On June 19th, Kevin Spacey, Dana Brunetti and Willem Dafoe were in attendance at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn to celebrate the United States winner of the Jameson First Shot competition. USA winner Shirlyn Wong was in attendance for the world premiere of her short film, Love’s Routine.
The Jameson First Shot competition is an annual competition that allows for emerging filmmakers to get their work made and get a break into the industry. With numerous submissions, Shirlyn Wong was the United States finalist, along with Russian finalist Anton Lanshakov for his short The Smile Man, and South African finalist Hanneke Schutte for her short of Saving Norman.
Willem Dafoe joined the cast for the second year of the competition as aspiring filmmakers were urged to share their stories to get het chance to direct him. Triggerstreet Productions, a production company started by Kevin Spacey and Dana Brunetti, would produce the finalists’ works as the winners would get to see their idea come alive.
Through a rigorous screening process, selected filmmakers had to provide not only their script idea for the competition, but also their previous work, a video biography as well as direct a short two minute scene from a script Triggerstreet provided. After that, Spacey, Brunetti and Dafoe chose the winners following a series of Skype calls and weighing the fact if the film could be realistically made.
“I’m born and raised in Queens, New York. I just finished my coursework at the NYU Film School and I’m in my thesis year. Then this happened and that’s my background in the film world I guess,” stated Wong. When asked what her initial reaction was when she heard she won, Wong stated, “I really didn’t believe it, like I thought a couple of days later they would call me and tell me, ‘Opps, we made a mistake.’ It’s complete disbelief. I think even in the video, I was so shocked I couldn’t move and they just saw me in a blank stare. It’s really unbelievable. I can’t even describe it- it’s so surreal. I honestly did not think I would win.”
Her advice to new filmmakers? “Just keep doing what you love. There was a part of me that kept saying I would never amount to anything in my career and this whole Jameson experience just gave me the confidence to keep going.”
Since the contest involves three winners directing their work with Dafoe as the lead actor, Spacey had something special to say about the process and thank Dafoe. “I have to say thank you to Willem because when you normally go to an actor with a project, you have a script and a director. And in this case, I said to him there’s three scripts so we don’t know what they’re going to be yet and there’s three directors and we don’t know who they’re going to be yet but will you please jump off this building with me. . . He had never done a short film before so he loved the idea of him expanding into a new genre and I’m just incredibly delighted that he took the leap of faith.”
This was also the first time Willem Dafoe had ever acted in a short film. Kevin Spacey mentioned that Dafoe was a “theater rat” and that was when he first had the idea to go ask if he would like to star in the films, since Dafoe, “always had a kind of bravery to the work he does so I was hoping that he would kind of get the notion to give support to an emerging filmmaker and he jumped on board.”
Dafoe was dying to tell new and emerging filmmakers to, “Surround yourself with good people and do what you want to do. And if you can’t do what you want to do, take it someplace else.”
If you’re thinking about possibly submitting your work for next year’s competition, Kevin Spacey spoke about the criteria every judge was looking for. “Dana Brunetti, who runs Triggerstreet, was looking at it from production values. You know, could we accomplish doing the movie in two days, all those sorts of aspects. I was looking at it in terms of what could offer Willem three kinds of distinct roles and three kinds of distinct ideas since he had never done short films before. And then we put them sort of through a trial and error. We’d direct a scene, we’d look at the previous work they’d done, we’d interview them on Skype, and talk to most of the major departments on the films. We get a sense of the person we’re getting involved with and who we think in the end they will be able to handle themselves on a film set . . . And so we were very fortunate to come up with six emerging film makers who were able to make really wonderful films.”
You can view the finalists’ work below; and don’t forget to visit Jameson’s Youtube channel to view more behind the scenes videos as well as last year’s works, as well as visit the First Shot page to learn more about the contest.