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LADDER 49

JAY RUSSEL was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and by age 19 was directing 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 honors as a musician. Russell then accepted a full music scholarship to attend Memphis University, where he studied in the Grammy Award-winning Blues Preservation department. However, it was during this time that his love of film began to take over.

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 Sciences as well as the Louis B. Mayer Foundation. He was then invited to attend the Sundance Institute Film Workshop to develop his project "End of the Line,” which became a critically admired feature film starring Wilford Brimley, Mary Steenburgen and Kevin Bacon.

Russell went on to develop projects for Imagine Entertainment and TriStar Pictures and also began to pursue a new 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 others. In 1996, Russell was asked to write, produce and direct the fivehour miniseries "Great Drives” for PBS, a series on famous highways of America. It was while filming "Great Drives” that Russell first met the late awardwinning author Willie Morris who told him he was working on a book about his childhood and favorite dog entitled "My Dog Skip.”

In 2000, Russell directed and executive produced the critically acclaimed hit family film, "My Dog Skip,” based on Morris' best-selling memoirs and starring Kevin Bacon, Frankie Muniz, Luke Wilson and Diane Lane. "My Dog Skip” has received numerous awards, including the 2001 Broadcast Film Critics Award as Best Family Film.

Russell's most recent feature was the highly acclaimed "Tuck Everlasting,” based on the magical, award-winning book by Natalie Babbitt, and starring Academy Award®-winners Sir Ben Kingsley, Sissy Spacek and William Hurt.

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