INTERVIEW: Filmmaker Jonathan Baker talks about Oscars, old Hollywood

(CREDIT: Eric Minh Swenson)

In advance of director/producer/hotelier Jonathan Baker’s highly anticipated Oscar Viewing Party 2022, Indie Entertainment Media has unveiled its special awards issue, featuring an exclusive cover shoot themed “Oscar Is A Woman” featuring Baker and top international model Erika Stasiuleviciute.

The special photo essay celebrates female filmmakers and artists… with a touch of Old Hollywood glamour. The stage was Baker’s Beverly Hills estate Baker Manor, previously owned by Warren Beatty and Annette Bening (where his annual gala event will also be held), presented this year in collaboration with the magazine and French Riviera Film Festival.

Reel360 had the chance to talk with Baker before Hollywood’s big night.

You have been having your annual Oscar event for several years now. What makes this year’s event extra special?

This year’s event is themed ‘Oscar Is A Woman.’ We did a photoshoot and celebrated would I consider the ‘year of the woman’ with regard to movies and the Oscars. I’ve had little to celebrate through the pandemic, but this year we’re celebrating Hollywood, Old Hollywood glamour, and my version of modern Art Deco.

I have associated myself with Indie Entertainment Media this year and we together are powerhouse forces in Hollywood for this premiere event. I’m very excited to host some of the most powerful people in Hollywood on March 27th.

What is it about Old Hollywood that you think is lost today?

I think Old Hollywood hasn’t transitioned into the modern world, where we can celebrate yesteryears and reinvent what Oscar is supposed to be, because streaming and present-day limited series have almost taken the place of what film used to be. What is lost in translation is the glamour – the idea that we’re celebrating creativity, storytelling and a larger-than-life platform that everybody yearns for, which just has disappeared a little bit.

Today’s Hollywood will always be to me Art Deco, modernized. For me, it’s at­­­ all about the chrome black splash of color to bring the Oscars into today’s times. I thought many times of what it would be like to produce the Oscars and what changes I would make. That creativity is what I live by daily, with regard to my work and my movie projects.

What does ‘Oscar Is A Woman,’ the theme of the magazine cover shoot, mean to you?

I love this year ‘s theme ‘Oscar Is A Woman’ because we’re celebrating women. Women have such a strong voice and they’ve come so far, from equal pay to equal voice, and more importantly, women work as hard, if not harder, than men.

To celebrate that inside of the #MeToo movement and cancel culture, it’s a way for me to celebrate what was always there, but not shown as much. This year, we have amazing performances by women and outstanding works by female directors. It’s just time to celebrate the axiom of all this talent coming together.

Can you tell us what your vision was with the shoot?

Indie Entertainment Media came to me with a couple of ideas to shoot for its Oscar issue and when they had told me that they wanted to bring in a painted model, I immediately thought that this could be an amazing representative of the Oscars.  When the photoshoot came together there was magic in the air. I think we made magic happen.  

Everybody showed up the right place at the right time and that’s what happens when luck meets preparation – you find success! When we did the shoot, everything came together, and ‘Oscar Is A Woman’ took shape because the sun was pointing down on our model Erika Stasiuleviciute and she was stunningly beautiful. In my mind.

I just wanted her to stand not with me, but around me almost like ‘Harvey the Rabbit’ from the play Harvey. I wanted everybody to see Oscar in a beautiful form that we’ve never seen before, with Hollywood sprinkled around the environment. I wanted to represent the idea of creativity, as Oscar was the payoff of creativity.

Why is it so important, especially in today’s entertainment industry, to celebrate women in the entertainment industry?

Women today have come a long way. In most of my work, I’ve always wanted to work with women because I thought they were greatly unappreciated in the past.  Today, women have risen to take their place as equals in a world where creativity should have no gender. When anything arrives organically, it should be celebrated and this year in my opinion, it’s the collective journey of women arriving after a long journey. They should be recognized and for me, that means, celebrated inside of Hollywood.

I applaud the past, present and the future of all performances, by all genders and this year, by women. So of course, festivities are in order this year. If you look at suffragette 1930s time period, women didn’t even have a chance to vote, while today women are a leading force of the universe.

If the walls of Baker Manor could talk…. do you have any stories you can share about when the home was owned by Mr. Beatty and Ms. Bening?

Baker Manor, which used to be the Warren Beatty Estate, is a magical place. When you walk in, time stops. If these walls could talk… the heads of the major studios of the past and the streamers of the future, all the political dignitaries that have visited the mansion, all the amazing deals that were made, and the glamourous events. I continue to respect that tradition. Warren Beatty and Annette Bening are Hollywood royalty. Not only are they the king and queen, but they also set the tone for Hollywood and how we see it today.

What inspires you most these days? 

I love inspiration. I love creativity. I love black and white, chrome – my personal palette. I create things with which I want to impact the world and make a difference. I believe that I’m a creative force. I love what I do, how I do it and most of the time, when it comes out right, it’s amazing for myself, the people that see it and for the audience that appreciates it.

There’s nothing like creativity because you can’t buy it. It comes out right and works or doesn’t. Even Steven Spielberg has had failures and that’s how hard it is to get it right. But when it’s right, there’s nothing that compares to it.

How do you select your projects?

Projects that I love are about love, family or greed mixed with power. The most important thing for any project is character development, how the character enters the script and how that character leaves the script, what type of death the character goes through in order to find the redemption of that journey. There’s nothing without a great script.

A great story is the most important thing. Why are we watching what we’re watching? How do we identify with it as an audience, filmmaker, and actor? I don’t take most projects that come to me, as they are too shallow or not funded. That leaves me wanting to be my projects’ writer, producer, director and that allows me to dream of the concept and produce what I believe is the vision. I believe that what’s needed for me as the director to come in and deliver what’s on the page, is to believe in my creativity.

This allows me to touch the spirit of what I’m trying to say inside of the film. I’m still very young in my career, but I refuse just to make content for the sake of making content. I have something to say, which I always want to include in my work. It’s very important to me to I honor my years on this planet with a vision that the audience would respect.

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Anything you want to add?

My brand personality for film and beauty – I have always liked ebony wood and chrome and use them to back drop everything in my life, my brand and my surroundings. I use it for showcasing in stores, pop-ups, as well as my own home. I like deep rich blacks, thin bright white accents, sepias everywhere, deep rich greys, dark purples and basic black and white tones to express myself.  These elegant, sophisticated powerful palettes make up my brand vision.  

I always use aromatherapy, especially for the home as I like to set the senses off to complement my visuals. I am a storyteller through and through, and I love to express a narrative with everything I do.  I always use lemongrass, patchouli, rose and jasmine oils. I like thin velvets in all colors, Egyptian cotton and stiff deep blue jeans.

All of these make up the personality of my brand. Eventually, people start to see your vision. Making films holds the same line when they come out to the public. You want to be seen for the work you create. When the public gets you and your work, it’s a very exciting time for everyone. It’s my creative way to give back to the universe. It takes vision to make anything happen and what makes me unique is my narrative around each corner of life as I journey through it.

CREDITS: Photos: Eric Minh Swenson; Photo Editor: Eric Minh Swenson, Tshombe Sampson; Creative Director: Nicole Goesseringer Muj; Models: Erika Stasiuleviciute, Jonathan Baker; Body Paint Artist: Hyewon Ahn.

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Colin Costello is the West Coast Editor of Reel 360. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @colinthewriter1