Having been a filmmaker for going on 10 years now. Jaysen has written 20 screenplays and directed many of them. He is also an actor who works with some of the top producers and directors in the southeast.
The first thing you notice about Jaysen is that he is an eloquent conversationalist.The next thing that became evident when asking about the movies he watched as a kid, is that he loves horror. Raised on the classics by his dad. I'm sure he will pass it on to his own son, and to us, through his filmmaking.
Don't Let The Light In is a good example. A tale of a young boy and his babysitter. As we are getting to know Sarah and Jack, the boy nonchalantly mentions that he has monsters in his room. Sarah patronizes the child but is surprised at what she discovers.
Patrick G. Keenan, an accomplished actor, had this to say about his good friend. "Jaysen and I had both worked as actors in Dogs of Chinatown, but didn't actually meet until sometime afterwards. Jaysen had approached me about working on a project he was directing called The Gospel According to Booze, Bullets & Hot Pink Jesus. It was such a twisted fun project to work on that we've worked together on two more projects, most recently Between Hell and a Hard Place. I love working on Jaysen's sets because it's always unique indie filmmaking fun."
I'm sure many of Jaysen's peers will vouch for his reputation in the film industry. I'll mention just one more. A popular actor and rising rock star with the band Dreamkiller, Christy Johnson reflected on working with Jaysen. "Jaysen is a multi-talented asset to the North Carolina film industry and one of my favourite directors with whom I've ever worked. Despite it being low budget independent filmmaking, he runs his set with the standards and professionalism of any top dollar Hollywood production. Additionally, he is super respectful and a great person to be around in general. We have been involved together in numerous projects throughout the years with films Night of The Living Dead: Genesis, The Gospel According To Booze, Bullets & Hot Pink Jesus, Orbs: They Are Among Us, Hatchet County, Dogs of Chinatown and Midnight in the Mortuary, as well as the music video Breaking Skin from Nonpoint. I would recommend the experience to anyone."
Thanks to Brett Mullen's excellent cinematography along with Justin Reich and Mikey Cordes in the editing room, the pace is quick while allowing for good character development. Will Garrett Davis and Rebecca Larken are both very convincing as the child and babysitter. A pair that you might find in any town on a night the parents are away.
Premiering this weekend at the Mysticon Independent Film Festival in Roanoake, Virginia on Saturday, February 27th at 2:00 pm.
Then it hits the film festival circuit, with official selections already announced for the Austin Revolution Film Festival, the Twister Alley International Film Festival and the Mad Monster Film Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina.
You have been a writer and director for some time now. What can you tell me about yourself and the film Don't Let the Light In.
Jaysen 2016 has been an interesting year for me and it's just getting started. Not only did I turn 40 this year, but in August it will be my ten year anniversary as a filmmaker, so that's caused me to a bit more cinematically sentimental as of late. Now did I have ANY bloody idea that when I signed up to do the Greensboro 48 Hour Film Project that it would lead to this? None whatsoever good sir... hells belles, I didn't even have the slightest idea what screenplay formatting was, I think my first two or three "scripts" were just giant prose paragraphs, but I learned... and I'm still learning to this very day, and I hope I'll learn even more this year.
It's hard to believe I've written 20 films and directed twelve of them with almost 75 film festival screenings and over 20 various awards under my studded leather belt. As for how I got started in all this movie-making magic, well, I've always had a love affair with words, a passion I owe to my magnificent and munificent mother, having been a writer almost as long as I've been a reader (columnist, journalist, poet, novelist). Whenever watching anything on any size screen, film or television, I would always focus on the story first, sometimes even solely, and after countless complaints of the quality of crap stories coming out in theatres, and how I could do a better job, my golden goddess of a wife simply said one thing, "Alright, let's see you do better." And that was that, really... ten years later... <grin>
For Don't Let the Light In, I really just wanted to try and tell the simplest, shortest and scariest story that I possibly could. I seem to have a knack for making short films that are "too long," (All three Acts of the Hot Pink Jesus Trilogy, Between Hell and a Hard Place) which I blame on the writer/director, so with this new project I wanted something terrifying and under ten minutes. I wanted to come up with one line that would absolutely unnerve audiences, and after watching Pet Sematary yet again one night, where little Gage calls up his Daddy and tells him he wants to play, I just KNEW that that line had to come from a child. Once I had that particular line in mind, it was a matter of finding the right cherubic-looking child to say the right disturbing and demonic thing.
Lucky for us, Melissa Eastwood helped us with the casting and she was able to locate our little lead, Mr. Will Garrett Davis, who did an absolutely AMAZING job alongside our lead actress, Rebecca Larken. If there was a third member of the cast, it was definitely the house that served as our sole location, a BEAUTIFUL historical house near downtown Greensboro. We also worked with some tremendously talented friends of ours on this project, bringing in Matthew B. Moore and Brett Mullen from the Drive-In Film Series to help us bring this short film screaming to the little big screen of the film festival circuit. And with an evocative score by award-winning composer Ron Wasserman, I really think this might be my masterpiece... until the next one comes out, naturally.
I notice the film is dedicated to your father. Did you watch movies together as a kid and you with your son?
Jaysen Every chance I got... which was often on the weekends, as I grew up with my dear old dad working the graveyard shift out at McDonnell Douglas. I owe a large part of my love for horror movies to that amazing man... whenever I could get him away from the 665 other things he needed to do around the trailer, we would spend Saturday afternoons watching Universal Horror films, the classic Hammer stuff, anything that would come on with Vincent Price, who was actually his friend from WAY back in the day of the golden age of Saint Louis, Missouri. "Vinnie," I remember my dad saying, every time he would appear on screen. My dad was also the first person to show me the way into the Twilight Zone... and to this day I still haven't left. <grin>
Naturally, I'm waiting with proud papa baited breath to be able to continue such a fine father/son film tradition with my own little love, who just turned four.
