Featuring Jason A. Coombs is long overdue. He is a filmmaker and a contributor to this BAT newsletter, founder/director of the Bridgeport Film Fest, co-producer of Crabby Cabaret, and Chair of the Outreach committee for Greater Bridgeport Pride, hosts a monthly broadcast on WPKN radio, 89.5 and that’s just what he does in Bridgeport! He is a talented, amiable, driven artist from Bridgeport who has a studio at the NEST Arts Factory, actively involved in the Bridgeport arts and works on projects that have a national and international footprint. Recent career highlights include an appearance on Saturday Night Live, in the Holiday-Themed “Big Boy” digital short sketch, which included dancing backup for Pop Star Sza and a featured appearance with Cecily Strong and Keke Palmer.
See the Saturday Night Live sketch https://youtu.be/B9Z5YtWOJBM
Jason also was an Associate Archival Producer for the six-part Netflix docuseries “Harry and Meghan” directed by two time Academy Award nominee Liz Garbus and starred in an independent film shot in NYC last year called Twitterpated, a modern queer adaptation of the Cyrano De Bergerac story. He currently co-hosts the weekly podcast, Survival Jobs: A Podcast which is a collaboration with BroadwayWorld.com and can be found on all podcast apps as well as his own radio show on WPKN, entitled Jay in the City, every first Monday of every month!
Jason is the founder and director of the Bridgeport Film Fest, co-producer of Crabby Cabaret and committee chair for Greater Bridgeport Pride outreach committee.
BAT: Tell us about yourself. You are a Bridgeporter right? Where did you go to school, high school, college?
Jason: I grew up in Bridgeport and attended Park City Magnet, Central Magnet and went to the Regional Center for the Arts with a concentration in musical theatre. Since I was six years old, I knew I wanted to be an actor and was fortunate to have a Mom who supported me, even though she didn’t fully understand the theatre and entertainment industry. Growing up in Bridgeport, I was fortunate to have teachers like Mrs. Patterson, Mrs. May and Ms. Amezquita from PCM who cultivated my love of the arts, storytelling and music by allowing me to write my own stories, and introducing me to Shakespeare, musical theatre and even Alfed Hitchcock!
After I graduated from college and moved to New York City to pursue my career as an actor where I was able to have a paradigm shift and discover that I could turn my love of writing, directing and producing into a career as well. I wasn’t just limited to being a performer, but I could also be someone who creates jobs and work for others in this industry, especially for other Black and Brown and Queer folks. One of my teachers and mentors, Victor Verghaghe, who is an extremely talented working actor, director and writer, encouraged me to share some of my writing with him and reminded me that I had a voice and a point of view worthy of sharing. With his guidance I produced SHAW, my first award winning six episode web series in 2015 currently streaming on SEEKA TV and I haven’t stopped creating since then.
Being an independent filmmaker and writer allowed me to create my own opportunities as a performer and share those opportunities with my tribe of fellow creatives. I no longer had to wait to get a job which eventually led me to transitioning to non-fiction documentary work with “Harry and Meghan” and the upcoming film “Happy Clothes”, about fashion icon Patricia Fields. >
BAT: The Bridgeport Film Fest will produce its 3rd year in September 2023. You are the founder and director of the Bridgeport Film Festival. Congratulations! Tell us about the BFF, why and anything else you want to share.
Jason: -Thank you so much. I always had this dream that by the time I was in my 30s I would be wealthy and influential like Oprah and be able to come back to my hometown and give back to my community and inspire the next generation of Artists. However, I don’t have that Oprah bank account yet, LOL. But the older I get the more I realize one doesn’t have to be Oprah to make a difference. We all know that Bridgeport has a negative reputation in our current media, which is not the Bridgeport I know growing up here. I created the BFF as a way to hopefully inspire people from this community and beyond to change that narrative and tell their own stories through film and other artistic mediums. Most of us are fortunate to have a camera and computer in our pockets thanks to the development of these smartphones. There isn’t much stopping folks to tell their own stories besides access and opportunity, which I hope BFF provides!
BFF submissions for our 2023 are currently open until April 16 and we are seeking short films with a running time of 25 minutes and under, as well as short film screenplays that are 20 pages and under! Our event this year is happening at the Klein Memorial Auditorium from September 8-10! We are currently producing year round programming including both a monthly Movie Trivia Night the 3rd Saturday of the month and a monthly cinema club on the last Sunday of the month!
Check out BridgeportFlmFest.org for more info!
BAT: Recently you hosted the second Crabby Cabaret at the Bijou Theatre. Your energy and ability to keep the show moving was great! Sarah Bierne is the originator, you are a co producer. How did Crabby Cabaret come about? Up to now, all the talented performers are volunteers. Where do you find such talent and how can people get involved?
Jason -I really appreciate the love and support. Believe it or not, I still get nervous on stage, but I try to just use that energy as fuel! Yes, Sarah and I have been good friends and collaborators since our high school days! She was a huge support system with getting the Bridgeport Film Fest off the ground and I remember a few years back she shared the idea of what would eventually become the Crabby Cabaret with me and I loved it and thought it would be a great way to build community and bring more art and culture to Bridgeport. Then last year, I challenged her to really put a proposal together and share it with City Lights/The Bridgeport Art Trail, which she did!
We have so many super talented mutual friends and then reached out into the community on social media and friends of friends for performers to submit audition videos. She was able to curate a lineup of strong musicians and vocalists that fit her theme of an untraditional cabaret. What really resonated with me about her idea for the Crabby Cabaret was that she wanted the songs shared to really be “crabby / sassy / risque” and she wasn’t afraid to work with our musical directors Larry and Laura to update and stylize a collection of songs from multiple genres to work within the theme.
It was interesting, engaging and honestly brave of her to spearhead this project and I was just excited that she allowed me to be a small part of it as a co-producer/assistant director and eventually the host for our recent Valentine’s Day Show! We have plans to produce a new show seasonally and we encourage anyone who is a musician/artist/poet/performer to reach out and submit an audition video because we want to uplift and highlight untapped talent.
BAT: Lastly, you are leading the outreach committee of the Greater Bridgeport Pride for 2023. What are you working on? Please share your vision or thoughts.
Jason-Honestly growing up here in Bridgeport as a Queer Kid, I never believed that Bridgeport would have a Pride Parade, so knowing that Greater Bridgeport Pride has been around for over 13 years and I get to support this initiative for my third year in a row is so exciting. We want to expand our outreach and to be even more inclusive to our LGBTQIA+ community. We are currently seeking volunteers that are in the community as well as allies to help us put together year round program leading up to our 14th year in July.
We are still finalizing our lineup, but we want to have a kick-off Networking Mixer in April as well as queer themed film screenings, queer art exhibits at the Nest Arts Factory and City Lights Gallery, our infamous variety show, another Crabby Cabaret, and an extravagant Pride march and more! We are going to make this year the most inclusive and epic celebration we’ve seen thus far! Stay tuned because the best is yet to come!!!
If you are interested in getting involved in Greater Bridgeport Pride, send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below, Jason is with Greater Bridgeport Pride supporter Dolores Degage Hopkins