We had the good fortune of connecting with Jay Holben and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jay, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I guess you could say that I found my “calling” at a very early age – 5-years old. It was a hot summer July in Arizona in 1977 and my parents had taken me to see a movie – only the second film I had ever seen in a theater. There was an incredibly long line wrapping around the whole building and these crazy characters walking around like a big dog and a man dressed in black armor. It was Star Wars at the Cine Capri theater in Phoenix and I walked out of the theater and told my parents that I was going to direct movies. They took that proclamation as any parent would of their precocious 5-year old, but I have spent the following 43 years of my life pursuing that same goal. I realized that I have a need to move an audience, to share an emotion, a feeling, a lasting impression with a large group of people. I want to share stories and experiences. Terry Gilliam said that I good story will explode on the screen and leave shrapnel in the audience for the rest of their lives. I’d like to be responsible for that shrapnel that sticks with people for a lifetime. I realized very early on that in order to be a good director that I had to know what everyone else on the set was doing intimately. I spent the first near four decades of my professional career (starting around 16 years old) learning what everyone else on set did and embodying every role in production and post with very few exceptions. That experience has given me an extraordinary skill set that allows me to communicate with all members of the production in their own language. That’s a long-winded way of saying I want to tell stories and that led me to filmmaking.
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.
Throughout the course of my career I have found a number of outlets to share with people. The top is filmmaking, of course. I have the ability to bring out the best in those I work with from actors to writers, cinematographers to editors. I love to find the heart of the story and find the best way to leave a lasting impression with the audience; to touch them emotionally. I have also had a secondary career as a writer, mostly as a technical journalist, and I have refined the ability to take the extremely complicated and explain it in very simple and understandable terms. With over a million words in print (and another half a million coming soon!) I’ve been very proud of the impact my writing has had on the readers. I’m very fortunate to get wonderful feedback on how my work has helped others. From my writing for American Cinematographer magazine to my books on the subject of cinematography, I’m pleased to help others better understand this business. Finally, I’ve had a tertiary career as a teacher/lecturer and have had the ability to travel around the globe teaching about this business. I love to share and to help others understand the nuts and bolts of this extraordinary art form of filmmaking. My favorite compliment is a student leaving a class telling me, “I’ve read about this before, but never understood it until today!”
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Los Angeles is an extraordinary mecca of culture and experiences. There are phenomenal restaurants, museums and venues to visit – but I’d likely tailor a tour around Hollywood. From the Walk of Fame to the Chinese theater. I’d take them to the American Society of Cinematographer’s clubhouse and – soon – to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences museum. I’d likely take them to Mastro’s in Beverly Hills for a succulent steak dinner. We’d, of course, take a trip to the ocean, down to the Harbor Island Yacht Club in Long Beach where I’d get a 42′ Catalina for the day and take them out on the open ocean — one of my favorite pastimes.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Undoubtedly, my wife Jennine has been the greatest support (and harshest critic) in my life. We have been together since sophomore year in high school and she has endured the ups and downs, ebbs and flows of my career more than anyone else (besides myself). It has been her support, sacrifices and patience that has allowed me to traverse the ridiculous terrain of this business.