Film screened: HARMFUL SENSATIONS (short film)
Role as filmmaker: Director & Co-Writer

Getting to Know Jensen…

WMM: Where are you from, what is your background, and how do you think that informs what you do as a filmmaker?

JR: Originally born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. Of mixed ethnic parentage. Moved to Los Angeles as a teenager. I think living in Los Angeles definitely has had a big impact on myself as an artist more than any place I’ve ever lived. Of course, this is the movie making dream factory capital of the planet, but more then that, L.A. is such a massively strange place. A neon patchwork of surreal weirdness, occasional ultra-violence, hard drugs, cults, plastic surgery, wealth and extreme poverty all smashed up against each other in a toxic technicolor witches brew. One can’t help but be seduced and repelled by its terrible beauty.

WMM: What films have made an impression on you? How? Why?

JR: I could go on and on and on really, right? Such a big question. I’m pretty promiscuous when it comes to my viewing habits, but of course the film school video store geek answer is stuff like Godard’s BREATHLESS, David Lynch’s BLUE VELVET is big one. RASHOMON by Akira Kurosawa, BARTON FINK by the illustrious Coen’s, ANNIE HALL, DETOUR, RESEMARY’S BABY, NETWORK, THE SHINING, BREAKING THE WAVES, UNDERGROUND by Emir Kusturica, PULP FICTION, GREY GARDENS, PARIS IS BURNING, EL TOPO, HERO by Zhang Yimou. I mean I could do this all day and night. But the stuff that really thrills me is the so-called “guilty pleasure” high camp stuff. As a Catholic, everything is a guilty pleasure, right? I live for movies like MOMMIE DEAREST, SHOWGIRLS, THE ROOM, De Palma’s SCARFACE, FEMALE TROUBLE, HAUSU, etc. Why did they make an impression? Hmmm, I guess I either like movies that have a grand vision, if there is a certain amount of skill, idiosyncrasy. I like the failures because if one is going to fail, FAIL BIG. 

unspecified-1WMM: Did you study anywhere in your field? Where? Any notable stories/experiences/peers/teachers?

JR: I studied film history and production at Los Angeles City College, for a couple of years, but mostly my education comes from working as a video store clerk and manager for many years, the biggest chunk of my education comes from working at the now sadly defunct Rocket Video in Hollywood, RIP. Just watching as much from that massive library we had, and analyzing and endlessly arguing about movies with other clerks, filmmakers, and customers was a big thing. It’s really a big loss that they all went extinct with the rise of online streaming. We really have a big hole in the art of filmmaking with their loss. Maybe one the medium might not be able to reckon with (?).

WMM: What is the lowest budget you have worked with?

JR: Usually my budgets are zero or in the negative range. But with HARMFUL SENSATIONS, we raised the funds on Kickstarter and managed somehow to cough up $10,000, which was a big leap to say the least. Was nice to have real food on a shoot and professionals who actually know what they’re doing and are extremely good at their jobs. Really lucky to have worked with such an amazing team and wonderful actors.

WMM: What aspect of filmmaking fuels you the most? What stresses you out? What do you find find most rewarding?

JR: The part of filmmaking that fuels me is the visionary aspect. I like to have a good idea about how I want to make the audience squirm or laugh or scream. I really am doing this to entertain people. Which is what I think just about everyone forgets to do. The part I hate is writing. I mean it’s really a slog. Also, the clean up. Gallons of blood and discharge is really hard to clean up from walls and floors and clothing. Really. The reward comes from seeing the audience have a good time. I guess I’m really just an old school showman (showgirl?)

unnamedWMM: Who are your biggest influences?

 My biggest influences are probably Jean-Luc Godard, Pedro Almodovar, David Cronenberg, Alejandro Jodorowski, Andy Warhol, Tennessee Williams, Woody Allen, David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, Zhang Yimou, John Woo, Orson Welles, Terrence Malick, Takashi Miike. But I always try to spread my artistic influences beyond movies. I love writers like Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman, Marquis de Sade, musicians like Bjork and the Smiths and Patti Smith, punk rock, New York Dolls, Caravaggio. Though the biggest influence by far is Pier Paolo Pasolini, the gay, Marxist, poet-filmmaker from Italian cinema. A true artist and Renaissance man who revolted against mainstream society, fascism, and the Catholic Church, and he always dressed so well. A rebel who was assassinated, a secular martyr, a homosexual communist who made the best damn Jesus Christ film, which ironically was shamefully ripped off by Mel Gibson for his sado horror-comedy PASSION OF THE CHRIST.

WMM: What was (were) the inspiration behind your last project(s)?

 The inspiration for HARMFUL SENSATIONS came from a terrible nightmare I had. The terror of contracting a mutant, sexually-transmitted infection that causes you to commit violent crimes. The inspiration is a gift from my troubled subconscious. Of course, the dream had a ton of weird images even too disturbing for audiences, so I had to tone some of it down. Plus you know, it had to make sense. Somewhat.

What are your current projects? What inspired them?

 Currently putting together a new short based on the myth of the camp classic MOMMIE DEAREST, another horror-comedy about child abuse and the violence that cinema can influence on imbalanced minds. Also working on my life’s greatest goal, which is to make a psycho-biographical movie based on the infamous gay serial killer Andrew Cunanan, currently calling it EXQUISITE CORPSES.

What would you change if you could, about your career trajectory? Any advice for other filmmakers?

JR: That’s a tough one. I guess the key is to just keep working and working and working and writing, like some kind of zombie. Right now, I’m juggling a lot of ideas, talking to as many people as I can, and getting people to see HARMFUL SENSATIONS. We’ve been in a couple of festivals, so I’m focusing on sharing my nightmare with the world. For advice to filmmakers? Have passion in what you’re doing, really. If you’re not thinking about movies, or watching them, or expanding your cinematic horizons, you probably should be working in the tech world or finance or accounting or human resources. If you go to the store, or if you’re at your day job and not thinking about movies, you should probably get out while you can. And remember this is entertainment. The goal is to put asses in seats really. Even if it’s a seven hour black and white, Holocaust, romantic comedy, make it worth seeing. And of course, keep working and working, like a zombie.

WMM: How would you like to be described as a filmmaker?

JR:  I would like to work in as many genres as possible, but for now, I’m really in love with horror. But I don’t want to be boxed in. As a filmmaker I hope to shock, appall, and make as many people laugh and feel something as I can. My goal is to be a high-art, high-camp schlockmeister. But with a heart.

For Shits & Giggles:

Your favorite things to do in LA are …
JR: Going to dive bars, visiting celebrity cemeteries, and watching movies of all types and in all venues.

WMM: Three things you always have on set are …
JR: Adderall pills, drag queens, fake blood.

WMM: You just finished reading …
JR: “Dark Money”, a takedown expose of the Koch Brothers by Ms. Jane Meyer, “1924: The Year That Made Hitler” by Peter Ross Range, “Everything Bad Is Good For You” by Steven Johnson who argues current pop culture is not as intellectually stifling and more complex than the elites and the media would have us all believe.

WMM: You’d love to have lunch with …
JR: Megan Ellison, Jason Blum, anyone with money and I guess Albert Einstein?

WMM: The website you can’t live without is …
JR: It’s a tie.,

WMM: What do we not know about you that would surprise us? …
JR: My life is an open wound.

Find Jensen & his work!
Official Trailer for HARMFUL SENSATIONS