Jeff Baena is an American screenwriter and director. Born in Florida, Jeff was inspired by movies and the art of cinema at a young age as he grew up watching local art films. He decided that he wanted to pursue a career in films and studied film direction at the NYU Film School. Upon graduating, he moved to Los Angeles to actively pursue any opportunities and met his future collaborate Robert Zemeckis, an Oscar-winning director. After applying to work with him, he started assisting Zemeckis as a production assistant in his films. However, fate had different plans for Baena. After meeting with a freak accident that required prolonged periods of rest, Baena started conversing with Zemeckis about the plot and added improvements. He realized he had a passion for screenwriting as well and became the co-writer for the comedy ‘I Heart Huckabees’. He chiefly focused on screenwriting since then and went on to release three movies he wrote and directed: ‘Life after Beth’, ‘Joshy’, and ‘The Little Hours’. While none of these movies earned a blockbuster status, Baena’s unique storytelling has been commended by various film reviewers. He currently lives in California and keeps himself busy by ideating over new scripts.
Jeff knew he wanted to work in film and direction at the start of his career. After graduating from film school from NYU, he moved to Los Angeles to establish a solid start. In the beginning, he worked with the award-winning director Robert Zemeckis as his production assistant. Under his guidance, Baena learnt the basics of filmmaking and assisted in several of his mentor’s films. However, he was involved in an accident that resulted in a severe eye injury within two years of working with Zemeckis and decided to switch to screenwriting. He found his inspiration in drawing ideas and discussing the plotline with Zemeckis during his recovery from injury. In the end, he became the co-writer of the film ‘I Heart Huckabees’ in 2004. The movie was directed by David O. Russell and starred the likes of Jason Schwartzman, Isabelle Huppert, Dustin Hoffman, Jude Law, and Naomi Watts. It was a critical success and was praised for its unique story by many reviewers.
Despite the success of this film, Baena was not active for almost a decade as he immersed himself in coming up with an original script that could become his directorial debut. His dream came true after ten years when ‘Life after Beth’ was released in 2014. The comedy-horror starred Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, and Anna Kendrick and was released at the Sundance Film Festival. While the movie did gain enough traction to be noticed by reviewers, it was not received positively and was considered to be a flop. Prior to directing this movie, Baena had appeared as a guest actor in the Mark Webber movie ‘The End of Love’ in 2012. He made his second appearance as an actor with another minor role in ‘Digging for Fire’ in 2015. In 2016, Baena wrote and directed the comedy ‘Joshy’. While the movie was slated to be released earlier, Adam Pally’s health delayed the release of the movie. It was finally premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 24, 2016 and was later acquired by Hulu for distribution rights to the film. Despite the strong plot and improvisational acting, the movie did not fare well commercially.
His latest venture is the raunchy comedy ‘The Little Hours’ released in 2017. ‘The Little Hours’ is a medieval comedy that revolves around a nun in 14th century Italy and is loosely based on Boccaccio’s ‘The Decameron’. It starred a host of comedy actors like Dave Franco, Molly Shannon, and John Reilly as well as established actors like Alison Brie and Aubrey Plaza. It was eagerly talked about in the media owing to its funny story. While it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, it was released to the public only in June 2017. Despite a low budget, the film performed adequately at the box office. Many critics praised the performances by the lead actors and appreciated the refreshing plot. Overall, it was well received and continues to find an appreciative audience today. While Jeff has not announced any upcoming projects yet, he has hinted at his interested in working on challenging films and continues to look for new ideas and scripts.
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Family & Personal Life
Jeff Baena was born on June 29, 1977 in Miami, Florida in a Jewish family. He is currently in a relationship with the actress and comedian, Audrey Plaza, since 2011. Though the media speculated that the duo had separated in 2018 after Plaza was seen with Justin Theroux, they put an end to these speculations by being spotted together at various events. In his spare time, Jeff loves playing tennis and is a member of The Interstate 5 Tennis Association. He also loves hosting people at home and enjoys playing games such as Settlers of Catan and Battlestar Galactica. Audrey, in an interview, admits to their dorkish tastes and low-key personalities.
His favorite films as a child were ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘8 ½’. The two movies, which his father deemed ‘weird’, inspired Baena to learn about filmmaking.