Award-winning Commercial and Narrative Director Jason O. Silva shares success principles

Jason O. Silva is an award-winning commercial and narrative film & television director based in Los Angeles. Both his cinematic eye and his emphasis on actor-driven narrative have led to his unique style and perspective.

Commercial & Branded Content – Jason has worked with over a hundred clients throughout his commercial and branded content career, from almost every national brand to smaller boutique brands, including recent work with Toyota, Yahoo, Velazca Apparel, Nissan, and Japanese client Mercari. His branded film C’est Jane starred Gina Rodriguez and premiered with Nylon Magazine.

Film & Television – Jason’s first feature film, Lonely Hearts Club, is beginning its festival run this Spring. He is directing two other feature films in 2018, one of them with QC Entertainment, the producers of the recent runaway success Get Out. Also due out this year is a new scripted 1-hr show for Lifetime called Crazy Love, where Jason was the series director. His short films have screened in dozens of festivals and events and garnered several awards, as well.

Jason’s talents can also been seen in book form for his award-winning middle-grade series The Tale of Edgar Trunk, on the stage for his equity production of Theresa Rebeck’s Seminar, around various Los Angeles venues for his jazz speakeasy popup Brass, and very soon in other upcoming projects in development.

photo 2 by Kristyna Archer
Photo by Kristyna Archer

Hollywood Insider Interview with Director Jason O. Silva

Hollywood World: What was the most significant decision in shooting your current film?

Jason O. Silva: I had several projects under my belt already – a feature film and several episodes of a new scripted television drama – and I really wanted to step back and look at the projects I was doing. I felt great about the work, but I started to see a difference in the projects where I was writing and directing and the ones where I was directing only. I felt like two separate styles were emerging. And I think you always need to evaluate your craft and your projects and ask, who is the filmmaker I am today and who is the filmmaker I want to be tomorrow? If you do this often, even though the answer might evolve, you’ll at least always be aligned creatively.

Hollywood World: What part of the script/story best stood out for you and why?

Jason O. Silva: I liked that I could take a genre we’ve seen before and bring a more artistic sensibility to a story that could certainly work and be effective without that. I’m seeing more and more films and episodic content that go the extra mile creatively, and that excites me. I want to do that. And audiences are getting really savvy with what is good and what isn’t, what they like and what they don’t. I want people to remember my work after they’ve seen it, and to think about it.

Hollywood World: Without giving it away, tell us a little bit more about the characters and the lead actors.

Jason O. Silva: The characters are college students, and they’re into the obvious stuff – dating, romance, figuring out life – but there’s more to it than that. The script did a great job exploring more of the real themes of today, such as how technology has reshaped intimacy and basic communication, made it harder for us to have more immediate and fulfilling connections with others.

Hollywood World: How do you bring this story to life while staying true to your vision as director?

Jason O. Silva: Once you know what you want to say, what’s important for your film to communicate in terms of theme or big ideas or social issues, you now have your barometer. Sure you’re going to bring a certain style to the film, and that is unique to you and your voice, but now you can look at every decision through the lens of theme and ask, does this support the message I’m trying to convey, or does this explore the theme in a satisfying way? First and foremost, you have to stay true to the characters and tell the story through them, through action and decision-making, but the thread that ties it all together and the thing that will stick with people afterward will be theme.

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Hollywood World: What excites you about this project?

Jason O. Silva: Every day when I drive to set there is a Zen quality about me. I feel so centered and so excited. Even during a tough shoot or killer schedule. Any day I get to work with actors and with cinematographers is a great day. I’m looking forward to that.

Hollywood World: What other works are you most proud of?

Jason O. Silva: I’m really proud of a recent film I did called Noodling. I wanted to tell a story with two people talking in a room, utilizing sparse and limited coverage, and to make it interesting. I feel like I accomplished that, and I love this project. Another project I love was a little micro-film for a production company called Lure Films. It most resembles a lifestyle commercial, but narratively I wanted to tell a story in 90 seconds that could make you feel.

Hollywood World: What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?

Jason O. Silva: Some recent-ish films I love…

James White (Josh Mond) – no wide shots for much of the first act (what! You’re not supposed to do that) and it works! So well.

I loved The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos) for tone and shot composition – so intense and beautiful and such an exploration of our disconnected society.

The Florida Project (Sean Baker) is such a human film, so real, with all the elements of ethnographic filmmaking I love in another filmmaker, as well – Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank).

What I love about these three projects is that none of them are in my style. They’re extremely effective in what they do, and that’s so exciting to me. I think it’s important to study all styles and modes of storytelling, especially if they’re different from yours.

