by Jon Bosworth
Jon Shepard is not your average local filmmaker. Certainly, no one else in his Lakeshore neighborhood could claim working with indie film legends such as Hal Hartley and James Toback, much less giants in the industry such as Philip Noyce and Spike Jonz. In 2009 Shepard was credited as Executive Producer on nine short films. One, a film title La Premiere, was recommended to the Academy for consideration and eventually enjoyed a celebrated world premiere at Cannes. Although that was the most notable success last year, it wasn’t the only one. The films he participated in last year went all over the world in various film fests and garnered all sorts of critical praise and awards.
Shepard moved to Jacksonville in late 2008 to work as a film producer for the Doorpost Film Project, which was then headquartered in Ponte Vedra. However, when festival operations relocated to Nashville after the 2009 Doorpost contest, he elected to stay in Jacksonville.
Certainly part of his rationale was that this is where he met his wife and so his two young children are surrounded by family and friends, but anyone that knows this town knows there isn’t much work for a professional filmmaker in Jacksonville.
“What I found and still find about music in Jacksonville is that there is this inventive musical collage of acts that either hale back to sounds I already gravitate toward, stuff up until fake punk pop/rap/whatever combo packs, or sounds that are really new and original. It all happens in this place that is unnavigatable otherwise,” says Shepard.
In addition to his many short film credits, Shepard also helped make two music videos for Jacksonville bands in 2009. He directed the Lazerstar ‘You’re the Best’ video created for the 2009 Conmoto Art & Music Festival (you can watch this video on YouTube by searching “Conmoto Jacksonville”) and he was Producer and Editor on the Crash the Satellites video for their song ‘Pretty Knees.’
“When Crash the Satellites sent me the finished Learning to Land album I literally cried because I knew how much labor and sweat had gone into making this record come to life. Long story short; I commuted in from Brooklyn every day to my job at MTV where I had access to unfathomable amounts of music, yet on that ride each day for a year I kept going back to that album on my iPod and it literally became like the soundtrack for my life over the next year.”
This year Shepard directed a video for local lady rocker Pilar and her song ‘Flight.’ The video is currently in post-production and they hope for a debut later this year.
The attention from filmmakers like Shepard toward the Jacksonville music scene is a good start, but there is a lot of distance to be covered before Jacksonville bands can hope to garner national recognition.
“To market themselves today an act needs to strike virally and visually as well as sonically and a music video can do that instantly. If your song is just sitting out there on iTunes waiting for someone to stumble on it, well good luck with that. I like to give an act something that they can push to their audience. Then that audience can push it further. Later in the day we all meet back at iTunes and buy some music. I think it’s critical to breaking over the bridge out of Jacksonville. It sets you apart from the rank and file and it says you’re serious,” says Shepard.
Six hundred people participated in the 48-Hour Film Project last month, so we know there is a strong interest in filmmaking in this community. If those ambitious filmmakers would team up with their favorite local bands they would both be doubling their efforts and audiences, thus helping the band and the filmmaker rise from the plethora of film on YouTube and music on MySpace. And Jon Shepard isn’t the only one committing his time and energy in this way. Although more avant-garde than Shepard’s work, local artist Ian Chase has been teaming up with local bands to enhance live performances and produce a more punk-rock psychedelic type of music video for bands such as Chicken & Whisky and local hardcore band National Dairy.
To advance this effort, this publication has recently announced a music video showcase at the 5 Points Theatre during the First Friday event in August. Support this effort by stopping in the theatre for a drink between six and nine in the evening on August 6 and watching some of these local music videos. See the talent that resides discreetly in your very neighborhood, or with great volume in a garage down the street, and become a fan of that. Believe me, Jay-Z doesn’t need your advocacy the way they do.
Jac Music Video Revival – Screaming Celluloid
by Jon Bosworth