Jack is a heart-warming look at the life of 93-year-old Jack English, who lives the homesteader’s life five miles from any road on property that he’s known since age 11. Making violin bows to pay the bills, English strives to go back in time, fighting against the wave of so many trying to lurch forward.
Director Grace Jackson recently answered my questions via email.
How did you learn about Jack English?
I learned about Jack through a family friend, Michael Newton, who had met Jack while hiking in the backcountry. He really felt someone should tell Jack’s story, and I agreed. We hiked out to Jack’s place together with the camera equipment on our backs to make the piece.
Was he open to being filmed?
He doesn’t have a phone, so we established contact with his family who are based in Soquel. They were hesitant at first, but once I explained that I really didn’t have any hidden motive or financial gain by making the film, and that I really just loved the story, they opened up and were very accommodating.
Jack’s son, Dennis, actually acted as our trail guide and also carried some gear, so thank you Dennis!
Jack is a total sweet heart. When I met him in person he told me, to paraphrase, “I’m not much interested in all this attention, but if you think it will help you then I will do it.”
His hands look very gnarled. Is it a tough existence out there, or does he have it pretty dialed in?
He has gout, so over the years his hands have become crippled. But in general, he has it pretty dialed in there. He doesn’t have electricity, but he has a generator if he really needs power for a tool or something. The problem with that is getting fuel brought in. He has a water source that he pumps, so he has running water, but the water is not heated. He said it snows in his valley in the winter, so that must be pretty tough, considering his only heat is from his fireplace and wood stove.
What does he eat?
He gets supplies once a month. He doesn’t have a refrigerator, so he eats a lot of dried or canned goods toward the end of the month. He also has visitors that come in, local cowboys that know of him, who always bring him things. He had some pie when we were there and he kept trying to get us to eat it before it spoiled!
How often does he go to “town”?
At the time we visited, he was going “out” once a month. His health has declined since then, and he is spending more time with his family.
What inspired you most about his story?
I loved the idea of a person who was rebelling from the way our modern society works. When you get to know him and really press him on “why” he choses to live all the way out there in the Ventana Wilderness he simply tells you, “It’s the kinda life I like.” He lives life on his own terms.
Where does he sell his violin bows? Are they well known?
Jack’s bows are handcrafted and made with beautiful rare materials. He has sold them for years now. His son, Dennis English, is also a craftsman and makes violins. To buy one of Jack’s bows, email English Violins at Jackenglishbows@gmail.com.
Jack screens as part of the Santa Barbara Shorts on Thu., Jan. 31, 4:30 p.m,, at the Lobero Theatre and Sat., Feb. 2, 7 p.m., at the Museum of Art.