Some people work better flying solo; others do better in pairs.
So, what happens when you partner up four individuals on a creative venture? The answer is J.A.C.K.
A few years ago, four Los Angeles based performing artists came together to collaborate on creative ventures. They formed this new ensemble and quickly gained support as part of the EMERGE program of the Pasadena Arts Council.
J.A.C.K.’s work spans the creative arts, including theatre and poetry, but they’ve been gaining the most attention for their short films. They’re currently on the festival circuit with two films, including the recent screening of “Let Me Finish” as part of the renowned Independent Filmmakers Showcase (IFS) Film Festival.
I recently had a chance to interview J.A.C.K. to find out more about their creative work and goals.
Give us an overview of your producing team JACK.
JACK: We are four individuals and a body of work. Jens Kohler (the “J”), Annette Reid (the “A”), Carlos Carrasco (the “C”) and Kent Minault (the “K”) have collaborated together for two decades producing, directing and acting in theatre, film, performance art, and poetry.
What inspired you to come together to create new projects?
JACK: We originally came together as the leadership team of a small LA theatre company. After finding the dues-paying membership format too restrictive, we found we liked working with each other so much that we decided to collaborate on new ventures that included producing theatre, but which allowed us to create performing arts products in different media while continuing to emphasize language, classical tradition and ensemble development.
Tell us about your short film “Let Me Finish” currently on the festival circuit.
JACK: “Let Me Finish” grew out of some experiments Carlos directed during our Monday night sessions. He imagined two old guys on a park bench, each with a story or three to tell. Their exchange dispenses with the usual realistic dialogue links and leaps directly into the stories. Carlos and Kent improvised the original session, and when we screened the resulting video, we liked it and immediately decided to film it professionally. Carlos backed out of his acting role to concentrate on directing the film, and we brought in Mark Bramhall, one of LA’s most respected classical actors, to take his part. As we rehearsed, we slightly adapted the material we had evolved for Carlos to fit Mark’s style and approach.
This film, with its companion piece, “Lossed,” marked a distinct ramp-up in our production quality. After our initial success on the festival circuit with a very raw, but compelling short film about Alzheimers called “Honesty, Pencil, Rose,” we felt the need to present a more polished product. The opportunity came the next year when Carlos was asked to direct a documentary about some graffiti artists in East LA totally “pimping out” a new Lexus, a bizarre effort funded by the car company itself. Carlos hit it off immediately with artist Vyal, and in his characteristic spontaneous style, produced an exceptionally well crafted film called “Art Galleries & Back Alleys,” which made finalist for best documentary at New Filmmakers LA. But what was more important for us, it got him working with a cooly professional crew who worked fluidly with each other and were enthusiastic about doing projects with some experienced, self-starting actors. We look forward to this collaboration continuing.
What do you hope audiences take away from the film?
JACK: A vivid memory of the two characters. And maybe the thought that inside that old codger sitting in the park might lie an unexpected history of passion and adventure.
You’ve got another film hitting festivals as well; tell us about “Lossed.”
JACK: “Lossed” is totally different in both style and content. It’s a naturalistic story element about a pivotal moment in the lives of two friends. The setting is a simple conversation over coffee, but it reveals a deep current of loss in both their lives, and maybe a spark of realization about how they might care for each other as they move forward. The fabulous crew that shot and edited “Lossed” is the same one we collaborated with on “Let Me Finish.”
How do you determine what projects you’re going to create?
JACK: Right now and for the past five years, we determine projects by playing together every Monday night, and when an element of our play looks like it would sustain our interest for a few months or years, we make a project out of it. There’s no rule that the inspiration needs to come from the four of us, but it usually does. We find tremendous value in regular, scheduled work/play sessions together, in which we allow each other to “vent” and unburden ourselves of the week’s problems and hassles, or triumphs and victories. We learn each other’s emotional issues, the deeper layers of our characters, and this experience helps us choose projects that work out one or another of our personal issues.
What have you learned as a team that you can share with others looking to do the same?
JACK: When you find creative relationships that really work, hold on to them, nourish them, and get down to work. Nothing beats work for making us better at what we do, and nothing helps the quality of the work like having the right people doing it.
What’s up next for JACK?
JACK: We’re continuing to host a series of poetry Meetups that have introduced us to an amazing group of LA poets and a deepening sense of the language culture that is thriving in coffee houses and spoken word sessions around town. This dive into the world of poetry, both contemporary and classical, has sparked an exploration of Stephen Vincent Benet’s “John Brown’s Body” which we are contemplating as a public performance to support the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
JACK: We’d love to get to know them better and see them at our upcoming events.
To find out what’s next with JACK, visit: www.CallUsJACK.com