Second City Teacher, Marine Vet screens film in GI Fest

(Jonah Saeson)

Chicago filmmaker and Marine Corps veteran Jonah Saeson is featured in this years GI Film Festival. This veteran turned actor and filmmaker is the director of the GI Festival contending film  The Sweatshirt.

This comedic short which blenders Chicago crime show style interbred with sarcastic undertones is about a woman who must negotiate the release of her hoodie sweatshirt from Chicago’s most despicable ex-boyfriend.

The short was inspired by the juxtaposition of the crime show TV scene in Chicago and the unmatched comedic talent of Chicago’s Second City.

It will be making its debut at the San Diego G.I. Festival. Watch the trailer below:

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Filmmaker and veteran Saesan’s life has always been a equal balance between the arts and the military. Often, The GI Festival being a quintessential example, the two collide. 

In his experience he had always found the military to be supportive of his creative endeavors; A prime example being when he was stationed in Hawaii and The television show Hawaii Five-0 was filming on base, he was included on set through the Marines.

As a teacher at Second City Chicago, Saesan merged his two worlds once again when he created an improv program specifically for veterans, which has also made its way to Second City in Los Angeles.

The connection between the military and the arts for Saesan is that,  “both need a good team or a good ensemble, it’s just the terminology that changes depending on whether you’re on base or on stage. “

Saesan could not be more thrilled for The Sweatshirt to be embraced by a the GI Film Festival where his two worlds unite.  

The GI Film Festival San Diego prevails as the largest military festival in the country made for, by, and about the military. The festival originated in 2006 in Washington DC  with the intention of sharing the stories of those who have served and who are serving. 

In 2015 the festival moved to San Diego where it has grown immensely as the largest in the nation and for the first time ever this year the multi-day military-themed event will be streamed online on  May 18-23, 2021.

With San Diego’s multi-faceted military history and seven major bases between the Navy, Marines, and the Coast Guard, it’s only fitting that the region is home to the largest military film festival in the United States.

He continues, “it is my belief  that community and ensemble on stage at Second City or on set is what makes a great creative and I got that from the Marines mentality that the strongest team is the best team.”

This year at the GI Festival, 38 films are featured and represent an array of documentaries, narratives, feature-length, and shorts. With an intention of bringing filmmakers, veterans, military service members, and civilians together.

Holly Schaffner, a member of the GI Film Festival San Diego advisory committee since its conception and U.S. Coast Guard veteran, serving 24 years, encourages, “everyone to come to the festival because there is something for every walk of life military or not and even every era of war.”

The Sweatshirt that mixes a crime scene with a break up resulting in hilarity is definitely something for everyone to relate to.

The festival will be held online May 18-23, 2021. General admission is $10 for general audiences and $8 for military, veterans, and students per screening. All proceeds support the festival.


  • Jonah Saesan DirectorInsecurity, Field Day, How Does a Merman Do It
  • Katie Saesan Writer
  • Jonah SaesanWriter Insecurity, Field Day, How Does a Merman Do It
  • Jonah Saesan Producer Insecurity, Field Day, How Does a Merman Do It
  • David Bradburn Producer Family, Superhero Me, Field Day, Rockabye
  • Dominique La’Shea Key Cast“Olivia”Chicago P.D., Broke AF
  • Sabeen Sadiq Key Cast“Sarah”Code-Switched
  • Jonah Saesan Key Cast“Jeff”Insecurity, Field Day, How Does a Merman Do It
  • Tina Arfaee Key Cast“Brittney”Centered
  • Shawn Harrel Music byInsecurity, Update, In for a Trim
  • Alexander Hale Gibson Director of PhotographyVerbAL, Insecurity, The Rush,
  • Adam Ruben Assistant DirectorMiracle Maker, Field Day, Finger Bang, Darkstorm

Contributor Megan Penn has a passion for stories in which women are in the drivers seat, along with a bad case of retrophilia.