[email protected] Interview
Interview with James P Axiotis
“Just jump out of that boat – the sea is rough but you will be glad you did! Success comes from hard work and self-belief.” – James P Axiotis
Today we feature James P Axiotis, the founder at JPA Productions. We hear their story in their own words, their successes, their challenges and their insights.
Let’s start by getting to know you. Can you please tell us a little bit about you and what you do?
I’m a tv and film producer. I split my time between London and Hollywood and work on everything from big-budget movies to charity video campaigns. In 2016, I founded JPA Productions (www.jpaproductions.com) and recently launched the European and Philanthropic arms of my company.
A great introduction and start to this interview. Can you please tell us, how did you start, from what age, and what made you decide to change direction and start?
When I was 13 years old, I played little league football and my team was asked to be on a TV special. When the director and main actor of the episode, who were both Greek, found out I was also Greek, they took me into their inner circle of the cast and crew and I got to have an incredible experience on set for about a month of shooting.
Years later I was on set again at 17 as a Greek-Folk dancer in the Jack Nicholson film The Postman Always Rings Twice. By then I had my mind made up that film was the career for me. So, with no formal or further education, I started work as a production assistant on television shows, eventually rising to the position of post-production supervisor at NBC. At 24, I was one of the network’s youngest producers.
However, from 1986 to 1987 I and the rest of Hollywood were affected by the Writers’ Guild strike. Everyone was laid off and thousands of us lost our jobs. NBC had no work for any of us, so I took the plunge and, having already established myself in Hollywood, moved to the Midwest where I started my first production company which produced various projects for large companies across the area such as Maytag, John Deer, Pella Windows, the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.
I was also asked to personally work on different projects during my time there, including as a local casting director on Clint Eastwood’s The Bridges of Madison County. By 2001 I returned to LA where I founded JPA Productions, and I have been running the company, working for various channels, shows, and charities ever since.
Thank you for that insight. So can you tell us…What does your business do and where is your company based?
JPA Productions is a TV/film production company based in Hollywood. In 2020 I founded JPA Productions Greece to work on a project about my birth mother, which is currently in the early stages of development. In 2021, I expanded the company and launched JPA Productions London, based in the UK, and also the Philanthropic arm which creates film and media for charities free of charge.
I’ve also utilized the philanthropic arm to invest in productions that I feel present important and impactful stories driven by inspired individuals, such as a documentary film that is currently in production called “Another Place,” which shares the stories of refugees currently living throughout Europe.
What’s the story behind your success? What led to your aha moment? how did you get to where you are now?
Because of what I went through, being disconnected from my birth mother, I knew that I would always be working towards amplifying her voice and the voice of other women.
While there wasn’t anything I could do to help her, I understood that I could spend my life ensuring that I would give my platform to other women. The fact that she and so many other unwed mothers did not get any sort of assistance from the government breaks my heart.
Further, the fact that Greece had allowed a system of corrupt adoptions that took away a women’s choice to keep her children bothered me ever since I heard of it. It led me to want to make sure that, as long as I am here, I am going to be the kind of person who does uplift women where I can.
I am fortunate that my adoptive mother, Sophia, was very supportive and loving, despite my adoptive father physically and mentally abusing us both. When I turned 18, I was finally able to stop the cycle of abuse, and it was then I demanded to know the truth about my birth mother.
Sophia gave me an emotional account of my adoption, including how my mother – a young girl – had shown up in court to say goodbye to me even though she didn’t have to. I had never heard anything of my birth mother up until that point, and so that moment was a major turning point in my life which caused me to go on the path I am on now.
I do believe that both Sophia and the story of my real mom empowered me to become the resilient person I am today. Telling my mother’s story is my life’s work.
I got to interact a lot with high-powered executives that taught me a lot about surviving in Hollywood and forging a successful career throughout my career with NBC.
One theme I’ve learned about people of that caliber and other famous actors and actresses is that if you treat them like normal people, regardless of their position, they are often very kind and that is where you can make real connections.
They give so much respect and kindness for your transparency with them and certainly don’t let fame go to their heads. I hope that I am that sort of person, and that is how I run my business and my life.
Thank you for sharing that. What’s been your life’s biggest lesson so far?
I learned one of the biggest lessons in my career the hard way. I wish I would have spent just as much time working as I did networking. In any business, but especially in Hollywood, the people you know are the people that will keep your business afloat and help bring opportunities to the table that would have otherwise been not available or known to you.
The more people you know, the more perspectives and connections you have for your work in the future.
I have seen firsthand how a lack of connections has caused lulls in my business with no projects to work on, and an abundance of connections has done the opposite. It really is as the saying goes, “It’s all who you know.”
Have a specific, clear and concise mission that you believe in and will stick to no matter what.
If you were to go back in time, what piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
I would tell my younger self, and really anyone at the early stages of their life and career, that they should always be willing to “step out of the boat”, to put themselves out there without fear of rejection.
When you do this, you will hear a lot of “no’s,” but someday those rejections will turn into acceptances. The way to get to the end of a bridge is to first be willing to cross it.
We’re nearly halfway through our interview so it’s a great time to ask how does your business run. What three tools make your business run better?
Throughout my years of working in the film and television industry, I have witnessed a huge development in the technology and software that we have access to.
Although I have seen the great benefits of scheduling programs and various coordinating software, I honestly believe that none of it matters if you do not have the skill of being able to meet or talk in person.
With technology, we are given a lot of different platforms to communicate on, but it is both a blessing and a curse. I have found that when these online platforms become too cluttered, what we fall back on is face-to-face communication and planning to keep the project going.
What do you know now that you wished you had known before?
I wish I had known back in the day how much streaming services would have changed the business and opened up opportunities for a much more global market. While I absolutely love how international it is now, I wish I had some sort of head start to be functioning with that mindset sooner, when none of us in the business could have predicted the current level of accessibility of content that came with the internet.
What has been your greatest or proudest achievement or moment?
Without doubt, my proudest achievement in my work, aside from any personal successes, has been being named an Officer of the Children of War Foundation. I have travelled to regions spanning from Jordan to Navajo Nation to document their work so that they can promote it on their website, in the media, and on their social media platforms.
My last mission, was last year in March, which was to deliver 1.5 million US dollars worth of medical equipment and supplies to two hospitals in Ukraine.
Just after then I was named an Officer for the charity, meaning I can act and speak on its behalf. It was a very humbling moment and one that I am proud to have since I am passionate about helping displaced children, and being able to support the charity through my production services.
Having travelled to and filmed in refugee camps, most recently to Jordan with my daughters Sophia and Georgia, I know first-hand the impact of war, famine, and genocide. But I have also seen how my films have brought about awareness and support from a greater audience for the charities I help, and this is where my commitment lies. That is why I founded the philanthropic arm of JPA Productions.
What future life goals do you want to achieve and why?
I would love to set up a foundation of some kind that is built in honor of what my birth mother went through. Its sole aim would be to help young girls affected by circumstances out of their control, including war, poverty, illness, and so on.
It would focus on providing them with an education so that they have as much opportunity as possible and so that they can have agency over their lives.
To finish our inspire questions…”We believe that sharing inspiring words can inspire others.” If there was one positive thing you would say to someone to inspire and empower them what would it be and why?
First, I would say to have a specific, clear, and concise mission that you believe in and will stick to no matter what. The people that you really want to work with will see this mission, understand it, and rally around it. Also, if you believe in it, you will find others who will too. Likewise, if you don’t believe in it, then others will find it hard to follow.
Another piece of advice would be, as I mentioned before, to just jump out of that boat – the sea is rough but you will be glad you did! Success comes from hard work and self-belief. You must have the confidence to follow your dreams.
I’d also advise new founders to make sure they have a good team around them. Surround yourself with the best and most supportive people you can.
I always source teams from diverse backgrounds, avoiding the ‘historical’ Hollywood choice of white males. I find working with women and minorities brings richness to the team and to the table. Diversity of thought and experience builds strength. There are excellent producers around the world, why just use the same ‘Hollywood pool’ to recruit from?
In Europe, my team is predominantly female, and while that may slightly be a conscious choice, it is mainly because the people I employ are the best ones for the job.
“Thank you it has been great learning more about your founder story and JPA Productions”
To learn more about JPA Productions Visit https://jpaproductions.com/
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