Checking In With Jason Lee

Jason Lee and his family have been living in Denton for a little over a year now, and we thought it’d be swell to check in with him, see what he's been up to. 

I met Lee around this time last year and in the time we’ve known each other, he’s been extremely helpful on a creative level. Lee isn’t afraid to talk through ideas to make sure the right one fits. He has been extremely helpful to me as a friend throughout the last year by providing me with honest and candid feedback and discussion. 

The Dentonite’s Art Director, Shaina Sheaff, went to visit Lee at his studio earlier this week to take his portrait. The two of them had met and talked briefly one time before. I watched them work together to create the frame for the portrait, and it was so refreshing. When Sheaff realized her camera was not working properly, Lee readily offered his up for use. 

“It's the absolute worst feeling to have your Land Camera poop out as you're going to photograph someone who is a master of film photography,” Sheaff says. “Jason could have easily supplied us with any number of stellar portraits of himself to use. Instead, he handed me his camera - loaded with his film.”

“He took the time to help make sure I got the shot and that it was done right,” Sheaff says. “The kindness and generosity he showed in doing such a simple thing spoke to me. I truly believe we need more people with that kind of heart here in our creative family in Denton. It's an honor to be invited into the workspace of an artist you admire. It's an even bigger treat to have them take the time to help you create something that isn't mediocre.”

At any rate, Jason Lee is doing some really cool work around town and wants to continue to work in and bring great things to Denton. Here's what he's been up to:

The Dentonite: You moved to Denton a little over a year ago, found a house, & bought it. You are leasing a space for your office that sits in Downtown Denton. Besides your home, what other buildings or spaces in Denton have you purchased?

Jason Lee: I haven't purchased anything in Denton. That was never really the plan. But I do rent a little photo office space. It's nice to have a place away from home for scanning and editing my film photos, listening to records and just being around my cameras and books and whatnot. And it's nice to be near downtown. 

TD: What is your involvement with Film Photographic in general, and in bringing it to Denton? Will there be a brick and mortar? If not in Denton, where will it be?

JL: I started @filmphotographic over a year ago and it's been really encouraging to see how strong and very much alive the film community is on Instagram. Been wanting to open a public gallery and darkroom space as a sort of hub for Film Photographic but not sure yet as to when and where. Was considering doing that here. Could be cool. We'll see. 

TD: You are currently working on a second volume of your photo book with Chris Brown of Refueled Magazine. How was your experience working through the first book? How will the second edition differ from the first? Do you have a release date in mind for the second book?

JL: We've learned a lot from the first book. It's a tremendous amount of work but it's been a lot of fun collaborating with Chris. The first book is all Polaroid and Fuji instant peel-apart film photos from 2006-2016. And the second book, due out sometime in early 2017, will be a collection of conventional film photos from the past decade or so. 

TD: You are involved with and on the board of the Greater Denton Arts Council. You hosted a summer film series that brought free movies to the Patterson-Appleton Arts Center every Tuesday night, which was such a nice treat. What other initiatives and projects are you working on with the Greater Denton Arts Council?

JL: The Summer Cinema Series was a lot of fun, and we met a lot of people through those events. I'm also going to be a part of and speaking at the Instant Film Society's PolaCon event at PAAC coming up soon. And I've been talking to the other members of GDAC about creating a regular all-ages gig night for local bands to share. They were receptive. I view PAAC as being both formal gallery space as well as a community arts center that should be open to all types of events and genres. Really good people over there, and I'd encourage all creatives to stop by and meet them, talk ideas about exhibitions and gigs and whatnot. 

TD: Oh, and Kevin Smith is coming to town! How cool is that? Tell us about your involvement with Kevin Smith and bringing him to Denton.

JL: PAAC is putting on a very cool comic book exhibition and thought it might be cool to have Kevin Smith come out and speak. And so I asked him and he said yes. Kevin is a great guy. 

TD: Your wife, Ceren, and you are playing the Petty Fest at Oaktopia. (I personally got to see Ceren sing alongside Eric Pulido this summer, and it was magical). You've played other Best Fest's before? Tell us about your experience with Best Fest. What are you looking forward to about this year's Oaktopia and being a performer? 

