I SEE U, Episode 93: To Dream a Relatable Dream with Acclaimed Producer Mike Jackson

Emmy® and Tony® Award-winning film, theater, and television producer Mike Jackson reveals the secret ingredient to well-pitched storytelling and admits to I SEE U instances of prejudice inside pitch sessions with studio and network executives.


Mike Jackson Producer and Co-Founder of Get Lifted  Film Co.


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With a successful career in entertainment alongside his business partner, EGOT-winning musician John Legend, renowned producer Mike Jackson tells I SEE U he has a responsibility to bring multicultural content to global audiences. The Philly-native has produced countless projects with major networks, including ABC, NBC, FOX, HBO, Showtime, Netflix and FX. But what obstacles can exist in film, TV and theater pitch sessions when more diverse projects are shunned or snubbed by studio, production agents and network executives? Join us as host Eddie Robinson chats candidly with Emmy® and Tony® Award-winning producer, co-founder and managing partner of Get Lifted Film Co., Mike Jackson. He shares insight on how he's been able to navigate through instances of prejudice and exclusionism as he continues his work of elevating Black artists and Black voices through different forms of media and digital platforms. Jackson, who now calls Austin his home, reveals his key ingredient to telling a remarkable story and provides details on a discussion series that he leads for people of color and underrepresented communities in media hosted at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas called, Why Not Me? Our unguarded conversation also explores the intentions and motives behind Jackson's ambitions and whether he's leveraged the star-power of established entertainer, John Legend, to achieve his own personal success as an award-winning producer.

Full Transcript

Eddie Robinson: Acclaimed producer Mike Jackson has managed to build a successful career in entertainment, alongside the likes of his business partner, EGOT winner, John Legend. Jackson says he has a responsibility to create, develop, and elevate. Multicultural content, but what obstacles are standing in his way?

Mike Jackson: A lot of people that look like us are getting their stories out there, but I think any Black producer or creator will tell you that it’s a little tougher with a smaller target to hit. Um, to get it out there, therefore, you know, making everything we want to do a challenge.

Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson. Stay tuned as we chat candidly with Emmy and Tony award winning film, theater and TV producer, Mike Jackson.

Eddie Robinson: He’ll share with us what he believes to be the key ingredient for what makes for great storytelling. Oh yeah. I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U.

Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson. No, the king of pop has not resurrected, but the gentleman we’re about to chat with, I’d like to call the king of cultural media production. He’s an Emmy and Tony award winning film, theater, and television producer, and he’s co founder and managing partner alongside another award winning producer, Ty Sticklorious, and an award winning singer songwriter.

Eddie Robinson: John Legend. The company is called Get Lifted Film Company, an LA based production company launched in 2012, which has developed projects with a number of major networks. His latest project that he’s executive produced include the HBO documentary 1000% Me, Growing Up Mixed.

Eddie Robinson: Very interesting, I might add, as a surrogate father who has a son who’s mixed. Loudmouth, a documentary about Reverend Al Sharpton, which premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival.

Eddie Robinson: And just so many, so many other remarkable productions, feature films, and projects, all that have received a ton of awards. Get Lifted has also formed a joint venture with Picture Start to develop, produce, and finance multiple films in the 10 million range, featuring diverse filmmakers and inclusive cast members.

Eddie Robinson: They’ve also partnered with a book company, as well as hosting some worthwhile discussion series. In Austin at the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communications. Those sessions are called, why not me? Where this gentleman here invites his friends and colleagues in the industry to share their stories of breaking into the industry and how they’ve made a lasting impact for their generation and those to follow.

Mike Jackson: I appreciate you guys coming here to support, uh, why not me? And in this conversation, um, again, Melvin Gregg, Debra Martin Chase, Yvonne Orji and Anthony Mackey. Quickly, the reason we started.

Eddie Robinson: He’s a native of Philly with a passion, fierceness and tenacity, unlike no other. And he’s elevated multicultural content to audiences worldwide.

Eddie Robinson: Crazy mad schedule, but he has graciously set aside time to connect with our show. And he’s calling us virtually from Austin, Texas. We’re so grateful to welcome the award winning. Mike Jackson. Mike, thank you so much for being a guest on I SEE U with Eddie Robinson.

Mike Jackson: Eddie, thank you for having me. And that was such a warm intro.

Mike Jackson: So I appreciate all of it.

Eddie Robinson: It was pretty intense, but you’re intense. You’ve this is some amazing work that you’ve done. And there’s a portfolio of your work that is astonishing. And you’ve worked with a plethora of artists, performers, actors, filmmakers. Why producer? Mike, I mean, why go into that arena? You know, why are you so passionate about being the producer of a particular project, being an executive producer of a particular project?

Eddie Robinson: How did you find your passion for producing?

Mike Jackson: You know, I didn’t set out to become a producer. I, I always thought I would end up being a lawyer. Yeah. I thought I was going to be an attorney or, or maybe a sports journalist, like a, like a Stephen A. Smith type or something like that. But you know, when I was younger, I, quite frankly, I lived in Boulder, Colorado.

Mike Jackson: Uh, right after school, I was working at a restaurant and I was a really sociable guy and these two dudes approached me and they were like, we want you to promote our parties. And I was like, I don’t know what that means, but okay, sure. I’ll promote your parties. And essentially what it means is I got a list.

