Philadelphia Eagles fans are definitely known for being passionate. The new film Maybe Next Year—released by Wavelength Productions at the 2019 Philadelphia Film Festival—is about these fans, and it paints a more nuanced picture of these Philadelphians. According to Jenifer Westphal, founder and executive producer at Wavelength, the film is an exploration of what “makes [Eagles fans] tick” during football season—specifically that of the 2018 Super Bowl win. Westphal, an Eagles supporter herself, acknowledges the terrible characterization of the fans—and yet she is staunchly opposed to the image. “Everybody in Philly, you know, bleeds green.” This devotion to not only the Eagles, but to Philadelphia, is something Westphal feels proud of—and it is the very essence of the film.
Meaningful character exploration isn’t exclusive to Maybe Next Year—it's the common denominator in all of Wavelength’s films. Westphal describes her role of executive producer as “believing in a great story and finding great people to [film] it with.” Prior to founding the company, Westphal worked as the “executive producer of her children’s lives,” which she contends fostered many of the skills necessary for her current position. She believes that filmmaking is an art that revolves around the people involved, whether that be the producers, directors, or real–life people being showcased—they all help to create stories. Westphal wants to ensure that creatives are given the chance to unwaveringly tell the stories that they hold close.
It is this kind of down–to–earth charm that makes Westphal—and Wavelength—stand apart from the rest of the industry. Westphal attests that they are dedicated to supporting films that show audiences something unique. Their filming process is organic, and they let stories unfold naturally rather than orchestrating scenarios.
Over the last four years, Wavelength has been involved in over 50 projects, including the sweet Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the resolute Knock Down the House, and the upcoming Unschooled, a feature about the North Philly public school system. A combination of vulnerability and quality filmmaking is rare to come across in the film industry today, and Wavelength is searching for this perfect formula through careful curation of the titles they represent, finance, and/or produce.
Wavelength’s employment choices stand out as well—currently, their staff consists of 90% women, a decision which Westphal says was partially due to happenstance, and partially her conscious intention.
She says that she was mainly connected with women in the homeschooling communities she was a part of while raising her children. It was only natural that she hired the talented women around her to start her company. "The first couple hires really were just [women because] they were the best qualified candidates for the job,” she says. Now, as Wavelength has grown, they have made it a point to deliberately seek out women, especially women of color.
“We want to give this particular group of women a chance, because a lot of times…they don’t even get a chance,” Westphal says. In addition, Wavelength gives a $5000 grant called “Women on the Very Edge” to a “a first–time woman–of–color filmmaker.”
Westphal, as she approaches 60, hopes to challenge the ideas that people hold about breaking into the film industry—if she can do it, why can’t any other woman or aspiring creative?
“I think that I’m enjoying a wave ... that is really important for women today. So I feel really proud of the fact that we are sort of on that leading edge of what, women especially, at retirement age, can [accomplish].”
Wavelength strives to be a hub for people looking to take their passion projects further than their computer screens, passionate creators yearning to become part of the industry, and women like Westphal who are looking to support filmmaking. Maybe Next Year will show one last time in Philadelphia on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 9:30 p.m at Landmark’s Ritz East. If you want to see Wavelength’s artistry in action—or if you just love the Eagles—be there.