Three up-and-coming filmmakers have been given the chance to direct Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning actress Maggie Gyllenhaal as part of Jameson First Shot’s 2016 competition, now in its fifth year.
The three wholly different films, produced by Kevin Spacey’s production company Trigger Street Productions using mostly the same crew, showcase the skills of the writer and director as the originative voice at the helm of their productions. Each responds with their own distinctive flair. On the initiative, Kevin Spacey says: “It’s not about where someone is, it’s about where they might get to in ten years if they’re encouraged, nurtured and guided.”
The first of the three winning commissions is a gloriously shot and soundtracked homage to the 1980s and door-to-door cosmetics saleswomen, written and directed by Cameron Thrower. A monologue opens the film: “To be a beauty for door to door beauty is not only a duty but also fun, what more could a woman in 1986 ask for?” Seemingly vacuous, it cleverly belies the poignancy of the transformative tale to come.
Although not Cameron’s directorial début, having previously completed a number of self-inited short films, this was the first time he was able to step back and breathe as a director at the head of a crew, “I was always wearing 10 different hats on set,” he explains.
“One of my favourite things about filmmaking is getting the chance for other people to take my ideas and make them their own. After that, we come to a final decision of what is best for the story. Teamwork DOES make the dream work, especially when you’re making a movie.”
The second film sees Sheffield-born writer Kat Wood direct a poignant tale of Ruth (Maggie Gyllenhaal) living alone on a beach in a tent, and the human-connection she makes there. It’s a beautifully shot conversation piece, staged in two scenes.
Although Kat has previously worked as a broadcast journalist, and a screenwriter on a number of small projects including Mr Bojagi, which picked up Best Short Film Award at the London Independent Film Festival, Home is her first directorial effort.
“Collaborating with these people is what I loved most about making Home. As soon as I landed I started casting, going to locations and working with my HoD’s to prepare for the shoot,” says Kat.
The New Empress
The final film sees Australian actor Jason Perini move behind the camera to direct Maggie Gyllenhaal and Adam Kulbersh is a bizarre buddy-film following the antics of a couple on the verge of a break-up pretending to get engaged to avoid paying the bill in a gaudy Chinese restaurant, complete with an idiosyncratic Dolly Parton-esque singer strumming away in the corner.
The off-kilter film, the script for which he nearly didn’t submit to the competition, is hopeful and hilarious, and showcases Jason’s skill at handling actors in snappy montage of events grounded in rekindling love. Tarin Anderson handles cinematography with aplomb, framing the jubilant night time activities as a single dreamlike thread.
Maggie Gyllenhaal, known for her Golden Globe nominated performances in films Secretary and Sherrybaby and Emmy and Golden Globe winning turn in BBC miniseries The Honourable Woman, admitted her own nervous excitement working in this short form format: “There’s a whole element of this where I’m totally a beginner… that excites me.”
“I so rarely find a script that speaks to me, but all 20 spoke to me,” says the actress. “It was just like jumping in a couple of days with each director and going for it as much as we could…I felt like they were curious and hungry and interested for my thoughts, so it was really nice. There was a real ease to it.”