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J.A. Steel, Director
J.A. Steel (Jacqyelyn Ruffner)
       Action Film Director & Actress
J.A. Steel in "The Third Society"

Jacquelyn Ruffners 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.  After failing practical filmmaking, and refusing to retake the directing/editing class over, she transferred to Anthropology 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 Jacques natural film sensibilities and promoted her to Vice-President, Development within six month.

In early 1993, Jacque left Sho productions to start her own company, Warrior Entertainment.  The companys 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.  Sashas Wintertales album was released in 1996, just as the Asian Economy was on 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-motorcycle racer turned cop Cody Reynolds and his Asian partner, Michael Li. Codys 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 Codys 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 was changed, and The Third Society was born.

Jacque turned down several offers to buy the script 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.

In real life, Jacque could indeed be Jones.  She races motorcycles, competes in Muay Thai kickboxing, and holds 22 marksmanship awards with various weapons.  Her acting began at age 7 when she appeared in numerous school plays (most of 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 Jacques college years provided the mental toughness for the Jones character.  Jacques can do attitude proves she is a true woman of the millennium to usher in a new realm of womens filmmaking.

Ruffner on a recent Scuba dive
Answer This?
Q & A with J.A. Steel
Film Addiction:Why did you make the decision to shoot The Third Society on 35mm? Did this add to the overall cost of the production?
J.A.Steel: 35mm looks better and it most foreign buyers prefer the 35mm format. Even if a film is shot in video and the film look is added its a very difficult sell. Film isn't that much more expensive than video.  We shot on short ends, film that is left over from the bigger Hollywood productions. It's very cost effective, but a bit more risky. Film that has been loaded and unloaded from a magazine and reused has more of a chance of having damage to the negative from mis-handling. I actually saved money by shooting in 35mm. Where I made my error was in cutting the negative and going through the expense of having silent answer prints made and then the low-con prints to telecine.

FA: One of the strong points, I felt, of The Third Society are the gun shooting sequences. What effects did you utilize in order to achieve the gun shots and sounds?

JAS:Without knowing which specific sequence youre talking about, we simply using a variable speed motor to shoot at frames faster than 24 frames per second, which is the normal camera speed. By shooting more frames per second, the film actually appears to move slower. There are no effects in the film per se as one thinks of effects, simply manipulating the medium.  The only true effect is a white dissolve at the end during the death sequence at the end.  We manipulated the light valve on the 35mm optical printer, so it really wasn't an effect.

  The bullet effects during the title sequence were simply circles animated to look like bullet effects.  We shot it with a special animation camera when we did the title sequence. The sounds were added after using an effects library.



FA: As I watched The Third Society, I did not understand a lot of the solitary martial arts movements. After reading the press info. you sent, I now understand those movements are much a part of the martial arts you study. Can you tell me a bit about them? What style of martial arts is this?


JAS:I've studied a martial art called Muay Thai. There is a dance that is performed before each fight called the Ram Muay. Muay Thai is the national sport of Thailand. It is kickboxing, using a combination of knees, elbows, and leg kicks. The movements are performed before the fight to pay homage to ones teacher, parents and god.


FA: I must ask, and please do not be offended by this:There are several shower scenes in the movie, why no frontal nudity?

 JAS: No offense taken. I think I have a cute butt. My breasts aren't exactly the most ample so there wasn't anyway in heaven I was going to show anything other than my butt. We were going to have full frontal in the strip club but my dancer a real life exotic dancer refused.


FA: I read that during the shooting of The Third Society that you ran into some real headaches. Do you care to expand on that subject (as sore as it might seem)?


JAS:Lemme see, I had an investor stiff me for $100k CASH. I had to fire my first director for the trailer for taking liberties with the footage and deviating from the script, the storyboards, and the shot list. I had to ante up and be the director even though I never set out to direct. We couldn't find an actress to replace me to play Jones we had no money so I had to do it myself.  A couple people forgot to get the proper permits (and yes, my people did get paid, not much, but they did get paid). So, I missed out on filming about 20 pages integral to the story. Jones whole backstory (why she keeps ending up in the shower) didnt get filmed. Needless to say I was furious.


Then it was everything that could go wrong in post did. I won't go into details but THE THIRD SOCIETY has been a challenge every step of the way. I found most people just do what they can to get paid they do what just looks good on the surface and to heck with whether something is right or not.


Most people dis-associated themselves after THIRD SOCIETY because in their opinion its not very good. So, I had a lot of actors and actresses refuse interviews and one even walked out of a photo shoot. The only one who has really stuck it through has been Benny Tjandra he played one of the bad guys. But, he had fun and realized it was an accomplishment that we even finished the film. Now that Ive gotten quite a bit of press for the fact that THIRD SOCIETY is truly independent and is truly a film, a lot of people suddenly want to keep in touch again. Thats been my most major headache every person had different motives in making THIRD SOCIETY but it wasnt to make a film. Everyone had their hands in my pockets


FA: How did the experience of shooting The Third Society affect how you are going to shoot your next project? Are there mistakes you learned from?


