New York Film Academy’s Alumni Spotlight: Jason Liles
“Before I moved to NYC I was told by many that I was too tall to be an actor,” says New York Film Academy Acting for Film graduate Jason Liles. “However, it seems my height was been the very thing that’s been getting me in the door to this point.”
The 6’10” actor has booked a number of high-profile jobs since his graduation in May 2010. Jason explains, “The very week after graduating… [I did an] episode of stand-in work for [pro wrestler] The Big Show as he guest starred on an episode of USA’s Royal Pains. That was my first experience on a big film or TV set ever.”
“About a month later, [I was called] in to audition for a principal role as a tall alien in Men In Black III 3D!” says Jason. “I ended up working as three aliens over several weeks with [7-time Academy Award-winning] special makeup effects artist Rick Baker and his crew. I worked on the film… with nearly the entire main cast. I got all my SAG waivers and made some great connections. It was an incredible experience. I’m very much looking forward to it’s release on May 25.”
Jason got another lucky break when he got a second callback for a role on a commercial. He recounts, “I was ecstatic… when I found out searching on the internet that it was a PRINCIPAL role in a NATIONAL Allstate commercial… This was my first time ever auditioning in front of the director, and all for a big project like this. MIB’s audition was for a camera. It was so cool to be getting direction from the director himself at the audition and I gave it my all in that room.”
Jason waited anxiously until he got the news that he booked the role. He explains, “Because of the waivers I got doing Men In Black III, I had to join SAG to do it so I also got my SAG card!!! Meetings with agents were being set up!!! I couldn’t believe it. I was in denial even. I started to think, ‘Okay, it’s a commercial, but it won’t be that big. It can’t be.’ It just seemed too easy and too good to be true.”
“The shoot went amazing,” he says. “Around 300 extras were cast for the crowd, and about 15 principals including us basketball players. I got to work directly with Dean ‘Mayhem’ Winters and his 11-year stunt double, David Shumbris, all day. It was such a pleasure to work with both of them and I can’t say enough nice things about them. Also getting to work directly with acclaimed commercial director David Gray was really exciting for me. He was nominated for the prestigious DGA Commercial Director of the Year award in 2004 and I believe this was his first Allstate Mayhem commercial.”
“I had never experienced anything like a 2,000 frames-per-second high-speed camera getting my close-up for a national commercial before,” says Jason. “When we were setting up that shot, I can’t explain the anticipation and excitement for what was about to happen. I was so amped and felt so grateful to be standing on that court surrounded by such talent. After we got my close-up I went over to the monitor and watched it with David. It looked incredible! So epic! I remember standing behind David as he’s pointing at my face on the monitor saying to the assistant director, Peter Jackson, ‘That’s great! That’s perfect right there. Great, let’s move on.’ It was such a compliment for me to come from such a great director like him.“
The commercial is currently airing on CBS, TBS, TNT, TruTV, Comedy Central, History, Fox, ESPN, and AMC. Jason says, “Another graduate of NYFA, Nick Purdy, said my ‘shocked face is plastered all over Canadian television.’ So evidently it’s showing internationally as well.”
“I love this business,” Jason says. “Less than a week before shooting the commercial, I knew nothing about it. Persistence is key in anything, and… especially in this industry. I feel so very blessed and so lucky to get this opportunity only a couple years into my career. I can’t thank God enough for the opportunities that have been given to me and can’t wait to see what’s next…. There’s one thing that I’ve come to learn in this business: you never know what’s right around the corner.”
Many of us want to share our comedic voice with the world, but cannot break down that seemingly impenetrable wall known as Hollywood. The Harvard Lampoon has traditionally been a breeding ground for many comedy writers. With the advent of the digital age, however, people have found new alternatives. This was the case for actor Clark Duke who spoke with us in regards to his breakthrough internet series, Clark And Michael. He stars alongside best friend Michael Cera who’s also had a breakthrough career with Arrested Development, Superbad, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,and Juno. Clark Duke originally wrote and directed the pilot as his college thesis film. The series gained notoriety, and it was picked up by CBS Internet Television.
“The internet is the greatest thing that ever happened.” Who can argue with Clark after his success? Clark recommends film students try a similar path. “If something is good, people will find it. This is an arena that didn’t exist before. I mean, where else can you do ten minute comedy sketches?” You could audition for Saturday Night Live but you’d be competing with the thousands of others also vying for a spot on that coveted roster. There is a paradigm shift happening in the entertainment industry. With the success of shows such as Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog in an era ushered forth by the Youtube phenomenon, Clark Duke represents Hollywood’s growing need to adapt. The only problem that Clark mentioned in regards to online content is the inability to really monetize the platform. It can help you, however, get noticed—as long as you use the platform to make a case for your talent and vision. We’re also pretty sure Clark doesn’t have to worry about money these days. He’s already appeared in Sex Drive, Kickass, and Hot Tub Time Machine. Now Clark is starring alongside Eddie Murphy in the new comedy A Thousand Words while developing a feature script. He is using his success in order to realize the dreams he had fresh out of film school. Clark Duke just had a different approach on getting there.