I met Jon in writing class at Writer's Bootcamp, in Santa Monica. The guy walked in and immediately captured everyone's attention. Maybe it was his carrot top? But I think he's got something. That it factor that really can't be explained. He's interesting, crude, funny, and brutally honest. We became fast friends.
He's got heart. He's strong enough to survive Hollywood without compromising himself, or his family. At least not until he needs money for his next project. (Just being cheeky, Jon.) His wife backs him all the way and his two daughters love him. He's got it all.
Watch for his name to be the next writer/director of your new favorite sitcom.
Here are the questions I asked Jon.
1. How did professional snowboarding link you to directing?
Snowboarding for me was a catalyst for so many things in my artistic life. I began snowboarding professionally at a relatively young age, at a time when it was still fairly new in the world. I had always been an artistic person, because my mother had encouraged my creative side from the get go. My mother was a painter by hobby and as well, we always had cameras in our home growing up. So when I graduated high school I was enrolled in art college for painting and sculpture, but it was photography that ultimately won that battle.
Snowboarding took me around the world a number of times and I always had a camera everywhere I went. I loved, and still do, love photographing people. Faces really interest me as they can tell so much of a story without words. The creases of a face, the smile lines, the way a person's eyes can tell you who they are with just a look.
School and me didn't meld well so I took to traveling the globe as a professional snowboarder instead. I was highlighted in various international publications, but it was a serendipitous moment while being filmed for a Warren Miller ski film that turned me onto motion pictures. I asked if I could do a tracking shot (follow cam) of some of my fellow riders, as the skier cameraman couldn't keep up with us in the powder. I was immediately hooked. I then was shot for a Canadian outdoor sports film company called Real Action Pictures, who I later shot and directed my first snowboard film with. It was these years working with R.A.P. that taught me more than any films school could have. It was a great learning experience and time in my life.
2. In 5 words or less explain a typical day behind the camera.
Seeking moments others don't see.
3. You are also a writer: Do you work better in the AM or PM?
Well that's tough. I have kids now so my work habits have altered dramatically. Before I had kids I would write whenever I felt it. Sometimes early in the AM. Sometimes late at night. I would be lying in bed, have a thought, and rush to my desk and write a scene that I just thought of.
Now I cherish sleep so much that I keep a notebook beside my bed so that if I have a thought I will just make a note of it and save it till morning, which always comes sooner than I care for. Now I have a very solid three hours in the middle of the day that I find to be my most productive for writing. Sometimes I will write for an hour or so after my kids have gone to bed, but I usually end up drinking a bourbon while sitting at my desk during those hours, which tends to yield not the best quality of work. Although at the time I think I am writing gold.
4. Have you lived in LA all your life?
God no. I avoided LA for a long time. Originally I am from Canada and lived there until I was 20, then moving to LA for a year. It was more of a party time than anything, but it was fun. I was in my heyday of snowboarding professionally so I was traveling a lot and unfortunately wasn't focused on creating anything at that time. I then moved back to California in the early 90's to a small beach town called Encinitas in North county San Diego. I lived there for 8 years where I did a lot of film work within the action sports industry. I started to direct commercials for Burton Snowboards which was the stepping stone for my career into mainstream advertising. I figured if I was going to dig for oil I should live where the oil rigs are and made the move back to LA 7 years ago this year.
5. Your blog is snarky and interesting: Do you see that becoming something more? A book? A pilot?
It's funny really, I started the blog renegade daddy more as a sounding board for my experiences with being a father of twins. As a commercial director and writer, I work from home until we start shooting a job so my wife and I decided when she went back to work I would be daddy day care. Good christ did I not know what I was getting myself in for.
Every other mommy blog out there was so much fluff. I hated them. They were vanilla and boring. I was going to write my experiences exactly how I was feeling about them. I wasn't going to offer advice or any bullshit like that. I was going to gripe. Loud. I was watching a stand up comic named Louis CK talk about being a father of girls. He said it perfectly when he exclaimed "If you told me I was one day going to be cleaning poop out of tiny little vaginas, I'd say you are crazy " I thought to myself Holy Shit! That's me! And thus Renegade Daddy was born.
I have had many people say I should write a book or make this into a TV show but I just didn't have the time. Recently however I did start writing a pilot for a show based on Renegade Daddy. I've slacked for a long time on the blog, but think I really need to get back at it again.
6. Who was your best teacher for writing?
Personally I don't think you can teach writing. Or anything artistic for that matter. Art and academia makes about as much sense to me as the term classy porn. Either you got it or you don't.
I have taken courses that have given me a better understanding as to how I can streamline my process, but in my experience you have to just dive in an write, draw, photograph or whatever to really find your talent. The one class I did take was called Writers Bootcamp out of Santa Monica. It was a great experience for me as far as helping me hone my craft for screenwriting. The tools they teach you there are fantastic as long as you know how to use them. I think that, and reading a TON of scripts has been the best teacher for me as far as my screenwriting goes.
But bottom line, if you can't spin a good yarn, no amount of tools or teachers will ever be able to teach you how to write. You have to just do it. Over and over and over until your brain hurts and you don't suck.
