Meet the Director

I guess you could call me a homebody. I live and work a stone’s throw from Dreher High School, My Alma Mata where I was proud to serve as Student Body President. My roommates are a Snow White Hungarian Golden Retriever named Casper, a black cat named Spooky Spook and a fourth-generation family of raccoons in my backyard that eat out of my hand.

After High School, I attended Clemson University like my Father and Grandfather before me. There, I joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon S.A.E. (a/k/a sleep and eat) and was President for 2 years. I also served on the Speaker’s Bureau and got to recruit folks like Leonard Nemoy, Red Foxx, James Taylor, The Widow Belushi and Red Buttons to entertain the Tigers. My senior year, I passed up job offers from the likes of Procter and Gambell and Colgate-Palmolive to attend Law school at the University of South Carolina.

My first year of law school, I took a job at Hudson’s Seafood House in Hilton Head Island, where I was able to bartend, wait tables and be an understudy to Island Chef Extraordinaire James Davis. Under James, I was able to expound on my truest passion: COOKING! I was quickly promoted to sous chef and was having the time of my life.

That very summer, after accepting a drunken dare to enter a legs contest, I ended up winning a free trip to Hollywood to be cast in a California Wine Cooler Commercial.
Well, I took the trip to Hollywood that Spring Break, but NOT to be in a Wine Cooler Commercial; rather, to stick my writing sample under my arm and schlep my ass up and down Wilshire Boulevard in search of a LAW JOB!

For the next two years, I was an associate at a Los Angeles Firm who represented, among other clients, Warner Brothers. Two years of California Dreamin’ was all this Southerner needed to contract an incurable case of homesickness. So I sucked up my pride, tucked my tail between my legs and hauled ass back to South Cackalackey. Wouldn’t you know that Hurricane Hugo hit two weeks later and I found myself assuming the role of A Disaster Relief Coordinator at Ground Zero–The Foreign Trade Zone in Charleston. Since that time, I have practiced Probate and Estate, Criminal Defense & Civil Rights Law, Served as the only true Independent Member of the South Carolina General Assembly, been elected as Reading Clerk for 10 years by the S.C. House of Representatives, and have been awarded the State’s highest civilian honor: Order of the Palmetto. BUT… while that might sound like a lot, I still felt like I was trying to tackle a tower of Kudzu with a Weed eater. I needed to create, not conquer.

So I wrote a novel in 1997: Blue. It was better and cheaper than therapy. And it finally put into print the life story of my center of influence. My rock. My grandmother: Aubrey Rochelle Merritt. Then I achieved the most gratifying honor of my lifetime: Reading it to her before she passed on later that winter. That was 10 years ago. I dreamt about her last night. No doubt I will do so again this evening.

Four years ago, Mom and Dad and I were having cocktails at our Mountain House near Brevard, North Carolina when yet another suck-ass Bigfoot Documentary crawled across the Zenith. “Hell– I could make a better Bigfoot Movie than that!”…”Well here’s $100.00 that says you can’t, Son.”

The Long Way Home: A Bigfoot Story opened to an overflow crowd of 400 people in my hometown of Columbia, South Carolina at the Inaugural Indie Grits Film Festival. After that, it has received numerous honors including Best Narrative Feature at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival in 1997.
Jay Ellington
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Copyright 2011 J.L. Mann Cromer, Jr.