Both Courtney Christenson and Shanan Kelley mentioned Jesse to me, but I have to give the formal referral credit to Shanan. Either way, I’m happy for the connection. The interview below is pretty different than many of the others. Maybe it’s because Jesse and I are peers or that we have a similar outlook or we are both into making pictures or maybe it’s all of that combined or something else entirely, but this interview felt like a conversation with an old friend. After their guard dog gave me the okay, Jesse and I chatted for quite a while before the interview and then chatted some more with Jesse’s wife. And we could have gone on and on. I highly recommend listening to this interview as Jesse’s got an enthusiastic way of speaking and a contagious laugh that I couldn’t figure out how to translate to the text. He’s a really good guy. I’ll stand by that. And I am so happy to introduce you to him here.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
My name is Jesse Locke. I am a dude just trying to live (laughs). I would describe myself as a creative person who's hardworking and with a good work ethic, which I find great pride in that. In my mind, that means I get a job and I finish it. And I'm constantly striving for better and more stimulation in life, I guess. You know, more things that I can do. I will never be satisfied with myself. I'm the guy who always wants satisfaction, but will never achieve it, I guess. That's me as a person.
What matters to you? What motivates you?
What motivates me is to be the best at my craft. I do watch the Oscar's every year and that motivates me. I want to be really good at what I do. Yeah, that motivates me - to be a good filmmaker; make a quality product. But then, as I get older, the motivation shifts from the perception of who I am and how people perceive me to I actually want to make a difference. So that is where I'm at now in my life, probably. I want to actually make a difference in this world and figure that out. That motivates me every day. And finding people to help me with that. And creating an environment around me with people with a common goal of like, let's actually try to shift some conversations and bring light to situations that people don't like to look at. That motivates me.
What concerns you or gives you pause? What gives you a heavy heart?
I would say people who don't look outside themselves. I feel like I'm a searcher and I surround myself with people like that. What concerns me is bullshit and small talk. Those things - I have no real place for them in my life. Working in production and film, you have to kind of navigate those waters in doing that. I like to be around people and I love to be a person who is themselves and honest and true. Now, I understand it's hard to do that in life and so you have to kind of figure that out as you go... you will always know what I feel - I wear it on my sleeve - and I appreciate that about everyone else. So, when I get a heavy heart is when people aren't true to themselves and they don't try to look in the mirror every once in a while and say like, Who am I? What am I doing? That makes me upset. And bullshit - I think I mentioned that (laughs).
What does it mean to you when you say 'make a difference'?
Right. Good. It's changing. It changes daily - to try to diagnose or define that - a difference. As an American and not that bright, making a difference was not even on my radar. And then I had the lucky turn of fate to go over to Palestine and see these people and broaden my horizons of what humanity looks like and what this all kind of means. Like, what are doing in this world? Not just what are we doing in Oregon? What are we doing in Bend? You know, you can become as finite as you want. What am I doing today with my life? So, from that we made the film. And I started to find what making a difference to me would be. And using my skillset, which is film, to spread the word. To show people things that they haven't seen before. And try to change a narrative on a society of people - especially the Palestinians - that I feel like is very negative throughout the world and especially in America. So one step at a time, spreading this film - that's how I began to see I can make a change.
Now... once you get that bug it grows. I got the bug - this is feeding my soul. It's interesting just talking about it; I don't often talk about this work. It does. And you want more of it. And you want to start doing more of this work. You want to start changing more people. And it becomes to a point that it's not good enough. And so, what do you do next - to change, to make a difference? Like, I'm not doing enough. I mean, I'm sure that we all think of that. Like, How do you do it? Then you get to feed it and you go, I can't do it 'cause I'm only one person. But now, to me, I've talked to a couple activists here in town and we've kind of come up... in my mind, through these conversations... making a difference now is giving people something to do. In my mind, how I diagnose that, I would show a film. And not only will we have a discussion about it afterwards - that used to be that was it, right - now, I want to give them a task or get them to engage in this movement, in this film, in these people in a way that I didn't before. And that's how I think I can make the biggest difference.
What do we mean to each other - person to person?
It depends on any given day. I think that it changes. Like, on a day, your person... you could be safety. It can be like a safe place to go and be yourself. I think in other aspects, you can go into the lion's den where you're not comfortable and surround yourself with people that you don't really know or like. (I'm feeling really positive today, so this is all great positivity.) When you do those type of things, you really find out a lot about yourself, as well - like, probably even more than surrounding yourself with the friends that you love and know and you can be yourself with. So it is interesting. I don't know. I think what we mean to each other is a constant learning process and for me personally, it's a constant struggle in non-judgment (laughs). So, when I see someone that I don't really agree with, it's a constant going, Well, try to walk a day in their shoes. That, to me, going forward in life, is one of the biggest things I want to work on. And not just blind judgment. And not just... 'cause I get in the car and I get really angry - I have a lot of road rage 'cause I don't feel like they think about other people. Who knows who they are and what they're doing in their life? That's like wisdom, in my mind - if you're able to actually have some compassion for people. So, it's a constant give and take - hanging out with this humanity and people. I don't know. You're always learning.
