Mark Middlewick already has six months of work experience in Hollywood on his CV, after deciding to broaden his knowledge and empty his wallet.
Middlewick (27) graduated with honours in dramatic art from the University of the Witwatersrand and was lecturing in screenwriting and film theory when he packed his bags.
“I wanted to see how things worked in the industry so I mailed every company I could find on earth. I got a couple of responses and they said come over and do a bit of work,” he says.
“So I went to Los Angeles and soaked up as much as I could. I was living for little and taking what work I could, and if I got paid it was a great bonus.”
The learning experience was excellent, but it also persuaded Middlewick to return home and work here.
“In LA you are a tiny fish in a massive pond whereas in South Africa the opportunities are massive,” he says.
He now works as a freelance researcher, scriptwriter and director, making anything from dog food commercials to corporate promotional videos, music videos and short films.
Last year his 30-minute short film Security was screened at the London, Africa and Seattle International Film Festivals. Then his music video for singer Nakhane Touré was nominated as the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa at the 2014 Design Indaba.
He is currently being funded by the National Film & Video Foundation to develop the script for a comedy film satirising social and political issues. He is also working on a second script for a “slow moving, avant-garde film”.
Middlewick’s ambition is to direct full-length films, claiming he’s such a control freak that he couldn’t bear to write a script and let someone else direct it.
But at the moment he’s accepting any work to broaden his experience and pay the bills.
“If someone comes with a job I say yes because I want to learn as much as I can. At this stage even the most miniscule, mind-numbing job can be an experience that tests my storytelling muscles,” he says. — Lesley Stones