Jeff Caperton has performed almost every job description in the world of “lights camera, action”. These days, the Houston native is known for being an actor, producer and stuntman. However, before entertainment, he was also a part of helping producers document “real life” action, having worked in TV news both at the local and national level.
As if the stress of helping report the news weren’t enough, he became a firefighter and paramedic.
Caperton now makes movies and TV shows. He’s been challenged enough by actual life, and that enables him to handle the challenges of life on set.
It seems Caperton has always chosen jobs, where he can help people. And now he’s helping productions, utilizing his “cool, calm and collected” mindset. He’s able minimize the chaos that can accompany a career behind the scenes.
We caught up with the filmmaking cowboy to understand what drives his career ambitions.
Your career started early on. How did you end up as an extra on Urban Cowboy?
I was a kid, working after school in a friend of the family’s florist shop. She was contracted to do the flowers for the funeral scene and she took me with her to help set up. They needed more extras so they put us in the scene, but you really can’t see me in the final film, but it was fun being on set and watching everything and I think that was part of what made me want to be a filmmaker.
Tell us about that experience.
I was really young, just watched in awe as the army of cast and crew hustled around. I did have an encounter with the actor Barry Corbin, had a brief conversation with him, which caused me to follow his career from that point forward. Otherwise, I remember it being really hot, and there was a lot of standing around, which is something I know now, is a very common part of filmmaking.
How did your encounter with Texas TV legend Marvin Zindler take you into broadcasting?
Shortly after my father passed away I was working several jobs, one of which being as a busboy in a small restaurant that Marvin frequented. Through the owner, I was introduced to him and sometime later he arranged for an interview at the local TV station.
What did you do in TV News?
I worked in the newsroom and ran errands mostly, this was before easy satellite hook-ups and the internet so we had to actually run videotapes back and forth between the crews and even other stations in other cities. I would occasionally go out when the crews when they needed extra hands or help set up for big coverage events like the Rodeo. I was also able to travel for large stories like the Republican and Democratic national conventions and even to go Honduras to cover a Texas Army National Guard exercise.
Did Marvin ever give you advice about the business?
Not specifically, I didn’t really spend that much time with him, the “Action 13” team was somewhat set apart from the newsroom, but I did learn many things from his example.
In your mind, were there parallels between news and working in film and TV?
To a point, the news was kind of a “one and done” thing, once the story aired, it was on to the next thing, whatever you just did was instantly obsolete, whereas an entertainment show or movie is something made to watch over and over. I did learn a lot about the equipment, all of which is now obsolete, and how a studio worked, especially when I worked in Los Angeles as our newsroom was on a large studio lot where lots of other entertainment shows were filmed. We used to go into some of the other studios and watch the show rehearse and sometimes film. I would just watch and learn what I could.
At what point did you get back into film and TV?
In 2008 after a long break from the business a friend and I decided to make a low-budget film, we raised the money and got busy making this movie. This led to making some friends in the business, which led to other opportunities to make or participate in other film and TV projects.
You worked on some very notable 80s shows like Who’s the Boss, Moonlighting, Remington Steele, Mr. Belvedere. What memories come to mind about being on set?
Being a big fan of TV my entire life, it was really special to find myself on the set of some shows I loved. I remember literally touching something, like a lamp or chair, and making a memory of being there. Now years later I’ll catch a re-run of one of the shows and remember being there and even look for that lamp or chair I touched!! I know, sounds silly!
Give us a great on set memory for you from any of your projects …
There have actually been a number of memorable events on set over the years; it’s hard to pick one. I think the most recent was on the set of John Schneider’s “Poker Run”, we were shooting a really funny scene and we were all cracking up and trying to keep a straight face and remember our lines, but the whole situation was so silly it was hard to keep it straight. I actually loved that, I felt like I was living in a blooper reel! I hope I get to do more fun projects like that.
You’ve worked with a lot of actors. Who are some of your heroes in the business?
There are a number of people I really liked working with and respect in the business. Mark Wahlberg is the first to come to mind, he always has so many projects going on simultaneously and he’s proven himself to be a sharp businessman besides just a talent. Another would be Rob Reiner, I had heard some things about him and was a little nervous, but he was great, and we talked a lot. He would tell me stories about events in history and how certain things came to pass and that was fun. He even specifically requested me on a second project and I always appreciate that, and sometime later I even got a call from a producer that said he had recommended me for a role.
We completed a great film a few months ago called “His Stretch of Texas Ground”, I produced the film and play the deputy to the Sherriff, who is the main character in the film, we should see that land somewhere this winter or spring. I also produced a 4 episode Pilot called “Be Someone” which was delayed by COVID, but is now complete and we hope to be streaming soon. I’m currently filming a drama-mentary about the Stanford Financial scandal in which I’m playing Alan Stanford.
For more information about Jeff, visit his website: https://www.jeffcaperton.com