How Jenifer Westphal Found Herself Producing Sundance's Biggest Hits
When her kids went to college Jenifer Westphal tried producing movies. Her first one? 'Won't You Be My Neighbor.'
It started with the belief that she had a story to tell. Jenifer Westphal and her family were interested in getting into documentary filmmaking to share how they managed, through research and homeschooling, one of their children's autism.
It was something personal, something that mattered, and something they felt could help others. It was this mentality that drove Jenifer to begin to seek out other stories that seemed to matter as well.
Jenifer normally came to Park City to ski. Then one year decided to venture down from the slopes during Sundance and make some connections at Catalyst. She got involved in the projects she believe in. Like Won't You Be My Neighbor?
This year she went to Sundance having founded Wavelength Productions, with four films in tow. The Infiltrators, Where's My Roy Cohn?, Selah and The Spades, and of course Knock Down the House.
Knock Down the House follows a few women in their quest to be elected to Congress. Among them of course is rising political star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The documentary won the Sundance Festival Favorite Award, and was the subject of a bidding war won by Netflix.
Netflix paid a reported 10 million for the international rights to the doc. An unheard of amount for a documentary sold at the festival.
It seems hard to believe how far Westphal has come this quickly after starting, but when you sit down and speak with her it's easier and easier to see how it came together. She's genuinely willing to learn what she doesn't know, and she's guided by principles of taste and morality that lead her and Wavelength to not only important stories, but flat out good ones.
It's scary to think she's just getting started.
For more, see our ongoing list of coverage of the coverage of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.