Jillian DeFrehn spent almost 10 years in Los Angeles becoming a PR guru, working for both NBC and CBS. But now, DeFrehn, a 2004 Emerson College graduate who majored in communication studies, found her passion project. Vampire Academy, a film adapted from the first book in a series of young adult novels, may seem like just another teenage paranormal saga. After all, the film follows a group of students at a school exclusively for vampires. And yes, there is a love triangle. But for DeFrehn, a co-producer on the film, it means a whole lot more.
The Berkeley Beacon: What’s your role with the film Vampire Academy, as the co-producer?
Jillian DeFrehn: My father and I obtained the rights to the film 3 1/2 years ago. The whole process started with us. And we started making calls, seeing who we could get into meetings. And the Hollywood response was, “Oh this is just going to be another vampire movie. Vampires are over.” But we know that vampires are never over. It’s just who has the best twist on the vampire story.
BB: How did you convince the powers that be to help you guys make this film?
DeFrehn: We decided to start a Facebook page and a Twitter account to do some outreach and see where the fans stood — if the fans feel the genre was over. And in 10 days we had 10,000 fans. And it was continuing to grow by the thousands every day. And the fans were not only enthusiastic, they were spreading the message. And they had many questions. And we engaged with them. Also, having prominent producers like Don Murphy [Transformers, Real Steel] sign on and be associated with this series gave us a lot of status. So now everyone said, “Perhaps it’s not just another vampire movie.”
BB: What’s been the most rewarding part of this process?
DeFrehn: To not ruin the story. To not ruin the book or the characters. It’s for the fans to realize that it’s its own movie in its own right but is still their book. The fact that they are now happy and thrilled to see it makes the whole team feel really good. It’s not about me, it’s about the series. We weren’t looking for pats on the back. What we wanted was a good film and that’s what we got.
BB: What advice would you give to other Emerson students who want to become a producer and work in Hollywood?
DeFrehn: Make yourself invaluable, no matter what it is. Never think you are too good. Respect the fact that after 10 years you may still be the newbie in the room.
BB: What’s it like to finally see this movie released in theaters?
DeFrehn: It’s been such a long process. It’s been such a journey. Since it’s my first movie, it’s very surreal. I hope Emerson kids can look past the vampire thing and realize a good story is a good story.