Today’s guest at THE WRITER’S LOUNGE, does it all—he’s an author, writer, filmmaker, he host a podcast show, and still finds time to help aspiring artists pursue their dreams, but first. . .
AC/DC ~ “Who Made Who”
THE WRITER’S LOUNGE PRESENTS:
AUTHOR ~ FILMMAKER
F. Kenneth/W.L: As usual, I’ll begin with you telling us a little about yourself. Where you from, any kids, spouse, etc…
Jason: I am from this little, little town in Illinois called Wenona, though I have adopted Chicago as my part time home. I have two amazing kids who I try to spend as much time with as I possibly can.
F. Kenneth/W.L: I lived in Chicago for a brief time between 2004 and 2005, never could get used to the tolls! Lol! What did you study at Columbia College-Chicago? Is that where you got into filmmaking?
Jason: Well, actually I got “into” filmmaking back in high school. I did video editing for the weekly school news program that was done, and I really enjoyed that. I made some short films with the trusty ol’ VHS recorder as well and had cut together a music video. I really enjoyed playing with what I could manipulate on camera.
But I’ve always considered myself first and foremost a writer. I went into junior college with a plan to study education and to become an English teacher. I wanted to write and felt that if I couldn’t support myself as a writer, I would have the education background to fall back on.
It was in junior college that things got sidetracked, and to make a long story, short, I decided to study film as a way of merging my two passions. Studying film allowed me to work on my writing and make films.
F. Kenneth/W.L: VHS!? Yeah, I remember those days! Filmmaking and writing definitely go hand-in-hand, and can make for a pretty interesting profession. I like watching behind-the-scenes specials on movies to see what it took to put everything together. Is it more fun or work being a filmmaker?
Jason: It used to be more fun. I stopped making films when it became more work. I haven’t worked directly on a film for five years, but I did just announce today that I will be starting preproduction and possibly shooting a new short film this summer.
F. Kenneth/W.L: I could understand how that would make you lose interest. Until a few years ago, never really understood what it meant when people would say you have to enjoy what you do for a living or you’ll get tired of it.
So with the different professionals like actors, cameramen, wardrobe, etc, that are involved in filmmaking, does it become pretty expensive at times?
Jason: It can be expensive if you allow it to be. It always depends on the people and your relationship with them and the quality of the film you want. If you want a good film, you pay for good people. Even if they are friends, but they are highly skilled professionals, you still pay them. It helps keep motivation to compete the project.
That being said, film is all about the hustle. You take a penny and stretch it into a hundred.
F. Kenneth/W.L: Quality may cost more, but the finished product will have been well worth it, and you’ll probably feel a lot better about your work. How did you get involved with event organizing? What kind of things go on behind the scenes in organizing events?
Jason: Wow, well… The first part of this story goes back to a presentation done at Columbia, in one of my classes. A man came and talked about a film festival that he organized and I kind of picked his brain about it. At the time, there weren’t the platforms we have today, so it wasn’t as easy to find films.
My original goal when I set out; was that I love short horror films, and I wanted to create an event that would feature this niche. For the first film festival we even refused to show any feature films. Over time so much has changed. It is a completely different world now and independent film scene.
F. Kenneth/W.L: You never know when opportunity will knock, or when a spark will ignite something within you. Is that what led you to found The Chicago Horror Film Festival? How did that come about?
Jason: That’s actually what I was just talking about. It was originally a short film only film festival. I had found a theater, the 3 Penny, and had contracted with them to allow us to show these films. I had to rent my own projector as theirs wasn’t digital yet, and we had to rig the sound to work with it.
F. Kenneth/W.L: Wow, I really like hearing stories like that, that no one would ever guessed went on behind the scenes! You promote up-and-coming artists on your podcast, “Shriek Speak”, tell us about that
Jason: Well, this week we had Tavores Johnson on the podcast. He is a young filmmaker out of Chicago who has been working since the age of 13. He is now much older and is now working with a team and a production company to develop web series, short, and feature films.
This is what the show is about. Every other week, we find independent artists and delve into what makes them tick and how they have gotten to be where they are. We are establishing a platform to help independents get their hard work acknowledged.
F. Kenneth/W.L: He sounds really familiar. I believe I’ve connected with him on LinkedIn. It’s always good to see entrepreneurs helping each other out.
You have so much going on, where do you find the time to write?
Jason: I try to sit down and dedicate at least a half hour a day. It isn’t much, but I try to reach at least a 1000 words. Some days that triples, and some it is barely half. Today was a good day, 2,000 words. The day before yesterday, I had only been able to squeak out a paragraph.
F. Kenneth/W.L: Time management is a crucial aspect of this business, and anytime you’re able to write every single day – it’s always a good thing. So what’s your zombie-apocalypse series, “Invisible Spiders” about?
