He is charming, funny and an all-round nice guy. A talented actor and entertainer, his skills as a performer far extend his most famous character of Kenny. The avid collector and Executive-Producer of ManSpace, most Australians would have seen him act in both drama and comedy, but his work extends to the theatre where he can sing and is even pretty handy in the tap shoes!
Most Australians would have seen the movie Kenny. It really is an Australian classic, but most of us wouldn’t realise what an achievement this movie actually was. In 2006, it was the highest grossing Australian movie in three years and the number one Australian movie in DVD sales when released. Nine years after its release Kenny sits at number 33 of the Australian top grossing movies statistics. (Screen Australia: Research Australian Content, Box Office Top 100 All Time – February 2015.)
To put this into perspective, the Australian big budget Ned Kelly sits a mere two spots above it and Kenny cost less than a million dollars to make. One of the reasons for this success was star Shane Jacobson and his brother Clayton who Shane confesses was the creative genius behind this movie as writer and director. But as Shane documents in his novel A Long Way to the Top like most overnight success stories it was anything but that.
RM: You started out in amateur theatre?
SJ: When I was 10, I went and saw an amateur theatre show with my mum. I watched the whole magic of theatre occur before my eyes, I said to mum
I want to do that and I instinctively knew it.
RM: Boys don’t usually like musical theatre. Why did you go in the first place?
SJ: I come from an entertainment family. My brother is a director, my sisters were dancers, my dad would do comedy at local football and cricket nights and mum taught dancing. Mum still has a callisthenics college so our house was filled with dancers and weekends on buses with girls going to dance competitions. So people getting up on stage whether it was dancing or acting, I probably had every chance of ending up on stage I guess because I am a product of my environment.
RM: What was your first show?
SJ: It was a scouting ‘Gang Show’ that I went and saw and I just loved it. When I saw the kids around my age running around on stage and having a ball, I knew I had to be a part of it and I started the next year.
RM: How did you progress as a performer?
SJ: The truth is I really liked theatre and I still do professional theatre now. The comedy was great as well and the dancing because I did tap dancing as a kid. All are very different but linked I guess and I do love all aspects of film, television and theatre because I have worked backstage.
RM: What backstage work have you done?
SJ: I have been a pyrotechnician, a lighting designer, sound production manager, an event manager and also a lighting guy for film and television – you name it I have done it on both sides camera, both sides of the curtain. I love all of it! When I was doing amateur theatre, I started learning lighting backstage and a bit of stagecraft, and then went onto the next thing. I’m a little bit greedy as I love all aspects of entertainment, but I can’t help but stay involved in all of them.
RM: Do you believe this makes you a better performer?
SJ: It makes me technically aware and helps people and the process. It’s the same as being able to produce my own work which I did recently with the Top Gear live shows with Jeremy Clarkson and James May in Australia and the Top Gear Festival in Sydney which I was the director of and I still do that today.
RM: Of course, Kenny was your biggest break.
SJ: Yes, Kenny was the biggest break without a doubt. My brother and I made Kenny, and then that went to world. Everything else was a slow build until then, a slow build of skills.
RM: How did this slow build come about?
SJ: This is in my book The Long Road to Overnight Success, but the short story is that my brother and I made the movie so it wasn’t us having to go and get funding. Clayton was the director and the creative genius behind it and for two years we collaborated and made it together. It was originally a short film, so we spent a year making a 47 minute (laughs) short film that played at the St Kilda Film Festival and it won Channel Ten’s Comedy Award and the festivals People’s Choice Award. We were then approached by people saying it should be a feature, so it was very much the reverse of what people think. Basically, my brother and I made a short film and people loved it so much that it was made into a feature. And it went on to do better than anyone could have imagined or hoped – the highest grossing Australian film in three years and the highest selling Australian DVD ever when it came out.
RM: Did you always want to do film and television?
SJ: I started in theatre because I loved it and I still do, but film and TV was already an interest. Now I am considered an all-rounder because I sing as well, but it wasn’t actually a conscious decision to be honest. I was discovered when someone from a radio station heard something on an answering machine that I had done. Some guy spoke to the radio station and said you have to listen to these messages and they contacted me.
It came about in a very good way and the character I did on a friend’s phone became the character ‘Sergio.’’
