Portrait of Jason

Portrait of Jason

“Miss Shirley Clarke. Portrait of Jason. Roll 1, sound 1.”

“Okay, roll it.”

“Sound rolling.”

“Camera rolling.”

“Okay, Jason, go.”

“My name is Jason Holliday. My name is Jason Holliday. [Laughs] My name is Aaron Payne.”

“What do you mean, Aaron Payne?”

“Aaron Payne. That was my given name. And in San Francisco I got hung up with a group of people that were under the influence of Sabu. He was changing people’s names to suit their personalities, and I changed my name. Jason Holliday was created in San Francisco. And San Francisco is a place to be created. Believe me.”


“Jason reaches brilliant moments in a total run-down of his soul history,
an all-night monologue breaking the barrier between private humor and public discourse,
covering inside history of gay negro boyhood,
urban hip scenes as houseboy scoring for human kicks,
high camp spade queens on streetcorners,
lower echelon night-club comic universe,
underground love confessions –
all done in a language so down American
Jason emerges familiar archetype in the hip hotel rooms of decades.”

Allen Ginsberg


“The most extraordinary film I’ve seen in my life is certainly Portrait of Jason… It is absolutely fascinating.”

Ingmar Bergman 


“Jason is a performer, and everything except the last 20 minutes in the film I had seen a hundred times before. I’d heard every story that he told and every variation. I knew that if I asked him X, I would get Y. I knew him that well. An interesting and important fact is that I started that evening with hatred, and there was a part of me that was out to do him in, get back at him, kill him. But as the evening progressed, I went through a change of not wanting to kill him but wanting him to be wonderful. Show him off. I went through getting to love him as I spent months sitting at my editing table trying todecide which half of what I filmed I was going to drop. I developed more and more of a total ability to understand where he was coming from – leaping cultural gaps, his homosexuality, his opportunism, his hype. I changed a lot of judgmental ideas by really getting to know Jason. By the way, sometimes I still go back to my original thoughts about Jason. But in the process of working on the film, I grew to love him... Jason is not your average human being. I knew that when I chose him I was choosing somebody dramatic, photogenic, crazy, interesting... Somehow, he ends up the victor. I was perfectly willing for him to win.”

Shirley Clarke1

UPDATED ON 27.01.2018