We had the good fortune of connecting with Jamie Parslow and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jamie, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I grew up exceptionally poor as a child. Either living in trailer parks or dingy, roach-infested apartments for the first decade or so of my life. We didn’t have much, but what we made sure to splurge on when we could were movies and television. I had seen everything HBO, Showtime, TMC, and the occasional trip to the movies had to offer. Our home, wherever we were for the short amount of time we were there, was a movie house, and I soaked it up as a nerdy red-head.
My grandparents used to watch a lot of older movies, and one weekend while I was there, they were watching a Hitchcock Marathon. It was somewhere between watching The Birds and Psycho, 9 year-old me said out loud that I wanted to work in movies and television. In what capacity, I had no idea, but it wasn’t long after that I had already started to grab whatever VHS camera was sitting around attempting to direct my toddler-aged brother in one of those full-body abdominal contraptions, pretending he was in a space ship, flying around.
After that, I simply picked up storytelling as a natural extension of my personality. I was always strangely adept in English class, and would recite full feature films before going to bed each night. I started participating in school plays, creating a couple of my own, and from there, it was solidified. I decided I was going to produce, write, and direct movies.
Why I was compelled? I’m not exactly sure. I was always fascinated with stories and storytelling, but there was something about the way movies made me feel that always resonated with me. I was a stickler for production quality, even from a young age. I had a hard time watching Scooby-Doo reruns because the art was so stilted and robotic. But if you gave me weird stuff like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” Ren & Stimpy, or anything related to Batman – preferably Burton’s versions – I was in.
After graduating High School, I jumped at the chance of working on any movie I could, but living in Tampa, Florida, the opportunities were slim. However, I found my way through friends and colleagues, and eventually worked my way up as a Key Grip in the area, eventually joining the union. But directing and writing were my true goals, and after the industry dried up when the state incentives went away, I figured there was no excuse not to move to Los Angeles and pursue those goals.
Since moving, I’ve earned so much more experience in the field of production, eventually working as a director, a writer, and now as a full-time producer. I love working in creative, and I don’t necessarily mesh well with non-creative work. Call it a compulsion, or call it a calling from elsewhere; I don’t know if the field I work in is so much a choice, as much as it is an eventual destination.
What I can tell you, however, is that the reason I love to write, direct, and produce movies today is because – much like myself when I was a child – I yearn for a deeper connection to the human experience. Being able to tell stories that don’t often get told, or from perspectives that have rarely, if ever, been explored. I find that, if I’m going to do something creative, my goal is to make it connect with the weird ones, the fringe movie-goers, the ones who want to feel something they’ve never seen expressed on screen, and want a piece of themselves in the characters they watch. I want to be able to say something with purpose and reason, all while entertaining those watching. It’s our connection to each other that pulls me into the creative field, and if I can help inspire another unpopular, nerdy, poor, or disenfranchised human, then that’s what I’m going to do.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve always been drawn to both art and sciences as a career, starting when I was very young. In between studying things like aerodynamics, robotics, computers, and of course, dinosaurs – when I was about 9 years old my grandparents were watching an Alfred Hitchcock marathon on television, and after watching the famous shower sequence in Psycho, I said out loud that I wanted to work in movies and TV.
From there on, there are photos of me directing my toddler brother on whatever VHS camera we had. Pretending as if he was a pilot in space; or photos of myself putting on plays in our front yards with the neighbor kids. I was always drawn towards storytelling, and would often recite whole movies while laying in bed as a way to wind down. Eventually, that beget the idea of writing my own stories, and I was an avid short-story writer from my teens into my young adulthood.
I had a pretty harrowing upbringing. I was the oldest of three to a mother twice-divorced and working multiple jobs. My father was a drug addict and lifelong criminal, and wasn’t present in me and my sister’s lives until we were about 8 or 9 years old for only about a year and a half. Later on, he would find himself in prison for the rest of his life, while we would try to move on as poor kids in Florida. But the lessons we learned, the near-death experiences we endured, the constant move from one apartment or trailer to the next due to rent increases, and the torrid relationships we’d have with step-parents and the likes fostered my imagination, and only intensified the number of stories I’d suddenly become obsessed with writing or conceptualizing.
In High School I’d pour myself into my work in the Video Production department. Floor managing the daily news, directing music videos and short films, and eventually entering into and winning multiple High School film competitions. If there was something to be filmed, I was there. Call it escapism, or call it obsession; making movies was like drinking water to me as a kid.
I guess you could say it was inevitable that I’d be a filmmaker, and as I got older I began to immerse myself within the craft. First starting out as a PA back in Florida – even quitting menial jobs for the sake of jumping onto any film that found itself in the Tampa Bay area for a couple of days – and eventually moving into the grip and electric department when I was about 18-19 years old. I had gone to film school, learned the ropes, and made my way onto as many sets as possible with the hope of one day writing my own work and eventually directing. But what I needed to do was get to know every single aspect of the film world I could before taking the dive and working on my own stories.
