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See the original JAM short on iFilm

Director’s Statement
Traffic stinks. There’s nothing worse than coming to a standstill, halted in your tracks. No ifs, ands or buts. Anyone who drives in the 21st century in a metropolitan area can attest to the anguished feelings of being stuck—not going anywhere—which can be worse when you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.

So, as the traffic builds, with each group of characters, a story unfolds as the occupants deal with the crisis at hand—‘will I get to where I’m going?’ ‘Where should I deliver my baby?” ‘How do I keep from letting my kids drive me crazy” ‘The ice cream is melting!’ and on and on it goes…

Three time Emmy-nominated editor Craig Serling (“Survivor,” “Amazing Race”) set out to write, produce, and direct a feature film about dynamic characters facing life-changing experiences. What better way to depict that scenario than by penning a screenplay that takes place during a traffic jam on a two-lane highway as everyone waits for an accident to be cleared? Here the disparate lives of different types of travelers collide as they wait for the traffic to clear.

JAM is an ensemble feature film that unfolds during a sweltering Father’s day on a two-lane rural highway. Fourteen diverse travelers’ lives collide after a car crash that leaves them stranded. With nowhere to go, the characters of JAM emerge from their cars and become travel companions with those they would normally never meet. What transpires becomes a life-changing experience for them all.

These characters are a cross-section of contemporary America whose everyday problems and dilemmas are exacerbated to crisis levels by the stifling heat of the day and the frustration of their situation. Our paths cross everyday, but it sometimes takes a fluke of modern living to compel us to stop and experience another’s world. JAM is that fluke.

“Of the three screenplays that I have crafted, this is the one I decided to make first because of its production simplicity, richness in character, and timeliness in the issues of fatherhood” states Serling.

Given his experience with editing reality television, Serling maintains, “I believe the infatuation with reality television is based largely on viewers’ desire to immerse themselves in the lives of ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations. So I took a narrative approach to this successful reality formula and was able to write, produce and direct my film, JAM.”

Directed by
Craig Serling

The Film

A dog bolts across a rural highway on Father's Day forcing a collision. Traffic comes to a complete stop and the typical American road is transformed into a pressure cooker for human emotion and relationship. A focus on eight sets of unrelated travelers quickly boils down to five distinct yet interwoven stories...

A car crash on a sweltering Father’s Day becomes a life changing experience for five groups of travelers

A stray dog on a rural interstate causes an accident. Shaken though unharmed are TED and his nineteen-year-old son, JOSH. Exiting the driver’s side of the crumpled vintage Mustang, Josh blames everything for the crash except his own driving.

When LORRAINE emerges from her SAAB, Ted can barely assure her well being before Josh rages on about how the accident will affect his insurance. Ignoring his anger, Lorraine’s concern is for her cello. She was on her way to play a Father’s Day concert at The Point.

Lorraine suggests Ted calm him down and discipline him. Josh launches into a tirade on how Ted was an alcoholic father, and attempts to guilt his dad into claiming responsibility for the crash. When the police arrive, Ted must decide which is more important: his moral code or protecting his son.

Thrown into early labor by the jarring halt, ROSE holds her very pregnant belly as her girlfriend, LILAC, gives her support. After exhausting all other possibilities, Lilac has a plan: she weaves through the stuck cars with her eyes set on an RV where Rose can lay down.

CURT and JERRY are two mangy criminals who managed to steal an ATM, but forgot the tools to open it. When Rose and Lilac from the VW bug arrive at their door demanding entry, the men refuse, as they are concerned about hiding their treasure. As Lilac mounts an assault upon the RV, kicking and screaming, the men grow nervous. Fearing the attention that her antics may bring, they toss a sheet over their booty and open the door.

Lilac transforms the RV into an emergency birthing room, while tenderly caring for Rose and trading barbs with Curt. Jerry, on the other hand, is excited about the baby. In the panic of Rose’s labor, Lilac pulls the sheet off the ATM, revealing the duo’s misdeeds. Suddenly in the middle of the chaos, the baby is starting to emerge. The men have no choice but to assist with the birth. These four unlikely traffic companions soon find themselves in a heated debate over fatherhood, morality and the realities of delivering a baby in a 1974 Winnebago, without air-conditioning.

Spoiled, wealthy urbanites, GARY and JUDY are not pleased with the wait. The blaming game begins as they expertly push each other’s buttons. Always looking for an angle, Gary maneuvers to use the traffic to his benefit. He presses Judy to play with a “Baby Jane” doll he’d purchased in his quest to convince her to have a child. Judy is repulsed by the very thought of the toy but later gives in under specific terms.

Gary and Judy run out of gas waiting for the jam to clear. They continue to argue about anything they can think of all afternoon. However, when looking for a gas station, Gary and Judy, humbled by the day’s events, both offer new perspectives on an old argument. Meeting each other in this foreign place, a forgotten fire is rekindled.

DALE and his children, ROBERT and BRIANNA, are out on visiting day. Although Dale sees his kids infrequently, he is taking them, as usual, to the movies. Dale reassures them that while they will now miss the start of the film they will catch the part they missed.

Stopped near by are MICK and RUBY, a youthful, older couple in a shiny, new car. Mick and Dale meet while surveying the scene outside their cars. An easy friendship emerges as Mick tutors the younger man in matters of relationship and marriage.

Ten-year-old Robert can no longer hold his bladder. Dale takes him into the woods to pee as Ruby watches his daughter back at the traffic jam. Heading back to the car, however, Dale crushes Robert with the news that he is moving across the state. With his son despondent in the back seat, Dale confides in Mick about his conflict between his children and his transfer/promotion. Far from being a sympathetic ear, Mick lays into Dale about neglecting his primary responsibility as a father. As the afternoon wares on, Dale has some big decisions to make.

AMY, JEN and STEPHANIE are on their way to Amy’s wedding. Stressed about missing the day’s last ferry, the women’s friendship begins to fray. Jen has a secret, which Stephanie no longer wants to keep. The wedding cake nestled in the back of the SUV starts to melt as tensions rise. Doubts about the marriage are discussed amongst them and pour out into neighboring stuck motorists, including Josh in the Mustang.

Hours later, completely destroyed by the heat of the day, the decimated cake transforms Amy’s internal meltdown into a physical reality and paves the way for a bridal collision with an ugly truth. As the traffic clears, Amy has only moments to make a decision that will affect the rest of her life.

As each of these stories interweave, JAM captures how the collision of our unchecked needs and desires leads to friendship and self-realization when confronted by the foreign realities of stasis.

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