Jordan Jacinto Arrives
with The Dishwasher
By Carin Chea
There are many examples of "old souls" out there. Leonardo DiCaprio. Dakota Fanning. That little kid with the glasses on Jerry Maguire. And, Jordan Jacinto.
Though chronologically Jacinto might be categorized as a millennial, this actor-filmmaker is undeniably gifted with an old soul.
I was stunned at Jacinto's easy eloquence and acute insightfulness into the film industry. Not one to ever cast judgmental meaning to anything, Jacinto is an actor and screenwriter with a prolific imagination and an unbreakable work ethic that one would normally find within much older cohorts.
His short film, The Dishwasher, premiered at the San Diego International Film Festival, and is a hopeful predecessor for its feature length sibling.
Jacinto has the drive, never-ending inquisitiveness, and unbridled passion that is required in order to succeed in what is often known as a ruthless industry.
You're an actor, writer, director, and producer. Which came first and how did all the others come about?
I was first accepted to Chapman as a screenwriting major. They have a very selective program. I think they selected only 27 students the year I applied. While I was there, there was a new program called the Screen Acting Program.
Basically, anyone who was pursuing a BA in Theatre or Film was eligible to audition for the Screen Acting Program. If you were admitted, you'd be a joint major between the film school and the theatre school.
Chapman saw it as a great opportunity to have students learn each skillset. I started the program in my sophomore year, took classes like Shakespeare, movement for the actor, voice production. They gave us a sort of toolbox to draw from.
My biggest regret was not pursuing more of the technical filmmaking classes like cinematography and directing. By the time I graduated, I just wanted to be an actor. After a while, though, I wasn't happy with where I was at, so I started to direct my own projects.
I made what would be considered a thesis-level film 2 years out of college. I opened up a credit card and spent all my money producing it and learning all the logistics. Although I had gone to film school, I had focused more on writing and acting, and I had to learn the technical side after the fact.
But, since I am an actor, it was very easy for me to direct and to also watch myself on screen. As an actor, there are moments of time where you have to put all your armor away so that people can watch us. It's hard to do. So, as a director, I try to make actors feel as comfortable as possible. In any respect, that's when you'll do your best work.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Probably when I was a little kid. I think I found music pretty early on. I played guitar as a young kid. Then, I was involved in a band. After I found music, I became obsessed with classic rock and learning all about the movements that happened before my time.
When I was in 6th grade and the internet was becoming more readily available, I realized there was a whole time before me that I didn't live through, but I am now listening to and experiencing.
I got into writing in junior high and high school. I knew I wasn't a math or science person. I started writing lyrics when I was in a band. Then poetry, which then evolved into stories and, eventually, screenplays.
Actually, I wasn't admitted into Chapman during my senior year of high school. I was set to go to another school in Philadelphia. I toured that school, and felt that wasn't the city for me. I felt this pull toward Southern California.
I read about Chapman's program and found out that I could appeal the decision. I appealed their decision and the administration made it very clear that the appeal process takes a very long time to get through. So, I made a video and appealed to them. After months and months of that, Chapman repealed their decision and admitted me.
What inspires you as a filmmaker?
I consume a lot of content. People that I look up to, like the slate of films that are about to be released that are getting Oscar raves. I'm always up to date on what my idols are doing. As I'm doing more, I'm bridging the gap between myself and them. I'm learning all the things I need to know. I see them and can visualize where I want to be.
My relationship with Los Angeles, specifically the Chicano community, is something I've integrated myself into by working in a Mexican restaurant for years. I still work in a restaurant, alongside a dishwasher. Everything I write now has a Latino spin on it. The feature length version of The Dishwasher takes place in LA and takes place within the Chicano community.
You wrote, directed, and starred in Laguna Sleep, which caught Kevin Connolly's attention. That led to you being cast in Gotti, which Connolly directed. Tell me about that experience.
A lot of people would call it lucky, but I also go by the adage, "The harder I work, the luckier I get." A good example of that would be my appeals process with Chapman.
A few years ago, when I was working in a Mexican restaurant, I met Kevin Connolly, because he would frequent this restaurant. I hadn't watched Entourage and I didn't make it a point to give him special treatment. It wasn't that kind of place. It was always "hi" and "bye" because he was such a familiar face.
While I was at Chapman, I interned at the Cannes Film Festival. I was able to get into this party where they announced a movie that hadn't come out yet and it was Gotti. I met the producers at this party.
I was the only kid there. I introduced myself. I said I was from Long Island and was very familiar with the Gotti family (which is common for Long Island) and said, "There must be a line for me somewhere in that movie." They chuckled, but gave me their contact info. That was my senior year of Chapman.
Cut to 3 years later. Kevin Connolly's been coming into the restaurant. Then, I see at the Toronto Film Festival that Gotti has a new director, and it's Kevin Connolly. I thought, "I'm going to tell him I met the producers in Cannes years ago, and I'd love the opportunity to read."
My co-worker had texted me one night when I wasn't at the restaurant. I came in and introduced myself to him. I told him the whole story and said, "I'd be kicking myself if I didn't tell you this story." He told me, "We're just getting started, but when we get the casting process started, we'll get you in."
Later on, I read that the movie was having financial difficulties. I didn't approach Kevin about this and would just say "hi" and "bye" to him.
At that time, I was directing Laguna Sleep. I was bartending and, in passing, Kevin about this film and he said he'd like to see it. For weeks, he came into the restaurant and didn't mention it.
Maybe 6 weeks went by, and right when I got the courage to ask him, he came up to me first and said, "I watched your film. And, I just want you to know that you and I will be working together when we get started on the film [Gotti]."
