I recently got the opportunity to talk to Brett Jacobsen about his role in ‘The Myth Of The American Sleepover’. Here, Brett talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set, and about his life as an editor…
Hey Brett. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. ‘The Myth Of The American Sleepover’ will be in selected US cinemas soon and has been gaining interest this week through IMDB.
What is the general premise of the movie?
It’s a coming-of-age story that follows four kids of varying experience as they spend their last night of summer before school starts. These characters are looking for love and acceptance in any form. When I was a kid (in the 90s) every little moment was something you could meditate on for hours after it happened; from something as tiny as a look and a smile, to something as monumental as a kiss at the end of the night. This film is all about what it’s actually like to be a teenager, and what I mean is that most things that happen in the film are things that might have really happened in many young people’s real lives. Basically, nobody has sex with a fruit pie.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie….
I play Scott Holland who is grappling with the decision of whether or not to return to college for his senior year. He’s coming off a bad breakup, he’s lost and he’s wondering where all the time went. He can feel his life speeding up and he’s trying to hang on to something from the past and get a bit of his childhood back. But he doesn’t exactly realize it. He just thinks, “Hey I remember those cute twins from high school and it seemed like they liked me… I’m gonna go find them.” You see a lot of stories about “the one that got away” but Scott’s story is about the one… or ones, you never got. Actually Scott can sound like a creepy guy when you say he’s the one that’s stalking those twin girls. But really, his interests are in one more than the other and he’s trying to keep from hurting anyone’s feelings. Of course guys are famous for screwing this up so it’s fun to watch him navigate the situation he gets himself into.
What would be your ideal sleepover?
My ideal sleepover? Wow. Great question! I think it would be fun to have six friends who had the “balls” to play those risky games like truth or dare and spin the bottle. I’d love to have food and drinks, hang out on the beach with some good music and let time slow down – almost to a standstill. Especially those moments when the sun hasn’t quite broken the horizon line but you know it’s coming. Nights don’t feel endless anymore. I’d love to get that feeling back. I think I’m a lot like my character in the film. It’s almost impossible to hang out with friends and be disconnected from the rest of the world anymore. I’d love to spend a night with friends who aren’t constantly texting and e-mailing other people while we are together. That would be one hell of a throwback!
A user on IMDB, GregKing4 has said – “The Myth Of The American Sleepover is an honest and affirmative coming of age film that resonates.” – would you agree with this? How would you say it is different from other teen flicks?
Many of the teen films I see are built on the most outrageous things that you’ve ever heard – happening one after the other. There’s nothing wrong with those movies, and they are a lot of fun to watch. This movie though, is very different from that. It puts its energy into making you feel like you did when you were a teenager. It can give you goose bumps if you let it take you into those moments. That’s not to say that it isn’t fun or funny. It is. There are a lot of relatable moments that are hilarious. I just think it does a great job of capturing the feeling of growing up. From the awkwardness of a clumsy stumble to the nervous moments before you go in for that special kiss – this film dips your nostalgia nerve in Red Bull.
The film stars Claire Sloma, Marlon Morton, Amanda Bauer and your good self – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
You know, I really didn’t get to work with most of the other actors. Because there are four distinct stories in this film I basically came in to Michigan, did my scenes in about two weeks, then went home. That being said, it was such a micro budget film that some of the actors ended up helping out on set when they weren’t shooting their scenes. I had a brief encounter with Amanda Bauer when she stood in as the Second Assistant Camera for a day, I got to hang with Doug Diedrich (the pool boy) and Annette Dyer (the hilarious “Beth”) when they were helping out production on set for a couple of days. Those guys were great but as an actor in a scene I really only worked with Mary Wardell (who played my sister “Jen”) and Nikita and Jade Ramsey (the Abbey twins). Mary looks amazing on film and she’s a natural actor. She’s totally laid back and easy to work with and I really enjoyed our scenes together. Now with the twins… the twins are absolutely outrageous! They are actually Brits and they are the quintessential twins in that they finish (and sometimes start) each other’s sentences. They also talk two thousand miles a second so having a conversation with them is somewhat like riding a rollercoaster. It’s sensory overload. I love watching people’s first reaction when they talk to the twins. Anyway, they were excellent actors and really great to work with. It was easy to play the part opposite them because they are really cute and we had a good chemistry.
Let’s talk a bit about you Brett – what made you want to get into acting in the first place?
Ever since I was a kid I was always goofing off and imitating characters from Han Solo to Pee Wee Herman. I used to record comedic bits with my friends onto an audio tape and we’d listen back to it and laugh at ourselves for hours. I went back and listened to them recently and realized immediately why everyone called me ma’am on the phone back then. Nothing is more degrading to an adolescent boy than when the guy in the toy department at Wal-Mart says “We’re all out of Luke in storm trooper uniform, we get a truck on Wednesday, you can try back then ma’am.” Tangent. Anyway when we were older my friend and I would make little fake commercials on his parent’s video camera and eventually I started acting in shorts and features for film students. None of that stuff ever got old so I kept it up and I’m still doing it 12 years later.
