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Jan Millsapps, Ph.D. (born 26 February 1950 in Concord, North Carolina) is a pioneering digital filmmaker, an early web innovator, fiction writer and Professor in the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University. She has produced films, videos and interactive cinema on subjects ranging from domestic violence to global terrorism, and has published in traditional print and online venues.
Late in 2013 she was named to the select group of 1058 Mars One astronaut candidates (chosen from more than 202,000 applicants) who are embarking upon two years of rigorous testing to determine which ones will be among the first humans to colonize Mars, beginning in 2025.
Throughout her long and distinguished career, she has focused primarily on women's issues. Her high profile Episodes project, co-produced in 1995 with La Casa de ls Madres and funded by the Creative Work Fund, featured a virtual house in which women shared true stories of surviving domestic violence. The interactive kiosk was installed at San Francisco City Hall, the San Francisco Public Library, at several Bay Area Kaiser Permanente medical centers, and was also presented at the National Latino Health Conference in Washington, D.C. Her multimedia installation Coverage, a feminist response to 9-11 and its aftermath, was the featured installation at the 2002 Mill Valley Film Festival.
In 2007 she published her first novel Screwed Pooch, about the Soviet space dog Laika. Her newest novel, Venus on Mars, to be published by Jaded Ibis Press in 2014,. weaves the stories of three generations of women, each with a personal connection to the planet Mars, into a multi-layered saga examining our ongoing fascination with the red planet. Her seminal essay on Women and Mars will be published in The Encyclopedia of Mars in 2014.
She rose to prominence as an independent experimental animator, as head of the media arts film program at the University of South Carolina, and as an integral member of the Southern independent film movement. Her early animations won awards at the North Carolina Film Festival, Atlanta’s Reel Images, the Sinking Creek Film Celebration in Nashville and the Athens Film and Video Festival in Ohio.
Her 1983 film True Romance received a first place award in the Ann Arbor Film Festival and was the first film to be included in the South Carolina State Art Collection. Her 1991 film “Maternal Life” won the experimental narrative award at Ann Arbor. Her work as an animator is cited in the book Experimental Animation.
She worked closely with the South Carolina Arts Commission; she curated and toured with the 1982 collection, Travel Films from the Southern Avant-Garde, the first Southern experimental film program to tour outside the South. In 1985 she scripted, co-produced and hosted “A Southern Film Experience,” a public television program commissioned by the South Carolina Arts Commission and South Carolina Educational Television.
Digital Cinema and Multimedia Work
Professor of cinema at San Francisco State University since 1987, she created and taught the first course to study and create films made specifically for the internet, "Cinema as an Online Medium" class and founded a unique Interdisciplinary Digital Arts program; currently she teaches courses in digital cinema, interactive cinema, web cinema and short format screenwriting. She was profiled as an outstanding California educator in the 1998 television series Quest for Excellence. In 2004 she was named an Apple Distinguished Educator.
From 1991 to 1995 she served as Chair of the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University from 1991 to 1995, when she supervised the department’s move into a new state-of-the-art facility and introduced the first digital tools and courses into the curriculum.
In 1991 she was invited by Dean August Coppola to work with a beta version of Apple’s QuickTime technology. Her resulting first interactive work Cineplay, co-produced with K.D. Davis and featured at the National Educational Film and Video Festival, began her transformation into a multimedia artist.
Pleasure Island, a live web performance co-produced in 1999 with Randall Packer, was presented at USC’s Interactive Frictions conference on new media theory and practice. Her early web work was cited in a 1995 book, Film and Video on the Internet: The Top 500 Sites, and in the Journal of the Writer's Guild of America.
Millsapps has published writing in a variety of formats. Her scholarly, political and personal essays have appeared in the journal Film Literature Quarterly, in the book International Film, Television and Radio Journals, in the San Francisco Chronicle, in the San Francisco Examiner, on the New York Times wire service, and in the inaugural issue of Sinister Wisdom.
Her short story, “The Way It Was,” was a 1986 award winner in the South Carolina Fiction Project. She has been a featured blogger on the Apple Learning Interchange and a contributing editor for the online, rich media journal, Academic Intersections.
She was invited to present her innovative ideas on writing and reading at the 2013 "Futures of the Book" event, sponsored by Transmedia SF and Swissnex.
She earned her B.A. with honors at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, her M.A. at Winthrop University, and her Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina. She is also certified as a cosmologist and as a water fitness instructor.
She lives in San Francisco with her husband, music and media producer Phill Sawyer.
Selected Filmography/Multimedia Work
- Parthenogenesis, 1st place award in animation, North Carolina Film Festival, 1976
- Folly Beach Journal, Award, Ann Arbor Film Festival, 1982
- True Romance, 1st Prize, Ann Arbor Film Festival, S.C. State Art Collection, 1983
- A Southern Film Experience, S.C. Arts Commission and S.C. Educational Television, 1985
- Maternal Life, experimental narrative award, Ann Arbor Film Festival, 1991
- Cineplay, featured installation, National Educational Film and Video Festival, 1993
- Episodes, multimedia installation, with La Casa de las Madres, San Francisco City Hall, San Francisco Public Library, Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers in Bay Area, National Latino Health Conference, 1997
- Pleasure Island, live web performance at USC's "Interactive Friction” conference, Mill Valley Film Festival, 1999
- Coverage, featured installation, Mill Valley Film Festival, 2002
- Maya Deren, Imagist, feature article, Literature/Film Quarterly, Vol. XIV, 1986
- Close-Up, review, Film, Radio and Television Journals, 1985
- The Way it Was, short story, South Carolina Fiction Award, The State Magazine, 1986
- Hail to the Bubba in Chief, op-ed essay, San Francisco Examiner, 1993
- Al Gore: Oh What a Good Boy is He, op-ed essay, San Francisco Chronicle, September 3, 2000
- Take a Letter, Take a Look, feature article, The Lowell Observer, Fall 2008
- Screwed Pooch, historical novel, 2007
- "Battered women tell tales on filmmaker's CD-ROM". Sfgate.com. 1997-03-25. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- "Lead Artists". Creative Work Fund. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- "Professor's media installation opens at Mill Valley Film Festival". Sfsu.edu. 2002-10-08. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- "New Novel Tackles Story of the Soviet Space Program and 'Laika,' the Dog Who Was the First Space Traveler | Cinema Department - San Francisco State University". Cinema.sfsu.edu. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- "A History of Animation Timeline (1980-1989)". Digitalarts.bgsu.edu. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- "The South Carolina Arts Commission | The State Art Collection". Southcarolinaarts.com. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- "Jan Millsapps | Cinema Department - San Francisco State University". Cinema.sfsu.edu. 2000-09-03. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- "Students mix Web and cinema - SF State News - San Francisco State University". Sfsu.edu. 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2011-11-06.
- "Interactive Frictions: Conference Displays". Dornsife.usc.edu. 1991-08-06. Retrieved 2011-11-06.