Meet Jacob and Diego: Two fresh-faced eighteen-year-olds with a matching set of good looks. It's not surprising to know then that these two young producers and CEOs of 959 Productions met while modeling in New York last August when they were assigned to the same agency model house. I met and photographed Jacob in February last year - before his modeling stint in New York - during SUSPEND's first editorial shoot with Tried & True Co. He later recalls during our interview how he was living in his car at the time.
DIANE: So how did you two both know even while living in New York that you wanted to move to Los Angeles to do Film? JACOB: We hit it off right away. That was our goal [to move to Los Angeles]. I feel like here in L.A. you have more of a chance to be what you want to be rather than what is expected of you in New York. Like in New York, they want you to act a certain way but still do whatever it is you're doing. In L.A., you have all the creative space and energy and freedom to do whatever you want. It shows all around.
DIANE: Tell us a little bit about 'Look Twice.' JACOB: 'Look Twice' is a short film. It's slated for production in Reno, Nevada this July. It's a 22-page script that I wrote. It revolves around Chris, a 12-year-old growing up in a trailer park outside of Reno. His mother is a drug addict and his father is in prison. He has no parental figures looking out for him or giving him guidance. It's a situation that a lot of kids are in right now. Their parents are nowhere to be seen because of work, drugs, prison, whatever it is. They are forced to grow up, more or less, alone. Because of this, they fall into situations. Things happen where they don't know how to act; they don't know what the proper course of action is. They get looped into something that they don't have a choice in.
With Chris' character, he's ultimately at the wrong place at the wrong time. He sees something he's not supposed to see and so because of it he has to prove his loyalty and keep his secrecy to the neighborhood drug gang because the people who commit the robbery that he witnesses are the drug gang's fathers. They're really vicious-looking kids and so Chris and his best friend just get bullied around by them. They get pulled into things like extortion because they saw something that they weren't supposed to see.
DIANE: How did you find the time to write the screenplay? JACOB: Just in my free time.
DIANE: Was it at one go? JACOB: I just got really inspired after reading scripts and figured, you know, if these people can do it then I can do it too. I've always really loved movies and always wanted to work in Film. I was looking for something to break into, and I just got this idea. I cranked the initial script out in two weeks (the original 44-page script). From then until March, I just read a bunch of screenwriting books; I met with directors, producers, and filmmakers. I got critiques and then it became what it is.
DIANE: When you wrote the characters for this film, were you pulling anything from real life? JACOB: It's based on a true story. We met this kid when we were living in New York in the apartment complex. He had gone through a lot. He wasn't given the same opportunity as a lot of kids are given. He was telling us all these crazy stories about how his brothers were drug dealers, he had no parents in his life whatsoever. Because his brother forced him to, the guy that ran all the drug activity on the block needed him to know that this kid could prove his secrecy and loyalty and that he wasn't going to screw up everybody over if the cops came around. So he told him to pistol-whip a kid and take his iPhone away. And this kid is eleven or twelve years old. Just this short little kid. It was so scary. This kid was smoking blunts. And he was showing us this weed dude in New York.
You just don't realize what some kids are into and what they're learning especially in 2013. Every kid has a smartphone and they are seeing all this stuff being put up on the Internet but they're not old enough to see the consequences and are still developing… They're not ready to make the decisions that they're making. As a result you have kids going to Juvenile Hall really early, getting in with the wrong crowds there and it just starts a life of crime. And in California, you have the Three-Strikes law and you're out.
DIANE: Is there a message you are trying to depict in the film? JACOB: I think what we're trying to do is start a conversation with it. We spend so much time on what's going on around the world, what's going on here, what's Obama's done this week, what's going on now with Politics but we're having so many daily wars just in neighborhoods and with gangs, with violence, with in-home poverty, even parental abuse! Anything you can imagine. We are hoping that we can get people to see this film and see that this is based on true events and that this is going on right now in 2013. We just want to start a conversation. Let's get these kids the help that they need.
We're reaching out to a lot of organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of America, specifically the Truckee Meadows Reno branch and seeing if they want to promote this film. We didn't leave anything out. There are kids that are smoking marijuana, using bad language; We're showing reality. We're trying to cinematically show what it's like in some of these kids' lives - and like I said, the film takes place on the main character's birthday - so we're reaching out to the Boys & Girls Club and the National Gang Center and a few other places. Hopefully they'll be interested in promoting it as well because we think that that's our target audience. Those are the kids that are most affected. These are the organizations that are trying to prevent gangs. We're not looking for money from them, we're just looking for support. We're also hoping to work with Homeboy Industries as well out here in Los Angeles. And who knows, hopefully this film could save a life one day.
DIANE: Nothing's too small to make a difference. JACOB: Everybody comes away with something differently.
[A snippet from our conversation later on, discussing the theme of our next issue, COMMERCE+TRADE]
DIANE: Nowadays in 2013, the idea of 'currency' has changed. Social Media is everywhere. It's more like a barter and trade system. JACOB: As far as currency is concerned, there would be no currency without influence. Social Media is just influence. People are influenced by celebrities - who they see, what they wear. And ultimately that's what people spend their money on and that's what advertisers are trying to hone in on.
DIANE: The tastemakers, so to speak. JACOB: The people that are setting trends. The people that are doing things, making everyone else do what they are doing. Whether it's modeling, designing or acting - whatever it is - everybody's looking at who is the best at it and using it as inspiration for style and work ethic and everything else. Influence is more powerful than currency. What would advertisers be spending money on if there was no advertising? What is every advertiser spending money on? A celebrity to endorse whatever it is. And the production value to make whatever it is look better than it actually is. That's a good answer, right? Did we just secure our spot in the magazine?
Influence is like currency. If you can be an influential person on YouTube whether you're a model doing a makeup tutorial or a guy that teaches you how to workout, you have influence. And influence is power.
DIANE: You should write my Editor's Letter, Jacob. JACOB: I'll do whatever. Produced by 959 Productions. [smiles]
VIEW THE FULL FEATURE IN ISSUE 04.