Name: J. Lee
Occupation: Producer, Director, Writer
Education: Bachelors degree in Marketing and Masters in Secondary Education from Jackson State University
Location: Originally from Jackson, Mississippi
Q: What is J. Lee Productions?
A: J. Lee Productions is a company that I started after college. It was during my senior year in college that I found out my love for the arts, theater and things in writing. Although I wrote in middle school and high school, it wasn’t until college that I got a chance to see myself doing something with this.
While president of the American Marketing Association in 2005, we needed a fundraiser and I did a play. We had a large group of people to come out. We really marketed and promoted it on campus. So everybody knew about it. We were able to raise over $3,000 doing the show with little to no overhead. That was awesome!
To see my work come to life on stage meant a great deal. It was then that I decided it was something I wanted to do. So after I graduated, I decided to start my own production company where I would write the plays, produce them, direct them, put them on stage and present them to the world.
I’ve been blessed enough to have people enjoy them. I would really love to do J. Lee Productions full-time. And hopefully, that will be happening in the near future.
Q: Over the years your catalogue has grown. How many films, plays, documentaries and dinner theaters do you have so far?
A: I’ve done five stage plays, three short films, three documentaries and three dinner theaters. We will be performing the third dinner theater in Jackson next month.
I also just completed a docufilm for a school that I work at. I produced it… This is the first time I actually filmed, edited and everything… I did it all! So that was a big challenge, but something that I’m very proud that I was able to do.
Q: How have you become so successful in the film industry?
A: One of the things that has really, truly helped me is the fact that everything that I write or produce is something that people can relate to. I try to showcase things that are real. I try not to sugar coat things. I want to make sure that it’s the real deal. I try to make sure there’s some type of positive message in there. Sometimes it’s hidden in the comedy and drama.
I think being consistent has something to do with it as well. Being professional and making sure that you have a quality product… I work really hard to make sure that flyers and any type of promotional materials are of high standard. I feel like the promotional material should intrigue you.
Some people don’t understand the importance of branding. Branding can either make or break you.
Q: What motivates/inspires you?
A: Music motivates when I’m writing. Before I can get to that point, I’m motivated by people saying, “When is the next J. Lee Production?”… “When are you going to be doing auditions?” That right there keeps me going. Every time I feel like giving up or I’m having a bad moment, I get a message from somebody that will say they are inspired by my work and how they really enjoy my material and things of that nature. It’s stuff like that that keeps me going. To know that people actually enjoy the work and look forward to it means a lot.
I can honestly say I have a great deal of people supporting me… giving me moral support. I’m very appreciative of that because when things are not going right or you’re feeling low it helps. It really helps…
Q: How hard is it for you to produce, direct and write?
A: It is a process. Sometimes it takes longer than others. Sometimes things come naturally. Sometimes it’s a little bit of a struggle and I have to really work for it. Since I’ve been in Atlanta, I’ve tried to start writing a stage play and I have not been successful. And I think it’s because of this transition from Mississippi to Georgia…
I’m not going to say it’s been easy and I’m not going to say it’s been tough. But it has been somewhat challenging. So, it has definitely threw me off my mojo.
I think it has to do with the fact that I am out of my comfort zone. I’ve been able to write two dinner theaters here, but I have not been able to write a full stage play here. I would start, but I wouldn’t be able to finish. I have some ideas in my head… I just need to get them on paper!
I’m also the type of person that I have to make myself sit down. If I just sit down and do it… it will come. But I try not to force it and let it come naturally.
When I was in Mississippi, I experienced writer’s block at times. But I don’t think it was at the magnitude that I’ve experienced here.
Q: When did you know that J. Lee Productions was the path to your purpose in life?
A: When you try to run from something and it just keeps coming back again… I definitely think it is my purpose. It’s what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s what I enjoy doing. I get a great deal of pleasure out of it.
Q: What advice would you give to writers who are interested in a career in film?
A: First and foremost, don’t compromise your vision for anybody. Stay true to yourself and don’t give up. It’s not easy. But anything worth having is not.
Q: What are some of your achievements/awards?
A: All of J. Lee Productions stage plays have placed in the Best of Jackson awards. Two of them came in as number one. I received a Gentlemen of the Year award in 2013 for my work with J. Lee Productions. We’ve also had a film to be screened at the Crossroads Film Festival.
Q: Tell me about your upcoming projects in Jackson.
A: It’s been almost a year since I’ve done a dinner theater in Jackson. So I’m very excited. It’s my first time doing something at Johnny T’s. It’s a live show at night that people will watch, eat and enjoy at the same time. A lot of people haven’t experienced a dinner theater. So that’s one of the things we are excited to allow people to experience. We have a lot of surprises planned. I can’t give any of them away… just expect the unexpected!
A promotional event will be held at the M-Bar. You’ll be able to enjoy a free wine tasting, meet me and the cast.