JL: The Best Fest is really cool. All proceeds go to charity. A very cool event where you get to see a nice variety and diversity of musicians covering some amazing music - Dylan, Harrison, Petty. I found out about the festival from Eric Pulido and played a Dylan song with him in San Francisco and a Petty song in Los Angeles. I think I might just be strumming along this time around, with Pulido and Ceren and Rambo doing the singing. It's cool that Best Fest is happening here during Oaktopia. 

TD: Did you help Oaktopia book any of the talent this year? Are you helping fund Oaktopia in any way?

JL: I'm not affiliated with Oaktopia. But Ceren being good friends with Chan from Cat Power, she was able to help get her here, which is amazing. So great to have Chan playing in Denton. She's fantastic. And I understand that more than 90 local acts will be performing, too. That's a lot. Very cool. Matt and Brent, and Sparky and Pulido, have done a great job growing the festival. 

TD: Tell me your experience as 1/5th owner of Barley & Board? For the record, what other businesses do you own - even partial stake in - around Denton?

JL: I was asked by Pulido and Sparky if I wanted to help co-design Barley & Board and of course I said yes. It's such a cool space, and one that has certainly helped bring life back to the square, along with a lot of other cool things that are happening around downtown. Lots of good people here trying to contribute to bringing some energy back to downtown, and I think what guys like Sparky are doing to invest in his hometown is amazing. Revitalizing old spaces and giving them new life is definitely a positive thing. 'Progressing while preserving Denton' seems to be a theme here. 

You see a lot of that here; locals investing in the heart of this place. It's a beautiful thing, especially considering how much Denton's perimeter is being overdeveloped. Bearded Monk is cool, and the food truck scene behind Eastside, Oak Street Draft House, Harvest House, Paschall Bar, 940's, LSA, Denton Skate Supply being at the old Gulf Station, Denton Camera Exchange, the film photography scene, Denton Music Workshop, the record stores, the music festivals. All the murals around downtown. All good stuff to experience. There's an energy here now. When I first started coming to Denton in 2004 the square was all but dead. It's nice to see people out and about and in what feels like a very new way. I think Denton is benefiting from it. 

Aside from my small slice of B&B, I have no ownership in any other businesses. While I'd be happy to take credit for these amazing places, I don't in fact own West Oak Coffee Bar, or Earl's, or 940's, etc. And I have nothing to do with Rubber Gloves or any other venues or businesses closing down. If Ceren and I had an idea for a business, it certainly wouldn't happen at the cost of someone else's. And being that we don't practice Scientology, and that we aren't particularly interested in opening religious centers in general, we have no plans to open a Scientology center. Quite a few rumors about me/us floating around but none of it's true. We're not here to buy up or change or take over Denton, put some kind of personal stamp on it. We're just here like anyone else who wants to be a part of Denton's very cool creative community, and to be involved and perhaps help where we can. 

TD: This skatepark you've mentioned before - what are the current details about that? Did you read this ?

JL: That's been a bit of a tough one because unless the city funds or co-funds a skatepark, it's not always the easiest of things to accomplish. If I had the money to personally fund one I would. I talked to Tony Hawk's foundation but Denton doesn't meet the requirements. I also tried to get some sponsorship money but that was tough. The good people at Denton Skate Supply have told me they're making some progress with the city. Hoping for the best, as it seems the city is apparently starting to take some interest. 

TD: Any other Denton related projects you're working on that you want to shout out? 

JL: I think that's about it right now. We're back and forth and bouncing around a lot, but it would certainly be cool to stay involved here when and where we can. It's an exciting time for Denton. And I think what very well could be the kicker would be if the Fine Arts were to reopen and screen films again. I'd love to see that happen. So much potential here. 

TD:  Aside from Denton, what projects are you working on, film or otherwise?

JL: Just working on my photo books with Chris Brown when I'm here in Texas, and that's been taking up a lot of time. I'm going to start selling film prints, too. Got some photography trips/projects in the making. Not really doing any acting work much anymore. We'll see. Photography has become pretty consuming. And running the two skateboard brands I share with Chris Pastras in Los Angeles. 


Photo and header image design by Shaina Sheaff