Life these days is “lights, camera, action” for Sandusky native Jason Lockhart.
After starring in last year’s feature film “Vampire Boys,” where he played a nearly 100-year old vampire on the quest for his eternal mate, the area native is now finishing up his major feature directing debut, “Hotel Arthritis.”
As if he’s not busy enough, Lockhart, born Jason Scheingross, is also in the middle of postproduction “American Lie.” It’s the second major feature film he directed. And coming out this fall is movie “Aliens Vs. Avatars,” featuring Lockhart on screen in a starring role.
Funcoast talked to the 1999 Perkins High School graduate – who because of “Vampire Boys” was named 1 of the top 10 rising horror stars to watch – about his memories of Sandusky, his unique journey to Hollywood and his movie industry future.
Funcoast: First of all, congratulations on your success in Hollywood. How long have you been acting?
Jason Lockhart: I’ve been acting since I was a kid. I did my first play when I was 11, in Sandusky for Harlequins Kids Company. The first show I did was “The Wizard of Oz.” I remember they were having auditions for that. My mom said, “Do you want to go try out?” I didn’t really understand the concept. It just blew me away. I went down hoping to be a munchkin and I ended up getting The Tin Man. My mom was kind of my manager. She took me around and did a lot of commercials and industrial films and a few bigger projects that came through in Ohio and Midwest. I did a lot of theater and went and got my degree in theater and continued to pursue it.
Funcoast: Do you remember when you first got the acting bug?
JL: You know, my parents did introduce me to a lot of things when I was a kid. I loved “Grease,” “West Side Story” and “Oklahoma.” I was a huge Michael Jackson fan. While a lot of kids were watching cartoons I was watching “The Making of Thriller” over and over. I was fascinated by it. I just recently said one of my first memories was seeing “The Wizard of Oz” when I was 3 years old. My dad came home from the Sandusky Library with that big blue VHS (cover).
Funcoast: I see your Harlequins credit is still on the acting resume.
JL: Yeah, it’s still there. It would be painful to take it off.
Funcoast: So you leave Sandusky, attend Wright State but end up graduating from UNLV in Las Vegas before working as a photographer in Sin City. How did that come about?
JL: Everyone needed headshots and that led to my own photography company. I saved up a lot of money but the economy [took a] hit. So I figured I’d just move to Los Angeles then and I pretty much started acting right away. It was always just acting until I had been out here for a few years and I realized that directing was a calling for me. I started making stuff constantly out here. I started directing my own things, and casting my own things and directing my friends. It just got bigger until I was like I was ready for a feature film.
Funcoast: The first project that put you on the map is “Vampire Boys,” which catered to the “Twilight” crowd. What was that like?
JL: There was a bisexual theme to it, so I got a lot of male attention. It did not make my girlfriend very happy but it is what it is. It was a challenging role. I treated like I was any other professional. It was a lead role, like a gay “Twilight,” and I was the Robert Pattinson character.
Funcoast: So how did “Hotel Arthritis” come about?
JL: My mom was the one who came up with the original concept when my grandfather moved into a retirement home in Sandusky. She told me, “You should write a movie that takes place in a retirement home. They’re kind of like kids, they say the darndest things, these old folks.” I saw [producer] Michael J. Roth at the “Vampire Boys” premier. He had optioned a previous screenplay from me. He loved [the idea for “Hotel Arthritis”] and said, “We can make this. Let’s get it going.” That was the time of my life. I loved it. I worked 14 to 16 hour days and can’t wait to do it again with a bigger budget and bigger casting. Actually, right now I’m heading to his office. We have a meeting about the poster.
Funcoast: Look at you, having a Hollywood meeting about a poster for your movie. You’re living the dream.
JL: It’s a lot of work but I enjoy every minute of it. It’s certainly fun but the one thing about this industry that people don’t know is it starts the second you wake up and it often wakes you up in the middle of the night with emails. It’s nonstop and it doesn’t end. It’s always going.
Funcoast: Finally, looking ahead will you be concentrating on acting, directing or both?
JL: Definitely directing now. I kind of realized after a bunch of [my] films were coming out, I didn’t want to be the color of paint on the canvas anymore. I really wanted to be the painter. I am a storyteller. I just realized I’m much more of a leader than a follower. And I’m comfortable in that realm. I enjoy it and thrive on it and feel more successful in that area. Acting is a lot of pressure and directing is even more pressure but it’s pressure that I enjoy.