Becoming Iconic: An Interview

Jonathan Baker loves to tell stories. When he's not directing his first feature he's also shooting the documentary about it called "Becoming Iconic". Baker tells the story of his trials and adventures making INCONCEIVABLE while also hearing from other visionaries like Faye Dunaway, Nicolas Cage, Jodie Foster, Adrian Lyne, Taylor Hackford, and John Badham. 

Baker's screening his documentary film May 16th at Independent Film Showcase in Los Angeles. You can see the schedule and purchase tickets HERE 

Who are you and what do you do? 

 Director - Jonathan Baker

Director - Jonathan Baker

I'm a director, writer, producer, and entrepreneur. I'm a creator and keeper of stories. It could be film, music or writing, but I'm a keeper of the story.

What did you love about making the documentary? 

Making a documentary that is about a journey and the creative stance you are taking to discover. I loved interviewing the directors, and it started with me wanting to ask questions. I was curious. I'm like Curious George as I want to know what's going on and why people made certain decisions. It's so important when you look at these famous people to ask questions. I wanted to know what was in their head, what makes them tick and what made them make certain decisions. So I could empower myself and fortify everything I thought I wanted to do. So I set out on a journey to interview these iconic directors and then I backed it into my own story and the problems I had with INCONCEIVABLE. Once I had all the footage, I thought, wow this would make a really interesting juxtaposition.

What was the most challenging part about directing your own first film? 

Not knowing. When you are making a film, you are always second-guessing your decisions, and I'm a pretty confident person. I was fighting for my creative stance as much as I was editing. And when you get it, you have to be really comfortable that when you make a decision, that's the decision and your team understands it. Even if you make a mistake, whatever you deliver, that is what you get. There's no crying over spilled milk.

How long did it take for you to create Becoming Iconic? 

I worked on BECOMING ICONIC for two and a half years. It started out as a live television show where I was going to film the process, but it turned into a documentary instead. Over this time, I was really asking questions, and the Hollywood system was asking questions about me. Anyone can direct an independent film, but when you go to work for a studio, the studio wants to make sure that you're competent. So they ask a lot of questions. They ask questions like "can you direct?" and "what is your advice for actors?" And I would always go back to my mentor, Warren Beatty and say, “are they kidding me? Why are they asking me these questions?” And I really didn’t quite understand that there was a temperament to directing. You think you’ve worn a lens, put a camera on a subject and get a performance from them. That is directing a play. When directing a movie, you have 360 degrees of moving parts, and those moving parts consist of cinematographer, production designer, and actor for example. So as you go to make the film, all of these moving parts have to come into focus at different times, and then they need to crystallize at the same time. That is what you learn when you make a movie. You learn how to crystallize it in pre-production. Because once you get to the set and say action, there ain’t nothing left to do except pray that your actors are going to be on point. If they are you have an easier job and if they are off then you really have a much harder job, then you expected.

What were some of the challenges of creating Becoming Iconic? 

A documentary isn’t a documentary until the story reveals itself. So really this is like falling in love. You have to love the journey. Nobody cares about the journey but you. So I had to make a movie and do a documentary at the exact same time. Everyone kept asking why are you doing this to yourself? But I would have it no other way. I think we live in a world that is 360 degrees and it is really important. I think to do both and really reveal yourself; most people don't want to reveal themselves. Most directors don't want to come out from behind the curtain and speak about their journey; because their mistakes embarrass most people. To me, I embrace my mistakes, and I welcome the people that are around me and on this journey with me. Sometimes a great mistake turns into something amazing for the film.

What is the greatest take away you have from creating the documentary? 

I love the fact that I got to interview iconic people. I love the fact that I got to understand how the actors, Faye Dunaway and Nicolas Cage, thought outside just the part of INCONCEIVABLE. I love the fact that Warren Beatty had an opinion and his opinion mattered to me. I love that Jodie Foster told me about her whole life’s journey. We had Sylvester Stallone up next, but we just didn’t need him. But I love the fact he told me about his entire career and how easy it was to do everything but to write. Everybody gave me something that I could actually take to entire my career for now and into the future, and I just love that. I just love that everybody could teach everybody something. You never just learn how to direct, you’re always learning. That’s why it’s the greatest gift in the world to be able to direct. You never know if you’re making a mistake or if you’re doing something amazing until you see it.

