Creativity & Ambition - Jonathan Baker
From working on Wall Street to realizing his true passions of music, acting, directing, producing, and writing, Jonathan Baker’s constant flow of creativity and ambition has led him to dominate numerous fields in the Hollywood film industry. With his immense professionalism in all aspects of life, his drive has allowed him to envision and teach younger generations on paving the way towards making a difference in the world through film.
Siena Severino: What drew you to the film industry?
Jonathan Baker: I have always been a creative person and grew up doing theater. I thought if I would ever get the chance to work in the industry, I had to do theater first, then TV, and film. It felt lattered. In the Midwest, theater was just available. So as I started to explore and investigate a little bit more as to how it all worked. I had an uncle in LA and at that time I went to an extension program at UCLA and a professor named Don Richardson changed my life. I was so blown away by his craft; that was the beginning of my belief that I could work in the industry. When I graduated from the University of Michigan with concentrations in Religious Studies, Philosophy, and Music. I then moved to New York and got a job working on Wall Street to support myself. I started making money and I started using that money to put on theater in the night. That moved me into producing more than anything at that time. Fortunately after 9/11, I answered an ad for Sony and I got the internship. It was a growing experience and it challenged me on every level, showing me real movie making.
SS: Out of all of your different careers in the industry, what was your first love?
JB: Music is my best friend. It really saved my life and gave me confidence. It’s a huge theme for me. I mean most of the things that I am working on have some kind of musical element now, and it comes full circle. It’s one of the special languages because it transcends all the different borders and so many different parts and cultures can relate to music.
SS: In creating the Baker Entertainment Group, what characteristics do you find necessary to lead and find the right projects?
JB: I am definitely a product of working in distribution environments, where you’re answering to the process margin. I try to look for things that represent something with either a cause or some sort of issue that stands for progress. The next project that I am personally writing and directing is about my experience in medical bankruptcy, what kind of confusion there is about religion, and how everybody in my opinion is talking about the same things and how we should all stop fighting. These are these big moral conundrums where anybody who has the audacity or can afford to do what I get to do, you can sleep better at night if you are working towards what you believe in. Would I do this if I didn’t get paid and a lot of the times I don’t, the answer is yes. Somehow, miraculously the money finds us.
SS: In your entertainment group how are you personally adapting to streaming content such as Hulu or Netflix?
JB: I think that it’s a really interesting time to be doing what we’re doing. I just made a movie that was specifically designed for the viral streaming . window. It’s an absurdist satire called Manifest Destiny Down Spacetime. It’s a very quirky and categorizes all of the sci-fi movies into one. It’s quite ridiculous and it was a great challenge and a wild ride making this movie. It’s very experimental and sometimes I tell my clients and my students that it’s a little bit of a Noah’s Ark situation. It’s just a flat of content because there’s so much, it’s a new frontier. I get concerned about younger artists because a lot of it is to run by narcissism and vacuous insecurity. This is a concept that I want to spend time on for whatever I do next. I question where ethics went in entertainment and what health conscious issues social media now brings front and center.
SS: Working both on screen and behind, which one would you say you enjoy the most?
JB: I certainly don’t jump in front of the camera very often because I spent so much time developing and producing, but I do think that way because I spent the first half of my life on stage.