7. Are you a coffee drinker or chocolate junkie?
Please don't take offense, but this sounds like such a chick question. Chocolate junkie? I don't think I know a single male chocolate junkie. At least one who would admit it. I like scotch, bourbon and cigars. I like killing small animals and screwing cheerleaders and riding motor cycles. Next question.
8. In Hollywood – getting jobs, is it all who you know or how you work?
This is the oldest story in the book. It's not what you know, it's who you know. But in Hollywood it's about who you know, and what you can do after you know them. I have definitely had more work because of people I meet.
It's strange. Someone once asked me about my resume. I said I didn't have one, which seemed to shock them. How do you get work? The asked. Well, I was at a party and met so and so who introduced me to so and so who thought I would be great for a project that so and so was doing and blam! I'm writing a script for them.
But you definitely need to produce good work. It's not about how good your first job is with them. It's about how well you can follow it up with the next job that matters.
9. Does an agent represent you? Do you recommend agents to new writers/directors?
For directing I have a partner I work with in our commercial work. We are represented by a Hollywood production company called Virulens. We are also meeting with a feature agent who is interested in us at United Talent Agency.
I am currently not repped for writing, but my partner is repped at Anonymous Content who I might approach with my latest feature script.
As far as recommends, well that is tricky. Agents are kind of an odd thing because unless you are making them money, they are useless. Some people suggest a good manager is all you need. But to me those are usually the same people who say money can't buy happiness. Only people with lots of money say that.
If you don't have a manager or agent it's hard to get your work out there. That being said, if you create great work, the agents and managers will find you. A bit of a conundrum really. The best advice I can give is if an agent or manager asks you for some kind of "retainer" or money up front, they are not legit. An agents job is to get you work. Getting you work makes you money, and makes them money.
10. Give us one word that describes you.
11. Do you have a writing partner or do you prefer to go it alone?
Writing is a painful and lonely endeavor. I love it and hate it all at once. The prospect of the blank page or screen is terrifying, but when you get that one page done in a day that really sings, it is worth it.
I write with my directing partner as well as on my own. Being a writer means you should always be writing. I have four projects I am currently working on. A feature on my own, one with another writing partner, a TV pilot with my directing partner as well as a short film we are writing and going to direct in the fall.
12. What are you working on now?
I'm a little superstitious so I don't care to elaborate on what my projects are about right now because they are on spec.
You have to be very protective about your work in this town because everyone is a possible thief. First you're sitting in a coffee shop with a friend telling them about your new screenplay, and the next thing you know the writers assistant sitting at the table next to you bangs out some script based on your idea he overheard and through his connections now has a three picture deal at Warner. It sounds silly but it really does happen.
13. Are your family members supportive of your creative career?
I once had a very callous teacher who called me a dreamer. I told her that without dreamers nothing in the world would have ever happened. I am lucky that my parents always nurtured the dreamer in me.
My wife is very supportive of my artistic life even tough it has it's downs from time to time, but mostly I am very supported.
My in laws raise their eye brows at times because they are from a small town where you just go to work and punch out at the end of the day. My father in law can't wrap his head around that commercial directors can make six figures over the course of four days of work. Or I that I could peck away at a computer for a year and possibly turn that into a six figure paycheck or more.
14. What do you eat for breakfast?
The dreams of hipster know it alls. Doesn't everyone?
15. Do you hope your children follow your example?
Right now all I hope for my daughters is to never end up dancing on a pole. Unless it is horizontal and next to a mirror at Juilliard and they are wearing a tutu. I figure the rest will work itself out.
16. Is there anyone in the industry that you hope to work with? Actor? Director? Writer?
I have a friend who just cut a Willie Nelson documentary directed by Billy Bob Thorton who I have in mind for the lead in my script I am currently writing. I know he has a reputation of being difficult and eccentric, but I consider that a high class problem. The day I'm waiting on set for ol Billy Bob to get to work is a day I welcome with open arms.
17. How can my readers help you become an even bigger success?
I don't really understand this question. I guess it would help if any of your readers are independently wealthy and want to financially get behind one of my projects. That wouldn't hurt.
18. What are you watching right now? Favorite TV shows or Movies?
I never was into Mad Men until recently. I had never watched it. Everyone was raving about it and so I finally added it to my Netflix. Let's just say that my wife and I are spending a lot of our nights with Don Drapier these days. It's the closest thing to a Ménage à trois I'll ever get.
19. If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
Professionally I would like to be directing the films that I write instead of directing commercials that coax people to buy things they probably don't need.
Personally I am in a very good place. I am loving being a family man and building a little future with my beautiful daughters and my wife, who is utterly amazing. Like the saying goes, behind every good man is a woman. Mine just happens to be rolling her eyes.
20. What are your stress relievers? Photography? Hanging with the fam? Others?
I would love to say that I run a lot, do yoga, meditate, read russian literature, finger paint with my children and spin pottery with my wife. But saying having a good wank would be a much more amusing ending don't you think?