Over two days at the end of April, 28-year-old freelance writer and director Mark
Middlewick shot his short film, The Mascot, in Los Angeles with the support of a
professional Hollywood cast and crew.
Guided by none other than the award-winning production company, Trigger Street
Productions, Middlewick was given the ultimate opportunity to make his filmmaking
dream a reality – which is exactly what the Jameson First Shot competition is
Producer Dana Brunetti of Trigger Street, along with actor and filmmaker Kevin
Spacey, developed the competition as a way for emerging filmmakers to get a real
shot at a successful career in the industry; and with Adrien Brody as this year’s lead
actor, the advantage is very, very real.
Middlewick works in the South African commercials industry and is currently
developing a feature screenplay with the support of the National Film and Video
Foundation. But his winning story, which earned him this filmmaking golden ticket,
is about a mascot for a basketball team who, after being retrenched, decides to
confront his replacement.
Upon hearing he had won Middlewick says, “I was overcome by an equal amount of
excitement and crippling anxiety.’ But then who wouldn’t be, knowing they’d be
directing an actor like Brody who won an Academy Award for his role in The Piano.
During production Middlewick found Brody to be friendly and approachable but
always professional, which made him less intimidating. “On set he’s intense and
very focused. He gave of himself completely on every take, no matter how
inconsequential the shot seemed. I actually wish I could show young actors the
outtakes… He was completely present in every shot,’ says Middlewick.
Aside from the obvious excitement and a change of scenery, Middlewick describes
his experience on a Hollywood set as being very similar to shooting in South Africa.
Further to this he feels it has given him a new perspective on local talent and
opportunity, “I think we fail to recognise just how accomplished our local crews are.
We’re very lucky to have such talented people behind the camera and they’re
definitely on par with American crews.’
He adds, “I don’t want to sound like the oblivious naive optimist, but we’re sitting on
a gold mine here and we’re not taking advantage. We’re making excuses for not
making unique, personal films that take risks and break the mould.’ Middlewick
says he is inspired now more than ever to create idiosyncratic personal films set in
South Africa which challenge the viewer and give insight into characters they might
not ordinarily be exposed to.
Written by Carly Barnes