April Featured Artist:

Jarrod Crooks - On The Rise Filmmaker

Jacob Sieg Then & Now Art®

Courtesy of Brandon Fochs - Editor of The Fochs Hole

The following piece features Jarrod Crooks, an aspiring creative genius from Wausau, Wisconsin. Going along with our theme of showcasing the skills and talents of unknown artists, this is his time to shine. Extremely underrated yet so very talented, he's go ta lot to say about his craft. Brandon Fochs, editor of The Fochs Hole, was able to catch up with Jarrod in between various film projects.

Jarrod has been heavily involved with filmmaking since a young age and it shows. Not only in his work, but in his professionalism and overall demeanor. Jarrod has a tremendously unique film style and the fact he has his hands in the entire process from beginning to end, this interview is a fantastic read.
Question: For those that do not know you, please introduce yourself and explain what you do.

Jarrod: My name is Jarrod Crooks. I was born in Wausau, Wisconsin and I have always had a passion for filmmaking. When I say always, I mean I started at age 12. When I say filmmaking I mean all aspects of it --- the writing, directing, editing; I even act in my own films and do stunt choreography.

Question: You are a pioneer of sorts, when it comes to film making in Wausau but I’m sure there are many influences that pushed you into this field. Who are some of your major influences, and when was the moment that really told you, this is what I want to do?

Jarrod: The initial interest in filmmaking began when I watched the series Wishbone on PBS. At the end of the episodes they would show how they created some of the effects in the program. So not only did Wishbone open me up to literature, it got me wanting to make own videos.

What really ignited it for me was when I watched a Jackie Chan movie for the first time. That's when knew I needed to make martial arts action movies. Jackie Chan is my man crush, after all. (LOL)
Sometimes things get a little weird...
Q: With visual media becoming so paramount in this day and age, what do you hope to accomplish with the films and videos you create?

J: Originally the dream was to work in Hollywood and make Hollywood movies. But that is one tough club to break into. I have trouble getting my films into film festivals that are Wisconsin's own. I've had every reason to give up on my filmmaking 'career', if you will. I don't know what will happen or if one of my films will ever take off and be "successful", Regardless, I don't do it for those reasons. Success to me is simply finishing a film. I've worked on several projects for others that have never seen the light of day. I think one of the things that keeps people from finishing [besides lack of motivation - aka laziness] is that they want it to be perfect, and, yes, I'm a perfectionist in my own way. It's more important to me to have completed a project and grow from it than wondering what it could be. Even if it's just a handful of people who see the films I've made, I'm happy it's getting out there.

Q: With the advent of social media and the internet, it’s easier than ever for artists to get their content to the masses, what are some pro’s and con’s that you have experienced when using these tools?

J: Well I can tell you one of the con's is that it's completely saturated with crap. Seems anybody who has a camera is a "filmmaker" now. You can make a feature film with your cell phone...but it's probably crap. When I started making films in high school we had a public access station which was a great platform to show my films on. I remember working at the mall and people coming up to me saying "I saw your movie on public access, I really liked it." Whether or not they were being genuine, I was just happy they were watching. It's different with social media because you get that immediate comment, but you're also pushing it on people with shares, tags, and shoving it down people's throats --- even if they don't want it they're gonna get it. Then, after long, your content is buried and forgotten. So yeah, it's nice to have it available to the masses with social media, but it's almost impossible for them to find it on their own without proper marketing. I actually still show my films on the local public access station in Wausau, but I have not heard in almost ten years whether or not anyone has seen them. That just goes to show how different it is now.
Question: One thing I've noticed about your films, is your ability to use sound effects and good audio mixing to capture moments and embolden scenes. How do you do such a good job on the audio editing while in the filmmaking process?

J: I'm not gonna lie, a good part of the films I make is dubbed. Sound is a beast, let's just say that. I'm always recording the background noises of anywhere I film because I feel I'm going to have to dub everything anyway. Which can be sad at times because I will capture a wonderful performance by an actor and have to go back and redo all the sound anyway. It's not fun for me and not fun for the actor, but it's a must for the quality of the overall project.

Doing sound effects for fights scenes is a little more fun. I love creating sounds for arm blocks, face hits, and layering different sounds to create the illusion of the hits making contact. No, they're not actually punching each other, and real hits do not sound like that at all. I am in no way a musician, but I have a great understanding of how music can set the mood for a scene.
Q: The average person doesn’t understand the work it requires to make even just a short skit, if you could, please give a breakdown of the process from start to finish.

J: Oh boy, I've been meaning to write a book for a while so here it goes. Everything has to start with an idea, so that is first and foremost. Of course everybody has ideas, people are certainly not short on them. I hear everybody's ideas. I'm not complaining, but I know they are telling me because they think I can make their visions come true. But like you said, they really don't have an understanding of how the process works. Some ideas people tell me would be almost impossible for me to do with my zero budget videos. Dream big I suppose, but get real people. When I am writing a script I need to think about what is possible and what my resources are. I'm not a special effects guy, maybe one day I will buckle down and really focus on that, but nobody can be great at everything. I think I'm already wearing myself thin. Even when I am in the process of writing a script and I have a location in mind, I go to that location and see if it's even possible for me to film there before I make it official in the script. If I can't, then it's time to get creative or figure out a new place.

Casting is never easy. For me I've built up a relationship with a number of actors in the surrounding areas and even write parts specifically for certain people I know. For me it's not always about how great they are as an actor, for me it's knowing they are going to see the project to the end. It's a long journey making a film, even a short film. Can they give that much of their time in order to have a finished project? Not everyone can. I've been in the middle of working on one before and people jump ship. Sometimes we can write around it, other times we have to re shoot. It's not fun.
Once you have your cast, now you have to schedule all these people and see if you can get them all together for their scenes. Why does it take me 2 years to finish a feature film? Because getting people together sucks. Try getting some buddies together to play touch football. Sure a few might show up, but you will also get the guys who say they will be there and then never show up at all because they either forgot or slept in or whatever other excuse they can come up with.