You've produced several films along with Darren Conrad and I see that you will be the second unit director on his next movie "A Father's Love". What brought you together?
Jaysen I've known Darren for a few years now, having met him when he auditioned for a bloody brilliant little horror short I was ADing on called A Killer Christmas Carol, which took on the Krampus creature on an indie film budget! I think as soon as he walked in the director, my dear filmmaking friend, Louis Bekoe, and I just looked at each other and silently agreed he was it!! Having been a Highway Patrolman for many moons, Darren has a very intimidating physical presence until he starts talking and that gentle southern accent comes out and puts you at ease. And we've both been making bigger and better movie magic ever since. He's been kind (and cool) enough to help me produce the last three short films I've written/directed, so we like to help each other out whenever we can. He gave me a small part in A Father's Love, which was a project/set I had never really experienced before - the family-friendly film (though, I suppose, that one could argue that the Mansons were a family)... I kept expecting zombies or monsters or aliens or something to walk across the set at any moment, but I think I might have been the scariest-looking one on set, which is always nice.
Most of the screenplays you've written you've also directed. Do you prefer having control over the project from beginning to end.
Jaysen When I first dipped a text-scribbling toe into the waters of filmmaking, my """screenplays""" (and yes, I do feel that six quotation marks are well justified there...) were more like ten-page prose paragraphs as I knew absolutely NOTHING of the formatting of such a beast as a script. As I slowly added somewhat important things like "action" and "scene setting" and "character dialogue" I found myself growing frustrated for a couple of different reasons. The first was that I still wasn't quite getting it right, as I was told my writing style had WAY too much direction in it. My second issue was that the directors I was handing off the "scripts" to just didn't quite get it the way that I saw it in my head when I sat down to write. So the next step seemed to try and eliminate the confusion/frustration and try to write AND direct, that way I'd have no one to blame but myself. Before I even started making movies, I had a big boy crush on Robert Rodriguez, and his amazing ability to write/direct/edit/shoot/score, to be a one-man powerhouse that could damn near do it all. Having quite the brobdingnagian head, I thought I could wear enough hats and tried to add editing to the mix, but that did not end well... so I've stuck with writing/directing these last eight years. I've been lucky enough to work with some absolutely amazing directors, so I tried to learn as much as possible from them about all the stages of production, whether they ever knew it or not. Also... yes, I'm a wicked control freak. <grin>
You mentioned that some directors didn't see the scripts the way you saw them in your head. Have there been times when another approach you didn't see turned out to be wonderful?
Jaysen There have indeed been times when another approach that I didn't see turned out to lead to something wonderful, but that hasn't really happened with other directors per se. Rather the most cinematic serendipity seems to happen for me with the brilliant movie-making minds I've been able to work with on my various crews under the Mad Ones banner. Having had no real formal film education, and knowing just enough to be dangerous, I've been very VERY lucky to work with talented folks like Jesse Knight, Mikey Cordes, Justin Reich, Chao Vang, Brett Mullen, Matthew Moore and so many many more, who can take what I've written and just by changing or suggesting some seemingly simple thing, make it 666 times better, breathing a new life into the shot, or line of dialogue, or scene flow, and making our cinematic collaboration even stronger! I hope that I've been able to have that effect for others as well, because for me, it's that constant creative collaboration that provides the necessary stimulation to keep getting better at my craft.
What can you tell me about Mikey Cordes?
Jaysen Mikey Cordes, well sir, that boy is a genius... literally, he works at the Genius Bar at an Apple Store, so he went to Genius School, which is just kind of awesome. He is also quite a gifted editor, a brilliant technician and one of the kindest and coolest cats I have ever met. He's also my right hand man (seriously, his "Mad Ones Films" tattoo is bigger than mine). He's not a PA, not an AD, Mikey's something all his own, and he's held an esteemed seat at the Mad Ones table for many moons now. He started off as an extra in a short we did many moons ago called Flipper Stripper Vixens at the Inferno-A-GoGo and he just kept coming back for more, so it was kind of love at first cinematic sight. From extra to camera man to editor to FX artist to anything else that has ever been asked of him, the boy can damn near do it all. It's almost sort of a cynical sinister cinematic symbiosis, as our cerebral cycles pretty much synched up on the first project we ever edited together (The Decapitator), so now he seems to know what I'm thinking, or what I'm wanting from a project, even before I do. It's amazing to be able to find someone like that to not only have on your crew, but who has as much passion as you do to be a part of it, and I've been lucky enough to have that happen time and time again with the Mad Ones.
What's coming up next for you?
After MystiCon, Don't Let the Light In will scare its way onto the screens of the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival in Wilmington, NC (March 11), MAD MONSTER PARTY 2016! in Charlotte, NC (March 25-27), the Twister Alley International Film Festival in Woodard, OK (May 5-8), the Crimson Screen Horror Film Festival in Charleston, SC (May 13-15), the Killuride Film Festival in Myrtle Beach, SC (May 20-22), the Fantasmagorical Film Festival in Louisville, KY (July 29-31) AND the Austin Revolution Film Festival in Austin, TX (Sept. 21-24) for starters. Our previous film, the black & white killer thriller, Between Hell and a Hard Place, is still kicking ass and taking names on the festival circuit as well, being an official selection of the Indie Horror Film Festival in Gatlinburg, TN (April 15-17).