Mike Jackson: I put my friend’s names on it. They show up, they pay a cover, but I also got drink tickets to give my friends free drinks. So I realized, okay, I can put some money in my pocket. My friends can still have a good time and I can call myself a promoter. But what I really wanted to understand soon afterwards was, well, if I’m making X to promote, what are the guys making that are paying me to promote?

Mike Jackson: And what’s their actual hustle as far as like putting on the events? So I started to study what they were doing and understanding how to produce the event as opposed to just promoting it. And then I launched my own event production company soon after that. All of this in Boulder, Colorado, and then eventually San Francisco and New York, Philly, but I learned through the event production.

Mike Jackson: I just fell in love with the word producing and producer and event producer and all that stuff. And I was like, well, I like TV. I like film. I read books. I studied English in college. Why can’t I just produce those things as well? I was naive enough.

Eddie Robinson: Yes.

Mike Jackson: To think if I could produce a party, why can’t I produce anything? And. I just, I just leaned into that, put some money together. Got some film finance and then became a producer. I simplify it. I simplify it.

Eddie Robinson: It does sound simplified, but just curious, were your parents sort of like on board? I mean, it sounded like they might have wanted you to be that attorney. To be someone, you know, in that arena.

Mike Jackson: They weren’t stoked, they weren’t, they were kind of like, what are you, you’re just kind of partying dude, like what’s going on, you’re just throwing parties all the time and hanging out, and that doesn’t make any sense. But my parents were music heads, they loved live music, so then I started incorporating live music into my events, and they were like, well that’s kind of cool, like, you know, I had them come down once or twice and see what it was all about, so they had a different context to what I was doing, but nonetheless.

Mike Jackson: In their minds, I was just throwing parties and at some point there was a ceiling that I was going to hit.

Eddie Robinson: This is I SEE U, I’m Eddie Robinson and we’re chatting with co founder and managing partner of the production company called Get Lifted, Emmy and Tony Award winning film, theater and TV producer. Mike Jackson.

Eddie Robinson: You were born near Philadelphia, correct? And I’m trying to get some insight on how you’re introduced to this, this passion of storytelling, you know, because from what I gather, you eventually got around meeting.

Eddie Robinson: Two other friends that were really sort of interested in, you know, a production company. So how did all of that come about from being in Pennsylvania to now getting your own production company, Get Lifted?

Mike Jackson: Well, I had another company before then, right? So essentially when I decided to get out of the events business, I really wanted to produce.

Mike Jackson: So I first got a job at a company in Philly called Bandian Productions. They were really known for unscripted television, and at the time, They were doing shows like A Wedding Story, A Baby Story, the show called Trading Spaces.

Mike Jackson: But they were out of Philly, so I found my way into that company. I talked my way into that company. I got a job in casting, quickly became an associate producer, then producer, and just kind of rose through the ranks there, but realized, you know, that there was a bigger world out there for producers and I wanted to do more than tell baby stories and wedding stories and home renovations, and I convinced a couple friends of mine that were in real estate and doing really well to bankroll a production company for me. So we formed a company together and we called it Tycoon Entertainment. It was based in Philly, but I ended up going out to LA with this banner, Tycoon behind me and these financiers behind me. And I was able to put three films together over two and a half. Your period of time, and I call that kind of my grad school because that afforded me the opportunity to essentially buy my way in, right?

Mike Jackson: Like, take this money, make this movie, but also learn about producing from the actual producers that have been championing these projects. And that’s kind of how I got into it. And then from there, I went to another company called Station Three, which was a management production company, and it was when the market crashed when I was there.

Mike Jackson: And independent film and fight film financing was kind of falling to the wayside. And someone said something to me at that point, like, you’d have to write a check, be born into it, or be the talent. And I was like, oh man, I’m none of the three anymore, because I’m not financing them, I’m not the talent, I wasn’t born into it, what am I going to do?

Mike Jackson: And I called my good friend, John Legend, who I was his manager when he was John Stevens. He was John Legend at this point, but he wasn’t John Legend. You know what I mean?

Mike Jackson: And I just said, Hey man, I want to, I want to launch another company. I want to do it with you. I know who you are. I know the brand, your brand is comparable to how I think and feel politically and socially and otherwise. And I just want to do it with you. And he said, okay, and this is over the phone. And I was like, cool. And I hung up, I got my yes. And that was around 2011 going into 2012.

Mike Jackson: And then we launched, get lifted and we’ve been grinding ever since.

Eddie Robinson: I mean, where is the source of this hustle, hustle coming from Mike Jackson? I mean, there has to be a sense of, of, you know, when one door closes, you see a window over there and you’re going to jump out of it. You know, where is that source of sort of, you know, determination of, I am definitely going to get this no matter what, where’s that coming from?

Mike Jackson: Well, you know, I’m from Philly. So, you know, Philly’s different. We’re built different in Philly, you know, and that in particular, I’m from an area called Lower Marion. Now it’s a Lower Marion High School, which, you know, we probably produced another guy named Kobe Bryant.

Mike Jackson: So, you know, and Kobe has that Mamba mentality and I don’t want to co opt that. That is his, but I do think there’s something in the water where we come from. And, you know, we just like to grind and, you know, in memory of Tina Turner, who is someone who always knows how to, like, pick themselves up when they get knocked down.

Mike Jackson: I think that mentality, that kind of fortitude is just something that’s within me and, you know, my partners, you know, and a lot of people that I surround myself with. So, I think it comes from being a Philly kid with a big ambition and a big, big drive to win.

Eddie Robinson: And it sounded like, John Legend, you know, your partners really had an interest. In film, right, in television and that world in and of itself, did your role in the film and television industry spark his interest, your partner’s interest, or was this something that, you know, you really sort of have had to convince them to get involved with to make it all come to fruition?

Mike Jackson: Yeah, no, I’ve, you know. Everyone loves TV and film, but I don’t think that they were looking at it as a, as a business, quite frankly, but I was already in it. I was already producing TV and I started producing these independent films, but I had the real passion for TV and film. But again, like the person who said to me, you’d have to write the check, be born and turn around the talent.

Mike Jackson: The one thing I did was have talent around me. So I went to John at that point. It was just kind of like, I need to leverage your talent and your burgeoning brand. And what it means today, but what it’s going to mean tomorrow is even is exponentially greater. So let’s lean into that. Let’s form this partnership and let’s see what we can do.

Eddie Robinson: That’s fascinating. You mentioned that, and I’m actually going to kind of dive deeper into that relationship. If John Legend and his star power, Mike, would not have entered into the picture, do you think it would have been a challenge for you to create a production company of this magnitude?

Mike Jackson: Let me start by saying there’s a phrase that they use when it’s a talent driven or celebrity driven company called vanity companies.

Mike Jackson: So most of them fail. And when we launched Get Lifted, the perception was, oh, They’ll probably just go away. So I don’t think it gives you necessarily an advantage just because you have a star’s name sitting next to you. Let me, let me just start by saying with that said, of course, as time went along and John star grew, having that name next to you is.

Mike Jackson: Exciting to people, but a lot of times people just want to be in the room with that person or be on a call with that person. It doesn’t mean they want to make your stuff. So with that said, I think, you know, whether I was standing next to John or standing next to you, you know, like just two brothers trying to grind, I think it’s hard.

Mike Jackson: It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s just really hard to get a yes in this business. You know, personally, I believe in who I am as a man. So I believe that I would have been successful. And any, you know, kind of configuration of my life and partnerships with anyone or doing it by myself, I feel like winners are going to win.

Eddie Robinson: Can you share with us how you and your team have won? You know, examine the notion of risk taking chance taking in the stories you want told. I mean, obviously a groundbreaking story or a narrative is what. You know, people ultimately want to share with an audience, you know, but how do you go about assessing those riskier, edgier stories?

Eddie Robinson: I mean, I’m, I’m, I’m, I’m hearing a comment in my mind of individuals saying to you, you know, thus and so we’ll never fund this. You’ll never get the money to produce this. Mike, are you crazy? Who in their right mind, who will want to finance this? Any stories you’d like to share or incidents of, you know, how you or your team would go about sorting through the good, the bad, and the ugly of storytelling.

Mike Jackson: Yeah, sure. I mean, look, we do TV scripted and unscripted. We do features theater, both on and off Broadway. And now we publish books. So let’s start with like, you know, making sure we understand we have these different verticals to push content through. And then it becomes about what’s the story and what resonates with us.

Mike Jackson: Is it shining a light on the multicultural culture, black culture, is it shining a light on a certain individual who maybe needs a light shown on them or maybe just someone that we want to elevate or someone that we just admire and respect like the Rev, like Rev Sharpton, like he doesn’t need us to tell his story, but we want it to be a part of it, but all that to say everything we do, we feel like is great story and deserve to be, to be seen or heard.

Mike Jackson: The issue is.

Eddie Robinson: Yes.

Mike Jackson: We’re telling black stories, so it doesn’t, the challenge is there exponentially. We’re trying to, we have a movie set up at a studio right now with a white producer who has tremendous success telling his stories. And now he’s trying to tell one of our stories with us. Same studio that we’re working with, he has done several films with.

Mike Jackson: No problem. Our story. And this is a script that was on the blacklist, by the way. This is a fantastic story set in a fantastic world. It’s contemporary and it’s fun. And every turn, there’s a, there’s a hurdle that the studio is putting or putting in front of us. And finally yesterday he was just like, I’ve never seen this before.

Mike Jackson: And I was like, I see it every day, man. So I think, you know, again, it’s like just by the nature of the stories we want to tell and the dollars that are out there for us to tell our stories, we’re always going to have a little bit of a difficult journey relative to a lot of other folks. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

Mike Jackson: Obviously we’re telling some stories and a lot of people that look like us are getting their stories out there. But I think any Black producer or creator We’ll tell you that it’s a little tougher with a smaller target to hit, um, to get it out there. Therefore, you know, making everything we want to do a challenge.

Eddie Robinson: Coming up, more of our conversation with acclaimed producer Mike Jackson. He reveals to us what he believes to be the perfect ingredient for telling the best narrative. We’ll also get his thoughts on why opportunities tend to exist for certain big name entertainers to direct film projects. But it still remains difficult for actors and actresses of color to break into the directing field.

Eddie Robinson: Stay tuned as he shares with us an incident of what went down during a pitch meeting of a brand new show he was involved with. Why did studio executives and programmers decide to say no to the TV project? The reason just might surprise you. I’m Eddie Robinson. I SEE U. Returns in just a moment. We’ll be right back.

Eddie Robinson: If you’re enjoying this program, please be sure to subscribe to our podcast. I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson. We’re chatting with Emmy and Tony award winning film theater and TV producer, Mike Jackson. He’s also co founder and managing partner of Get Lifted Film Company. It’s a production company which has developed projects with major networks including ABC, NBC, Fox, HBO, Showtime, Netflix, just to name a few.

Eddie Robinson: He’s been working to bring more multicultural content to global audiences and he’s building an incredible portfolio of projects alongside a collaborative partner of his, EGOT winning musician and philanthropist, John Legend. EGOT winner is an acronym that stands for Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards. John Legend is certainly an achiever who’s proven himself in television, music recordings, film, and Broadway theater.

Eddie Robinson: Get Lifted executive produced the Oscar winning musical La La Land. We’re so excited to chat with Philly native Mike Jackson and really grateful for him to spend some time with I SEE U as he calls us virtually from his new hometown of Austin, Texas. You know, there was talk about seeing more and more individuals that looked like me or you, Mike, involved in the action at major studios in Hollywood.

Eddie Robinson: Film director Stephen Caple Jr. had an interview with us recently and, you know, he made the point of seeing a scarcity of Black executives in Hollywood storytelling.

Steven Caple, Jr.: Then you see really good execs on projects and creative execs on projects who know story, whether black, white, or brown. They know story, right?

Steven Caple, Jr.: They know who’s a talent, you know, in terms of actors, they know who’s a great director or filmmaker and it’s their job to like, put it together. They’re going through their own battle inside, right? And they’re like, I’m pretty sure they’re having to play a game to a certain point, playing politics, aka house of cards to try to figure out a way to maneuver.

Steven Caple, Jr.: To get me up there, or to get Ryan up there, or to get anyone.

Eddie Robinson: And these individuals play, I would imagine, an important role, right? In leading and championing efforts of making sure that these stories are being told accurately. The depictions are being accurately and truthfully told. And then there’s this thought process of owning one’s own distribution channel of networks as a way of seeing your product on multiple platforms.

Eddie Robinson: Maybe there are, there’s some racial factors that play there. You know, what do you see are the real roadblocks in the industry and what do you think needs to be done to address this?

Mike Jackson: I really like Steven Caple, Jr. a lot. He’s got a great voice. He’s a good dude. Whenever I get to chat with him, we have great conversations.

Mike Jackson: Yeah, I do think we need to have more of us in leadership roles at the networks and the studios. Look, we’re in a deal at Universal for television and the head of our studio is a woman named Perlina. And I always say her last name wrong. Ibakwi. But she’s someone who’s great. Or you have like Tara Duncan at Onyx and Ashley Holland at Onyx and, and Nigel Kirkendall at Netflix or Nicole Brown at TriStar. I mean, we’re trying to do the thing and get there. And by the way, everyone I mentioned was a Black woman. I don’t know if you picked up on that Rashida Jones and MSNBC. Like, so, you know, we are, we are making strides forward as far as people that look like us in leadership roles that help make the decision.

Mike Jackson: The reality is they only can make so many things, you know, you can’t, even if you have people in the room, they can’t just make all things Black. Right? Like it’s just, it’s a challenge. And so, you know, I think the Steven’s point and the larger point, yeah, we need to have our people in place. We need to have more dollars committed to our stories.

Mike Jackson: We need to kind of, in my opinion, you know, look, I’m all about track record and people earning the right to have opportunities to make movies and TV shows. But I also think we need to bet on Black a little bit more in the earlier stages of folks careers. You know, I see actors and actresses, white actors and actresses with no real directing experience, get movies greenlit for them to direct just because of their name or their profile.

Mike Jackson: But yet we don’t give that same opportunity to the people who have experienced that look like us. Or if we do, we really try to make it almost impossible. And if you kind of have the, if you can stay the course, maybe you can get that golden apple. But, but yeah, man, I think it’s about people of color and leadership.

Mike Jackson: The studios and the networks committing dollars to us because dollars and cents are what we’re all here to do. And, you know, giving people the opportunity to kind of tell our stories. You know, it’s an uphill battle for us always. And in Caple’s, right? Like we need more.

Eddie Robinson: You know, in this day and age conversations about race, about diversity are starting to receive some increased scrutiny, you know, DEI hires are being axed, diversity measures are being cut. How do you. See any of this playing out over time, Mike, you know, will this bleed over into the production of multicultural content and material like the work you and Get Lifted are involved with? You know, what’s going on here?

Mike Jackson: I think we’ve always been marginalized. I don’t think this is anything new.

Mike Jackson: I mean, this is just what it is. This is just. Being Black in Hollywood, man, you got to just understand that the playing fields aren’t even, they’re not level, you know, it’s like the old, you know, like my daddy told me every day in my life, you got to be 110% better than the person standing next to you, you know, cause it’s an uneven playing field.

Mike Jackson: So I think, again, it’s just about not being surprised and not, you know, not having these expectations that it’s going to, you know, we’re going to wake up tomorrow and it’s going to be like this Black utopia in Hollywood and storytelling. It’s just going to be like. Knocking at our door. Like we have to just keep working harder.

Mike Jackson: And understand, and that doesn’t mean stay complacent, like we always have to fight for change and keep pushing for change and doing all the things that make it better for the, for the folks that follow us, but at the same time, you know, don’t be surprised by it. I mean, you know, if you just look at the climate of our country, if you just look at Florida and DeSantis, I mean, and, and banning Amanda Gorman’s poem, like.

Mike Jackson: I mean, they’re always going to try to censor our content or, or block it from being seen or, or heard, so… Again, it’s just do what we do, fight how we fight, you know, and be loud and be disruptive and do whatever you can to be seen and be heard.

Eddie Robinson: You know, as a man of color who leads an award winning production company, do you find that, I mean, is there…

Eddie Robinson: Is there ever a misconception from others that you only produce Black content? You know, I mean, do you, do you find yourself being confronted with that moniker or does it even bother you per se?

Mike Jackson: Sure. Yeah. And you know, the truth is we do pretty much produce brown and Black content. But we’re not limited to that.

Mike Jackson: You know, we were executive producers on La La Land and that arguably one of the whitest movies ever, even with jazz in it.

Mike Jackson: We have a responsibility to tell stories about people that look like us, right? Like if not us, then who? So. If people want to say that you guys just do Black like yeah, what do you do white? No one tells white folks. You only do white Yeah, I mean like so yeah, that’s what we do. Thank you.

Eddie Robinson: Yes.

Mike Jackson: That’s why we’re here To amplify our experiences and our stories and our people And give ourselves a platform because y’all haven’t been doing it and we need to give it to us.

Mike Jackson: We’re drug dealers and, and, and this, that, and the other thing. And my job and our job is to create a platform where that highlights the, the Black experience in totality, you know, show, show all the highs of what it looks like to be a person of color in this country and walk in our shoes. Yeah, sure. We’ll show some of the trauma.

Mike Jackson: We’ll show a lot of the trauma because that’s a part of the black experience, but like, don’t let it confine, don’t let it define us rather, you know, we’re much more than they’ve allowed us to be. So yeah, when we get the platform and we get the run with it, we’re going to tell our stories. As much as we can, it’s our responsibility and anyone who asked that question, like, why, why not?

Eddie Robinson: Mike, if we, if we can pick your brain for a minute, the key ingredient of what makes an incredible story, you know, the key ingredient that will inspire you, what inspires you if someone has a project, someone has a pitch, something has to cross your desk, cross your eye and say, wow, I Where’s a phone here?

Eddie Robinson: We’ve got to get this going. What inspires you? What’s the key ingredient that you need for an incredible story to be told?

Eddie Robinson: Yeah,

Mike Jackson: I think, you know, we don’t do just one thing, you know, and, but I think it’s a great question because at its core, it’s like, what’s the, what’s the trigger? And, you know, I think for me and for, for us, like, It’s not just one thing, it’s, it’s, it’s, if you want to make it one thing, then it’s called a feeling.

Mike Jackson: But it’s not like a specific thing, we’re looking for this versus this versus this, you know, it’s just like you review material or you see something on the news or you read a script or read a book or a newspaper article or, or you just have a thought. Right.

Mike Jackson: But it has to be something that’s followed with this feeling of like, Oh, like I can see that on screen or on stage, but, and it’s hard to explain what that feeling is, but it’s like this innate understanding of like yourself and your body and like that, Oh, that like thing you can’t shake.

Mike Jackson: And then you like, you know, A day later, two days later, I’m still living in your head and you just, it’s just a sting that you can’t escape. I think that’s kind of the tell for me is when you can’t run from it Then you gotta you gotta live with it And then you got to try to push it out there for other people to have that same experience

Eddie Robinson: And it’s layered right? I mean Caple makes, you know these incredible films and introduces these remarkable characters perhaps they’re villains, but they’re layered right? They’ve they’ve they’ve gone through some really crazy things. And it makes you even want to learn more about that particular person.

Mike Jackson: We’re complex people, right?

Mike Jackson: Like if we’re going to put something on, on screen and it’s just a one dimensional person there, you know, that’s kind of boring and we’ve probably seen it, but to do that deeper dissection into humanity and psychology of the character, then it needs to be layered because like I said, we’re complex folks. You know?

Eddie Robinson: Especially people of color,

Mike Jackson: we’ve got a lot of baggage, we’ve got a lot of baggage that we have to carry living in this country. So, you know, yeah, let’s, let’s go deeper. Let’s not do it.

Eddie Robinson: It’s I SEE U. I’m Eddie Robinson. As we continue our conversation with Mike Jackson, we’re learning more about his life and award winning career in theater, film, and television.

Eddie Robinson: He’s co founder and managing partner of Get Lifted Film Company. It’s a production company which has developed projects with just about every major network that’s in the industry right now.

Eddie Robinson: Sometimes, you know, in life, an incident or a moment happens, Mike, that we just can’t seem to get it out of our consciousness.

Eddie Robinson: It’s a moment that you experienced and it was like something is happening here. You know, we’re wondering if you can describe for us that moment, that incident and how it went down some racist or whatever.

Mike Jackson: Yeah.

Eddie Robinson: Intense moment throughout the course of your career. And it just, it sticks with you.

Eddie Robinson: It resonates with you and you just can’t seem to get it out of your consciousness.

Mike Jackson: I mean, I feel like there’s little hints of hate to say racism, but prejudice, let’s say towards people of color. I think there’s hints of that almost daily. Right. I really do. Like when, from my side of the table, when you’re always out there pushing content.

Mike Jackson: You know, I think it, it happens very often, just like I was saying earlier with the, the white producer who was like, wow, this has never happened to me before, like little things like that, but you know, a specific incident, like. I’ll tell you, you know. We developed something recently for television, a half hour show, let’s just say it was like our version of like, and everybody hates Chris, but for John and we had Tim’s Story on board to direct it, to direct it.

Mike Jackson: We had, uh, We partnered with a white producer, a guy named Adam Goldberg, who created a show called The Goldbergs, which is one of the biggest family comedies ever. So we had this dream team to do this great half hour origin story about this pretty famous guy named John Legend. And we had music and family and church and all these wonderful elements.

Mike Jackson: And all we were told was how amazing it was, the whole development process. And then we found out that, uh, They already had their Black half hour show. So they couldn’t do ours. Now, they didn’t say, we already have our Black half hour show, so we can’t do yours, but they said, hey we have, and I don’t want to say the other show, hey guys, um, we have X, show X, and so therefore we, you know, we can’t do yours, they’re too similar.

Mike Jackson: Completely different shows. Completely different. The only similarity was, well, Black folk. Let me, let me correct my chunk. Black folks. So, that to me was loud, banging example of the subtleties of… That to me is racist. To say that there’s not a bandwidth on a major network for two Black half hour shows, you know, period.

Mike Jackson: And obviously there have been networks that have had more than one black half hour show. I mean, just look at the Cosby block with Different World and all those shows. But I challenge you to really actually find that on the majors, you know, multiple Black half hours.

Eddie Robinson: Interesting.

Mike Jackson: And again, Kenya (Barris) had it on ABC, but they were all his shows.

Mike Jackson: You know what I mean? It was all like, they’re like offshoots or, you know, and at one point they had like an Asian half hour show with Kenya’s show. But like. It’s hard to find it, you know, so that to me felt like a real big punch in the face.

Eddie Robinson: Your team has already produced a number of projects, but can you think of one that received some really heavy backlash, some not so positive feedback?

Mike Jackson: Honestly, I feel we’ve had really good fortune when it comes to our content, as far as the public perception and being well received, we’ve been really.

Mike Jackson: Really lucky in that regard. Funny enough, the, the, the most criticism I remember us receiving was for La La Land. And I think because they thought, you know, John being on camera, us like really being involved in, you know, the marketing and promotions of the film, and then the fact that he just had such a big audience.

Mike Jackson: And it was a love letter to, to Jazz. I felt we pushback from the Black community in that regard, which is normally the community that, that holds us up. So ultimately, I think we, you know, ultimately, why is that, what’s going on there? I mean, you know, we, as a people, we got expectations, man. Like, you know, I wasn’t mad at us.

Mike Jackson: I was not mad at us. I was like, I, I hear, I hear, I hear the criticisms and, uh, you know, they’re valid and warranted, but you know, at the same time, I think if you want to affect change, you gotta, sometimes you gotta, you know, have some different kind of bedfellows, you know what I mean? And you gotta mix it up a little bit.

Mike Jackson: And do what you have to do, you know, our whole goal was to let, have them let us in the room, you know what I mean? So now we’re in the room. So now it’s like who we locking hands with, you know, and sometimes they’re not going to look like us. Sometimes we’re going to be embedded in their stories that aren’t necessarily for us, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stop the progression of the journey forward.

Mike Jackson: You know what I’m saying? So I feel like La La Land, again, was a movie that really. Pushed us forward as a company, although it wasn’t our story, you know, and sometimes you have to do that.

Eddie Robinson: Yeah, true I mean the the journey is getting into the room.

Mike Jackson: Real talk.

Eddie Robinson: Yeah.

Mike Jackson: Real talk.

Eddie Robinson: Much less once you’re you know. Once you’re in the room.

Mike Jackson: And then even.

Eddie Robinson: What your journey is getting…

Mike Jackson: even once you’re inside the house or whatever you want to call It like and there’s multiple rooms.

Mike Jackson: You still got to find certain rooms You know, sometimes they want, you know, sometimes they want to let you into some of the rooms in the house, you know what I mean? Like, so, you know, it’s tough figuring it out, you know?

Eddie Robinson: What’s been the production that you’re most proud of?

Mike Jackson: Oh, wow.

Eddie Robinson: Mike Jackson, you see it all the time and you’re like, oh, the one project that really shines in your eyes and makes you proud that you were involved in making this beautiful gem come to life.

Mike Jackson: Golly, I’m proud of a lot of the things that we’ve done. There was a play that we did off Broadway called Turn Me Loose when it was about the life of Dick Gregory,

Mike Jackson: and Joe Morton played Mr Gregory. And I just remember opening night. We got to perform the play in front of Mr Gregory. And anyone who knows Mr. Gregory knows he’s a conspiracy theorist. He ain’t giving it up. You know what I mean? Like, if anything, he’s gonna break it down. You know what I mean? Like, so and I remember after the play, Mr Gregory, you know, we, we, we, we shouted him out and we applauded him, but he went to the stage and then spoke for, for quite a while about his admiration and respect for the work that we collectively had done to tell his story.

Mike Jackson: And I felt in that moment. A level of pride and excitement that I hadn’t really felt before professionally and sure, it was all about the hard work and all the creativity and the creative minds that came together to put this production on, but to have the man himself, that critic, Dick Gregory. Say good job, that to me was like, yeah, man, this was, this was, we did that. That was great. And it was really about Joe Morton’s performance. If I’m going to really break it down, but I was still on the team. So I took that win and it felt great.

Eddie Robinson: Coming up. We wrap up our chat with acclaimed film, TV, and theater producer, Mike Jackson. We dive in deep into his own talk platform that he’s affiliated with, hosted by the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communications. It’s the top ranked, largest, and most comprehensive college of communication in the country.

Eddie Robinson: And share with us your thoughts and feedback. We’d love to hear from you. Follow us on Instagram and send us an email. Talk at I S E E U show.org. I’m Eddie Robinson. Our final segment with Mike Jackson on I SEE U comes your way right after these messages.

Eddie Robinson: If you’re enjoying this program, please be sure to subscribe to our podcast I SEE U with Eddie Robinson. You can hear all the past episodes and be notified when new episodes are released. Also, please take a minute to give us a review or comment. We love getting feedback from our listeners.

Eddie Robinson: You’re listening to I SEE U. I’m your host, Eddie Robinson. We’ve been chatting with Mike. Jackson. No, he’s not the king of pop, but he’s certainly the king of multicultural programming and award-winning content. Mike is co founder and managing partner of a production company called Get Lifted.. You’ve probably seen many of their projects before the Oscar winning musical La La Land, the HBO documentary, 40 years, A Prisoner.

Eddie Robinson: And what about the WGN series Underground created by Misha green? Welp, Jackson and Get Lifted have partnered with Book Imprints, as well as created joint film ventures that are focused on developing and producing, along with financing, multiple film projects in the 10 million range that feature more diverse filmmakers and Inclusive casts for audiences worldwide.

Eddie Robinson: And if all that doesn’t impress you, Mike continues to stay busy and give back to those who are looking to break into the field of media. Jackson leads a discussion series for people of color and underrepresented communities in media called Why Not Me? A platform hosted at the Moody College of Communication at the University of Texas.

Eddie Robinson: We’ll find out more details about this later in the segment as we wrap up our conversation with Mike Jackson, who’s chatting with us virtually from Austin, Texas. In the spirit of historical visuals, if you will, you know, as far as my taste go, I’ve always admired seeing visuals of individuals of our past, for better or worse, reimagined and given some form of dramatized film or stage production or series that pushes those historical figures into the limelight, for instance, the Prime Video conspiracy drama series known as Hunters.

Eddie Robinson: The series takes on the evil character known as Adolf Hitler and re imagines the circumstances. Around his existence, all while a group of Nazi hunters, you know, band together, head South America to track him down.

Eddie Robinson: I love this notion of, you know, really sort of transitioning and transforming historical figures. Into the complexity called life and seeing them reimagined, uh, you know, Lovecraft Country at HBO. They did this on some level with that, you know, but in your mind. You know, based on the experiences of what you’ve already produced, what you’ve already worked on, what kinds of material I’m thinking along the lines of you helping us understand the future tastes, what are some future concepts, what are some other concepts that you think really sort of, you know, as a producer, you know, as someone who, you know, Is a content creator.

Mike Jackson: I’d love to see something with Basquiat doing something contemporary. I don’t know if he’s going to be like a Hunter killing Nazis, but, um, I’d love to see him navigate some sort of tumultuous contemporary anti art f ing thing. I don’t know that, you know, I just like Basquiat. Um, that’s probably not the right guy to, to answer this question with Dumas, not the guy who wrote three musketeers, but his daddy, who was like a, uh, from the front, you know, a French warrior.

Mike Jackson: I would love to maybe see him come back like the Black count, you know, see him come back in the contemporary world and see how he could handle some stuff. I think, you know, again, everyone talks about Alexander Dumas, but he wrote all his three, everything he wrote about was about his daddy. So I’d like to see his daddy come back.

Mike Jackson: Um, and we tried to do that movie, The Black Count, based off, it was a book called The Black Count. And we had the rights for it for a while. But again, I would love to see that dude. I’d love to see that dude right now. And send him to Florida. And go talk to DeSantis and the fellas.

Eddie Robinson: Exactly!

Mike Jackson: And see what’s good, you know what I mean?

Mike Jackson: Or some of these parents on the PTA who, a speech is good enough for the f ing country and Obama and the White House, but it’s not good enough for their f ing daughter. Give me a break. Anyway, sorry, I digress. Yeah. So I like to see some cat like that. Come back on his horse and just ride around, you know, checking folks.

Eddie Robinson: Intense.

Mike Jackson: Something like that. Maybe it’ll be pretty cool. You know, there was another thing we’ve been spending, you know, we had an idea of doing, remember the show, the Greatest American hero. And I was like, believe it or not, I’m walkin on air.

Eddie Robinson: Yeah, from the 80s, yeah, I’m walkin on air! I never thought I would, yeah!

Mike Jackson: So like, uh, there was a guy named William Cott, or Cat, who played him. But the idea of like, the idea of an unsuspecting hero. You know, I would love to see like, the Black version of that. Um, which we actually tried to develop. But like, you know, put… The unassuming person of color in the position of hero, give them some sort of power and see how they can affect change in this world and see what they can do with, with, with that kind of gift.

Mike Jackson: I just think anything that shows us in power would be pretty cool. Any character that came back around would be pretty cool. I think if you brought any Black character from back in the day, in the present day though, they’d be like, What the f is going on here? Like, What? What happened to progress, y’all?

Mike Jackson: Like, what are we doing? Like, who is

Eddie Robinson: Yeah, right.

Mike Jackson: Make America great again? What are we talking about? You know, so I think it would be interesting to see someone from the past and contemporary America.

Eddie Robinson: I’m Eddie Robinson, and this is I SEE U. We’re here with acclaimed producer, co founder, and managing partner of Get Lifted Film Company, Mike Jackson.

Eddie Robinson: Are there any folks that you’d like to collaborate with and work with through your company that you haven’t connected with just yet?

Mike Jackson: Oh, there’s so many people I would love to work with. I feel like I’m just going to kind of like… Keep creating opportunities and keep, keep reaching out to people. And I want to work with Eddie Robinson.

Mike Jackson: I want to do some, I want to do some work with Eddie Robinson. Right. Let’s make it happen. I’m saying like, let’s figure it out.

Eddie Robinson: I find your discussions and talk sessions series. Why not me? Pretty fascinating. And they’re happening over at the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody College of Communications.

Eddie Robinson: And it’s an opportunity, as I mentioned at the top, where you’re inviting friends and colleagues in the industry to share their stories of breaking into the industry. And it’s a platform for people of color and underrepresented communities to come together and share tools and templates of what they’ve had to endure to get To where many students want to be, and I’m wondering and curious throughout the course of these talks and these discussions that you’ve had, what’s been the overall takeaway, the key nuggets of what many of the students have walked away from in saying about these series, you know, what’s been the key nuggets, um, especially for students in the communications

Eddie Robinson: field.

Mike Jackson: Yeah, I think we’ll look at how it started was when I got here, I was invited to do some panels throughout town. And, you know, I would, I would go to them and then afterwards every brown and Black person, student or otherwise, would, would stop me afterwards and I would end up in these conversations. So for me, it was really like, I went to the Dean of Moody, I went to Jay and I was basically like, I just need support so that we could have these conversations.

Mike Jackson: Right. And he, he graciously said, yes, and I call it, why not me? Because it needs to be relatable. Right? Like if you see someone that’s uber successful talking to you, you know, that maybe isn’t relatable because they’re in such a different place.

Mike Jackson: But if you can bring it back to like, and this is, and this is to answer your question. I always start with origin story. Where are you from? What were your, what was your family? Like, where’d you go to elementary school?

Mike Jackson: Like what, what were the seeds of your life that, that were watered and allowed you to evolve and grow into the person you are and lean into your artistry. So for me, I think the takeaway with that notion, it’s related, the big nuggets being relatable, relatability. And I think a lot of the kids that I’ve talked to, and they’re not even kids, they’re grownups, always have come out of the conversation feeling like.

Mike Jackson: They can see themselves in this individual because that individual started similarly to them or their origin story was flawed like they feel their origin story is flawed or there’s like that, that point A to point B that they can kind of draw, um, you know, I had guys like Jay Ellis, you know, from Maverick and Insecure talking about working at a clothing store in the Beverly center.

Mike Jackson: You know what I mean? And Robin Thede.

Eddie Robinson: Yeah.

Mike Jackson: Robin Thede was a guest. It was just like, this ain’t easy. Like if you want to be a writer and tell our stories, like, Talk about all the like mundane things that they had to do to evolve to the place of that or even Stephen A. Smith It was a guest, you know, talking about driving his car at night confused about his future and like figuring out, like, I don’t know what’s next, you know, I don’t, how do you get from point A to point B, I know how to work hard, you know what I mean, but it takes more than that.

Mike Jackson: So again, I think it’s about the relatability, everyone’s story, if you break it down to, like, how you began, and I think that’s always and will continue to be the big takeaway for the Why Not Me series is that, which is our goal, relatable.

Eddie Robinson: Of all the work. And of all the accomplishments that you’ve done, Mike, and the inspiration that you’ve brought to everyone who’ve seen your work, what lessons have you learned about yourself thus far?

Eddie Robinson: What lessons have I learned about myself on my journey?

Mike Jackson: Um, that’s a great question. Huh. I think what I’ve learned about myself is it’s, it’s good to dream. I learned that, um, dreams can be Like a beautiful sort of like canvas, so to speak, like this thing that you can kind of see in your head and visualize and even live in it, although it’s not necessarily your truth yet, but you can live in this dream of like what in how you want things to be.

Mike Jackson: But what I’ve learned about myself through dreaming is, um, there is a path forward and it’s called, uh, hard work and ambition. Um, being able to execute. So I guess what I’ve learned about myself is that I’m a big dreamer with a little bit of work ethic and, um, a lot of, um, stamina and a lot of hustle.

Mike Jackson: And to me, the big word there is stamina because it takes endurance to be in this industry that you’re in. It takes a lot of willpower, um, staying power.

Eddie Robinson: And you’ve done it because you’re an Emmy and Tony Award winning film, theater, and television producer, Mike Jackson. Thank you. Thank you for being a guest on I SEE U.

Mike Jackson: Thanks for having me, Eddie. It’s been a real pleasure talking with you. I appreciate it.

Eddie Robinson: Our team includes technical director Todd Hulslander, producer Laura Walker, editors Mark DiClaudio and Jonmitchell Goode. I SEE U is a production of Houston Public Media. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to our podcast wherever you listen and download your favorite shows. I’m your host and executive producer, Eddie Robinson, and I feel you. We hear you. I SEE U.

Eddie Robinson: Thanks so much for listening until next time.


This article is part of the podcast I SEE U with Eddie Robinson

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Eddie Robinson

Eddie Robinson

Executive Producer & Host, I SEE U

A native of Mississippi, Eddie started his radio career as a 10th grader, working as a music jock for a 100,000-Watt (Pop) FM station and a Country AM station simultaneously. While Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus had nominated him for the U.S. Naval Academy in 1991, Eddie had an extreme passion...

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