Norm Goldman Interviews Chris Jaymes
Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest, multiple award-winning American writer, director,producer, actor, and musician, Chris Jaymes. In his nearly three decades of working in the entertainment industry, he has been a member of the Capitol Records recording artist band Bootstraps; acted in such projects as Lost, Party of Five, andChicago Hope; wrote, produced, and directed the multiple award-winning film, In Memory of My Father, and directed numerous films and TV shows.
Chris recently authored Sons of Chaos with illustrations by Ale Aragon.
Norm: Good day Chris and thanks for participating in our interview.
What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far in your various careers?
Chris: Hard to say, as various things seem to resonate in different ways. Sometimes the personal success exists on certain individual levels but the project doesn’t resonate.
I’ve directed a couple of movies that I’m not a fan of, however the capacity to work through challenging situations and make impossible things happen in a day when everything is not going how you wish it was tends to live in your memories more than something that wins a bunch of awards.
I think my first film, In Memory of My Father,felt like one of my best successes because it took me so long to complete. Having no money, no experience, and no clue of how to get it completed pounded my psychology for awhile.
Mental ups and downs, tons of self-doubt, and somehow it ended up sending me on trips to festivals around the world, meet loads of amazing humans, and win a bunch of awards. Same with this current book.
Sons took me an extremely long time and in the middle it feels like the end will never arrive, and when it finally does you can barely remember what you’re actually even doing until the rest of the world starts reminding you.
At the moment, the feeling of success is massive in some ways, seeing people have emotional reactions to the book, and in other ways it feels like your at the beginning again. Success is a strange thing to define as it means so many different things on so many different levels. The fact that I’ve been able to create a life where my curiosity has been supported and I’ve been blessed to see lots of the world, meet amazing humans, and continue to learn so much about so many different things is by far my biggest success.
Norm: What has been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in getting to where you’re at today?
Chris: Again, that first movie (In Memory of My Father) and this book (Sons of Chaos) were by far the most challenging. Primarily, because both times I was doing something for the first time.
Trying to figure out the broad strokes and the nuances necessary to make something good takes a significant amount of relentlessness, and somehow days just pass, as do months and years... and somehow you have to find a way to keep going without self-destructing or doubting your efforts regardless of how much or little progress is being made.
There is always a pressure that defines how you can execute, sometimes it’s lack of budget, sometimes it’s lack of imagination, usually the two are married and you go back and forth like a scientist finding the most logical hypothesis of how to proceed. That said, I would say my biggest success was staying within the entertainment industry after getting a small part in my first big movie.
A very famous director who was not having the best moment in life decided to take it out on the cast and crew, and the first moment I stepped foot on set and started saying my lines, starting screaming from a far away monitor where he was watching... “STOP F***ING ACTING!!! JUST SAY THE F***ING LINES!!” And when I looked at the very famous person doing the scene with me, he quickly supported me and explained what the guy had been going through and this was normal behavior, not to worry. I was ready to collapse and thought I would be sent away and beaten. Somehow, I made it through and by the end of the day the director was yelling at other people to bring me coffee. I guess that was a big challenge.
Norm: How did you get involved in acting? Where did you learn acting? What and when was your first role as an actor? What was your toughest role and why?
Chris: Started when I was 14, living in Huntington Beach. I found the only credible acting class in the area which was only for adults, but they let me come. I was timid and sweaty and my throat locked up every time I tried to speak, but I pushed myself because I hated being a victim of these unexplainable internal inhibitors that challenged me in day to day life. I wanted to be able to talk to other humans and resemble something less animalistic, so I kept trying and when I was about 17 I did a good job at a workshop put on by Sheila Guthrie, who at the time was casting Wings and Cheers.
She brought me into audition for Wings and I booked the part, but then it got cancelled before we shot, because of a script rewrite. A couple months later, I got a supporting role in a movie of the week with Helen Hunt and initially Cory Haim.
It was surreal. I turned 18 during the shoot and Cory quit the project as he was going through his own internal battles, and Chad Allen replaced him. So, I got to become friends with two of my childhood role models all in a period of a week.
The toughest role would be the one I mentioned in the previous story... based on circumstance, not on creativity. I think the farther away from normal the character is, the easier it gets. Playing straight and being human tends to be much harder. But by far the hardest roles when you are starting tend to be guest starring on TV shows, because you are walking into someone else’s world and you quickly have to find your place within that world. You never know how it will be, or if anyone will talk to you, or if the director will acknowledge your existence. It’s all unpredictable and there’s no way to prepare aside from experience.
Norm: How has your careers as an actor, writer and producer helped you in your career as a director?
