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Donald G. Jackson (ROLLER BLADE, HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN)

An interview with director/producer Donald Jackson...

ES: What originally interested you in the art of filmmaking?
 
DJ: As a child I remember collecting Sunday newspaper comic strips such as FLASH GORDON, THE PHANTOM, and PRINCE VALIANT. I also listened to radio serials such as THE SHADOW, THE GREEN HORNET, STRAIGHT ARROW, etc. The first movies I remember seeing were the Serials - DICK TRACY, ROCKETMAN, ZORRO. Later I started to appreciate the comic book influence on TV shows with fancy camera angles like PETER GUNN, DRAGNET, STONEY BURKE, and COMBAT. After high school I went to work for a photographer who showed me how to use a 16mm Bolex. About that time I began to attend the Ann Arbor Experimental Film Festival and to make my own films. I did alot of work in Regular 8mm, 16mm, and Super 8 silent and with sound. It was just a logical path to take that incoroprated my love of comic books, comic strips, and fantasy characters from my childhood.
 
ES: Your pictures seem to always have very high profit-markings. What was the most profitable?
 
DJ: ROLLER BLADE has made the most money per investment of any movie I've made. I shot the original ROLLER BLADE in 1984 with a borrowed 16mm Bolex and out-dated ECO reversal film stock. When that stock ran out, I used 7240 Video New Film. The movie is rich with saturated color and looks like 35mm. It was shot completely silent and without a script. The movie was post-dubbed. My inspiration was KANSAS CITY BOMBER with Rachel Welch, UNHOLY ROLLERS with Claudia Jennings, MAD MAX, and a comic strip called JUNKMAN. I spent about 5K on my Visa card. New World picked up the movie for world-wide distribution. They gave me a 70K advance. The movie made ONE MILLION DOLLARS and never even showed on TV. The ONE MILLION was just on home video. 5K turned into ONE MILLION was pretty good. I also had profit participation and ended up making about $180K personally off my 5K investment. New World next gave me a budget of 1.5 million dollars to make HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN. It all started with my Bolex and a vision - rebel nuns on skates with healing powers. Jim Cameron's sister is in the movie!
 
ES: Any unique stories you'd like to share of working with James Cameron?
 
DJ: I met Jim Cameron when I worked with Roger Corman at New World on a picture called GALAXY OF TERROR. We always got along. He hired me to work with him and Gale Ann Hurd doing pick up shots for 9 days on TERMINATOR. Jim paid me out of his own pocket. I had a blast shooting many different scenes and various shots. He taught me how to work with long lenses. Up til that point I'd always been the King of Wide Angle. Jim personally picked me up in his Corvette to attend my first Christmas party I held for friends before starting to shoot HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN. He always loved seeing my Super 8 'behind the scenes' footage I'd shot at New World. Last time I worked with Cameron was shooting second unit on his music video with Bill Paxton's band - Martini Ranch. We shot a 13 minute music video to the song "Reach" with a spaghetti western theme. It was great! Hanging out with Jim Cameron later going to movies, toy shops, and various restaurants, he'd always admit to me how much he'd learn each time he'd make a movie. I just saw Gale Ann Hurd recently and we reminised about the good old days carrying around the camera cases, lights, and doing the pick up shots on the first TERMINATOR.
 
ES: What plans for the future does Donald G. Jackson have?
 
DJ: I've made plenty of movies and don't need the practice of doing any more for awhile. If the right budget comes along, I might change my mind. Right now I have a back log of 8 - 12 features that need to be edited. I'm also doing final post on my epic GUNS OF EL CHUPACABRA. I took down my ZENDANCE.COM website to re-structure it and turn in ito a commerical company that will sell my films. I'm also trying to get a book written about all of my expereinces called SOLDIER OF CINEMA. And I want to put together a DOCUMENTARY of all my experiences with clips from everything I've done. Plus interviews with people I've worked with.
 
ES: Any advice for struggling filmmakers?
 
DJ: Yes. Quit struggling. You're not struggling. You're growing and learning. First you have to love filmmaking. There is no struggle. You're only competing with yourself. Enjoy movies and music videos. Have fun with visuals and experimenting. Try to find some new ways of doing things a bit different. Read the film publications, go to the movies, and make films for any budget and any format you can afford. My entire life and philosophy of ZENDANCE is enlightenment thru filmmaking.

Don's IMDB filmography and website:

Don's films

Donald's Zendance Site

The Eric Spudic Website!