. Her parents were Allen Gerber, who was a general surgeon, and Jan Gerber, a nurse. The family enjoyed spending weekends swimming and boating on lakes in the Hot Springs region, later relocating to Hot Springs.
There, Gerber attended Lake Hamilton High School, where she ran cross-country and track, ultimately becoming the 3,200-meter Arkansas high school champion. She also performed in school plays, studied ballet, and competed in beauty pageants, winning Miss Teen Hot Springs in 1996.
After graduating in 1997, Gerber attended Henderson State University in Arkadelphia (Clark County) as a theater major, participating in college productions. She left Henderson after a year and a half to join a touring Christian performance troupe. When the tour ended in Nashville, Tennessee, Gerber stayed in that city, enrolling in a playwriting class at Belmont University.
She then went to Chicago’s Columbia College to study film, graduating in 2004 with a general filmmaking degree. In 2009, she was accepted into the master’s program at New York’s Columbia University, ultimately earning a master’s degree in writing and directing.
Returning to Arkansas in 2013, she taught theater at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway (Faulkner County). She also worked on film projects, including her 2017 movie The Revival, which she adapted from a stage play written by Samuel Brett Williams.
The plot of The Revival concerns the secret love affair of a struggling Baptist preacher from Hot Springs, at a time when a competing local church enjoys a thriving congregation as well as radio broadcasts by its minister. The Revival earned a theatrical run in Los Angeles as well as digital distribution on major platforms. The film received a positive reception from critics at both the Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter, who called the film “riveting.” Gerber’s movie went on to receive a jury special mention at NewFest in New York City for “outstanding performances.” Her other film credits include Soul Winner (2012) and Capture (2013).
While working on film projects, Gerber taught in Hot Springs at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts and led a filmmaking workshop for Low Key Arts, a nonprofit arts group in Hot Springs. She also began volunteering for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, where she served in various capacities, including as a projectionist, media team director, and technical director. She also took on projects such as curating the Arkansas Shorts film festival, directing the University of Central Arkansas Film Festival, and serving as print traffic manager and technical director for the Eureka Springs Indie Film Festival as well as media team director for the Little Rock Film Festival.
In 2017, Jen Gerber was first named interim executive director of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival before being chosen as its executive director that next year. Under her leadership, the festival built on its successes as the longest-running nonfiction film festival in North America. Gerber’s responsibilities covered all aspects of the HSDFF, such as working with the programming and screening committees, confirming the schedule of films, planning special events, marketing the festival internationally, providing educational outreach, and fundraising through private and corporate sponsorships.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021, she was responsible for steering the festival through a challenging new reality by adapting the event to virtual and blended screenings as well as securing nontraditional venues for in-person events such as a drive-in series held in the parking lot of a Hot Springs mall and family-friendly “pop-up drive-ins.”
After six years of leading the festival, Gerber stepped down as executive director effective May 31, 2022. She announced that she would continue to teach filmmaking at Low Key Arts in Hot Springs and concentrate on her work as a filmmaker.
For additional information:
Blomeley, Seth. “Jennifer Sue Gerber: Filmmaker and Executive Director of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 14, 2018. https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2018/oct/14/jennifer-sue-gerber/ (accessed December 1, 2022).
Hebda, Dwain. “Jennifer Gerber Moves Arkansas Film Community Forward.” AY Magazine, October 30, 2019. https://www.aymag.com/tag/jennifer-gerber/ (accessed December 1, 2022).
“Hot Springs Documentary Film Fest names Jennifer Gerber Interim Executive Director.” Talk Business & Politics, June 28, 2017. https://talkbusiness.net/2017/06/hot-springs-documentary-film-fest-names-jennifer-gerber-interim-executive-director/ (accessed December 1, 2022).
Jen Gerber. https://www.jengerber.com/ (accessed December 1, 2022).
“Jen Gerber Steps Down as Head of Hot Springs Film Festival,” Arkansas Business, March 31, 2022. https://www.arkansasbusiness.com/article/139421/jen-gerber-steps-down-as-head-of-hot-springs-film-festival (accessed December 1, 2022).
“Jennifer Gerber.” Internet Movie Database. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1969430/ (accessed December 1, 2022).
Nettles, Amanda. “Hot Springs Film Festival Introduces New Interim Executive Director.” AY Magazine, September 5, 2017. https://www.aymag.com/hot-springs-film-festival-introduces-new-interim-executive-director/ (accessed December 1, 2022).
Garland County Historical Society
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