JAY RUSSELL (director)
was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. From an early age, he developed a strong
interest in both music and film.
At nineteen, Russell
directed a series of commercials for the Arkansas Parks and Tourism division,
where his boss was Governor Bill Clinton. At the same time, he was winning
Regional Honors as a musician.
He accepted a full
music scholarship to attend Memphis University where he received a Bachelor of
Arts. While there, he studied in the Grammy Award-winning Blues Preservation
department. However, it was during this time that his attention to film took
Russell was accepted
into the Film School of Columbia University where he received a Master of Fine
Arts Degree. While at Columbia, under the direction of co-chairmen Milos Forman
and the late Frank Daniel, Russell won filmmaking grants from the Academy of
Motion Picture Arts and Science as well as the Louis B. Mayer Foundation.
He was invited to
attend the Sundance Institute Film Workshop, headed by Robert Redford, to
develop his project "End of the Line." The well-reviewed independent
film starring Wilford Brimley, Mary Steenburgen and Kevin Bacon was directed by
Russell and was released theatrically by Orion Classics in 1998.
After the release of
"End of the Line," Russell developed projects for Imagine
Entertainment and TnStar Pictures. Subsequently, Russell pursued another passion
— documentaries. He worked as a producer and director for the critically
lauded Discovery Channel series, "Amazing America," as well as
documentary series and specials for NBC, CBS, Learning Channel, USA Network and
In 1996, Russell was
asked to write, produce and direct the five-hour miniseries "Great
Drives" for PBS on famous highways of America. His installments as a
director, "Highway 61, Revisited" with Rock'n'Roll Hall of Famer
Levon Helm, and "Highway 93, The Killer Road," hosted by OscarÂ®
nominated actor Graham Greene, premiered nationally in 1997.
It was while filming
"Great Drives" that Jay first met the late, award-winning author
Willie Morris who told him he was working on a book about his childhood and dog
titled My Dog Skip.
Russell stayed in
regular contact with Morris and got the film rights to the book. In 2000, he
directed and executive produced the critically acclaimed hit family film
"My Dog Skip," based on Morris' best-selling memoir about his
recollections of his first and favorite dog. The Warner Bros. film starred Kevin
Bacon, Frankie Muniz, Luke Wilson and Diane Lane and was produced by John Lee
Hancock and Academy AwardÂ®-winner Mark Johnson. "My Dog Skip" has
received numerous awards, including the 2001 Broadcast Film Critics Award as
Best Family Film.
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