|INTERVIEWS - Jim Jacob|
The first minute or two of a Jim Jacob film is very confusing. In fact, if you don't catch on, the entire film could be quite confusing. But, if you are paying attention, it will start to dawn on you that you are watching a comedic genious at work. Jacob never gives his characters away. There is no winking at the camera. He leaves it up to the audience to discover the humor in his "instructional" films with titles like Basic Rules of Restaurant Etiquette, Introduction to Film Noir, and Guidelines for Public Speaking. Jim Jacob agreed to let me ask him a few questions about his films and his method, possibly shedding light on a career that has baffled some, and tickled others.
Where did you get the idea to make your "instructional" films?
I went to
the Chicago Historical Society to see the film, The Gangs All Here,
and they showed one of the comedy instructional shorts by Robert Benchley
What kind of response do your films usually get?
Quite a few
people find them to be funny, but some people think I am trying to be
How similar are you to the character, Jim Jacob we see in your videos?
definitely an overlap.
Your films have a very distinct look. How do you design the shots?
the shots in collaboration with people Ive worked with over the
years. I have worked with several people with Televent Video Services
-- Jeff Bass, Bill Steed, John Krupka, and Don Shannon. I have also worked
with Jim Andre, who is an independent film producer.
How long is the shoot on your average film?
shoot of one of my films is about two hours, because I am using the equipment
, studio, and services of the video production company, and Im paying
by the hour.
Have you acted in any films other than your own?
I was younger, I used to be asked to appear in student films sometimes,
but I was too hesitant to do it.
What have your experiences been with film festivals?
enjoy film festivals. I feel they are an adventure. The first festival
to which I submitted one of my tapes called me and said that there was
a controversy about it. The person I spoke to said these girls on the
pre-screening committee had watched it and thought that it was a serious
instructional film, however an unusually bad one. Then the screening committee
had watched it, and felt that it was intended to be a sort of a parody.
Has making your films become easier or harder over the years?
tapes has become easier in the sense that I feel that now I sort of know
what I am doing. However, sometimes I feel that it may be a little more
difficult now to keep it fresh for myself and my audience. I guess this
is natural, because at this point I have completed several tapes.
Walk us through a Jim Jacob film, from conception to finished product.
I will choose
a subject somehow -- something which I feel has comic possibilities. Then
I will begin writing notes and begin doing research. I read books on the
subject and try to find anything in them which is funny or which I feel
I can make funny by making slight changes in it. Then I write the script.
I take my time doing this, sometime writing on buses and trains or at
coffee places. I also like to write at this real peaceful place in Wisconsin.
I write when I feel like it; if Im not getting any decent ideas,
I will just put the material aside and do something else. When the scripts
ready, Ill talk to the people Im going to do the production
with, and well make a plan. Then well shoot it. Ill
study the footage for a while, preferably at home, and then well
schedule an editing session, which usually only takes about an hour or
What can we expect next from you?
Im not sure about my next project. Im trying to see whether I can do something a little different from my other tapes. Im thinking about sort of my own version of shows like Americas Funniest Home Videos. I hope that I can finish it this year.
To order tapes of Jim Jacob's films, please contact Mr. Jacob at JJmjacob@aol.com
writer/director of Cheaters
writer/director of Maryam
writer/director of Wet Hot American Summer
director of Gigantic: A Tale Of Two Johns
co-director/writer/co-star of Dirt