The Pride of Gypsies: The Filmmaking Ambitions of Jason Momoa
Actor Jason Momoa has been typecast in a very particular role. From the infamous Khal Drogo to his breakout role in the Baywatch: Hawaii to his upcoming role as Aquaman in The Justice League, Momoa has found himself stuck in masculine roles that require him to have his shirt off. Sometimes, it’s hard to picture a 6’4’’ half Hawaiian and half combination of Native American, German and Irish as anything other than those role. But Momoa does not want you to think that those types of roles are all that he aspires to.
“I kept getting called in for these action movies. One-liner, guy doesn’t say much, shoots a bunch of shi. I was like, ‘That ain’t me,’” says Momoa in an interview with OutstideOnline.com.
Those artistic aspirations led to Momoa founding his own production company in 2010 called Pride of Gypsies. The aspiration is to take a collective of filmmakers and artists to come together with an entrepreneurial spirit to create art on their own. It also lets Momoa spread his wings from his usual typecast roles and work with a bunch of his talented friends that were also placed in a position in which they were stifled creatively.
This entrepreneurial spirit paid dividend with Momoa’s and the company’s first feature film project, Road to Paloma. This was a real family affair as Momoa wrote, directed and produced along with his wife Lisa Bonet. The film stars Momoa as a Native American who runs from the law after he murders his mother’s rapist. The film was shot for only $600,000, a paltry sum for a film of its scope and ambitions, and was eventually acquired by Anchor Bay and WWE Studios for distribution after getting positive reviews from the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
But movies take too long and require too much money to make. With that in mind, and the continuing entrepreneurial spirit, The Pride of Gypsies began to make their own opportunities. Momoa decided to make a list of companies that he supported with the idea of making commercials for them. On that list was the clothing company that specialized in workwear, Carharrt, based out of Detroit, Michigan.
The company was not sure what to make of Jason Momoa and the new company who have not had a proven track record. They came to them after all. Momoa’s persistence was undeniable and eventually he was able to reach out to the creative director of the company to get a beer with him at a local brewery to hear his pitch. Although not evident at first, the connection between Momoa and the creative director, Brian Bennett, came right away from arthouse films like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly to their past economic background.
From there, an agreement was made to give Pride of Gypsies its first corporate sponsor. Together they agreed to a seven film projects and two national campaigns. The concept was simple: Carharrt represented the American working men, working hard in the fields. That aesthetic is exactly what followed as the series of commercials featured electricians, railroad workers and woodsmen. One commercial even featured San Francisco Giants pitcher, Madison Bumgarner.
Their latest campaign is by the far the most ambitious, cataloguing the history of the working class man. It features several different eras of working class red-blooded Americans with Momoa serving as director, recreating iconic slices of Americana. Scenes of people laying down the railroad, to the trenches of World War One to the recreation of the iconic photo of the men building the Empire State Building, really rouse the male adrenaline spirit and pride.
When asked what makes a good director, Momoa said building trust with his actors. As an actor himself, he is embarking in the latest of giant tentpole movies as Aquaman in Justice League. But his ambitions are still in creating art. “I was raised by a single mother in Iowa,” he says in the same interview with OutsideOnline.com. “We weren’t watching orgies with guys getting their heads lopped off. I was watching Rear Window and Gone with the Wind.”
His next project with Pride of Gypsies is going to be a major undertaking. Taking pride in his own heritage, Momoa is hoping to get started on a film that is set in 19th century Hawaii. He has called it a Hawaiian version of Braveheart. Momoa has always been a man of passion and creativity, but his roles have never reflected it and that frustrated him. With this project, there are no excuses. It will all rely on him and his own group of filmmaking gypsies.