When most of us want to imagine ourselves with a different life, perhaps one more wild and exciting, we daydream. We might watch a movie and project ourselves onto the main character making them a proxy for the adventures we’d like to experience. Sarah Walton does this but she possesses the talent, skill, and connections as a Hollywood screenwriter to turn her daydreams into films…the type which the rest of us use for our previously mentioned purposes. The writer’s equivalent of Diana Prince (that’s Wonder Woman’s alter ego for those unfamiliar), Walton uses her powers to relate to and inspire audiences to keep the dream of love (sometimes self-love) alive. It might seem hyperbolic to make this comparison but considering that Sarah flew across the globe from her homeland Australia to reside in a metropolis known as Los Angeles and has a special tool for delivering truth, the divide lessens the more you consider these two women. As the writer for Jump!, Sarah gave her character Melody the superpower of seizing her own destiny. Empowered with an 80’s soundtrack and passion, Melody shows us that no affliction can hold back the tide of creating one’s self-vision.
An Official Selection for The Burbank International Film Festival LA & Cinefest LA (2016), Jump! is a comedy about Melody, a 37-year-old bumbling secretary obsessed with the 80’s. Determined to free herself from the break up blues, Melody bravely fights against societal norms and gains entry into “So You Think You Can Still Dance?”, the world’s first over 30’s dance competition pairing amateur wanna-be dancers with has-been dance professionals. Uncoordinated and teased for a rare condition called “Stiff Leg Syndrome”, with a training ground of only her 80’s infused bedroom, the odds are stacked against her. The judges pair Melody with Gunter Jazhanz (an extremely disciplined dancer from Schlongtaggin, Germany) who is deeply offended by Melody’s enthusiastic childlike spirit and lack of dance training. Gunter is determined to control her and squash her soul. Will Melody allow him to break her and relinquish her dreams or will she stay true to herself and battle it out 80’s style? You’ll have to watch the film to witness for yourself.
There’s something about the 80’s and the films of this era that attract a large segment of the population. For many of us it was a simpler time, a time before we were so superficially and technologically connected to everything and everyone. The goals were clear and straightforward. Music was just beginning to become influenced by major technological advancements and a new sound accompanied culture. The Arts often helps to define a specific “feel” to a period in history and the impression of this on the 80’s is profound. The films of John Hughes are inseparable from the music it contains. The cocktail of these two instantly transports those who experienced this time as well as those who were not in existence yet to this period. Walton wanted to create this experience as well as communicate what it represents to the film’s protagonist Melody. She notes, “My intention with JUMP! was to make a film that oozed joy and my experience writing the script definitely reflected that. The original inspiration for the film was from the 80's classic Girls Just Want to Have Fun. I wanted to make a film that was exactly that…fun! Acquiring high profile actress Sibylla Budd in the lead role was a dream. She was so perfect for the role, the ideal combination of joy and comedy. I honestly couldn't imagine anyone else playing the role. She had another job booked through ABC, so we were lucky that scheduling worked and she was able to do both projects. Sibylla shared my vision for the script and the lead character Melody. We worked together to keep true to the heart of the story.”
There is no separating the central character of Melody from the story itself. Just as this character is the story, the story is a larger view of Melody’s desires, perseverance, and cheerful demeanor in the face of adversity. It was essential to Sarah that Melody be accurately presented as the 37-year old dreamer that she wrote. In an industry that is not known for pushing female leads on the latter side of their 30’s, this is not always an easy task. Walton confirms, “I’m passionate about reaffirming to superficial mass media the idea that aging is beautiful and that age is merely a number. I want to inspire all ages to live their dreams - that it’s never too late to change your life and go for what your heart desires. I assume that my protagonists will get older the older I get. I have no desire to make films that follow the norm or altering my stories and characters to fit molds in Hollywood.” Sibylla Budd relates to this direction as well as the tone of the story. She declares, “I immediately connected with the story when I was offered the main role of Melody. I've acted in a number of feature films (playing the lead in several) but had never been drawn to a short film before reading JUMP!. I fell in love with the script and recognized a great talent in Sarah as a writer. The script was not only uniquely funny but so full of heart and warmth, the characters and the story stayed with me long after reading it. It's testament to Sarah's gift as a script writer that I immediately wanted to be a part of the story and help her bring it to life."
As a writer with plenty of influence on the film set, Sarah made it clear that the music was as vital a character as any of those seen on camera. She worked with composers Troy Rogan and Liam Whittaker, describing the ideas of the film and what she envisioned in her mind as the sonic influence. The music and love theme of the film have a symbiotic relationship. Original 80’s dance tracks were composed specifically for the film by Rogan and Whittaker. The original score has 80’s synth pop tones, love notes, and contrasting Melody and Gunter tracks. The music of this era symbolizes each character’s joyful inner child. Melody’s need to express her love for 80’s dance music is in conflict with Gunter’s need to keep his 80’s loving inner child safely repressed. Sarah recalls during the early musical composition meetings, “In one of our meetings the boys jumped on the piano and played Melody’s “Melody”! It gave me goosebumps and I teared up. It wasn’t just the music that got me but the enthusiasm and joy that Troy and Liam had when playing the song together on the piano; the team work, the love. It was one of my favorite moments in the process of making the film.”
The emotions elicited by JUMP! are “pure” and far from “simple.” What Walton accurately wrote was an emotional time capsule which is unearthed in present day. The sounds and the sights are sensory stimuli that transmits a feeling while allowing us to still exist in present day.