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Meet Jack Laflin (Merman Jax) of Dark Tide Productions

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jack Laflin (Merman Jax).

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am the founder of Dark Tide Productions, which was founded in 2013. The idea originated far before that, but it really came to fruition while understanding the casting landscape of the entertainment industry in general. As I was working as a model and actor, I became disenchanted by the work available to me. I saw limited opportunities for performers of color and LGBT+ performers. Worse, the opportunities I did see for those of us who were “different”, was at best lackluster and sometimes worse, offensive. I didn’t feel like my creativity was being fostered and wanted to change that for people like me. After all, I am a gay, first-generation American on my mother’s side.

I also didn’t see water performing (mermaid) companies truly supporting the environment or charity organizations. Sure, they talked about it all the time but didn’t actually donate their time, much less financial resources. I wanted to put my money where my mouth was. The idea of using conservation as some sort of PR tool really saddened me and still does today.

Dark Tide Productions is now a leading “mermaid company”, providing event entertainment that specializes in true diversity in their performance team. Clients and events now actively seek us out as a polished and trained entertainment provider that represents a much wider spectrum of creatives. I think culture is beautiful and I always want to celebrate it. If people really want to open their eyes, they can sense an organization of integrity, dignity and kindness. The public has responded positively and I am so grateful for that.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Of course it hasn’t been a smooth road. However, the struggles you face are definitely something you have to acknowledge in regards to your hard work and success. Starting something that you truly believe in without knowing if the market will connect to your core values- it’s an absolute risk. In terms of performers, people always reveal themselves to you eventually. You can always believe the best of people and hope they rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, some people just want to be famous, just want the attention, but don’t want to do the work. What a surprise, right? I feel very lucky to have a core cast that I not only respect but trust. These aren’t just performers I’m in contact with behind a computer screen or phone, these are human beings I share my life with. These are genuine friends.

The jealously from others was something I was not prepared for, at least not in the degree it manifested. The manipulative social tactics, undercutting and theft of ideas, was disappointing- though I knew it meant I was doing something right. I have no interest in competing with other companies, as my focus will always be on the quality of service we provide. If we sold our minds, bodies and souls like others have, we could definitely be more well known. There always be other event entertainment options out there, but we get to go to sleep with our character in tact.

Other challenges include getting the public and the professional mermaid community to see People of Color as legitimate performers. I have learned so much from other companies about the type of company I don’t want to be. Actually hearing a business owner say things like, “Mermaids can’t be fat!”, “They can’t have short hair!”, “Don’t look too gay!” etc. Really antiquated and toxic ideaologies that have no place in my life, both personally and professionally. The fact is, Dark Tide Productions is completely unique in our field of work, especially in Southern California. Inclusivity and Representation is not just a goal, it’s a tent pole of who we are.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Dark Tide Productions offers event entertainment through a variety of mediums and themes. From trained polynesian dancers, Mezo-American folklore/horror experiences and especially what we are primarily known for, merfolk! Our water performers can be ambient poolside entertainment or create full choreographed underwater shows. We are hired for private parties, public events, fine art photography and of course, fundraiser work for charities. We proudly support organizations/events like AIDS Walk LA, Wolf Connection, Aquarium of the Pacific, etc.

I really am most proud of my team of performers. They are dedicated, trained and beautiful people inside and out. When I get feedback from clients on how our mermaids not only looked amazing but were actually friendly and fun, it makes me both sad and happy. Sad they clearly have worked with other groups that have let them down, but happy we have been able to show them the quality of performers that are out there. You have to look behind a glossy website and overly-photoshopped photos and feel out really what a company truly represents. Not just what their website says they represent but look at their literal actions, which will always reveal the truth. Being the most authentic person you can be will always set you apart to those paying attention.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was a painfully shy child, which is why this life in the public eye seems insane to me half the time. Even now, if I am not actively performing for the public, I have no interest in being the center of attention or being in photos or videos. I was just assisting a friend on a photoshoot recently and there is footage of me nearly falling over backwards on the beach to reflexively get out of the background of what I thought was a photo, but ended up being a hilarious video. I think having a very grounded sense of self is so vital in working in the entertainment industry. I’m happy to be surrounded by people who keep me grounded as well. I love that I have a boyfriend who tells me his co-worker’s cat has more followers than me on Instagram; I totally get it, the cat is cute. So, in that sense I haven’t changed much as a child since general attention and outside validation isn’t important to me. Hard work that achieves results is.

As a typical shy kid, I loved reading, especially about animals and mythology/folklore. That was my world to lose myself in. Now, as an adult, I get to bring those stories, those archetypes to life and it’s a dream come true. I also really enjoyed team sports. The physicality mixed with the team camaraderie was something I really responded to. I had a great focus on competitive swimming, even medaling with the Butterfly Stroke in my county. This obviously gave me a great base for all of my future water performing.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
One Breath Photo, Mermaid Wrangler Photography

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