With the amount of work on Dallas Jacksonâ€™s plate right now, the 31 year old producer/screenwriter doesnâ€™t have much time to himself. Thursday afternoon, though, I was lucky enough to catch him on a brief work break playing SoCom 3 on his PS2. With his relaxed demeanor and unassuming tone, Jackson doesnâ€™t exude the typical LA arrogance that one might expect from a guy whoâ€™s sold screenplays to nearly every major studio in town.
The Denver, Colorado native moved to LA in the mid-90s after graduating from Howard University and quickly got a job at Savoy Picturesâ€¦ in the mail room. “It was nothing glamorous,” says Jackson of his introduction to the entertainment industry, “but I definitely learned the basics.” Shortly thereafter, he sold his first screenplay, Scary Dates to 20th Century Fox. Since then heâ€™s maintained a strong presence in the business, selling a screenplay a year (on average) to various studios.
His latest release, Uncle P (starring Master P and Romeo) premiered two weeks ago at number two on the home video rental charts. Itâ€™s a film thatâ€™s very close to him, considering how long it took to get released. “Master P noticed that I was working and selling scripts, and approached me to write something for his son Romeo,” Jackson recalls of their first meetings. “I wrote three screenplays for Romeo. Two of them were bought up immediately by studios, but when Master P saw the third, Uncle P, he wanted to make it himself, without getting a studio involved because typically, when a screenplay is sold to a studio, it means the original story can get lost amidst the numerous screenwriters brought in for rewrites and changes.” Uncle P got made on Master Pâ€™s own terms, and then quickly sold for $3 million, a pretty sweet chunk of change for a low budget film. Unfortunately, 14 months later, after studio development and with a new CGI introduction, it was decided that Romeo was now too old to do press for the movie and Uncle P was released straight to video rather than theatrically, as originally planned. “I donâ€™t profess it to be a masterpiece,” says Jackson of Uncle P, “but it is a positive family film and there really arenâ€™t a lot of those being made in the black community. Are We There Yet? wasnâ€™t the best movie ever, but you support films like this because they send out good positive messages that kids need to see.”
Writing a kidâ€™s movie is only fitting as Jacksonâ€™s interest in films started when he was still young. “Iâ€™ve always loved movies, even when I was a kid. I went all the time. Indiana Jones, Star Wars, they had a big impact on me.” Jackson is quick to specify that itâ€™s not just “black” movies that influence him. “Just good movies. Good movies of any genre: Eddie Murphy, Spike Lee, Robert Townsend, George Lucas, Bill Cosby, Stephen Spielberg, all these guys are influences in their own ways.
And Jackson is ready to be an influence himself: “Iâ€™d like to be able to build financing myself so that I can go straight to making movies and looking for distribution, rather than selling my scripts and having a studio make them.” Sometimes, though, itâ€™s unavoidable. “You will lose control of your script because thatâ€™s just how studios work.” Jackson does his best to make his projects as “ready to go” as possible, by bringing on talent himself, and preparing the production in any way possible rather than standing idly by. “Iâ€™m really trying to get into producing now,” he states nonchalantly.
And with his first major producing project coming up, thereâ€™s no better time than now. Currently, Jackson is working with rapper Ludacris on the tv show Halls of Fame, a remake of the popular 80s show Fame. Although this is clearly a high-profile work, Jackson is too much of a multi-tasker to let it be his sole project. Heâ€™s also working on an ABC show starring Romeo called King of Malibu which is like “an updated Fresh Prince“. But neither of these is taking as much of his time as Shady Tales, the urban horror anthology that heâ€™s developing for MTV Films at Paramount. “Itâ€™s like Creepshow and Tales From the Crypt, but urbanized,” Jackson says in explanation. “This is the first urban horror film MTV has put out. Weâ€™re working with Violator Management (50 Cent, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, and many others) and hoping many of their clients will appear in the film. Thereâ€™s going to be four separate shorts, and weâ€™ll be bringing in a different director for each one.” This is the only information he can reveal right now, letting out that several names are being tossed around for directors and actors alike.
Whatever happens, it seems pretty clear that Dallas Jackson is a name thatâ€™s rapidly rising up the ranks in the entertainment biz. At the age of 31, Jackson is quickly making himself known. When asked how heâ€™s managed to get so much done in a crazy competitive city like LA, Jackson has a pretty straightforward answer: “I gets my grind on.” Screenwriters and producers alike, take note.
For more information on Uncle P, visit www.unclepmovie.com