Filmmaker Luke Jaden was first inspired to make his own movies when he was a student at Detroit Country Day School and discovered how former Birmingham native Sam Raimi spawned his own career while still a student at Michigan State University.
"I remember sitting in my 9th or 10th grade class and a teacher showed me the original 'Evil Dead' – I love that movie," he said. "I read the trivia on that and started learning about it, and I just became fascinated. I said, 'If he can do it, I know I can do it.’"
Wasting no time, Jaden finished his first movie in 2013, while still in high school, “Madman or Martyr," a portrait of abolitionist John Brown. In the two years that followed, he wrote and directed three short movies, including "Wolf Who Cried Boy," an action/crime short he co-wrote with Seaholm alumnus Cort Johns that featured Oscar-nominated actor Barkhad Abdi, who played the Somali pirate in "Captain Phillips."
"It's a lot of hustle and hard work and pain. People can talk about doing it all day long, but the only way to do it is to be proactive and take action," he said, recalling words of encouragement from a friend in the movie business. "That's what struck a chord with me, to say, 'this is what I'm doing, and this is how’... then it's surfing the waves and learning how to do it."
Most recently, Jaden finished shooting the production of his latest film, "BOO!" Shot in and around Detroit, the film will be his first feature-length psychological horror film that follows a family with a haunting past they are both discovering and trying to escape.
"Essentially, it's the feeling of the hedge maze at the Overlook Hotel (in The Shining) but in a house, and the family is trying to break out of their fear," Jaden said. "The family is trying to come together but can't because they are trying to deal with fears that have haunted them since they've been alive."
The new film features an impressive cast, including producers Fred Berger (La La Land) and Brian Kavanaugh-Jones (Insidious, Sinister); and actors Jill Marie Jones (Girlfriends), Jaden Piner (Moonlight), Aurora Perrineau (Passengers), Rob Zabrecky (A Ghost Story) and Charley Palmer Rothwell (Dunkirk).
Now going into the post-production editing phase, the movie comes on the heels of "My Pretty Pony," Jaden's short adaptation of a Stephen King story which starred Tobin Bell, best known for his portrayal as Jigsaw in the "Saw" horror series.
Jaden did the film after pitching the idea to Stephen King in a letter. The acclaimed author responded back, fulfilling Jaden's dream of working on a King story, who offered words of encouragement to the young writer/director.
"It was the most amazing reassurance you could possibly ask for," he said.
At just 21-years-old, some may have preconceived notions of working with someone with such youth, but Jaden said he simply does his best and takes advice from those more experienced. That includes the idea of not following your dreams, but following a plan.
"Dreams are the worst because they never happen. Make your dream a plan. If you plan them, then they are going to happen," he said. "It's not a fantasy thing that is too far to reach. A plan is your agenda, and you're going to get there."
Photo: Laurie Tennent