When I am filming I'm also editing along the way. I am also visualizing the editing process in my head while we are filming. I'm always cutting lines from the script while we film as well. What seems good on paper does not always translate well on the screen. Editing really is where everything comes together. It's also where you learn the most about story telling. I love to edit, sure it burns me out sometimes, but it's like putting a big puzzle together and it wont work unless you have all the pieces.

Lastly, now you need to figure out how to get people to see your little movie. Social Media is great for this. But I also contact Newspapers, Local News Stations, Radio stations, whatever resource I can think of. Because even after all that, the people that come to see the movie you made are the friends and families of the cast and crew. So when making movie, do it for yourself, don't do it thinking this is your ticket to Hollywood.
Jacob in his element
Jarrod - On set, and in his element.
Q: You mentioned how every Tom, Dick, and Harry proclaims to be a “filmmaker” because they have a camera, but obviously it’s way deeper. Please, explain some of the things you actually need to learn how to do to be a formidable film maker.

J:
Self motivation and patience. Writing for a project is a whole other animal, obviously. What do you do to invigorate your creativity and what are some things you do to help you get out of those writer block moments? That all matters.

It's weird, because I have never thought of myself as a writer. But over the years I've kinda realized I am not horrible at it. One of the biggest things I've realized is other young writers tend to do a bad job with dialogue. We hear people talk all the time, but then when we write dialogue for a character it can get very wordie real quick. Is wordie a word? Anyway, the idea of film is to show, not tell. I don't want to watch people sitting at a bar for two hours talking. Show me your story, don't tell it all through dialogue.


Q: You noted that Jackie Chan is your man crush (LOL). If you had a chance to direct a movie for him, what would be the premise, and what outrageous stunt would you have him do?

J: I've always liked the idea of a window washer or cleaner of a skyscraper building seeing all these different people/stories at every floor level. So on the 23rd floor of this building there is an old lady and her cat (with their own story) and then on level 15 there is a man cheating on his wife (a completely separate story and narrative), you know? Then the window washer sees something he really shouldn't have and gets into big time trouble. But somehow all these people from the building are connected or help out in the story in someway. I'd have Jackie Chan play the Window Washer.

As far as a stunt goes, I really don't know. That man has done pretty much everything a human body could possibly be put through already. Plus Jackie is pretty old now.

Q: Do you like the direction filmmaking is going in? If you could personally add or subtract a few things to the overall art genre, what would you add or subtract and why?

J:
Maybe not every movie needs to be a super hero movie. It's maybe a little annoying that everything is a sequel or remake. But I'm not gonna lie, I get excited for the sequels as well. It does seem very difficult to break into the Hollywood scene, yet it seems Hollywood struggles with fresh ideas. There are so many talented independent film makers out there, but Hollywood doesn't give these guys a chance. It's just too much of a gamble. They want to make money and it's understandable. Why would you just hand over millions of dollars to some young film maker. But I do think that's one of the things that is hurting the business. Too much of the same thing. But we are to blame. We keep forking out money for these remakes and sequels, why would they want to invest in new ideas and new people? I do believe however, that everything runs a certain course. Eventually someone will make a movie that's fresh that will kill off the remakes and sequels, at least for a bit, and sets the next trend and then that will be the big thing for the next 5 to 10 years.


In between takes and in deep thought.
Q: A few follow-up questions and we can sail off into the sunset, I’m not sure if you are, but I’m a firm believer that there is life out there other than what we see on planet Earth, if you had the opportunity to shoot a film on any planet, which planet would it be, and why?

J:
As far as life outside of our world, I would say the chances are pretty good that other life forms are out there. As far as filming goes, I have never actually thought about it. Probably because it's not a possibility. But I hear Jupiter rains diamonds, so that might be cool. But would be like getting hit with hail. So probably not a lot of fun.

Q: If you could go back to any era of film, and work with any actor or director, where would you go back, and why?

J:
I'd say either the 50's or the 80's. I'm a huge Elvis Presley fan and would have loved to work on a film with Elvis. But also the 1980's would have been great because action films were really coming into their own. It was the time of real tough guys. Stallone and Schwarzenegger killing everyone on screen and Jackie Chan making one of the greatest action films of all time with Police Story. They don't make films like that anymore. Just the way blood looked on screen back then was so gruesome. None of the CGI blood. They need to make more films with real effects, I miss that. Also bring Elvis back from the dead and make better Elvis movies.
Q: If it all ended today, what would you want your tombstone to read?

J: Can it end in a couple weeks? I have a few things I need to finish up here first. Then it can read. "Here lies a guy who wish he made an action movie in the 80's but sadly he was surrounded by millennial's who don't appreciate those kind of movies.

Q: You also work at our local radio station, WIFC, if you could have any artist make a song for a soundtrack to your films, who would it be and why?

J: It would not be anybody we play on our station. haha. Maybe Pink, she probably could do a good movie theme song. If it was a romantic comedy, I'd get Michael Buble. He's the only guy I've ever seen in concert and he walked right past me, so basically I know him. hahaha
The Beauty Is In The Details
Q: In closing, any last comments, where can these find folks find your work at?

A:
I want to thank everybody who took the time to read this. If you made it this far you deserve a left and right Twix bar. If you enjoyed this and want to see more of my work you can find me on YouTube and on Facebook and on Amazon Prime, just type in my name Jarrod Crooks and you will find me. Now go eat that Twix bar.
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