Okay, here's the number one thing that I found out in life - the moment I think I know, I don't. And that's what humans and us, I think, has really shown me. Yeah. The second (snaps) I'm like, Oh yeah, I got it figured out. I know who you are. Then, nope - something happens and I'm like, Whoa, they're going through a lot of stuff. Holy mackerel, that's a different thing than I ever thought. And then being able to listen to that. (Laughs) Being able to be present and recognize, Whoa, this is happening. These are things, you know, I think that conscious human beings are... that's a great thing to have - that awareness.
This is a constant daily struggle. I just want to say that for the record. I'm not trying to be like, I've figured it out! But that's the goal. I see the goal. It's hard to live that goal of actually being understanding and trying to be that person. But yeah, 'cause instilled in all of us is kind of the thought that we want to be right. Like, I want to be right in this situation. And then when people are really bashing you, you have to define - in my mind - you have to define that as being wrong. Which, those lines are also grey and a lot of times they're not black and white - which is tough to digest sometimes.
What does it mean to you to be part of a community?
When I think about community, I think of it as a very superficial - which is interesting because I don't often define community - thing. In my mind, I think of neighborhoods and potlucks - things that I'm not really a part of. But I guess I am. Community is something... I don't know how to do this. It's like Who's the Boss? or like Wonder Years - that's a good example. Wonder Years would be a good definition in moving pictures of what I think community would be. In my mind, being a member of Bend, and thinking about it when I'm at the line, usually I'm more neurotic and so I'm thinking about myself. Especially at the post office, I'm like, How fast can I get through this? I'm definitely a selfish thinker when it comes to community. I'm thinking, Well, these people are irritating me. Especially on the road, like I was saying before, (laughs) This is just irritating. But as far as voting - yes, that is my way on the base level I feel like I join the community in a larger aspect. But with what I do and the project I've been in, I feel like I am a part of the community in a different way like trying to get a creative aspect to this town and trying to scratch out a little kind of area of artsy, creative things that I like to do.
But then, to me, I have a community that I'm blessed to have - of my community. So, I think there's sub-levels to community. There's like the overall community of Bend, Oregon, which is like roads and stuff like that (laughs) - I'm very articulate. But, you know, water works and power company and then there's like divisions and there's stores and there's things and stuff people do here. And the type of people who come to this town. And then, I have my community of people that I love and, this is where I got to today, I'm so lucky to have these people. I could name a lot of people who have helped me and who I work with constantly in this community that I've been able to form throughout the many years that I've lived here. And I feel very lucky to have that. That's my community. Does that make sense? This is how I view my community in Bend is by dealing with these amazing people who inspire me every day. The greater community of Bend is something that I think of in kind of... I don't know how deep I want to get into this... in a different way (laughs). Does that make sense?
Why do we sometimes come together and find our allies over things that are about hate and about creating division and a separateness between skin color or gender or region or religion? We end up taking away human rights. Just to go on the basic premise of we are all human. I think we could at least start there.
And that's the base of a conversation, right? If we could get people to that, at least, but it's so hard to sometimes get people to that because of all their inner stuff they got going on. Now, why do people get together and hate? I think there's one huge word - it's fear. And control. So, when people are scared they want to lash out. To me, that's kind of a normality. If you try to diagnose what the hell is going on with all this hatred and this trauma, you would see - I feel like - it's fear based. Let's say for instance the white supremacist people - they have fear of losing control. They fear the unknown, I guess. They fear a bunch of things that, for some reason, that fear justifies their actions. You know? And they don't choose to think on a deeper level about what the hell's going on. They let their fear kind of breed. I mean, fear's one of the basic tactics of controlling a civilization or controlling a society, in my mind. So, that's how people come together, I believe - in fear. Because, I don't know - I don't want to sound like a pompous ass - but when you're not a thinker and you're not actively seeking information - in my opinion that would be like intelligence - when you stop doing that and you start drinking the shit, (laughs) drinking the Kool-aid, just digesting what you see on Facebook, what you see on the internet, what you see as that's all real at base value, then you stop analyzing - that's the word - you stop analyzing life and analyzing what's going on. You start just agreeing. And you become one of these - and it can be anything - then you become one of the herd. Then they can steer you in many ways because they know how to wield that far-based propaganda. In my mind. It is the unknown. I don't know. But, okay, in the form of Palestine/Israel - this is a good segue - I feel like the Israelis justify their treatment of the Palestinians because they have dehumanized them. So, they are no longer human - they are like dogs. And I heard many Israelis say that about them. So, that's how they, in their minds, can get passed all the shit that they're doing. They go, Oh, these aren't even people, so I can do whatever I want to them. Does that make sense?
