- Posted August 26, 2009 by
West Hollywood, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
DENIZEN: Special Access - JA Steel
JACQUELYN A. RUFFNER AKA J.A. STEEL is Breakthrough Woman in the Entertainment Industry. One of the first female action film directors, Jacque is also a producer, writer, editor, actor and stunt person, breaking through barriers in each role. Jacque lives in Utah, and does most of her writing & editing. and much of her filming, in a state where many hold traditional/conservative views about the role of women.
Jacque's career began at the age of 18 when she began managing bands and promoting rock shows, during the time she was attending the prestigious USC Film School on a partial scholarship, and graduated from USC in 1992 with a Degree in Social Science and Communications. Shortly after graduating, she accepted a job as a production assistant for martial arts action star Sho Kosugi (REVENGE OF THE NINJA, BLACK EAGLE) Sho immediately recognized Jacque's natural film sensibilities and promoted her to Vice-President Development within six months.
In early 1993, Jacque left Sho Productions to start her own company, Warrior Entertainment. The company's main focus was on music management and in 1995, Jacque negotiated the first contract ever between an American Artist, SASHA ALEXEEV, and Chinese Record Company, ROCK RECORDS. Sasha's WINTERTALES album was released in 1996, just as the Asian economy was on the verge of collapse. Record sales were slow and Jacque decided to no longer be involved with music or the entertainment industry.
During her two-year hiatus, Jacque traveled extensively in Asia and even lived for a brief time in Singapore. Upon her return to the United States, she re-entered the entertainment industry and began planning her first feature from a screenplay that she had written in 1996. The screenplay, entitled TRIAD, was about an ex-motocycle racer turned cop Cody Reynolds and his Asian partner, Michael Li. Cody's love interest in the film was a vice-detective by the name of Sanchez.
Jacque sent out the script, but development executives claimed it was "too ethnic." Sanchez became Jones. The executives were still not satisfied and wanted even more changes. In protest, Jacque got rid of Cody's character completely and changed the LAPD police captain from the 50-year-old male stereotype to an African-American woman. Jones then became the main character, the film title changed; and THE THIRD SOCIETY was born.
Jacque turned down several offers to buy the script, as everyone wanted to take away the ethnic diversity present in the film and replace Jones with a male lead. Fighting for her script, Jacque reached into her own pockets and financed about 85% of the film. Jacque found herself both in front of and behind the camera writing, directing, producing, editing and starring in the film. Her decision to "do it all" was due to a lack of others in those positions who shared her vision. She adopted the name JA Steel to direct, write and edit under. The "Jones" character in the final cut of THE THIRD SOCIETY went uncredited, as Jacque never originally intended to play the "Jones" character. Steel made history by being one of the first female directors who has written a nude scene for herself, as Jones spent a lot of time in the shower to wash away the grime from the fight scenes.
In real life, Jacque could indeed be Jones. She races motorcycles, skydives, handles swords, competes in Muay Thai kickboxing, is a master scuba diver, and holds 22 marksmanship awards with various weapons. Her acting began at age 7 when she appeared in numerous school plays (most which she had written) and continued until she received a scholarship of a summer theatre program at the age of 14. During the program, she explored the depths of her writing talents further and decided to dedicate her time to writing. Two years in Army ROTC during Jacque's college years provided the mental toughness for the Jones character.
Jacque went on to write, produce, direct, star and edit two more action feature films, SALVATION in 2007 and DENIZEN coming in 2010. She is indeed a Breakthrough Woman!