Windermere actress Jan Taylor Hendricks’ credits include appearances on “From the Earth to the Moon,” “Matlock,” “Swamp Thing,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Moon Over Miami.”
But most recently, she premiered her own contribution to the silver screen — “Julie’s Secret.”
About 200 attended the premiere, held Nov. 2, at the Orlando Science Center. The film, which she co-produced with Devin Collins, also stars Hendricks in the lead role.
“Julie’s Secret” is a dark comedy movie filmed in the heart of Central Florida. The film follows the story of Julie and her many secrets that begin to unfold when her husband and daughter leave her alone for a few days to attend a college open house.
The film was produced in less than a year with a limited crew and budget.
“It’s funny, because the project evolved, and if you really analyze it, it’s about family,” Hendricks said. “It’s about what you’re willing to do to save your family. I hope people take that away from the film and they just have fun with it. It’s entertainment, and if they can forget whatever’s going on right now and set aside everything for that period of time, that’s thrilling. That’s what it’s all about. It’s escapism, and it’s pure fun.”
Originally from Canada, Hendricks moved in 1991 to Orlando and has resided in Windermere with her three rescue cats for about six years.
She fell in love with acting at a young age.
“I remember going to the theater to see movies when I was a kid, and it was so amazing with the music, the big screen and the lights dimming; it was just mesmerizing,” she said. “I started off in the business as an extra, and when the director told us we could take breaks because they were doing close-ups of principals, I would never leave the set. I watched what was going on and learned from the experience.
“Growing up, I was painfully shy, but even performing in skits in school, it was as though I was a completely different person who wasn’t shy anymore,” she said. “It’s like bringing something on paper to life and giving that character soul. It’s a wonderful feeling, and I love being able to reach people.”
In addition to acting, Hendricks has written several scripts, as well as her book “Rosedale,” available on Amazon, which she released as JT Hendricks in 2020.
The idea for “Julie’s Secret” began when Collins, who had been editor on one of Hendricks’ scripts, contacted her because he was interested in starting a series, and one of the characters reminded him of her.
“We started talking, and we decided … (that I should) write a script, sort of like a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode, a little tongue-in-cheek, and let’s see where it goes and let’s do it, but let’s do it the right way,” she said. “I wrote the script, and we cast it, and we thought, ‘Why not? Let’s just film it.’”
Collins, 27, is an up-and-coming Floridian filmmaker with a passion for directing and cinematography.
“This film was the perfect opportunity to combine our skills and knowledge to make something that we could both be proud of,” he said. “It all boiled down to the script. Without a good script and an interesting concept, there is no point in making a film — even if you have millions of dollars readily available. Reading the script, it was a no-brainer that this was going to be a story that would not only be interesting to make but hopefully have something to it that a wide audience could sit back and enjoy with fun and laughter.”
Collins learned the basics of TV production at Leesburg High School from his teacher Michael Ligler.
“Without him, I would not be the filmmaker that I am today,” he said. “He taught us how to do more with less, how to maintain an eye for details and how to problem solve when faced with impossible odds working against you. ‘Julie’s Secret’ would not have been made without the knowledge that he instilled.”
Hendricks and Collins knew they wanted to create a film that was fun, a rollercoaster, captured people’s attention and also touched the audience in a special way.
With this film, Hendricks said the challenge was making sure the audience supported Julie throughout the entire film — regardless of what was going on.
In addition to Julie, the producers had about six or seven main characters to cast, as well as extras.
Other notable stars in the film include John (Dominick Vicchiullo); and Sarah (Chloe Irving).
“We had to find people (who) were willing to work on this and be believable as the character,” Hendricks said. “I think at the end of the day, we ended up coming up with actors that really suited the characters they played. The core family — Julie, John and Sarah — as three actors, we bonded incredibly quickly. We felt like a real family. That typically doesn’t happen and certainly not that fast, but we did.”
Hendricks and Collins did not have a lot of time or money to film the piece but still wanted every detail to be just right.
“As an indie filmmaker, it’s far more valuable to be a jack-of-all-trades, instead of focusing on a single niche,” Collins said. “When making an independent film, you rarely have the luxury of having a small army of talented individuals who can handle each job on set for you. Most of the time, you have minimal resources available to you. Therefore, you and your mostly cast and crew are forced to have to wear multiple hats in order to get the results you are looking for.”
Finding locations to shoot at was one of the biggest hurdles to overcome.
Scenes in the film are shot all across Orlando. For example, the marsh and woods shots were in Leesburg, the family’s home was in Ocoee and the hardware store was in Orlando.
Hendricks said she and Collins developed an inside joke relating to the “Jaws” movie. When the movie was shooting, the mechanical shark that was used wasn’t working well, so the producers had to get creative.
When a bump with “Julie’s Secret” came up, they would forewarn the other by saying, “The shark stopped working again.”
“We knew we would have to think of something when ‘the shark stopped working,’ so we would work around it, and ultimately I think all of those things we had to do, the challenges that we had, made the whole thing better than it would have been had we not had those challenges,” Hendricks said.
Now with the film complete, Hendricks and Collins are searching for methods to distribute the film. Streaming services such as Netflix are difficult, because the only way to be considered is through a third party that already has an affiliation with the company.
“I’m hoping that if people see what we managed to accomplish and the quality that we managed to accomplish with basically nothing, that they’ll understand what we can produce with the appropriate resources,” Hendricks said.
“I hope people laugh and have a good time watching it,” Collins said. “It’s truly all we could ask for. After all, the whole purpose of cinema from its inception has been to take people out of their regular lives for a brief moment and entertain them. ... It’s the perfect film for the holiday season that families can sit back and enjoy. It’s a crazy ride from start to finish — showing one woman’s trip to hell and back. If people walk away from our film with a smile on their face, then we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.”
Hendricks and Collins have plans to start producing more and hope to turn “Rosedale” into a movie with the help of an investor.
Those who may be able to help with distribution of “Julie’s Secret,” or who may be interested in providing support or investment for upcoming productions, should email [email protected].
News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.