Do you have a sense of purpose?
I don't know. I don't know if I think of it... those aren't words that I use. I don't ever think of those things. I need to define that a little bit better. If it's success, do I have a sense of success? I don't know.
Are you compelled - in ways you can't really explain - to do things?
Yes. Yes. Yes. I feel like I am a calculating person by means of I analyze situations.... and I work my way through life doing that, I feel like. Starting my own business and doing these things, I am kind of figuring it out. So I do calculate risk versus benefit in that way. There have been a couple times in my life - only a handful as of right now - where I was drawn and there was no doubt in my mind I was going to do this. It was very amazing and enlightening. So, this last trip to 7 Hills to finish that movie, I just knew I was gonna do it and there was nothing that was gonna stop me from doing it. I felt so 100% behind that. It's a rarity; that does not happen often. Like, same thing with going to Palestine. When Jesse asked me to go to Palestine, there was not a doubt - there was never a question. It was Yes - was the answer - Yes, I will do that.
So, there's been a couple times in life... I guess that's purpose or I was meant to do that. And then as you go through these processes - I don't know if you have - but there are nuggets - and these are some of the greatest things about life - that life gives you a little nugget and goes, You're in the right place. So, I'm in friggin' Amman and I'm hanging out with these Gaza refugee kids and we're having an amazing time - they're gonna take me to this cookout and they're gonna cook food for me and I've been listening to this one song for the entire trip and we get in the car and he puts on that one song. And he's like, This is one of my favorite songs! And I just go, What the hell? That's life and those moments - look, I've got chills right now - those moments are what I live for and a hundred percent is the best parts about life. When you feel, without a doubt, that you're in the right place and the right time and you're living it. That's rare. Yeah, that's purpose, I guess. I don't know if it's purpose, but it's amazing to do that. And I feel like life will give you feedback like that. I believe in that. So, when you're in it and you're feeling it and you're in the zone and you're doing it, life will give you those little bones of like, Good job, dude. You're in the right spot.
You might have just answered it, but what do you want more of in your life?
Yeah. More of those. More of those times. More of those moments in life that go, Good job, man. You're doing it. You're on the right path. Nice job. Here it is. More of that feeling of you're on the right path, I guess. I keep saying that, but you're on the right move. You did the right thing there. That's good. It's a constant, daily thing of trying to figure out if you're doing the right thing or what you're doing, right (laughs). Shit!
Do you want to ask me a question? I'll sit in the hot seat for a minute.
Okay. I do have a question for ya. Do you believe in manifest destiny (i.e. you create your own way) or do you believe in fate?
(Laughs) Great. You know, I can only answer it in a similar way that you just answered about purpose and this feeling of being in line with the right path. It's all language that's like, ‘What does it mean?' I think when things are going very poorly, I'm tempted to believe in manifest destiny. Like, I've created this mess. And when things are going really well, I think I'm a little more suspicious so I get excited and it's like, 'Yes, I'm living in my groove…'
God, you know, I find it so difficult to have any of these conversations without it sounding very divine. And I'm so uncomfortable with that. Because I don't... I struggle with the word believe. I don't know what it matters - to believe or not believe. Is it real or not real? - is the question. So believe in the truth and don't believe in not the truth. Believe is a word I'm uncomfortable with, but it comes in in this explanation because whose fate? What is fate? How does fate come into play? And why do I feel nice when it seems like things are going how they should? And what does it mean for things to feel like they should? And if it's not any of that, if it's not the fate stuff - which is fine, I'm not attached to that being true - then why am I making such a mess of things?
If it is up to me - it really doesn't feel... I will say it does not feel like it is up to me. I've had people in my life, romantic and otherwise, that have really felt like that - like you decide to be happy today, you decide for success, you decide, you decide, you decide. And I don't have that natural proclivity and that causes a lot of friction. Because they're looking at me like I'm screwing my life up and I'm looking at me like I'm wondering what's happening. Right? There's a huge gap between those two things. And I find this just very difficult for myself. I don't know how to answer that. I don't know if I can say I believe in this one or that one because I spent most of my time feeling very lost and confused while totally dedicated to a set of morals and values that somehow feel right.