We should probably mention that you’re also an editor, producer and a whole variety of other industry based things – do you find it hard to cram it all in or is it just a normal day at the office?
Nothing in this business seems to qualify as a normal day at the office. I’ve done a lot of different jobs over the years and never thought too much about most of them. But when I look on imdb.com it’s amazing how much it adds up. There was a time when I moved to LA that I was working 12-15 hour nights as an Assistant Editor, going to a couple of auditions during the day and also helping a friend of mine as the West Coast Casting Director for his first feature. I hardly got any sleep back then. But you never know what’s going to happen. I actually came really close to getting a role as a lifeguard who falls asleep on an empty beach because everyone is at a Payless shoe sale. They loved me in the room. I remember waking up to the director saying, “Cut. Wow that was so real.” But these days I’ve simplified things. I work full-time as an editor on TV and internet marketing pieces for Paramount movies. And I do acting whenever I get the chance. It’s not perfect but it feels like I’m building a possible career to fall back on if the acting thing doesn’t ever produce a paycheck.
What advise would you give to anyone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Well, there are lots of careers in the industry. The one rule with all of them is that it’s really about who you know. That’s frustrating to hear when you are just starting out and you don’t know anyone but if you work hard and try to have a positive attitude you will get to know people. The other thing is say yes to as much as you can. That worked for me on this movie. I said yes when the director asked me to be a reader for some auditions he was doing for the movie and by the end of it he liked what I was doing enough to ask me to audition for the role of Scott.
You had a number of different roles on a number of TV series and films – who has been your favorite actor to work with so far and who has given the best advice to you?
You know that is a hard question. I’ve worked with a ton of really great actors that no one has ever heard of and a few really great ones that are just starting to hit the radar. I loved working with Jordan Ladd in a short we did a while back called Al’s Beef. She is a firecracker with a great smile. I also loved working with Drew Roy (new kid from “Falling Skies”) in a movie called “Blink” that we shot in 2006. He had great comedic timing and he’s a hotshot in the looks department. The best advice I ever got on acting was to really listen to what the other actor is saying and reply to that feeling with your lines. That advice came from my directing teacher in film school.
If you could recommend a film or TV series to someone, what would you choose and why?
My top three movies are ‘Fight Club’, ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind’. I always recommend ‘Fight Club’ to guys and tomboys because it’s got the midlife crisis of ‘American Beauty’ mixed with the high concept edginess of ‘The Matrix’. I recommend ‘Eternal Sunshine’ to people who are on the mend from a bad breakup and considering calling their ex to try to be friends. And I basically don’t recommend ‘Blade Runner’ to anyone. It just seems like everyone who’s gonna like that movie has already seen it. On the TV side of things I’ve been watching a lot of ‘Twin Peaks’ on Netflix. That show is a must watch. When I watch it I feel like a kid watching a master piano player because I have no understanding of how much skill it takes to pull off that tone. The show I’ll never get over is ‘Arrested Development’. Come for the stars and stay for the brilliant writing and editing.
What does a Brett Jacobsen day usually consist of?
My circadian rhythms have me on a tightrope walk. I’m awake at 8am and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. I’m thinking of getting blackout shutters that work like the shields on Tim Burton’s Batmobile but I saw a kid get his finger stuck in a set of those once. Now he’s got a fake hand. Thanks kid. Anyway my morning is basically the open of ‘Pee Wee’s Big Adventure’. Then I drive to work and spend 10 hours editing marketing videos. Then I drive home in heavy LA traffic. This allows me time to floss or fold laundry and usually write a few e-mails. I sometimes pass a guy that plays a mandolin while driving. You can get a lot of chores done on the road in LA. Americans have been asked to reach new levels of multi-tasking so that we can keep productivity high. It’s our little way of keeping China on their toes. Anyway, then I come home and have dinner with my wife and water the 45 potted plants I have, which I bought to try to offset LA air pollution. I’m not currently speaking to my cats (after they tried to blackmail me into getting them iPhones) so lately I’ve had extra time to feed my addiction of looking at the lightning deals on Amazon.com. Then I brush my teeth, floss (if I didn’t floss on the drive home) and usually I’ll read a few pages of ‘The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’. That’s a great book.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
Congrats to New York for adding themselves to the list of states that are more progressive than California. I also feel sorry for Amy Winehouse. It was shocking but unsurprising news. And in terms of the current debt ceiling stalemate, I just want to remind the ultra right-wing contingency out there that you got what you wanted for 8 years but your guy is not in power any more. I know it’s hard not to have it your way, but if you want that feeling again, go to Burger King. That last one is bound to get me in trouble.
What is coming up for you in 2011?
I’ve got a great part in an upcoming feature by the same director, Dennis Hauck, who did ‘Al’s Beef’ (the short I mentioned earlier) that should be shooting before the end of the year. That’s the only thing on the schedule for this year but there is another feature script I’m reading that will hopefully shoot sometime next year. These indie features have more of a fluid schedule but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they will go through. I’m also seeking representation, but most agents don’t always jive with the actor-who-has-a-real-job-with-limited-flexibility thing. I just never thought I would be a good waiter.
Thanks for the interview!