…A unified global effort to humanize one another. I have a concept using media platforms of all sorts to create interconnectivity amongst cultures to expose the core reality that we are all so alike. Behind each action, our psychology is very much the same. The external programming has influenced us to think or behave somewhat differently but in a sense, it seems like we are all created with a similar equation surrounding gaining love and acceptance — and once that is attained the need expands to some degree. When we are given a hint of stability, we progress to luxury problems such as finding purpose or larger levels of success. Point being, we need to understand how alike we all are so that we are less willing to embrace harmful movements or follow leaders lacking compassion. We need to be reminded that we are the species — we are the team. If that movement succeeds, they all will.
I had the pleasure to interview Chris Jaymes. Chris has been active in the entertainment industry for nearly three decades as an actor, author, musician and conservationist, and is an Award-Winning Writer/Director. As an actor he has been seen on numerous network shows including ABC hit series LOST, Party of Five, Chicago Hope, The Profiler, and as a musician, Jaymes played piano in the Capitol Records Recording Artist band, Bootstraps. As a director, his debut feature film, In Memory of My Father, starring Judy Greer and Jeremy Sisto, attained 20 international awards and nominations including Best Picture at Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Cine Vegas International Film Festival, Best Debut Feature at Sonoma Valley Film Festival, and Best Director at three other festivals. Jaymes acted as writer, producer, and director for the film. Jaymes has since directed two feature films and a half-dozen TV shows, including Long Story Short starring Martin Short, Making A Scene starring William Shatner and Cloris Leachman, The Cottage starring David Arquette, FOX Studios/Netflix Original Bad Samaritans produced by Walt Becker, Mile High produced by Coquette Productions for Travel Channel, and a handful of others for networks including the CBC, Hallmark, Lifetime, and Comedy Central. On top of his lengthy background in film and entertainment, Jaymes spends a significant amount of energy working for ocean and marine mammal conservation efforts with the non-profits Island Dolphin Care while working to develop The Ocean Aquarium, a solution for the healthy future of our oceans and the lives of the animals living within. His research and footage of marine mammals won the 2014 Michael Debakey Journalism Award, recognizing outstanding journalism that highlights the responsible use of animal models in recent medical discoveries and scientific breakthroughs. Jaymes’s original screenplay entitled Unconditional was acknowledged as a 2016 Semi-Finalist for the Academy of Arts and Sciences Nicholl Fellowship Award and is currently in development. His non-fiction book, Boxing Day was published in 2007 surrounding his experiences as an aid worker in the 2004 tsunami which devastated South East Asia and gives an honest account of the reality of the disaster relief efforts and the lives that were affected. Simultaneously, another one of Jaymes’s creations Sons of Chaos, a story surrounding the Greek War for Independence and the fall of the Ottoman Empire has been published as a graphic novel by Penguin Random House/IDW.
Thank you so much for joining us Chris. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Charmed. Effortless. A joyous bundle of daily nurturance depending on which version of the story I’m telling and in comparison to what. It’s a loaded question and hyper-dependent upon the state I’m in and who I’m speaking to. The version to a therapist would be significantly different than one to a journalist typically, but the challenge becomes talking about the idea of “my story” in a manner that doesn’t seem indulgent and pretentious.
In reality, my home was very human. It was amazing… And also extremely challenged. That said, as I see it now, all of the challenges were the necessary preparations that formed the thing I would become, whatever that is, for better or worse. I was the only child of a young single mom determined to give me a good life, while also trying to find her way. She would work constantly to give me the best version of life she could and forced me to participate in many ways. We lived in a more affordable part of town, but she sent me to school on the opposite, more expensive end, so I was exposed to both sides early on.
Throughout the first third of my life, there was a constant sense of being misplaced and a fear of most everything surrounding me. As amazing and supportive as my mother constantly was, the men she chose were quite volatile and typically not fond of me. Seeing as my option was to be stuck with one of her typically unemployed partners or to be somewhere out in the world, I chose the world. Primarily I would ride my bike to the dollar movie theater and spend most days moving from theater to theater until closing time. The actors became my mentors and teachers and life coaches and surrogate friends. During this period, a typical storytelling structure consisted of someone facing a challenge they needed to overcome to succeed, and typically they were the best at something. Top Gun… Real Genius… The Secret of My Success… and so on. And that became my equation. The concept that formed my pre-teen approach to life was simple — if I was good at things people would want me around. And that was that.
