Watching her students succeed brings Jacqui Kaese joy.
For the owner of Spotlight Academy, helping people is key, whether it’s helping them build confidence and self-esteem, with auditions and acting coaching or bringing Nanaimo to the attention of movie and TV producers.
“For me as a teacher of acting, the biggest thrill for me is when my students get work,” said Kaese. “I am an acting coach, that is primarily what I do, so therefore I see my job as helping people to secure agents and get work in the agency.”
Kaese has run Spotlight Academy for 20 years in Nanaimo and also partnered with Lynn Carrow, who has worked as a casting director for the X-Files and Da Vinci’s Inquest to provide an all-service casting company for television productions that come to Vancouver Island. They work with the north and south Island film commissions.
This year, Kaese is being recognized by the community with the Excellence in Culture honour being presented at the annual Culture and Heritage awards.
Kaese didn’t know she had been nominated for the Excellence in Culture category this year until she received a call from Chris Barfoot, Nanaimo cultural coordinator, informing her she won.
“To me, you know, winning the excellence in my city, because I am so community-minded with everything that I do to further the future of film on the Island, especially the mid-Island area, it’s probably the closest thing to winning an Oscar, an Academy Award,” said Kaese. “I think he probably had to pull the phone away from his ear when I squealed at the top of my voice in celebration and part shock.”
Kaese said she’s been fortunate to work as an on-set acting coach with some of her students over the years including with Cameron Bright on the movie Birth with Nicole Kidman.
“Realizing how shy and introverted Nicole Kidman is, but seeing the magic that happened when the camera started rolling. I watched her film her scene, it’s one of her most famous scenes … There is a scene when she is sitting in the opera and you see everything she just goes through and to watch that magic was, I mean, who gets to work with Nicole Kidman for four months?” asked Kaese. “I was pretty blessed to do that. That’s a standout moment for me.”
Another standout moment was working on Chesapeake Shores, which filmed in several location in mid Vancouver Island, including Nanaimo. It’s her second year working with the Hallmark series.
“What’s happened with Chesapeake Shores is it has blown, it has smashed, it has been the most viewed TV series in the history of Hallmark channel,” said Kaese. “Smashed all records. What we are learning from that is visually we have locations that are undiscovered on the Island that we are building infrastructure here so we can create more jobs. And I am part and parcel of that because when normally they would bring over a crew from Vancouver what’s happening now is that they are hiring more and more locally and I am in charge of a huge department for the whole of the television series.”
Last year, Kaese said the TV series employed about 500 extras from Vancouver Island and this year it is estimating employing more than 750.
The series will start filming on Vancouver Island for the second season this spring.
Kaese is receiving the award for her passion and commitment to the fine arts community, students, theatre and the film industry.