"I know before this movie came out people had forgotten about me or just stopped paying attention, but I'm back," said Jamie. But after three years of filming Who is JOB, Jamie has put himself again in the spotlight. And judging from the finished product, it was well worth the wait. Unlike Jamie O'Brien's first two movies—Freak Show and Freak Side—his new film, Who Is JOB, is a blunt look into what sculpted this barrel-riding virtuoso. We caught up with Jamie to find out how he came from nowhere this month to become a top contender for this year's Best Performance Award at the 2010 SURFER Poll.
Describe the feeling of going to your own film premiere having never seen the finished version?
I was really nervous, because they didn't show me anything. I came into town four days early to watch it, and they started giving me every excuse in the book for why I couldn't see it. And then Charlie [Smith, Who Is JOB Director] told me, "Some of the interviews are pretty harsh. You might want to change some of them, but you can't."
Why did you feel Charlie would be a good fit for your film?
Charlie is just this straight-up real guy that calls it as it is. He was originally part of the beginning crew, but left due to funding reasons about a year and a half ago. Then, in July, I called him asking if he would come back. He said he would love to do it, and from there I gave him the freedom to run with the film. I told him that I wanted to tell people my life story and be real, no beating around the bush.
So was that the film's original intent: to be a raw depiction of your life?
My previous two films didn't let people into my life, and I always felt I had people judging me for the things I said when I was young, like answering a question in a magazine wrong, only because I was answering it honestly. I wasn't this goody-goody kid. I was just trying to say it how it was, and maybe that hurt people's feelings and made them feel differently about me.
Do you think the film explains your often-misinterpreted antics? Like lighting the ASP Rulebook on fire?
Bad publicity is good publicity. Whether they hate you or love you, they keep coming back and wanting more—it's like an obsession. When I burned the rulebook that was just how I felt at the time. But like the film shows, I wasn't smart. I was in special education. I was a little haole punk growing up on the North Shore. I'm sorry if you didn't like me, but I was just being myself.
The film includes interviews with Bruce Irons and Kelly Slater. Why them?
We had no interviews before Charlie showed up, so I gave him a list of 10 to 15 people I wanted to interview, and Charlie was like, "Nope, nope, nope." But I really wanted an interview from Bruce because, I mean, it's Bruce. He's real, tells it straight, and doesn't care. And who doesn't want an interview with Kelly? The guy's a 10-time World Champion. Those guys are my idols, and I was just hoping they would have time to sit down for a couple of minutes.
Was there a surfer you wanted in the film that wasn't?
There are a lot of surfers, but I would've loved to work with Dane or Jordy. Or go on a barrel trip with Kelly. I tried to get these guys on some of my trips, but sometimes surfing's strange. People don't want to surf with you. I ran into problems trying to lock down people for the movie. They would all tell me, "Oh you have to talk to my manager." I was like, "Come on now. You're not real enough to accept a trip with me?"
What message should viewers take from the film?
Watch the movie, then judge me. I think this movie is a true testament to who I am. I was a haole, I was deaf, I rode the retard bus, I was duct-taped, and my mom left me when I was young. The film just has something that every person can relate to. The point of the movie was that we didn't want it to be like, "Oh, you know, Jamie's so great. He had this golden spoon up his ass." I didn't live the perfect life, but I made it and found my outlet in life—surfing was that.