JAS: We're going to attempt to shoot a DV movie called Black Tide. It's a low budget horror flick, and I mean low budget. I'm going to experiment more with different angles with DV the amount of footage one can shoot is almost limitless in terms of price.


I've made a bunch of mistakes mostly who I can and cant trust. I have a pretty close team assembled, so Ill move forward with them. I also know I have to watch over everything myself. After having been involved in every aspect of production, I can anticipate problems before they become catastrophic. Ive been in the entertainment industry since I've been 18, so one learns by doing.


We've even brought sales in-house. We save the 20% plus that we would be charged by a sales agent and can put it toward our bottom line. Artwork is in house as well.

Steele on "The Third Society" photo shoot

FA: Tell me a little about the stunt work in The Third Society (especially some of the motorcycle stunts). Who was the stunt coordinator?

JAS:I was the overall co-ordinator. However, according to the Union, I had to have a Union stunt co-ordinator on set. I'm not union. So, I used a couple different ones. It's also hard to wear so many hats and worry about the safety of your crew. We had so many different elements during the airport scene that I used a lot of experienced stunt people. The titles were pretty arbitrary. I learned the most from Tim Trella.  Some of the motorcycle stunts I did myself and in some I had a stunt double Brent Avis.  Brent did all of the stuff with the jet. I did the gate sequence and I second-unit directed that one, the helicopter stuff. We had two units going at the same time so we had stunt people for each unit. Since we only had one Honda CBR600, when one crew was resetting Brent and I would shuttle the bike back and forth.

       There was supposed to have been a longer fight sequence at the strip-club. But, I ended up having Jones shoot everyone to save time. A lot of falls and stuff I did myself I wish I would have had a double.


FA:Will you end up profiting from The Third Society? Will it be distributed?

JAS:Were currently self-distributing. I've had some offers to buy the film, but according to the Union the sale price wasnt enough. So our only alternative, instead of getting paid and having someone else absorb the expense of distribution, we had to SPEND money to actually manufacture the DVD discs. The film is available at

        Profit? HmmmMy investors in a couple years will probably break even. I wont get my money back, but Ill perhaps profit in other ways other directing or acting jobs (I hope).

      The first film is always the hardest. I'm lucky it's even out and available on DVD. Maybe luck isn't the right word, perserverance. That's why we started in 1999 and just in October of 2003 it came out on DVD. I've profited in other ways but not monetarily.


FA:Obviously you will screening at Bare Bones Film Festival, what other fests is the film enteredin?

JAS:The Bare Bones Film Festival will be my last Festival with THE THIRD SOCIETY. Our first screening was at the Urban Media Makers festival in Atlanta and at the B-Movie awards in New York in 2002. It was from VHS Screener copies and I didn't attend the festivals. I couldn't afford it I was still trying to get the movie to a point where I could put it on DVD. Authoring a full length feature on DVD-5 isnt cheap. I got nominated for Best Action Sequence at the B-Movie awards, so I was bummed I couldn't go. At the Bare Bones film fest I'm nominated for Auteur of the Year. THE THIRD SOCIETY is done so now my job is topromote it. I'll definitely be at Bare Bones.


FA: This is more of a suggestion than a question. Have you thought of having a booth at film festivals where men pay to get their asses kicked by you (LOL)? I think you could profit from the fetish market; men who like to get the butts kicked by beautiful women (again, LOL)?

 JAS: Hmmmm.sounds like fun,maybe I should do fetish films  (wink. wink.) (LOL) .   Seriously, I think there is something to be said for the female action market.

Although, I currently look like Demi Moore in GI Jane, not quite as hot as I was in THIRD SOCIETY. I took an Intro to Cave diving course in Mexico and spent 4 days in the water. I thrashed my hair in addition to all the dying and bleaching, 6+ hours a day in the water, just matted it. Got tired of spending an hour a day in the shower

trying to untangle it. So, zip, zop, zip but it will grow back .Or, I could just wear a wig.


FA:Last Question (I promise): Will copies of your film be available at Bare Bones? Will you be in town for the fest?

  JAS:  I'll have copies of the CD and DVD with me and a sharpie should anyone want an autographed copy. Copies are available at And, if anyone has any additional questions go to and send an e-mail.

       I'll be introducing THE THIRD SOCIETY screening at the Roxy Theatre at 7:45 PM on Friday April 23rd. On Saturday, I'm leading a Women in Filmmaking discussion and on a panel discussing Music for Film. Sunday, I hope to be Scuba diving in Lake Tenkiller. It'll be fun. I'm looking forward to my first trip to Oklahoma.

       Aw, last question? I do like questions J. And I thank you for the opportunity to talk to your readers!!!! 

A Closer Look:
The Third Society
THIRD SOCIETY is the story of a female cop, JONES, who has 24 hours to save her sister from the Asian Mafia. It is the first time in Hollywood
History that a woman has held all major jobs on a feature.