She's an award-winning Tennessee Tech University chemistry professor by day — but in her spare time, Barbara Jackson may be on her way to becoming the next Steven Spielberg.
That's because she's also an award-winning screenwriter and director. Her very first production — a short morality tale titled Heavenly — won an award at the prestigious 35th Annual WorldFest Houston International Film Festival in April.
"At one of the earlier WorldFest Festivals, Steven Spielberg won his first award for a short film titled Amblin', which he later used as the name of his professional company," Jackson said.
Because of the many recent advances in production technology since Spielberg's first win, however, WorldFest and other such film festivals have become even more competitive.
Jackson quoted WorldFest founder Hunter Todd who said, for example, that "if Amblin' had been submitted today, it wouldn't have made the festival because the quality of films have increased so much in recent years."
More than 1,400 shorts were submitted from around the globe for this year's WorldFest, and only 136 of those films and videos were shown at the festival. Out of that number, only about 40 — including Heavenly — won awards.
Although it's the first of Jackson's scripts to actually be put to film, it isn't the first of her works to win an award.
She's been crafting screenplays for years, and she has penned a total of 13 full-length scripts — which include just about every genre from romantic comedy and animation to drama and murder mystery — a television pilot and a script for another short film. Nine of those works have placed in national or international contests.
Jackson says she attributes her success as a screenwriter and now as a director, in part, to her ability to think in pictures.
"I think in pictures, which is how this writing can work. I just see a story — it's effortless, and it's a gift," she said.
"Writing, for me, is like going into a field and picking apples from the tree instead of having to grow the tree itself," Jackson continued.
She is currently in the post-production phase of her second short film, titled My Son, My Son, a relationship drama which incorporates the experimental use of color.
Her next planned project is a sitcom pilot titled The Hatfields and McCoys.