Why did you decide to interview Jodie Foster? 

Jodie Foster is an Academy Award winner. So is Nicolas Cage and Faye Dunaway. I started on my quest with the people that are actors and directors. Jodie happens to be one of them. I wanted a female, and I think she is a really good director and a great actress. I think she embodies 50 years of experience and I grew up with her. I felt if you grow up with somebody and they tell you who they are. You get to walk away with something special.

 Group Faye Dunaway and Jonathan BakerPhoto Credit: Baker Entertainment

Group Faye Dunaway and Jonathan BakerPhoto Credit: Baker Entertainment

Do you think women have an easier time to create their own films in Hollywood? 

 Jodie Foster and Jonathan Baker

Jodie Foster and Jonathan Baker

Up until Wonder Woman, all I kept saying is I want to work with women because I think they're the best-kept secret. I think they work harder, they are talented, and you can get a super-star. I made INCONCEIVABLE because I wanted to work with women. I’ve written movies that are for women. Not about women but with strong women leads. Wonder Woman changed the world. Harvey Weinstein came and changed the world. So now there is a bit more equality. I really believe there is a talented pool out there that needs to be recognized. And I want to work with women, and that's why I did INCONCEIVABLE.

What made you want to make a documentary of the journey of creating your own film while also making your first film? 

I believe in 360 degrees transparency. I believe what you are seeing as a different product is completely different to making a documentary and exposing a truth. It doesn’t make a difference what truth, it’s a truth. For me, because we live in a time where the theatres don’t dictate how people see the film, I believe any truth becomes publicity, and any type of truth becomes understanding of the making of a film or the person you are looking at, creates a connection. I think that connection is really important in today's market. I think we need to talk to our audiences and we need to explain to them what they see and if they care, for them to ask questions. As a result, I think they will appreciate the film a lot more because we are desensitized to television and desensitized in films. We've seen everything. With Netflix and Amazon we are being railroaded with content, and therefore I think the personal connection is really important. That's why, whether it is a television show, documentary or live show, I think it needs to follow film today.

What is one thing you would like to do differently in your next film? 

I'm a writer, producer, and director. I have my next two films laid out. I turn down work all the time because I don't want to be a gun for hire. Warren Beatty is my idol because of the way he makes films and the way he is celebrated for his work. Whether it is Warren Beatty or Woody Allen, Barbra Streisand, these are the people that do it all. They are triple threats. For me that is important, and I'm willing to take the risk and having everybody not like it in order to do it because I love every aspect of movies and the movie business. I love writing, producing, and directing. I like being in the movies. Being in the movies doesn’t drive or motivate me, but I would never not put myself in it as I want to be on the same level as the actors. I want them to be able to speak to me without a wall up. And if you are in the movie sitting next to them, they will naturally speak to you. I’m a kid in a candy store; I love it all.

Fun questions

If you were stuck on an abandoned island what five items would you have with you?

iPhone: hopefully there would be cell reception, and if not, I would still take an iPhone for content.

Pillow

Flashlight

Blanket

And a chicken so it would lay eggs

If you could have lunch with your favorite film icons who would they be? 

I’d love to have Tom Cruise. I find him to be remarkable and love his choices in movies.

Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen (even though not alive). These people moved me to make movies because they did it so well.

If you could travel in time where would you go? 

I would travel back in time and start my career ten years earlier and make sure I put all my money on the stocks – Apple and Coke. I would also regain some of my youth, and I'd make a gigantic studio deal that would allow me to move faster. I like old Hollywood. I think new Hollywood today is the Wild Wild West. Way back when, when Paramount was King, or 20th Century was King, they put a lot of money into advertising and public relations. I’m a product of that. I like all that so I’d love to do that again.

If you had a superpower what would it be? 

The Force. Wave my hand and make the impossible happen.