Interview with Producer, Actor, and Director – Jonathan Baker

Arthur Glover: So I was reading a bit about your production company, and I was wondering what the journey was for you to start by creating a production company, to then directing your first feature with Inconceivable?

Jonathan Baker: Well, it’s like being in love, you gotta just go toward the light. And that light…is the creativity you would want to put into the world, whether whatever kind of content that it’s gonna look like. So Baker Entertainment Group is housed at Paramount Pictures, we’ve been here for seven years, and everything is a constant development. So we have Fate, which is a movie, and we have Icon, then Inconceivable, and a bunch of youtube projects, and really, they are all multi-narrative. I’ve written all of them (except for Inconceivable). So the journey is about being creative, and I give Warren Beatty the credit of why I’m a director. Because, as a writer, I want to tell a story. And as a producer, I want to make sure I have my hands inside the business, so that way it goes the why I need it to go, and I don’t just become another working man inside of the studio system, which to me, just doesn’t have enough power to make the films turn where they need to turn. So, as a producer, and I’m only doing that, so that I can express and protect the film. But as a director, Warren Beatty (my mentor) said to me – “Jonathan, if you don’t direct your films, you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life.” And he thought I was a good enough storyteller, and he made it clear to me that if I don’t direct, I’m going to regret it. So I listen to the people who have done this, I mean, Warren has won two Academy Awards, he’s got thirteen Oscar nominations, and then becoming iconic, which is the search, for when making a movie.

Much like the story-characteristics in Inconceivable, like family and love, do you feel like those are the kinds of films that sell to the audience the most in today’s film market? Or is that just the type of films you prefer to make?

Jonathan Baker: Well, here’s the deal. I love propaganda, and I love movies that are set on to make money. In the same breath, I believe that if you have a commercial life, you got a commercial life, and you can make anything commercial, and palpable to the public, it’s a thread…and your vision is properly aligned. So, my film Icon, is about a soul that travels through 100 years, before he reaches his destiny as a rock star. But really, it’s about a family, coming through Ellis Island, and living  a hundred years. I happened to choose music, and Jared Leto (30 Seconds to Mars), was going to be the man and the DNA of the picture. But it’s really just about family. But when you say that, it’s impossible to kick! It depends how your vision collides with the marketing and the propaganda, and everybody sees that. And in today’s world, you have ten tall movies that are out there, 200 million dollar pictures, that even Harvey Weinstein is saying – maybe I need to go work at a studio in order to get that kind of money to make those kinds of movies. There’s skill in market that is void of the basic storytelling. So whether it’s about love or family, you’re going to have love stories forever. So my goal is to always stay commercially relevant, and always be current.

So Inconceivable being your first feature, how did production go? Did you run across any problems, especially since you’re directing these big actors like Nicholas Cage and Faye Dunaway? Did you have an ah-ha monet?

Jonathan Baker: And I also star in it. Yes, I mean I didn’t expect to have an ah-ha moment, but I did. I’m a pretty strong personality, and I put myself in the movie, so I can have a celluloid connection with the actors. So that way they’re not just looking at the director like – ah, you’re just a director. I wanted to be between them, I wanted to have a relationship with them, and it worked. Some people were afraid that I’d taken on too much, but the whole idea was to act with them, and then that made directing that much easier. So I think the ah-ha moment was when directing yourself in movies is harder than you think, because you have to be present in the scene, but also be present as the director. But if you can do all of them, writing, directing, and produce, you become a triple-threat. I have to say, it was an enlightening experience.

Now a definitely like Nicolas Cage as an actor, but is he someone who can be difficult to direct? Like was he combative with any direction were given him on this film in anyway? Or is he more absorbing, and really listens to you, and try to do the things that you’re trying to transcribe onto the film?

Jonathan Baker: I have to tell you, Nicholas Cage…is an A-movie star. So of course, they come with their own ideas, and their own wishes, to what they bring. He not only was professional, not only did he know his lines, but he also knew everybody else’s lines. He came, with an understanding of the character, that made my job easier. He wasn’t telling me what to do, it was us, discussing the true line of what needed to happen. And that’s when you know you’re in a great place, right before the cameras. So for me, and I talk about all the actors, I asked for a table read, and they said no, and everything I wanted they always said no too. But I made them give me a table read, and it wasn’t so we could have a table read with all of the actors, it was a way to work out all of the problems they had with the characters. So that way we wouldn’t be wasting time doing it on set, and nobody understood that, until we did the table read, which lasted 12 hours. And that way when we went onto the set, almost everything went as planned, there was a few bumps here and there, but at the end of the day, we were able to move fast, and we were able to make our days, because everything we needed to work out had already been worked out.

That’s a great answer. So you’re officially a film director now. Is there something that you feel you can bring to the table, that not a lot of other directors can, or have not so far? What do you think you’re role is as a director in this industry?

Jonathan Baker: I am a filmmaker, through and through. I’m not just a director, I’m not just a writer, I’m not just an actor, I’m just not a producer. I am a person that leads and has vision, and because I’ve been in love with all of the different aspects, being a director allows me to be that leader. It allows me to arrive at the person I see myself as. And I think as a director, people can put their faith in when I’m telling a good story. And as a producer, know that I will fight for the film, and only for the film. And, as an actor, it allows me to communicate with actors, and it allows me to have their ear, at the time when they might not give their ear, to any other type of director. And more important than that, I want to believe that my stories are important to the movies that I want to do, because now I’m a director, people want to take that journey with me. I do this work, so that I can work, with the people in this town, who are in love with making movies, and taking a journey. So that to me, is what’s most important, and if I get to do Icon, which is my next film, it might take me two years. But I’m okay with that, because it will be on my own terms. And that’s my hand: I think that I’m a visionary.

Interview By: Arthur Glover for

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