Jason: Well, “Invisible Spiders” is not your everyday zombie series. Obviously, there is something to do with spiders, and with these spiders, you can’t see them until you are already infected by them. You can feel them, but you can’t see them…
That is just the beginning. In fact, the two books that are available are just the beginning.
So what is the series about so far… So far, the series is about this small town where there is this outbreak. These spiders are infesting people, devouring them, and leaving them an undead zombie that shuffles around to find more sustenance for the spiders. Where do the spiders come from, we’ll see if you can figure it out. My lips are sealed until the next book.
And the series will continue on. Right now we are “pre”-zombie apocalypse. As the series progresses, we will experience the zombie apocalypse happening, and eventually the series will shift into dealing with post apocalypse. I want to take my time with it, and slowly work us through the shift.
F. Kenneth/W.L: Invisible spiders!?—that alone is enough to freak me out! And you don’t know about them until they’ve already made you a victim!? And that’s only the beginning!? This sounds like a really good series!
“Caught in the Web” is the latest book of the series; how books have you written for the series so far? How do you have planned for the series?
Jason: “Caught in the Web” is the second book in the series, and how many books do I have planned. Well, right now there is no definitive number. I look at this series as something I won’t be writing exclusively for, but will return to throughout the course of my writing career. With each book, there is a significant change to the world, and the world will continue to get bleaker. Right now, with the second book, we are not even to the great zombie apocalypse yet.
Everything so far is setting up what is to come. Think of it as, right now, we are in “Smallville,” but eventually we will reach full “Superman” and continue on. So once we get to where the zombies have fully spread, and more of the grand story is revealed, It will be obvious why the series will continue on. At some point, there will be an ending, but right now, I’m not going to tie it in to a certain number.
F. Kenneth/W.L: “Spidey-Smallville”—I like it! Lol! Judging by the cover, “Caught in the Web” looks like it has some pretty nasty stuff in there; how gruesome does it really get?
Jason: I am a terrible judge. Maybe I’ve become too desensitized. I was watching “The Walking Dead” not too long ago with a friend, and they were cringing as someone was getting their leg cut off, and I was like, “What? What’s wrong?”
That being said, I don’t feel it is too graphic. I don’t go too extreme; it isn’t torture porn or anything like that. I try to stay realistic. There are some gruesome stuff, but nothing, I feel, as being too extreme. Nothing is in there trying to gross someone out. Everything that is in the book is there because I feel that it fit the situation without going over the top.
I want to scare you, make you afraid to turn off the lights, fear that feeling when you have a sudden twitch and are left to wonder if something is crawling up your leg that you can’t see. If I’m making you just cringe by something graphic, but you put the book down and you are not thinking about it next time you see a spider, then I failed at my job.
F. Kenneth/W.L: Understandable. You wanna freak people out, but without going insane with it, so you have to make it believable. What makes “Caught in the Web” unique or different than the other books of the series?
Jason: Each book is very different from one another, and that is one thing that is tricky to do with this series. The first book, there are very few zombies. The majority of the book deals with the first person who is infected as he is slowly becoming a zombie. I wanted to really draw out the first transformation to humanize it and really pull people in to this transformation, a person losing their humanity, is the true horror of zombism.
The second book is more about the isolation of being cut off from the outside world as a person is fighting to survive. The town is quarantined so there is this sense of everyone who is used to being connected in the modern digital world, no longer be able to call out for help. There is also the feeling of how do you deal with a loved one who has become this thing that is no longer human.
F. Kenneth/W.L: That’s a great way of doing the series. I agree with you 100% about the most horrifying thing is losing your humanity altogether. Excellent! Do you write in any other genres, or do you primarily stick to Horror?
Jason: I don’t know how to write anything but horror. I am the macabre. I love Sci-Fi, but I don’t feel I could ever write it. Horror is what I understand, and I love to scare people. I love the messages and emails from people just after they have finished one of my books, and they mad at me because now they can’t get to sleep, they keep imagining spiders crawling all over of them. I read those emails, and I just smile. I’ve done my job.
F. Kenneth/W.L: Sci-Fi is my favorite genre to write, but I also venture into other genres as well. So where can we find “Caught in the Web”?
Jason: “Caught in the Web” is available everywhere. I know Amazon, and all the online stores have it. I see it listed on the Barnes and Noble website, but haven’t checked in their stores. From my understanding they do have it, and if they don’t have it on the shelves, they can order it.
F. Kenneth/W.L: I would like to thank Jason Davis for visiting THE WRITER’S LOUNGE today, it’s been a really creepy delight! Come back anytime!
Connect With Jason
And now. . .
Maroon 5 ~ “Animals”
COMING SOON TO THE WRITER’S LOUNGE
Lorene Stunson – Apr. 17th
Susan Parker Rosen – Apr. 24th
Patty Wiseman – May 1st