Jac Schaeffer ’00 didn’t read comic books growing up. Yet today she is the head writer and executive producer of WandaVision, a new Marvel Comics show on Disney+.
“I love big stories, and I love allegory, and I love opportunities to look at characters in big, exaggerated ways — and to look at humanity that way,” says Schaeffer, who lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. “Once I started working at Marvel, I became familiar with the comics and the mythology and very much fell in love with it.”
Schaeffer realized at an early age she wanted to be a filmmaker. Initially, she wanted to act, but her father told her the director was the one in charge, making all the creative decisions. To her, “that just sounded awesome.”
She grew up watching films by James Cameron, Quentin Tarantino, and the late Nora Ephron. At Princeton she studied English and included The Matrix in her thesis. After graduating, she earned an MFA in film production at the University of Southern California School of Cinema.
“I loved my time at Princeton. I was really happy there. I did a lot of theater. I loved the English program. I can’t say enough wonderful things about it,” she says. “My very best friends to this day are my Princeton gang.”
Her first feature film was TiMER, a science-fiction romantic comedy that debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2009. Her script The Shower — about a baby shower interrupted by an apocalyptic meteor shower — made Hollywood’s annual Black List of the “most liked” unproduced screenplays.
The Shower “opened a lot of doors for me. It’s a genre mashup — an ensemble female comedy/action/horror movie. It’s the thing that got me noticed at places like Marvel and Disney Animation. If it doesn’t ever [get made], it certainly has been great for me,” she said.
Schaeffer co-wrote The Hustle in 2019. She also co-wrote 2019’s Captain Marvel and the upcoming Black Widow movie, both part of Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe. WandaVision has been critically acclaimed and well-received. It opens with two Marvel characters — the Vision and Wanda Maximoff, alias the Scarlet Witch — mysteriously plunked into a 1950s sitcom. The idea was conceived by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, and Schaeffer came up with the unifying concept.
She tries to both continue the legacy of the Marvel films and expand upon it. She takes inspiration from the comics, saying “it’s a gift to have that much content to pore over.”
She says her process starts with the electricity of hatching an idea that clicks and continues until the completed film has its intended effect on audiences. With Wandavision, “We’ve always wanted to give people chills with this show and now it’s happening. There’s nothing better than that.”