I became interested in received my relentless, obsessive focus. And throughout most of my youth, attempting to connect with other humans was not smooth. Externally, I would sweat and shake and my throat would close up when I would attempt to speak — and I knew at some point inevitably I would have to change this, so at 14 I forced my way into an adult acting class and by 17 started getting jobs as an actor. I moved to Los Angeles with a group of artists and musicians that sort of became my role models. Some went on to massive success. Others died from overdoses. Somehow, my equation was blessed enough to still be here and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
As I mentioned previously, the delusional connections I had built with the characters in movies helped me ascertain the knowledge of how to deal with daily life. The feelings I would process as I rode my bike home from the theater inevitably defined the person I became. I would gain perspective and new ideas and curiosities. After years of this, my goal became to make people feel this. I wanted to affect people in the way I was. It was beautiful to feel all of those feelings safely, as opposed to how unsafe I felt in life sometimes.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
During my first movie everybody was starving and we were shooting late into meal penalty time and my character happened to be eating in the scene. I was the only person allowed to eat the prop pizza they brought and I kept eating it through multiple takes until I ended up sick in my trailer. From outside you could hear the devastation that my guts were experiencing, as well as the grime the Teamster crew would inevitably have to clean. So now, everyone was waiting for me to shoot. The cast and crew… Helen Hunt… everybody. They were battered and hungry and I was the asshole holding everything up.
Finally, they couldn’t wait any longer and forced me out. It was a car scene and the last shot of the entire movie. I hobbled to my spot in the front seat of a car with my gurgling stomach and pretended to be sleeping as the script required me to do. The microphone was hidden between me and the guy in the driver’s seat and the moment before the director called action, with no warning on my end, the most unforgiving, belligerent fart shot out an inch away from the foam microphone head. I was devastated, but too delirious for embarrassment. The director didn’t notice and somehow the other actor and I held it together until she said cut. And that was it. They called wrap and that’s the take they used. The very concise lesson I came away with from that moment was pretty straight forward. No matter how hungry you are, probably better to avoid eating too much prop food.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? This is where we can go into detail about SOC.
Two primary things are getting the majority of my focus at the moment. Sons of Chaos which is a project that I developed over the last decade which was recently published as an enormous 200 page coffee-table sized graphic novel by Penguin Random House/IDW surrounding a revolution that occurred in Greece. It’s a war that got overlooked by the world outside of Greece and Turkey, and yet stimulated the fall of the Ottoman Empire and defined the Western Europe of today, as well as aligned the current lineup of global Super Powers for the most part, and it was just a moment ago in history. Also, a rare moment where an “oppressed nation” (depending upon how you view it) was able to stand up to an Empire and come out the other end as an independent nation. The story I focused on aligns with some of the themes we are facing currently throughout all of politics and most media — exposing the agenda of those in power and presenting the truth behind the slogans and distractions they claim.
The sales elements that are used on a population to manufacture support for justifying harm has always intrigued me. The ease that large portions of populations tend to grab onto unsubstantiated claims, and then embrace the random claim with force enough to dehumanize a type of people so intensely that the idea becomes more significant than the human — shows how incredibly far we are not… as a species, as a society, as a world. Sons of Chaos dissects these sorts of themes from a revolution that occurred in our not-so-distant past.
So this has gotten a lot of my current focus lately, from ongoing Comicon events and prepping the book for next stages across other media platforms.
The other key point of focus is on a multi-tiered project consisting of a documentary series surrounding an undertaking with many layers, however, the primary layer is creating the first Ocean Aquarium. A spot in the ocean that will serve as a hub where scientists of all types will focus on each aspect of the ecosystem collaboratively, and apply their expertise to the actual ocean as meticulously as they would an aquarium. The intent is to unify the efforts of various organizations and universities at various locations globally and one by one, transform each location into a thriving ocean environment until our entire ocean is cared for as if it were an aquarium that we were responsible to care for.
The initial project began as a screenplay I wrote about a nonprofit that I’ve been working with for the past 9 years called Island Dolphin Care. It’s a place where dolphins that cannot live in the wild participate in an extremely legitimate program that offers therapy for special needs children and PTSD veterans. The organization has never taken money from a veteran, the majority of children come on scholarship, and the dolphins do not perform shows or participate in public swims. The overall goal is to find a solution to give these dolphins the best life possible and as soon as we secure a financial solution to care for the animals, the goal is to move them into a larger ocean sanctuary typesetting. Initially, I came here because I heard the story about how the organization was formed and wanted to write a screenplay about it. I wrote the screenplay but got sucked into being a part of the family along the way.
Since that time, I’ve become determined to find a solution for the future of marine mammals currently in captive settings, as there are no solutions for where these animals will go as they begin to retire, or more facilities get shut down or banned. People complain about marine mammals in these situations but very few solutions seem to be presented aside from naive, yet well-intentioned activists that think you can drop them in the ocean, which you cannot. Most of these animals have never lived in the ocean and are completely dependent on human care. The Ocean Aquarium is the solution and serves as far more than a sanctuary. A sanctuary sounds like a place things go to have a quiet end to life, as opposed to a place to begin the next stage of life. That is what this project is. It’s the next stage of life for these animals, as well as our ocean as a whole.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Without exposure to things, our nature seems to find equilibrium in fear. What seems foreign to us by nature we often judge as inferior, as opposed to different. Before being exposed to other people and cultures through travel, my initial impression of other races and cultures was based on what I had learned from watching movies and TV. You only know what you are exposed to, so whatever picture is painted by the media becomes the concept you associate with. Through the late 70s and 80s, most other cultures were based on cliches and stereotypes and many still are. If we’re told people from Tonga are willing to die for their beliefs and carry out suicide missions to destroy anyone who thinks differently, that’s what we associate now with Tongans and if we don’t learn more or acquire first-hand knowledge, for the rest of the time that’s what we associate. The need to humanize one another is the most important task of our time. Diversity in film and television opens the door to defining an awareness that we are all humans and can stimulate more significant compassion for the rest of the world.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1. When you feel fear about taking risks, you are placing yourself in a position to grow. Assuming the risks are towards something positive. As many times as I have been in pressure situations in front of an audience or a camera, I still get nervous and anxious. That is proof that you are alive and taking steps to move forward. It never changes and if it does, something is probably wrong.
