Lights, camera, action

Digital imaging teacher makes movie magic

Semira Garrett '18, School Staff

In the Digital Imaging Lab, Mac computers are scattered throughout the room. Camera’s are lined against the left wall along with boom mics and other film accessories. A projector lays against the front wall and to the right of it sits a desk belonging to digital imaging teacher Jake Myers. Those instruments and more help him teach students how to film and edit videos to prepare them for a professional setting.

“When I would see him in the hallways, he had half of his head shaved, and I was like ‘who is this weird man?’” said digital imaging student David Calloway ‘18. “But when I got to meet him, he was really cool and nice.”

Myers didn’t originally want to go into the arts. He was interested in becoming an accountant, but due to a change of thought, he shifted his focus to teaching.

“Jones was looking for someone with a lot of digital experience,” said Myers. “I came to Jones teaching a mix of digital and drawing and painting, and slowly but surely I carved out a digital program.”

However, beyond Jones, Myers dedicates his life to the craft of film.

“As soon as I graduated from college, I saw friends of mine running galleries out of their apartments, so I started doing that. When I was living in Pilsen and Wicker Park, I ran an apartment gallery for 5 years,” said Myers.

Through the development of these galleries, Myers was able to get more opportunities, such as curating events at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

“I would get a whole bunch of artists to do these assignments to work together to create shows,” said Myers “ So then I thought, ‘why don’t we document this? Why don’t we actually make this into a movie?'”

 With this realization, Myers developed one of his first films which he describes as a “celestial workout video,” called ‘Celestial Bodies’.

“It was a sci-fi workout video in which 70 Chicago artists helped out with it,” said Myers. “That was the thing where I realized I really liked this, this is something that I really wanna pursue.”

This video later lead to Myers creating a movie that poked fun at conspiracy theories called ‘Lake on Fire’ that he filmed over five days in Las Vegas.

“I knew I could only get the actors for five days so I was like, ‘we’re gonna go out and film for five days and whatever movie comes out of those five days is the movie that we’ll have,’” said Myers.

The movie got picked up by a distributor who released it on DVD and put it on Walmart’s shelves – but with a catch.

“They changed the title to ‘Conspiracy Theory,’” said Myers “’Conspiracy Theory’ went over well with Walmart’s focus group, so it will sell really well.”

Myers is currently working on another film called “Triumph, IL” about a comedian who was born in the suburbs but lives in Chicago and feels that he deserves more laughs than he gets.

“He’s this cisgendered white male who thinks he deserves everything all the time, he thinks he deserves immediate success,” said Myers. “He never works on his craft, and he gets transferred out to rural Illinois where he starts to realize he needs to be a better person. It’s about all the different lenses of Illinois.”

The budget for said film is $25,000 which Myers says isn’t a lot of money for a feature length film but he says they’re making it work.

“It’s hard to make it with no money. When you don’t have money a lot of times you have to deal with inexperience, so I ended up having to operate the camera for most of my movies,” said Myers. “I did have help. So many of my friends chipped in when they could, people would act for free because they wanted the experience.”

Despite some difficulties, motivation has always been the driving force for Myers’ craft.

“Just telling yourself ‘I can do this’ even though you don’t have any money, or you can’t hang out with your friends, but sometimes you just gotta do it, you just have to,” said Myers.

Myers plans on making more films in the future, and hopes to grow and develop his craft even more, and extend his knowledge to the students here at Jones.

“I feel proud that one of my art teachers are actually successful,” said digital imaging student Christopher Reynoso ‘18. “It’s pretty cool to see your teachers thrive outside of school.”