He became a character on Gold FM
and that is how I was discovered. I do like to consider myself as an entertainer as well as an actor, being able to do TV but also drama and comedy. They are all different and a different joy is in all of them.
RM: Do you have a favourite?
SJ: I enjoy them all for different reasons. When people ask me that I say, what do I like when it comes to beer, wine, meat or cheese, I like them all and it’s what I want on different days and for very different reasons. There is something very magical about film and there is something very great about television and there is something wonderful about live performance and having that immediate response. You walk out on stage and tell a joke, and the laughter is right there in front of you… or not if it goes wrong, you find out very quickly!
RM: How did the idea for ManSpace come about?
SJ: I have known Harvey (Silver – Executive Producer) for a very long time and when he had Channel Seven’s Live & Kicking I was the comedian who would keep the audience entertained in the commercial breaks. I have known him for a while and we were just having a chat about an idea for a show that he had which was ManSpace and I had a very similar idea to that as well. We decided to put ideas together and that is how we partnered up.
RM: Was the anything you wanted from the show?
SJ: I really wanted ManSpace to happen but I didn’t want to be the main host because there is so much raw and good new talent in Australia. Dan (Anstey) has been fantastic, he is a great talent, good on camera, good on radio and good at whatever he puts his hand on. Des Dowling I have known for a long while and a very good comedian and Dale Vine has been great. The guys have been not too forced, not too pushed, not too cool for school, very approachable and accessible kind of people, and it translates on the screen.
RM: ManSpace has come together how you envisaged?
SJ: I believe it has come together for the better because some of us had worked together before, but it was more the new guys with Dan, Dale and Moose & Butch that have come through as really good camera talent. We had high expectations, make no doubt about that, we didn’t set the bar low and we wanted it to be very much what it is today and in parts it’s turned out better. The guys are great, the people we have discovered and that is what has made it great. We knew there were gems out there, but when you find them it doesn’t make it any less exciting. When someone is going mining for gold their absolute intention is to find gold, but it doesn’t mean when they find it they don’t get excited!
RM: How does the second season differ?
SJ: The first season is half an hour in front of a live audience and the second is an hour filming on the road. The common comment people made about the first season was they wished the stories were longer. It was really hard to get the stories to run for a good length and to really unpeel the layers of a story like an onion in only a half hour format. We just wanted to be out and about and not focussed on the same location so this season we have a bus and we’re more mobile.
RM: What do you bring to ManSpace?
SJ: Obviously as the exec-producer, Harvey and I have to make sure the show happens, get it on air, source sponsors and come up with ideas. The true aspect that I bring to it is that I actually have a passion for these things, I actually like collections, I am a collector myself, and for me it all comes from a position of honesty. This is a show that I would watch because I am interested in the subject matter. I also bring enthusiasm to the stories because I am into collectables, I am into cars, and anyone who has a passion for collecting. Even if I am not into the very thing they are collecting and it is not something that I would collect, I love the stories behind the collection.
RM: What are you working on at the moment?
SJ: I have two movies out as we speak – Odd Balls is in cinemas and it has just gone to 10.8 million and still going. The Dressmaker is also out at the moment with Kate Winslet, Judy Davis, Hugo Weaving, Liam Hemsworth and a huge list of others and that has just gone to 11 million. (At time of print.) I’ve just finished A Few Less Men, ManSpace season two, and another ABC drama with Guy Pierce. It’s the fourth instalment of Jack Irish, we’ve done three telemovies and now this is the series, and there is some other stuff on the horizon.
RM: Difference between big budget and small budget film?
SJ: The acting is the same in many ways, but it depends on the role your playing of course. They can be very different, I worked on The Bourne Legacy which was a $200 million film and when you compare that to me and my brother making Kenny which was less than a million. They are different that there are not that many people to run out of holes in the ground and change anything in two seconds notice, but the process is very similar. In Australia, even when we do lower budget films of six-to-10 million dollars, we do a really good job of it. We have incredibly good crew in Australia, so we are able to do pretty incredible stuff for less money and that is a credit to our own technicians in this country.
RM: You are extremely busy, how do you spend your time off?
SJ: To be honest, just spending time with the family. With four kids – three boys and a girl aged between 10 and one – its running around, playing with Lego and kicking the ball, and doing all the stuff that Dads do. I also have a motorbike which and I love to go for a good ride on.