2. Auditions, pitches, and meetings are the career. Not the result. Learning to approach the meeting or the audition as the primary part of your career and making it about successfully creating the relationship is the key. There are too many people and projects to be the chosen one all the time, so if you base your reality on the occasional times in life where you get the job or a project sold or funded, you will live in a delusional state of failure. The goal is to grow your presence within the arena you are in. That is a process and you should expect it to be. The goal should be making others see your value over time and do the best you can to make people aware that you might be a good human to be around.
3. Don’t make yourself into a victim. No matter what excuse you have to justify why it didn’t happen, take responsibility for it. Because in every situation, someone got the job and it often won’t be you.
4. In the early stages, don’t let your entitlement get in the way. No matter how amazing you are, you are owed nothing. Being a part of any platform within the entertainment industry is desirable by a large population and until you have proven value, what you bring to a project is questionable. Every project is far too expensive to take a lot of risks on inexperienced people, so to solidify your spot you must somehow bring value to a project. The most successful people aren’t necessarily the most talented, however, somehow they were capable of creating fans and bringing a paying audience.
5. Understand what you are and be that. Many opportunities were crushed when I was gaining momentum as an actor. The idea of what I was in my mind, didn’t match with what I was, so instead of embracing the things that were coming I often judged them negatively. But you have to consider that if something is presented to you, it must reflect what you are to some degree, otherwise, it wouldn’t arrive. Others will often see you different that you imagine. The more you can remove the mystery of what you are and refine the best version of yourself, the sooner the idea of you will match with the reality of you.
I’m adding #6 — Be careful about giving advice.
Typically, it is you regurgitating your noise in a manner that sounds far more significant than it is. Like I’m doing now. hahaha
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Impossible to ascertain. In my experience, if you don’t burn out you aren’t putting enough in. At least, in the beginning, and often in the middle, assuming it doesn’t bring you to the end. All you can do is your best at finding the rhythm and structure that works for you and keep changing it as needed to constantly re-stimulate yourself.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
A unified global effort to humanize one another. I have a concept using media platforms of all sorts to create interconnectivity amongst cultures to expose the core reality that we are all so alike. Behind each action, our psychology is very much the same. The external programming has influenced us to think or behave somewhat differently but in a sense, it seems like we are all created with a similar equation surrounding gaining love and acceptance — and once that is attained the need expands to some degree. When we are given a hint of stability, we progress to luxury problems such as finding purpose or larger levels of success. Point being, we need to understand how alike we all are so that we are less willing to embrace harmful movements or follow leaders lacking compassion. We need to be reminded that we are the species — we are the team. If that movement succeeds, they all will.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
There are many. My first film was made because an amazing man named David presented me with a challenge and an opportunity for no other reason than pushing me to be more. At the time, I had no intention of making a movie and never asked for support, and yet, that movie drove my life to become something different. A woman named Deena gave me her story and brought me into her family and drove me to become a better version of myself and most recently, a guy named Nick has entrusted me with a project that was an important part of his life and has supported me in a manner I’ve never experienced before. There are many key people that I feel guilty about leaving out because there have been so many. My family and teachers and friends and opponents have completely defined the direction of my life. I’m grateful for all of them.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“The key to everything is learning to properly communicate with yourself.”
This concept stimulated a core epiphany, like a momentary crack in my awareness that brought me to a significantly better place. It sort of summarizes everything in one way or another. Whether you go to therapy, talk to friends or take pills, in some manner you are using these devices to influence or affect the thoughts in your head. The thoughts in your head directly equate to how you feel and how you feel defines your existence. Or at least, the judgment you place on your existence. Before implementing this concept, my thoughts drove in a manner that was pretty unkind a good amount of the time. It’s much easier than it sounds, but hard to realize at times.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
The French artist JR.
Because what he does makes me jealous that he had those ideas instead of me. He gives me hope. He’s thoughtful and expresses the things I think and feel in a manner that resonates on a global platform. His efforts and efforts like this (times a million) can bring about a better good that aligns with the type of world I would like to be a part of. If you haven’t seen what he does, check out @jr on Instagram.