Chris: It helps to understand the perspective from every possible side. It helps to communicate and to understand the various layers of what’s going on. As an actor, I would show up and think it was all about the acting. As a writer, you think it’s all about the writing. But when you start directing, you realize you need everybody. And you need them to be the best possible version of themselves in order for you to succeed. Knowing how to communicate and comprehend the various parts of the whole, helps your chances at getting through a day, and hopefully doing something good.
Norm: If you had a magic wand, what movie would you direct next?
Chris: I would love to direct a film version of Sons of Chaos, I would love to direct a script I have that is sort of the equivalent of my version of E.T., surrounding a true story between a boy and a dolphin. But if I could make magic happen and do anything, it would probably be a sequel to The Talented Mr. Ripley that was infused into a war movie.
Norm: If you could change just one thing about the movie industry with the wave of a magic wand, what would it be?
Chris: I would spread out the money and make lots of story-driven smaller films like in the 80s, as opposed to these massive tent poles, and work to get people back to movie theaters instead of watching everything at home and on your phone.
Norm: How did you become involved with the subject or theme of Sons of Chaos?
Chris: A friend, Nick Lambrou, introduced it to me. I read a couple of books surrounding 1821 and the revolution, and one about Ali Pasha, the “Napoleon of the East” and his actions during the period, and it stimulated my desire to tell a story that exposes the agendas of the leaders, as opposed to what we are told wars are about.
Something that has always challenged me, is how easily people are swayed by a few slogans that mass murder on another population is acceptable. Telling a story about a revolution that defined our world that has been somewhat overlooked outside of Greece and Turkey was compelling. And the more I learned about what these people went through in order to attain freedom, the more I was invested.
Norm: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them? As a follow up, if someone can only buy one book this month, why should it be yours?
Chris: The goal is that people spend the time reading it, and hopefully they come away being emotionally moved. They place themselves inside the reality that just a short time ago, people like us were faced with an entirely different reality.
And people fought to give us the freedoms we now tend to not even realize weren’t always there. I want people to understand that it took a lot to get us here to this time of convenience and comfort, and that we could easily slip back to this kind of world if we continue down this path of polarization that I think we are currently riding.
This book may not be the answer to all of that, but it can at least begin to open your eyes to what actually goes on behind closed doors and the suffering imposed on others, often at our expense. The book presents relatable scenarios that we face in our day to day lives placed within a heightened scenario. Father issues, mother issues, self worth issues, all the things we face as we strive to feel like we are “enough” with the hope that some day we will live up to the ideals we impose upon ourselves, and that we will be loved. That’s really what it’s about. I think that’s what most everything is about in some way.
Norm: Could you briefly tell our audience a little about the book?
Chris: It’s probably best described by a guy that reviewed the book early on... he compared it to Les Miserables, the Victor Hugo novel surrounding the French Revolution. Whether it’s in the same ball park as Victor Hugo is not my claim, but it’s a good comparison as Les Mis is about a group of people going through chaos during the time of the French Revolution, and Sons of Chaos is exactly that, only during the Greek Revolution 40+ years later.
Norm: How did you and your illustrator, Ale Aragon work together in crafting the book?
Chris: We sent back and forth lots of emails and Skype calls. We never worked in the same place at the same time. There were times I would breakdown scenes into panels, and other times where he would take my writing and breakdown panels. It went on for nearly 3 years, and our workflow continued to evolve the entire time until somehow, through intense relentlessness on both sides, it got done.
Norm: What was the most difficult part in writing the book?
Chris: Making sense of what story to tell, as there are so many amazing stories and people and battles for over a decade. Getting a sense of all the various elements took a long time and then defining which story to tell within it all was difficult. And then keeping it short enough to tell in a single story was the hardest part of all.
Norm: What has your other work taught you that you have been able to apply to creating Sons of Chaos?
Chris: To constantly continue to remind myself, what is it you’re wanting to achieve in this moment. How do you want it to feel? And moving back and forth from creator to audience to remember what the point of what you’re doing actually is, without falling into tangential far away places that will cost more time and mental strain. Every project is a bit of a marathon and you must focus on where you’re at with everything in you, while glancing up at the big picture.
Norm: What upcoming projects are you excited about?
Chris: A script I finished called Unconditional, the story about the boy and the dolphin that is kind of like my version of E.T. - but based on a true story, not an alien. A travel culture documentary series about humanizing the planet as opposed to polarizing, basically the opposite of Vice. Another one about the Culture of Beauty and where it came from, and I’m also rewriting a screenplay version of Sons of Chaos.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your work?
Chris: MY WEBSITE
Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has
Chris: Did Byron really partake in orgies at Ali Pasha’s harem?
Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors