80’s / Early 90’s Were Times When Films Were For Viewers And Not About The People Making Them by Harold Jackson III

HAROLD JACKSON III –  FILMMAKER – ‘Last Night’

 

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Film Courage:  Where did you grow up?

Harold Jackson III:  South Central Los Angeles

Film Courage:   Which one of your parents do you resemble most?  You are a ‘Third’ – How much are you similar/dissimilar to your grandfather and father?

Harold:  I think I look and act more like my Mother, but my mannerism and general way I flow through life may be closer to my Father.  I think I am now slowly turning into my grandfather. Lol.

Harold Jackson III as a child

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“Well, I wasn’t the best High School student.  Almost didn’t graduate.  Not because I couldn’t compete academically but because I didn’t care to.  I’ve always kind of been on my own program.  So naturally colleges weren’t knocking at my door, but the Marine Corp was happy to take me.  I signed up on a whim because I was bored and it turned out to be one of the most important and influential decisions of my life.  It turned me from a kid with a treasure chest full of ideas into a man with work ethic, drive, integrity and follow-through to make them a reality.”
Harold Jackson III


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Film Courage:  Did your parents lend support toward creativity or encourage another type of career/focus?

Harold:   The answer to that is “Kinda”…  I lost my Mother at 11, but she is definitely where I get my creativity.  She was open to what I wanted.  Just wanted me to do what I loved.  I barely knew my father, so unfortunately I can’t attribute much to his influence.

Film Courage:  What were your plans after high school?

Harold:   Didn’t have any.  I floated for a second.  I always knew I wanted to make films but didn’t know how to make it happen.  I lacked the drive necessary to pull it off.

Film Courage:   Tell us about serving in the U.S. Marine Corps?

Harold:   Well, I wasn’t the best High School student.  Almost didn’t graduate.  Not because I couldn’t compete academically but because I didn’t care to.  I’ve always kind of been on my own program.  So naturally colleges weren’t knocking at my door, but the Marine Corp was happy to take me.  I signed up on a whim because I was bored and it turned out to be one of the most important and influential decisions of my life.  It turned me from a kid with a treasure chest full of ideas into a man with work ethic, drive, integrity and follow-through to make them a reality.

Film Courage:   What were some of the first films you watched as a child that made you want to make movies?

Harold:   I know its cool to ramble off about bunch of foreign film and director names to imply some sort of cinematic worldliness, but I am a cinematic patriot of sorts.  I have a film snob side but I keep it in its proper context.  80’s and early 90’s movies are major influences for me. I think that time period was the last time films were for the viewer and not about the people making them.  DIE HARD and HOME ALONE are stand outs for me.  Mainly because, I have a large extended family and I remember how much we enjoyed them together.  It was when I realized what cinema can do to people.  I wanted to do that.

Film Courage:   What prompted you to write the screenplay for LAST NIGHT?

Harold:   I was prepping to do a film that was completely dissimilar to LAST NIGHT.  It was fairly violent and aggressive, but it wasn’t coming together financially nor did I get the right energy in the early stages of pre-production.  All all the while this image of a man and woman riding a train wouldn’t leave me.  The two were simultaneously comfortable and trepidatious.  So, I decided to trust myself and see what they had to say.

Film Courage:   How long was the script and how long did it take to write?

Harold:   Although the final film is 93 minutes, the script was only 72 pages.  I was o.k. with the short script because I knew the film was more about the moments rather than the dialogue.  I love the dialogue, but I believe it supports the character’s journey.  It’s just a vehicle for their ride.

Film Courage:   Did you listen to certain music or watch similar relationship films while writing?

Harold:   I knew because of the nature of the story people would automatically start throwing around Woody Allen of Richard Linklater so I banned myself from their films throughout production and writing.  I’m tempted to watch now to see how the films compare.  But, haven’t.  Music was the biggest influence.  John Mayer’s “Paradise Valley” album and Maker’s were the major components of the writing process.  Ironically the final film bares a vague resemblance to the initial vision.  I’ve learned to not force my work.  I let it evolve organically now.  The film now has a life and flow of its own.   It is an original now.

Film Courage:   What other research did you do before you began writing?

Harold:   I researched myself.  It is my first film with a female lead.  She is probably a combination of women I know and wish I knew told through my point of view.

Film Courage:   How much improv did you allow actors?

Harold:   The crux of the scenes are straight from the script.  I allowed my actors to adjust the dialogue to make it their own but for the most part it was from the script.  I self edited as I shot the scenes to get closer to the truth more than anything.

Film Courage:   What was your budget and what did you shoot on?

Harold:   Not comfortable talking about budget but we made the film comfortably.

Film Courage:   How many shooting days were planned and was it enough time to get everything you needed? 

Harold:   12 days was the initial plan.  We had to extend because the number of locations we shot for was a bit ambitious.  We needed two more days in the end.

Film Courage:   Did you location scout beforehand?  Did people lend the locations?

Harold:   Yes to both.  Washington D.C. is surprisingly welcoming to shoot in.  If you can get around the traffic and congestion.  But that leant a needed energy to the film and the juxtaposition of the two main story lines.  We shot 3 of the production days in Raleigh N.C. where the southern hospitality is real!

Film Courage:   Thoughts on the nature of dating relationships?

Harold:   Don’t have any.  It’s a circus now.  If you’re happy, you did it right. Lol.

Film Courage:   Any moment in a relationship that changed you forever?

Harold:   No.  I try not to let the past affect the present.  I am moderately successful at that.

Film Courage:   Advice for someone reading this going through a painful break-up or mourning a lost love?

Harold:   Accept it.  Don’t fight it.  There is a not so fine line between fighting for love and being stuck in the past.  The moment you accept it, you only remember the good times.

Film Courage:   We often hear of actors/filmmakers making a living in LA or New York.  How do you make this work in Washington D.C.?  

Harold:   Film is global now.  You just make it work.  I have a freedom here.  I don’t feel pressured to mimic or keep up.  I can say what I want to say and they accept me.  I can forge my own path with less of the noise that tries to force you to conform.

.Film Courage:   Biggest decision of your life and your thoughts on it now?

Harold:   I moved from Los Angeles to Harrisburg PA for personal reasons in 2001 with $30 and no prospects for anything.  I don’t regret anything about that.  I am an EMMY Nominated Producer now.  So, it all worked out.

Film Courage:   How many screenings are planned for LAST NIGHT?

Harold:   Right now I have three in the next month and a half.  One in New York at the American Black Film Festival (@ABFF) and two in D.C.  A Private mixer and another at the Our City Festival (@OurCityFest).

Film Courage:   Tell us about making the behind the scenes featurette?  Who shot the interviews, has it been helpful in gaining exposure for the film?

Harold:   I shot an audience reaction video before the premiere.  Nicole Whitmier shot it and we got some really great responses.  Check it out!
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Exclusive First Look at the New Film LAST NIGHT

 

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Film Courage:   Biggest challenge on set and how you moved through it?

Harold:   The logistics of getting the entire crew to multiple locations in a day most of the production, was a huge challenge.  It was not only the physical moving it was also keeping people mentally engaged and temperaments in check through the clutter of it all.  It was very difficult.  “Just keep through the day” I kept telling myself.  Then manage it all again the next day.  It’s the life.

.Film Courage:   How is your mindset different from approaching a film as a narrative versus a documentary, such as your film BURN: THE EVOLUTION OF AN AMERICAN CITY?

Harold:   I don’t look at them as much different.  Both are stories I wish to tell.  I just see a documentary as a film that is writing itself.

Film Courage:   If you were to take one quote and make it a bumper sticker or tattoo, what would it be?

Harold:   “By any means necessary.” Malcolm X

Film Courage:   Upcoming creative plans?

Harold:   I am currently in production on a miniseries called THE CHAIR.  More information on that to come.  Still looking to finance two other films so if there are interested investors out there…I am open to conversations.

 

BIO:

Harold produced, wrote, directed, shot and edited his first feature film “Seemless” in 2007. “Seemless” went on to be an Official Selection of the Hollywood Black Film Festival and the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival.

Harold’s first effort was followed by the critically acclaimed, feature length documentary “BURN: The Evolution Of An American City.” “BURN” won Best Documentary at the Hollywood Black Film Festival and Arizona Black Film Showcase, and also garnered Audience Choice and Honorable Mention awards.

He followed that with his 4th film “The Gift.” His most personal film, “The Gift” is the poignant story of a married couple on the brink of divorce and the spiritual ties that bind them. And “Under The Bourbon Moon” a lovely film about a group of friends and the secrets, drama and love that keeps them. Reminiscent of 80’s classics like “Breakfast Club” and “Diner.”

Harold is a EMMY Nominated Producer and recent winner of the EMERGING FILMMAKER award at NCBFF.  Up next is the powerful documentary film “Toy Soldier,” an uncompromising look at returning Iraq and Afghanistan veterans with combat induced psychological issues and how their story effects us all.  The feature film “Last Night” (BEST FEATURE Winner) a romantic drama/comedy about how a model’s last night in DC turns from uneventful into an unexpected love triangle. And the mini-series “The Chair.”

Harold is currently based in Washington DC.

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