With his warm smile and larger than life personality, Mike Jackson makes an immediate impression wherever he goes to Hollywood. Over the last two decades, he’s amassed a successfully portfolio of entertainment properties that includes Broadway theater, live events and filmed entertainment.
Today, as a principal partner in Get Lifted Films Company (with business woman Ty Siklorius and music superstar John Legend), the Philadelphia native is continuing to build on his solid track record with multiple TV projects at NBC, HBO, Fox, WGN, Showtime and the USA Network. The production entity is also developing the film adaptation of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize winning biography, The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo.
Jackson is at the forefront of the next generation of African Americans making major moves in the entertainment industry. EBONY.com recently spoke with him to how he’s making things happen in Hollywood.
EBONY: Describe your average day?
Mike Jackson: I don’t really have average days. Everyone is always different. I guess what’s fairly consistent are the meetings, readings and phone calls. It’s important to always stay connected, and what’s cool about this gig is that it’s truly mobile. A day at work can literally take me anywhere in the world. Working in Hollywood can be a bit ridiculous at times, but it is still a dream job. It’s a lot of work, but a dream nonetheless. It’s a blessing and every day I am humbled to be a part of it.
EBONY: What’s the development process like for your projects?
MJ: There’s not really a science to our process. We come up with ideas, find some IP or respond to a project that’s been presented to us and jump in. We don’t believe in micromanaging people. We trust our partners and let everyone do their job. Of course we’re a part of every step and will always share our thoughts and opinions, but ultimately we believe in letting our partners do their jobs. We’re there to help navigate the process. As producers, we rely heavily on writers to help create the blueprint for whichever TV series, movie, theatrical production, etc., and that our job from development to screen is ultimately to protect the creative and deliver the best story.
EBONY: How did you attract high-profile talent like John Legend to partner with you?
MJ: I’ve been friends with John for over 15 years, and we’ve developed a real sense of trust with one another. I met him right after he graduated from U. Penn, and we worked together for a while on his music. Although we decided to go our separate ways musically, we had formed the beginnings of a strong friendship that just grew organically over time. He built his career and I built mine.
I had been working in indie films and wanted to start something that I could build and stay with for a long time. When I thought about how I wanted it to look, I realize that fulfilling this dream was something that I could pursue with my friends. As John’s career was rising, he also felt that there was a platform to tell stories. So we agreed to launch Get Lifted together along with our third partner Ty, and are now together on this journey.
EBONY: What skill set have you found most useful in growing your career?
MJ: I really like connecting with people and enjoy good conversations or even quick moments with someone. I think that me being genuine and completely transparent in those moments creates a real sense of trust and camaraderie. I believe that’s what allows people to relax and trust me and work with me. So if I had to give my skill set a name, I’d call it “people skills.”
EBONY: How do you manage/overcome adversity and challenges in your professional life?
MJ: This business is full of adversity. What works for me is always staying calm. I try not to have too many highs or lows. I also try to anticipate potential challenges to allow myself the mental wherewithal to deal with them. Of course, there is always stuff you can never anticipate, but I still try.
EBONY: What’s next for you?
MJ: When thinking about what’s next for me, my mind takes me to a big picture view from 30,000 feet in the sky. Our goal is to develop content for various platforms that collectively tell stories that inspire and create dialog for the masses. Projects like our documentaries that includes the recent HBO documentary, Southern Rites, plus our urban gardening project and a special that follows John’s efforts in dealing with prison reform titled #FREEAMERICA.
We also have an upcoming TV series on WGA America called Underground, and a one-man play on the life of Dick Gregory that will open at the Apollo Theatre and star Joe Morton. We are also executive producers on La La Land, the latest film project from Damien Chazelle, the writer of Whiplash. So what’s next up for me is rolling up my sleeves and working to build a company and a legacy that I can be proud of.