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Hollywood World:  What do you do to enhance the collaborative process when working with actors, screenwriters, producers and others creative members?

Jason O. Silva: There are many creative collaborators on a given project, and I think for a director, the best thing you can give to those fellow creators is a clear and concise vision for what you’re trying to do. Everyone in their individual discipline is looking to bring their full artistry and passion, but they are looking to you to give them the bigger picture. They want to serve the vision and ultimately the final piece, and the better you can communicate that to them, the more freedom they will have, the more confidence to take risks. I’m not a micro-manager. You have to build your team with the right people and then let them do what they do best.

Hollywood World: What experiences have you learned from in life? How did that change you and your creative process and the way you go about making films?

Jason O. Silva: The biggest lesson I learned, and this is important in any creative and professional endeavor, is that you are there to be the leader and not to be the friend. Certainly relationships are essential, but it’s easy to forget that your role as the creative boss is crucial to the success of the project and also to the culture and feel on set. When we’re working on projects, especially films, they consume us… they become very personal, because we put so much of ourselves into them. So it may seem counterintuitive to remind yourself that challenging moments are not personal, but keeping that mindset will really help you navigate how you communicate and also how you receive and respond to feedback.

Hollywood World: How do you see your role as a filmmaker?  

Jason O. Silva: I have many roles as a filmmaker, but the one that’s the most important to the project is to be the keeper of the vision. So many variables will enter the process and come at you fast. You’ll have little time to think and give direction, and much of it won’t have anything to do with the creative. There will be questions about schedule and coverage, and there will be moments where a crew member or actor is having a tough morning, or it will rain when you’re supposed to be shooting that sunny PCH drive. You have to always come back to the vision and protect it. And only you will see it, because it’s in your head. Beyond that, you will find yourself as the boss, the therapist, the mediator, and a host of other jobs. You’re the enigmatic CEO of a startup that’s finding its legs (except every single time).

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Hollywood World: Which film festivals that you have been part of would you recommend to other filmmakers looking to screen his/her films?  

Jason O. Silva: I have to give props to Indie Grits Film Festival in Columbia, SC. Aside from winning Sundance or Toronto, the film festival circuit can be really tough. Festival submissions and travel expenses add up, especially if you’re doing your project independently. And many have spoken to this and done so much more succinctly than I can. That said, when a film festival is working at its best, you will find it to be a creative epicenter where numerous art forms converge into a singular experience, where the community of filmmakers, staffers, volunteers, and attendees is supportive, passionate, and insanely curious, where you feel a part of something big and special. For me, that was Indie Grits. 

Hollywood World: Do filmmakers have any responsibility to culture? What message do you want to convey with your films?

Jason O. Silva: Sure, we have an obligation as filmmakers to address the concerns of our time. We have a voice, and film is one of the last pure art forms that most people still turn to for entertainment, whether to escape or whether to be exposed to ideas. I think we must first tell stories and seek to serve the story. But I believe we also have to ask ourselves what we’re trying to say, or if what we’re saying is artistically responsible.  For me, I’ll say this: I hope that one day people will look at my work and consider me to be a great humanist, and that I always pushed to bare characters’ vulnerabilities and allow them to see each other in that way – as humans.

Hollywood World: What other hobbies do you have?  

Jason O. Silva: I am a voracious cat memer. Okay, not really. But my wife and I do love a good cocktail. We’ve somehow accumulated multiple nooks for with designated bartops and a pretty substantial bourbon collection. I tend to start with an old-fashioned and then deviate from there.

Hollywood World: What do you want to be remembered for in life? What valuable lessons have you learned that helped you become the person you are today?

Jason O. Silva: Gosh, that’s a heavy one. I’ll put it this way: I look ahead to the next thirty years, and I wonder about the movies I will make in that time. And suddenly the daily grind of working as a director and working to get projects made gains great perspective. You won’t do anything over night. But you can do anything in a lifetime. The ideas I’ve adopted along the way, what I know I need to be happy and fulfilled, are these – I want to create every day, and I want to get better every day. Imagine when I do!

Hollywood World: What are your top five principles of success?

Jason O. Silva:

  1. Create every day
  2. Cultivate creative relationships
  3. Give and get feedback all the time
  4. Be honest and transparent
  5. Love what you do, or move on (life’s too short!)   

INSTA: https://www.instagram.com/jasonosilva/

WEBSITE: https://www.joliverentertainment.com/

photo 1 by Kristyna Archer

 

 

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