MO: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where do you live now? Schools you attended? Major?
JS: I grew up in carmel, california. a sleepy but beautiful place. Now i live in venice beach. I went to UCLA and wound up with a degree in world literature.
MO: How did you get into filmmaking?
JS: My first job out of school was working for Current TV, then a startup under Al Gore. I basically used it as my film school and taught myself to shoot and edit there. Prior to that I had written and acted and shot a little but nothing serious. That’s when I caught the bug.
MO: Was there a specific moment you knew you wanted to be a professional filmmaker?
JS: When I graduated from UCLA and saw my first ‘film’ which was a short little piece that I was making to get my job at current. It was a simple autobiographical mini doc, but the feeling I got from seeing it completed, from scoring it, from watching it back in a dark editing room– that was the moment I think. I don’t know. my memory is terrible.
MO: Fill in the blank: MOFILM has helped my career by _______
JS:… straight up launching my career as a commercial director. Without my first 3 specs that I won with mofilm (detention, treasure, and zombie ride) I never would have gotten signed. And without getting signed I couldn’t be making commercials right now.
MO: What advice would you give to novice filmmakers just entering the business?
JS: It sounds cliche as hell but try and find your voice as a filmmaker because its what sets you apart. making something technically sound isnt good enough. it has to have a certain part of YOU in it. I think the best place to start is picking subject matter you really care about visually and emotionally and working in genres you love. That and learn how to really work with actors. Read Judith Weston’s books on directing actors if you haven’t already. That’s still the main job of a director in my opinion, regardless of the medium.
MO: What makes you cringe most when you see it in a film? Particular talent?Angle? Audio? Music?
JS: Lately its been how god awful most of the digitally shot films are looking these days. Watching Ron Howard’s Rush actualy just made me deeply sad– it looked so crappy, and had so much visual potential which in my mind was wasted on shooting digitally and doing an exceptionally bad color job as well. Granted I’m going through a major analogue love affair these days, but there’s never been more terrible looking films than right now in my opinion. So much glossy, plasticy, soulless crap is being shot on the Alexa in particular. I just wish at the very least period pieces like 42, Gatsby and Rush were being shot on film. Its ridiculous that they aren’t. It looks a thousand times better than digital.
MO: Who would you cast as yourself if you did an autobiographical movie?
JS: Is it possible to merge Vin diesel and Woody allen?
MO: Who do idolize the most as a director?
JS: I think right now its probably Alfonso Cuaron.
MO: What is the number one most important thing for you to have on a production set?
MO: If you could get any actor/actress to be in your masterpiece movie who would it be and why?
JS: That’s a tough one. It just depends on the movie I’m making. There isn’t one in particular I really dream of working with. Right now I’m only thinking about latino actors because my feature script “smuggler” calls for them. So right now it’s Gael Garcia Bernal and Luis Guzman as I’ve written parts for them. Gael, Luis, if you’re out there, I love you.
MO: At what point in your career will you consider yourself having “made it”?
JS: When I finally get awarded the whale from mofilm haha, no really I guess just getting the feature film I wrote made and distributed on a large scale. Seeing that film play at a local theatre would be satisfying enough to warrent the words “made it.”
MO: Who is your creative team?
JS: It shifts around to a certain degree. The one constant is my cinematographer, Rob Hauer, who’s become one of my closest friends. We make everything together.
MO: What are you working on now?
JS: Right now I’m finishing a bunch of stuff: La Carnada, the short film/ prequel to my feature film thats being finished/submitted to the festival circuit. Untitled Underwear Project: a photo series and short film that I’ll be releasing in early 2014. I just finished a commercial for Ford and am currently finishing one for Evolution Juice. And continuing to re-write my feature film.
MO: On a scale of Spielberg to Sofia Coppola, where is your ego?
JS : I’m honestly not sure. I’m confident and gregarious to a degree (Spielberg-ish) but I’m also deeply and constantly humbled by this line of work. I have no idea what Sofia Coppola is like. Bottom line is I think ego is healthy. you need it get shit done. But like most filmmakers, I’m openly neurotic and continually humbled by how hard it is to make movies. You got to have both. Sorry, that was a terrible answer. haha.Back