Eventually, however, once I moved to Los Angeles in my mid-20s, I had a solid footing on the industry, and what to do and expect. I moved up quickly out here, first starting over as a PA, then as an Assistant Director, then as an on-staff Producer at a company that allowed myself and my friends to create our own short films, commercials, and stories. Though the work was hard, we learned a lot about what it takes to move an audience, tell a compelling tale, and how to amplify production value on a budget. It was like our own little film school, but we wrote our own paths.
I’ve now been working as a director on my own projects over the last couple of years, when I’m not producing at my day-job. My screenplays and directing styles have mostly focused on grounded sci-fi elements, including my last short film “Patch”, about a boy in an alternate-reality version of the 90s and mid-2000s who builds himself a robot in a society where Artificially Intelligent Androids are deemed dangerous, and therefor illegal. Or my newest short film, “Black Hole” where a man (played by my old friend from High School, Aaron Moorhead) wakes up with a miniature black hole in his house, and simply has to deal with it. A sort of play on obsession and depression and how the two intertwine and sometimes pull us into the other, at the sacrifice of our relationships and own well-being.
I like to utilize a lot of interesting or provocative imagery to entice an audience into my work. The concept of a boy building a robot in his 90s-style trailer park, walking through the desert, or the idea of a man staring down at a black hole as it eats his friends and pets, all come with imagery that’s interesting at the get-go, and invites someone into the story. But I like to think of my work as more contemplative, evocative, or interpersonal, with a dash of comedy and a bit of absurdity sprinkled on top. Something we can connect with at a deeper, more guttural level. Things we’ve been through that other films haven’t quite tapped into before, or exploring silence with a character who just needs some time to think. I find these moments intriguing the most for me, because it allows myself and hopefully my audience to get inside of this character’s head, and not just see what they’re going through, but to feel what it is they’re going through as well.
As someone who grew up exceptionally poor with a complicated and somewhat intense upbringing, I think I like to find those moments and people between the folds and bring them to the surface as a means of communicating that no matter what or where our stories are at the time, it’s the quiet moments we cherish, and it’s the in between moments that really define who we are and what we choose to do or not. Life is a myriad of choices we have to make on a daily basis, and it’s those choices that define our nature, our reality, and our pathways, and I think we find a lot of love for characters or stories about characters who, despite being in dire circumstances beyond their control, grit their teeth and find their light in the midst of adversity.
I’m not sure if that separates my work from others, but what I can say is that, on my own path, there were opportunities missed and others taken, but for each moment where I felt grounded or flightless, or told there wasn’t a way to get to what I needed – it was by simple determination that I worked through it, and often times I found those moments within myself in the quiet parts, between the folds.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love Los Angeles as a whole, and I think there are just so many unique and wonderful places to go. I’m a bit of a street photographer, so I’m partial to places that aren’t necessarily pristine or “cleaned up” as it were. You can often find me in Downtown at the Last Bookshop, or in the Arts District getting a drink at the many breweries/distilleries in the area.
The Hollywood Bowl is a treasure for anyone who’s never been, and I implore any and everyone to see a show there if they have the time and money. Same goes for Griffith Observatory, but due to it’s popularity nowadays, it’s a bit of a hassle to park and get up there. Though I’ll say, if you can make it happen, absolutely, you must.
Hiking is an obvious Los Angeles staple, and if you’ve got it in you, one should check out either Los Liones or Fish Canyon (if it’s still open, due to mudslides). The first for the cool breeze and beautiful view of the ocean at the top, and the second for its secluded nature and the beautiful, refreshing falls at the end.
If you’re looking for a bar, my all-time favorites are Residuals Tavern in Studio City, Tonga Hut in Van Nuys, and No Vacancy and Black Rabbit Rose for your Hollywood faire (make sure to stay for the live music at Black Rabbit if you can. Los Angeles is filled with great music venues).
And if you’re looking to get away, Malibu Cafe is tucked into a nice little canyon on a lake for cocktails and food. Or, if you want a quiet (for LA) beach, I’d highly recommend El Pescador Beach just North of Malibu.
And whatever you do, if you’re a fan of film and movies, please visit anyone of Los Angeles’ unique and beautiful stand alone cinemas.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ve had the wonderful privilege of aligning myself with a ton of incredibly wonderful creators, mentors, and collaborators over the years. Here are the names of the few (forgive me if I forget a couple)
Christopher and Andra Geno
Stephen Kramer Glickman
Zha Zha Aghili
FSU Film School
IADT Film School
The Writing Pad Writer’s Group (Christopher Reed’s Classes)
Petroglyph’s Writing Group
Bonnie Jean Koenn Arion Lapuz