Jonathan Kesselman, the self-proclaimed "godfather of the Jewxploitation film" grew up in California's San Fernando Valley. He left the University of Colorado Boulder with an undergrad degree in Psychology and spent a few years as a corporate consultant drone after graduation. He went back to school to study film production from the University of Southern California School of Cinema/Television and graduated in 2001.
He wrote and successfully pitched his first feature film, "The Hebrew Hammer", while he was still in school at USC. He's written for everyone from Fox Searchlight and Comedy Central to MTV and Nickelodeon. His current project is a pilot for a dark comedy about an LA medical marijuana dispensary that stars Jamie Hector (Marlo from 'The Wire"), Dale Dickey ('Winter's Bone') and Andy Milonakis.
I got to know Jonathan after seeing On the Streets with Jonathan Kesselman, a series he put together for MNN. I like his sensibilities and can't wait to see some video from his newest project. Jonathan is one of my virtual-only friends as we have yet to cross paths enough for a real life meetup.
I'm excited to feature seven questions answered by Jonathan Kesselman.
MNN: What's your latest greatest project?
Jonathan Kesselman: I am finishing post-production on a cable TV comedy I directed called ‘Grow.’ It is set in the world of a medical marijuana dispensary on Melrose Ave in Los Angeles. We shot it at the only true Hash Bar in LA, and I’m incredibly excited about it. It’s funny, stylized, and I’ve got a great cast including Jamie Hector (Marlo Stanfield from ‘The Wire) and Dale Dickey (this year’s Indie Spirit winner for ‘Winter’s Bone.’). Visual Effects are almost done, and then it’ll be another few weeks for post sound and color correction before we’re finished. It was financed by some truly nice, interesting, and hospitable collective owners in LA who hired me, and then were generous enough to let me into their world. I love my job as I get to meet all kinds of people and travel in different circles with every job. This gig has been an eye opening experience for me. It’s been an honor to be brought into the fold and make a film for them.
Have you always been a content creator? What was your very first project?
No. I studied Neuroscience as an undergrad, and for a short while I thought I wanted to go into science. After that, I fell into Information Systems consulting AKA Corporate America, and that was a life-sucking experience for me. I was always a writer as a kid, and it wasn’t until I saw a documentary on ‘Your Show Of Shows,’ that I was inspired to learn everything I could about making comedy and filmmaking. My first project, which I don’t really consider a ‘project,’ came about when a friend of mine named Ramsey and I decided to make an 8mm movie. We went to the nearest park with no real idea as to what we were going to do. It morphed into a movie about me running around the park, taking pieces of clothing off as I ran from tree to tree, hiding behind rocks, etc. Don’t ask… It didn’t hit us we were maybe making something strange until I found myself in my boxers playing in the slide/swing area, and then the cops pulled me aside for questioning. We were so caught up in making some silly masterpiece in our heads we didn’t consider that perhaps a grown man in boxers his playing near children might frighten some parents.
What's funny about climate change?
Nothing. It’s depressing watching it play out year in and out; people seem conditioned to just accept that nothing odd is happening. However, my job is to find comedy in the worst of things. I wrote a script years ago called ‘The Lay After Tomorrow.’ I took the climate change disaster film sub-genre and mashed it up it with the teen sex comedy. Two senior virgins had two weeks to get laid before the world was going to be wiped out by a super storm. It was actually a pretty damn funny script in my not so humble opinion.
Well, MNN wanted ten more episodes, but wanted them done for a budget of 5K all in. Meaning out of that, I’d have to pay my crew for weeks of shooting, spend 3 months of my time working on them, and make a lot of negative money. As much as I love Gaia, I have to eat and not live in a cardboard box. I LOVED doing that show; it was one of the most creatively fulfilling experiences of my life, and would love to do it again. The show did well for MNN. At one point, they flew me out to Atlanta to be the “face” of MNN for some regional spots, and paid me a grand a day and put me up in a nice hotel. Apparently, when you’re just “acting” they pay you. When you have to be on camera, write, prep, and deliver 10 episodes of great comedy, the mathematical equations don’t add up. I’d gladly come back and do more … I urge everyone who enjoyed the show to reach out the editors and DEMAND it back ;)
Does the world need saving?
I often wonder that. I wonder if the Zeitgeist during Nixon’s time or even during the Cold War was fraught with the same kind of fear and the uncertainty that we’re experiencing now. I believe in equilibrium, and things are definitely not in a state of equilibrium. So, I do believe that some freaky deaky shit’s going to happen, and happen (is happening) in various forms (environmental, political, etc). I don’t know if the world can be saved. I think it just needs to right itself. I do feel that our country – politically, financially, morally – has fallen into disrepair, and I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. However, ‘Breaking Bad’ comes back this summer on AMC, so there’s that to look forward to.
What's the difference between green and greener?
One is perceived as more intense and/or better than the other? That’s like asking, ‘What’s the difference between a strange question, and an even stranger question?’ I have no good answer for that one!
How do you feel about the growing anti-circumcision movement in California?
I'm firmly against the ban on circumcision because I feel it is unfair that the younger generation will be able to experience sex more intensely than me. When I was a kid, I had to masturbate in 10 feet of snow. I’m also a little annoyed by baristas at coffee shop chains. Why even ask if I want room for cream in my coffee if day in and out you’re going to fill my cup to the fucking top. If you don’t like my answer, then why even ask?
Okay, I’m done now. Please friend me on Facebook (Jonathan Kesselman), and check my website www.theworldwidemediaconspiracy.com if you’re interested in following what I’m up to. Thanks for having me, Shea!
Are you on Twitter? Follow me (@sheagunther) there, I give good tweets.
And if you really like my writing, you can join my Facebook page.
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