Hailey Jackson is a director and actor who strives to find a balance between acting and directing. She is also one of the few non-Catholic students enrolled in John Paul the Great Catholic University’s bachelors program. Jackson is passionate about expressing herself with the help of fellow students.
AA: What is it like to study acting at JPCatholic?
HJ: As an actor at JPCatholic, I have experienced the most intense training I have ever encountered. The training is both physically and emotionally challenging. I feel like the actors that I am in class with are really close to me. We pretty much go through emotional trauma together. For example, one of our exercises requires us to hold a squat while reciting an entire monologue. Emotionally, we have to break ourselves down to the bare minimum so that we can adapt to new roles and characters. We have improvised practices that require us to be flexible with our emotions. It’s a lot of work, but it develops our acting a whole lot.
AA: What is your experience as a student director, so far?
HJ: My biggest struggle has been separating directing and acting because I love to do both, but I also don’t like to do both. When I write a story, I see myself as the lead character. So, then, I have a really hard time letting someone else play the lead, and that’s my challenge this school quarter. I am going to hire other actors to take the leads in my film so that I can focus solely on directing. I don’t think that I’m not ready to full[y] direct and full[y] act simultaneously. I might get there someday, but it’s hard to split my focus between the two. Most of the films that I have made, I have taken the role of actor and director. So, that is what I’m working on now.
AA: Explain your experience with the students at JPCatholic.
HJ: I love this community because everybody just works so hard for the sake of creating good films. I am meeting people at this school who I want to work with professionally forever. It’s great here because we become closely knit as budding filmmakers. When we graduate, we have this network of friends who are looking out for one another. Hopefully, we will work together a lot in throughout our professional careers. An important thing for a director in particular is knowing that you have a team that is going to back you up and help you bring forth your vision. I am finding that here at school.
Photo Credit: Gabriel Zanoff
AA: Why do you create?
HJ: Because I would explode otherwise! I was 10 when I started dealing with depression, and I needed an outlet. Having grown up in a non-religious environment made it extra challenging. I was asking existential questions about the universe. So, little 10 year-old me was depressed to the point that I couldn’t watch sci-fi things because it stressed me out. The idea of space and infinity was so terrifying to me at the time. When I was 11, I found art to be my outlet. I took up painting and drawing which gave me a way of processing the world around me. These days, I like to make films that ask questions rather than answer them.
AA: What is it like being a non-Catholic at a Catholic university?
HJ: *grinning* It was terrifying at first. I didn’t know what I was getting into. I had met religious people but never anyone who was so committed to their faith. I’ve had friends who go to church or wear a cross around their neck but never really did anything about their belief. The students here care so much about their faith that they make it a part of their identity. I guess I hadn’t met Christians who weren’t afraid to tell the world that they are Christians.
It was definitely interesting going to mass for the first time, but I got used to it. I think it’s beautiful, the core of their faith. I was at a non-religious university before coming to JPCatholic. Comparatively, the students here are a lot more focused because they have values and a mission to direct their art toward. It creates a focus that you don’t just find anywhere. Everyone here has high aspirations, and they aren’t just going to be told, ‘No’. They know that God can help them out. I see students here creating for a love of truth rather than a preconceived agenda, and it’s good.
Hailey Jackson’s work is available on YouTube at: