Fillmaker Jordan crafton profile in Newsday 2/2/2014


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A profile of Long Island native Jordan Crafton, a self-taught filmmaker who has produced two acclaimed documentaries and holds a senior position with a popular Nickolodeon natwork TV show.

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Fillmaker Jordan crafton profile in Newsday 2/2/2014

  1. 1. | SUNDAY, FEB. 2, 2014 | NORTH HEMPSTEAD-OYSTER BAY G4 BRUCE GILBERT N1 WHO’S COOKING Get recipes, and stories, from Long Islanders
  2. 2. N1 LI LIFE G4 coverstory Lens on LI & success Documentary filmmaker endures friend’s loss, fulfills both of their dreams BY MORGAN LYLE T BRUCE GILBERT Special to Newsday JEREMY BALES NEWSDAY, SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2014 Above, Jordan Crafton edits at home. At left, Frank Abel, Uniondale High’s former band director, is featured in Crafton’s film about the band. ON THE COVER. Jordan Crafton, 26, went from the hospitality business to the director’s chair, without any formal training. he first time Jordan Crafton entered a movie in his college’s student film festival, he bombed. Crafton’s short film, “This Is What Happens,” about a claustrophobic ninja avenging his abused mother, earned a score of just 30 out of 90 from the judges at the University of South Carolina in a 2006 contest. The Baldwin native could have chalked up the low score to the fact that his major was hospitality management, not film, and given up any serious ambitions about show business. But by then, the sophomore’s longtime interest in film had become a passion. So he took the score sheet to Kinko’s, blew it up to 24-by-36 inches and hung it on his dorm room wall for motivation. He submitted another entry the following year and came in a very respectable third out of more than 30 entrants. “I was the only kid at the festival who wasn’t a film student,” Crafton recalled. “It gave me credibility.” That determined focus has gotten Crafton where he is today: director of photography and editor for Nick Cannon’s “TeenNick Top 10,” on the Nickelodeon TV channel, and producer of two documentaries about life on Long Island. It sustained him through long nights of working after work. It gave him the nerve to pester his way into the company of one of the top names in entertainment. And along with a strong faith instilled by his parents, it helped him deal with the heartbreaking loss in 2009 of his childhood See COVER STORY on G6
  3. 3. G5 LI LIFE ‘It’s Showtime’ marches across the big screen JORDAN CRAFTON N1 A scene from Crafton’s latest movie “It’s Showtime,” featuring the marching band from his alma mater, Uniondale High School. Crafton is a 2005 graduate. JORDAN CRAFTON NEWSDAY, SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2014 JORDAN CRAFTON Above and at right, scenes from “It’s Showtime,” which began as a tribute to Uniondale High School’s now retired band director. Ⅲ More photos and video:
  4. 4. N1 LI LIFE G6 coverstory Filmmaker keeps focus COVER STORY from G4 friend and film company partner, Tyrell Spencer. “I release a new video every year on the day he passed away,” Crafton said, referring to Nov. 24 and the car crash that killed his best friend. And he said the “D” in the name of his production company, JDC Films, no longer stands for his middle name, Dexter, but for Spencer’s, which was DeVaughn. NEWSDAY/KAREN WILES STABILE NEWSDAY, SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2014 Encouraged from the start Filmmakers and friends Jordan Crafton, left, and Tyrell Spencer outside their alma mater, Uniondale High School, in June 2009, before their 75-minute film, “My Block: Strong Island,”was screened at the school. Spencer died later that year. Crafton, 26, who now lives in Mahwah, N.J., is the youngest of three sons of John Crafton, a retired deputy superintendent with the New York City Transit Authority, and his wife, Jeanette, a retired teacher. He also has a sister, Susan Harper, 48, who lives in Hempstead and is a minister at a Brooklyn church. Her mother, John Crafton’s first wife, died a few months after Harper’s birth. Crafton’s brother John, 36, is a Manhattan real estate agent who lives in Amityville. Jason, 31, lives in Nyack and is head coach of the Nyack College men’s basketball team. The brothers were raised in an atmosphere where hard work was encouraged and support was freely given. “As a teacher, I didn’t tolerate nonchalance,” said Jeanette Crafton, a lifelong educator who last taught at PS 251 in Springfield Gardens, Queens. “We established excellent morals. You have to realize there are a lot of sacrifices to make in order to achieve excellence.” Crafton was a good student at Uniondale High School, and returned in 2009 to give the commencement address. In college, even after his father said it would be OK to change his major to film, Crafton stuck with hospitality management, reasoning that a steady job managing a restaurant would help finance his film career. Indeed, it was his mother’s busy schedule — she also was a tutor and led a weekend reading program for children, among other things — that turned Crafton into a once and future hotelier. When he was 8, he would set up his bedroom like a hotel room for his mother to relax in after work. She could order
  5. 5. G7 LI LIFE ‘Strong Island,’ revisited Filmmaker Jordan Crafton (back row, right) with his family. From left, brother Jason, mom Jeanette, father John E. (back row) brother John, sister-in-law Michelle and sister Susan Harper. See COVER STORY on G8 JORDAN CRAFTON Crafton met Spencer in a seventh-grade Spanish class, and the two became fast friends. “I had my older brothers who I looked up to the most,” Crafton said. “But Tyrell was a tougher kid than me. I think that’s why we mixed so well. I ‘My Block: Strong Island’ Three young men from Crafton’s 2009 documentary “My Block: Strong Island,” which profiled 15 youths and young professionals from predominantly African-American communities on Long Island. Crafton will release a sequel this summer, “My Block: Strong Island Part II,” featuring older generations. NEWSDAY, SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 2014 The perfect partnership was tough, but I was the smarter kid. Tyrell was gifted, but he had the street smarts and the savvy.” It was Spencer who had the idea for what would become JDC Films’ first big project. “He said, ‘We should do a movie about the town. We’re gonna be heroes.’ ” Crafton borrowed money from his father to buy the last two Sony Handycam hi-definition video cameras at a Best Buy near campus that was closing. He worked at a restaurant to pay back what he owed, and eagerly returned to New York in the summer of 2007 to start work on the project. He had no formal training then or since, so he learned the basics of shooting and editing film from books and YouTube tutorials. The result was 2009’s “My Block: Strong Island,” a 75-minute documentary following 15 youths from Uniondale, Freeport, Hempstead and other predominantly African-American communities on Long Island as they negotiated obstacles and struggled to build lives and careers. One of them, Nick, — MORGAN LYLE room service through the “intercom,” which was actually an old baby monitor. “He acted as if he was at the front desk,” Jeanette Crafton said, chuckling at the memory. “And he said, ‘When you check out, please remember to refer me to your friends and tell them what a nice time you had.’ ” Crafton’s grand plan is to again one day cater to his mother’s relaxation needs, but right now he’s focused on laying the foundation to achieve that goal. These days, he still doesn’t own a couch and doesn’t have cable in his apartment. “When I come home, I have to work,” he said. “That was the biggest ingredient in my success after college, keeping my life intact — and I hate to say it this way — but not to allow myself to enjoy myself.” N1 JORDAN CRAFTON J ordan Crafton plans to release a sequel to “My Block: Strong Island” this summer, which will include older generations and take a broader look at what the young filmmaker said are the “unique characters and ingredients that helped build the culture of our home.” The project is being funded by the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University in Hempstead, as part of its Oral History Project. “My Block: Strong Island Part II” will “use our oral histories and the other materials we have gathered for either inspiration or as source material, and have it inform the story of the more diversified suburb we have today,” said Lawrence Levy, the center’s executive dean. “The one thing that I’m sure of is that it will be interesting, because Jordan Crafton is a very interesting young filmmaker,” Levy said. “One day he’s going to be a thought leader for his generation.” Meanwhile, the Long Island Studies Institute and Hofstra University Archives will sponsor a Feb. 19 screening of “It’s Showtime” at 7 p.m. in the school’s Guthart Cultural Center Theater, Axinn Library, First Floor, South Campus. Admission will be free. Details will be on