Then, I read in the trades again that they had started filming in Cincinnati. I emailed the casting director and 2 days later, I got a call from Kevin's personal assistant who said, "He'd love to have you on set. You'll have to fly yourself to Cincinnati." I was in a scene with John Travolta, which meant a lot to me because Kevin was confident enough in me to have me act opposite of him.
You have a film coming out called The Dishwasher. Could you tell us about this film and its origins?
About a year and a half ago, I was feeling creatively stagnant again. I had written a feature length script. The film would have cost a ton to make. Right around this time, my girlfriend's mother came to visit us in Los Angeles. The three of us went out to dinner, and we got on the topic of cartel-related stories in Mexico.
She said that she and her husband had vacationed in Puerto Penasco, which is a vacation town. There's also a heavy-cartel presence within the inner workings of the city. While they were there, a restaurant owner told them of an incident with a young family where the cartel pushed them into a fight-or-flight incident.
It's a tragic story. He was telling this to them as a sort of warning. This story was told to me, and I don't know if it was the fact that we were at a restaurant, but it really shook me. When we got home, I started writing that scene, or at least my version of that experience.
I contacted someone I knew from Chapman, and we began working on it. I knew that Damien Chazelle years ago had written Whiplash as a feature. It was going around and getting some buzz. So, he and producers created a proof of concept, which is a short version or a scene in the film that you can sell to investors. He raised the money for it and was shooting the feature version the following year.
With The Dishwasher, I knew the short script could serve as the proof of concept for the feature length film. It was very execution-dependent. There was no room for error as far as the storytelling or quality of the film.
I worked on the script for months, line-by-line, getting to a short page count. I wrote it in English, but knew I wanted to do the film in Spanish. I knew that wouldn't be for everybody. But, the people that it would be for, would be the people I'd want to work with anyway.
I sent the script to my friend, Soto, who translated it in a really smart way. Because I went to film school with him, I knew he would translate it so that the language would be poetic and the essence of its meaning would still be there.
Because Spanish is spoken in over 20 different countries over the world, there were an incredible amount of ways to say one thing in Spanish. Everyone had different opinions of how things should be translated. After that, I went through the translations again with Soto and went through it word-by-word.
How did you find your cast for The Dishwasher? What was the process of filming this project like?
The cast we found through Breakdown Services. We had a ton of submissions and interest. It felt like we were doing something exciting.
We followed a traditional casting process, where we auditioned and had callbacks. My collaborators and I knew we had to make this project feel welcoming in the casting room. We did that by not sitting behind a desk the whole time.
We told the actors, "We just want to work right now. We don't want this to feel like you're auditioning. We want you to feel like you've already got the part." We'd let them do it 3, 4, 5 times.
The lead, Sean, who plays Javier the young father, I went to Chapman with. I knew who he was, but I didn't know a lot about him. He came in to audition. All the people we cast are great friends now and people I hope to work with again.
The process of making this film is very performance-heavy and also takes place in real time. I spent a lot of time rehearsing with them. There's a difference between memorizing something and learning something. We can all memorize things.
When you're acting, you can memorize and recite lines. Or, you can learn them. We spent a lot of time speaking very candidly about the process and de-mystifying any cagey-ness that comes with the art of acting. There are certain things you want to hide because they're your secrets.
But, when you're working with your collaborators, you have to put all your cards on the table and speak very candidly with how you're setting out to achieve something. For us, it was all about creating a comfortable environment in a way that is respectful, collaborative, and open.
The Dishwasher premiered at the San Diego International Film Festival. What do you hope to convey to audiences when they see this film?
A lot of people are asking if it's a Mexican film or an American film and "who is this film for?" I would love to represent the Latino community in a positive way. However, because the film deals with a young family, I hope that whoever watches it (regardless of language) is able to connect with it in a human way.
I'm sure you've seen foreign films. We watch and news and see things all over the world that we all connect with. I'd really love for whoever is sitting in the audience to connect with it in a very human way.
Any upcoming projects you want to tell us about?
For the past year and a half, it has been about working on the feature length screenplay for The Dishwasher. If I could hire back the same crew and actors, that would be a dream. There are other short films and other feature length ideas I am working on as well.
I saw the trailer several times, and the guy who plays El Pez is very intense!
That was the only role we didn't audition! I actually worked with him at the restaurant. He was the manager. His nickname is "Chuy". He is the biggest teddy bear and the kindest person you'll ever meet. I wanted to cast an actor for that role, but Chuy really took an interest. He's a character.
As I was getting the project together, he kept making himself available to help out. That's very rare to come by. It got to the point where I asked him if he would do the role. He had never acted before, but I felt who he was as a person was more important than a skillset.
Who have you always dreamed of collaborating with?
Every project is so different depending on subject matter. I've heard Quentin Tarantino say he'd love to work with Johnny Depp, but he just hasn't written the right material for him yet. It has to be the right time and right place. For me, though, I'll go with my favorites.
Taylor Sheridan [screenwriter] -- I'd love for him to write a screenplay that Nicholas Winding Refn (who directed Drive) would direct. I'd like Ryan Gosling, Tom Hardy, and Oscar Isaac to be involved. And for the female roles, I'd like Jessica Chastain, Natalie Portman, and Rooney Mara.
Wait...how about you?
Oh yeah, I left myself out! I'd be the P.A. [Production Assistant.] Just kidding. I'd love to have a scene with any of them. I'd love to just be involved on the same project as them.
To get up-to-date information on The Dishwasher please visit www.IamTheDishwasher.com.
You can learn more about Jordan Jacinto at www.JordanJacinto.com.
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