While in Los Angeles for the debut of the 2014 Jameson First Shot winning short films, we had the chance to spend a few minutes with award-winning actor and producer Kevin Spacey, the project’s Creative Director, currently on screens world-wide as the ruthless Francis Underwood in the Netflix original series “House of Cards”, for which he also serves as Executive Producer. Spacey is the founder of Trigger Street Productions who bring the visions of the Jameson First Shot winners to screen. We asked him about this year’s South African winning film, The Mundane Goddess by Pretoria-based director Henco J and starring Uma Thurman, about why he felt it important to select South Africa as one of the three participating countries, and where we can expect to see the competition headed in the near future.
Why was South Africa chosen to be part of Jameson First Shot?
I’ve been to South Africa quite a lot. And, if I look at the film industry there I think it’s not where it should be. There isn’t enough support, there isn’t enough financial support, there isn’t enough support of emerging filmmakers. We hope that by bringing attention to particular filmmakers to put a focus on the film industry then we might get some of those who are in positions who have money, and influence and power to start to support their own culture, to start to find ways to allow emerging filmmakers to tell their own stories. Particularly South African stories.
You know, our brief is not that, but, we hope that by doing something that is entertaining, and in the case of this film (The Mundane Goddess) very funny, and using a wonderful performance by Uma, that we will just bring attention to this industry and encourage more and more people to get involved supporting culture in your country.
No, I have to say that the thing that’s been interesting about looking at all the films, and all the years that we’ve done this, is that they’re just great stories. You know there have been a few that’ve been specific like Aleksey’s film is quite specific in terms of it being a Russian story. That hasn’t always been the case. I think that what this proves and shows is that borders, languages, are no barrier to great story-telling, and we can all identify with a particular filmmaker’s way of approaching something. So I think that’s actually what’s encouraging; not our differences but what brings us together over what we share in common.
What was it about Henco’s story that made it a winning film for Trigger Street?
Well it made me laugh, number one, and thinking about Uma doing it. But then we have a big, sort’ve long process where – you know let’s say we even narrow the scripts down to six or five, and in the end three – what happens prior to us making the decision is that generally the members of the departments, the big departments in the film, will speak to the filmmaker on the phone or on Skype, will ask lots of questions, will get a sense of what they’re like. We give them a one page scene that they have to film so that we can see how each filmmaker deals with similar material, it also tells you a little something about the way they think, about their sensibility.
Then Uma spoke to the filmmakers before we made the decision. And then we have people on one side like Dana Brunetti, who is my producing partner who might be looking at these scripts from a practical, production point of view. I’m looking at them from a creative point of view – what offers Uma three very distinct and different roles, which of these directors do we think is good enough, professional enough, and not fucking crazy that we wanna bring on board and support. And then ultimately we make the decision, so there’s a pretty long process before we actually make the decision because you have to look at all those aspects of it. But then once we do, once we make that decision, then it’s our job to trust that filmmaker, to support that filmmaker, and to be there to provide for them everything we can to help get their vision on screen.
How do you see the project expanding in the years to come?
It will expand, we’re going to do more countries next year, and we already know who’s going to star next year. So we’re in the process of putting next year together and at the moment we believe that this will go on for many more years. And I’m delighted that Jameson decided to join when we came to them about five years ago and I got them very drunk in Dublin and talked about the idea that they should do more than what they were doing – which was great, supporting film festivals. They do the Dublin Film festival every year and support screenings that they do of films, but I really wanted to encourage them to actually get into the business of supporting filmmakers and that’s how this whole thing was born.
And there you have it! Stay tuned for info about the 2015 competition starring Adrien Brody. More info and interviews from Jameson First Shot 2014 this way.
Jameson First Shot 2014 Film Posters by Chris DeLorenzo: