PHOTO CREDIT: LESLEY BRYCE
FC: Jaime, we understand you wanted to be a pro-skateboarder while growing up – what was life like for you as a child, what influenced you the most, and what is your strongest memory of childhood?
JZ: I did actually want to be a pro skater! In 7th grade, I had to fill out a ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ assignment and that was my answer. Life as a kid was very fun, I had young parents and they still are; so, it made it really cool because I think they were very empathetic to me. Some parents forget the youthful child spirit but not mine. We always cracked jokes and laughed a lot in my household. They understood me..I was very active. They understood my fascination with the arts and sports: I loved skateboarding, guitar, music and baseball… maybe this was typical of most kids in the early 90’s. I liked playing outside and I still do. My strongest childhood memories are when we would take the train from Queens to Brighton Beach or to Coney Island in Brooklyn during the summers. They were long train rides but I remember stepping out of the train and arriving in Coney Island and being beyond excited. It was like I had just stepped off the plane and arrived somewhere tropical. But all I knew is I wanted to be in the ocean as soon as possible. I remember the feeling of having that expectation that something awesome was around the corner.
FC: How did you teach yourself filmmaking and why?
JZ: While I was studying acting in Queens C. College… My Dad got me a really cool 8mm video camera and I began shooting skits and editing them on VHS decks. I would film everything I really liked and still do like seeing people in their natural state. I remember, at this small community college they had a news media room that was never even used, so I would go in and shoot something and edit in this old 80’s style facility. I also read a ton of books at the library on film-making , I became a library fiend. I think all art is a form of self expression…but I never really did or believe in answering the why…there’s probably like a million answers.
FC: Do you remember anyone growing up or even during an audition who 1) Told you to keep at your dreams and 2). Told you to give up – what was your response to both/either?
JZ: I remember acting in all these small indies in NYC and meeting the nicest most gracious people. Some older guys saying ‘Don’t let nobody tell you can’t do something’ type of people. No one has ever told me to give up…at least not to my face. I have heard the typical get a “REAL JOB” but I always thought this is more than a “REAL JOB” as it becomes a lifestyle. But the worst thing is negative energy…that I’ve seen a lot in Los Angeles. I’d be on set listening to other actors complain or just in general other actors being negative about this business and how hard it is and they are telling you they are giving up. When they do that, it feel like they want you to join them on their misery parade. I try to stay away from people like that. We all know it’s hard, but I say, if it’s something you really want to do, you will find a way.
FC: You received a B.F.A. from C.W. Post, Long Island University – what was the biggest take away from receiving your education?
JZ: Film making is 100% a collaborative art form. Every role on set is vital and should be respected equally. I remember I was a transfer student from a theater program so I did not know the structure of a set. I knew I wanted to learn writing and directing, but I remember holding a boom mic on set for a class project and kept thinking… “is this going to be helpful to me in the future?” And yes it has, in a major way! You have to learn all the roles on set, it just makes you a better communicator and artist. It goes back to being empathetic to the crew and every one set.
FC: What is the biggest self-taught/observation about the craft of acting/filmmaking that you’d love to share one day to students?
JZ: It’s quite simple. Listen to your gut and learn to use what works for you. For example, if you’re a good comedic actor…play that up! What makes you different?
Use your uniqueness to get you in the door. Don’t let others dictate your feelings and work hard. Practice as much as you can. That’s how a good actor becomes great. Just keep doing. Acting and Filmmaking are crafts that require DOING. You can’t act in the past or live on yesterday’s accomplishments. Focus on creating in the NOW.
FC: When you audition for a role or commercial- what is your day like before you go in to read?
JZ: For commercials I really don’t prepare as it’s very much a look and personality thing. I’ve done them and have a few running right now. But commercials are all about having FUN. For stage, film or TV it’s also about having fun but applying your craft and talents. Each job is so different. You can’t go Method for a line on TV, but you can always bring something different. I try and prepare as much as I can and really take it seriously. I really enjoy the audition process…I should be paying them…it’s a chance to act! I try not to be locked on how to play the role as a casting director can really take you for a loop hole and you have to be flexible enough to take direction. I try and make it early to my auditions so I can relax and be in that character’s head space. I see all these actors on their phones and socializing before they go into the room…that’s just not me. I want the job!
FC: Tell us about ‘Me, You and Five Bucks’ – how much of your own life is in the story and how much is embellished?
JZ: Every character is based on personal experiences…things get morphed a lot in art. “Pam” reminds me of an ex-girlfriend blended with some one I met on the street in the 90’s and so and so on. Imagination always has an anchor on reality. But one things for sure is I understand these people. These are real living people and not based on “actors”. I know this guy from Long Island that was a very successful wall street guy and I know a lot of blue collar guys from New York that behave the way “Louie” does in the film. If all my life I was around actors I couldn’t of created these people. It’s important to mingle with people from all walks of life and different careers. These people will spark your imagination.
FC: What is the greatest gift an acting teacher can provide their student?
JZ: Oh man, I have had quite a lot of acting teachers in my day but one thing they can provide that I feel is so important besides a certain “technique” is instill confidence in their student. Confidence goes a long way. That self confidence will make you work harder and make sure you stay grounded no matter what happens. A good teacher should bring out the best in you. Period.
Once concluding his studies, Jaime pursued a full-time career in acting. He landed roles in some of television’s most popular drams like: ABC’s “Off The Map,” TNT’s “Leverage,” “House M.D.,” “Southland,” and “Sons of Anarchy”. He was also in lead in Michael Eisner project, “Sam Has 7 Friends,” which was nominated for Daytime Emmy Award. Most recently, Jaime will be seen upcoming show “Basketball Wife” as (Character name), a famous Latin soap star.
In film, Jaime can be seen starring in the 2012 film Heartlines, a film he wrote and produced. The film received ‘Honorable Mention’ in the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival and the Pasadena Film Festival. He recently, finished production on The Ghost and the Whale, where he stars as Poe. An eccentric man who thinks he is Edgar Allen Poe, and chooses to live on the streets of Bodega Bay, California. The film also stars Maurice Benard (General Hospital) and Jonathan Pryce (Pirates of the Caribbean). In addition, Jaime can be seen in the comedy Killing Frisco, which is currently in post-production, where he plays the titular role of Frisco, an LA hipster actor trying to get a PLAY off the ground with his friends. This Fall, Jaime will be seen in Duke, as transformed into a lead antagonist, Hector Munoz.
Although Jaime loves his time in front of the camera, he certainly has talent behind the scenes. He is an active screenplay writer, producer and director who has successfully created films and shorts in his career. His most recent project, Me, You and Five Buck is a full length film based on the on the life of Charlie, a lovable loser who dreams of selling his book The 7 Steps of Healing the Male Broken Heart, but finds himself still working in restaurants to survive in the Big Apple. The addition to its inclusion at the Long Island International Film Expo, the film has also been selected to be part of Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, the Tampa Bay International Film Festival as well as the Action on Film International Film Festival this year. His past writing, producing and directing credits include the indie films and short films: Heartlines (2012), Happy Killers (2010), The Latin & The Gringo (2010), Cloud Gazing (2009) and Double Down (2006).