Richard Jackson is a Texas based actor who took a non-traditional route to enter the film industry. He has been a part of projects ranging from commercial to feature films like Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. He was very gracious to spend some time talking to Boomtown Film Festivals about the most important things an aspiring actor can do when entering the movie world.
You were born and raised in central Texas right?
West Texas, I grew up in San Angelo.
What made you pursue Theatre? I know you have a performing arts degree from a university in Dallas.
Actually, growing up, I went to Angelo State and majored in physics. Yeah, I was an engineer making silicon chips, computer chips, and I got really tired of doing that, so I just quit. And as I was sitting around the house, I finally said, “shoot I’m going take a little acting class at the community college and see what it’s like.” And that was a lot of fun. That was about the time Oliver Stone came to Dallas to film JFK, so I got to be an extra and sat in the grassy knoll, watching it all happen. That was pretty cool, and I kinda got wrapped up in it, and I’ve been at it ever since. I found that little school KD Studio in Dallas, it’s a four semester program, I found an agent, and I’ve been at it ever since.
Since you still live here in Texas, but work on films, what is it like to have one foot here and one foot in Hollywood, or would you not describe it that way?
I don’t know about that. I’ve been out there a few times and worked on some projects, but I don’t really go out there much. Texas hasn’t been quite so film friendly as of late, so I have had a lot of work in Louisiana and Georgia recently. You have to be flexible, you have to be able to travel and go where the jobs are. You just hope more stuff comes to Texas but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Why would you not consider Texas a good place for aspiring actors and filmmakers?
Well you know the tax incentives that various state governments are giving really draws in a lot of people because they believe they can save money, now whether or not that is true is another story. The film, Texas Heart, was supposed to originally be filmed, or at least a lot of it filmed, about 15 miles from my house, and I was really looking forward to that. But it ended up shooting in Mississippi because they thought they could save a lot of money through tax incentives. Now that may not have worked out exactly how he wanted. But, as far as shooting here in Texas, I mean the film industry that exists here in Texas is great. We have such a varied list of locations and terrain, deserts, coasts, and piney forests, and the weather is almost always good. So, it’s a great place to shoot but it’s not always as attractive to a lot of people because of the financial help that some of the other states are providing.
So when you’re not on a production, what’s your general process to get into a production in the cast for another job? How are you staying involved in putting out applications or auditions?
You know, typically I’ve got a couple of agents that put me out there for jobs. Some productions will come to the area, and they send out the casting agents who have the breakdowns and submit it to the talent agents who then turn around and submit options back to the casting agents, and, if they want you, they call you in. I do, in the meantime, have my own website, so that’s out there, plus I’m on IMDb, and there are several other casting websites that talent agents use, such as: ActorsAccess & CastingNetworks. But I really rely on my agents to sort through all that. But, if there is a project that I come across that I really like, I’ll send it to my agent and say “hey what do you think about this?”
What should a prospective actor look for an agent?
First and foremost, they should be sure that they get a franchised agent that has been approved by SAG. If you go to an agent and they want to charge you right off the bat for pictures or whatever, you need to keep looking for a real agent, because they will not charge you to do it. A good agent only gets paid when you get paid, so if you just fall in with the first guy that you come along, then you may not get treated well. And I remember how hard it was starting out, because you don’t have any footage you don’t have any demo reel, and you may find someone who is willing to work with you who will write scenes for you so you can have some footage of yourself to show. But, you have to touch bases with agents and say, “hey this is where I am, I’m just starting out, I’m willing to do whatever, to take workshops when they come into town,” because if nothing else that shows that you’re willing to work (and you can make some good contacts at workshops with directors and producers).
You mentioned working on some really big projects and some really small projects, so I want to go back to that. What was it like to work on projects like No Country for Old Men and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints?
Oh it’s just a dream! It’s just a dream! And I had known of the Coens for years and I’d always told my wife that I just want to work for those guys. When you’re on a production like that, it’s funded properly, and you have a lot of people taking care of things, you don’t have a lot of snafus. The project was such a blast everybody was so good. The Coens were so good, I mean they’re both directing, but they’re not giving you any conflicting instructions. It’s like they are two people with the same mind. Javier was great to Work with too. One night, before we shot a scene, the production crew had hot dogs and beer on the patio, and Javier showed up, so we got to run the scene together, and it was just a blast! It was one of the more wonderful times I’ve had.
What advice would you give someone who’s trying to break into the industry.
I think it is important to find either workshops or an acting coach or take classes that get you started. There’s a lot of technique when you’re getting started to help you get ready. A lot of times, when you go to an audition, you just get a few pages of the script, so you have to make some decisions about what’s going on the scene, about “who am I” and “where am I going with this,” and then you got to learn the lines and have to somehow pull into something that means something to you. And you can’t always teach someone that, but when you work on it and get into it, you know it. Early on, you got to get with people who will run scenes and record them with you, so you can have them and critique them.
Acting can involve a lot of criticism and rejection. How do you deal with the constant rejection?
I’ve thought about this a lot. You’ve become something that tells you, yourself that you’ve been a success. For me, when I go to audition, and I give it like I wanted to… if I walk out of there knowing I gave it everything I could, then I walk out of there knowing I was a success. Because there are so many subjective things that go into you getting booked for a particular job. You can be too tall in one or too short in the next, too skinny or too fat, too good looking, not good looking enough, you got glasses on, you don’t have glasses on, you kinda look like that jackass that beat me up in high-school. You know? It can be anything. I’m serious, you never know. You just can’t dwell on it. And it’s hard to do. Some projects are harder to shrug off than others; you know I read for the Coen Brothers’ True Grit, and I didn’t get a callback and that was very disappointing, but that’s the way it goes. And, when I went to watch it, they had cast a much older guy. So, you just got to say that’s the way it is, and when you do finally get to a yes, it blows all those no’s out of the water.
You can find more of Richard Jackson at his IMDb page and personal Website: