Monday, April 23, 2018

Jones Rolling With Short Films

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 at 12:52 PM

Mark Jones hasn’t made a feature film in several years, but he’s on a roll with short films.

“I’ve kind of stumbled upon something. ‘Winding Brook’ is the exception. But if you look at ‘Death In A Small Town,' ‘The Best Wedding Gift,' and ‘Henry,’ they all take place on one set with few characters.”
click to enlarge Corey Parker in "Death In A Small Town"
  • Corey Parker in "Death In A Small Town"
Jones will screen these four films at Studio on the Square on Tuesday, April 24 at 7 PM.

Taken together, the snack-sized scenes form their own universe of domestic drama with a cynical, sometimes soapy edge. The dark comedy “Death In A Small Town” contrasts the feel-good political speech of a small town mayor with the horrible reality behind his rise to power. The short is built around a pitch-perfect performance by Corey Parker.

“He’s a top-notch actor," Jone said. "We’re fortunate to have someone like him in our community.”
click to enlarge Drew Smith in "Henry"
  • Drew Smith in "Henry"

Jones loves to put the pieces on the table and watch them snap into place, as he does in “Henry”, which features a tour-de-force performance by Drew Smith as a single father having a heated conference call with his siblings about the arrangements for his mother’s death. Here, the big reveal is used for pathos rather than a punchline.

click to enlarge Savannah Bearden in "The Best Wedding Gift"
  • Savannah Bearden in "The Best Wedding Gift"

In “The Best Wedding Gift," Savannah Bearden gets to go full soap opera anti-heroine.

“Savannah knocked it out of the park,” says Jones. “I’ve been wanting to work with her for a while, but it hasn’t been the right opportunity. So, when I conceived of this script, I thought, 'man, Savannah will be great.' She owns this film.”

Bearden is a bride to be who has an icy confrontation with the best man, played by Jacob Winfield.

”Jacob is a theater actor,” says Jones. “Usually, when I work with theater actors, they’re great, but their first three or four takes are huge. That’s not needed in film. Usually theater actors are playing to the guy in the twelfth row. But he played it so well, I had to tell him to play it up. He was too small.

Jones says careful casting and preparation is the key to a good performance.

“I really try to work with the actor individually, and then in pairs with their cast mates to give them the background of their character," Jone says. "Why are you entering this scene thinking what you’re thinking?

"That’s something I really believe in as a writer: character motivation. I go to too many films and think, ‘Why is the character doing that? That doesn’t make sense. No one would actually do that. What’s their motivation?’ Jacob’s motivation in this film comes from a very good heart. He really thinks he’s doing the right thing.”

His care with the actors pays off in “Winding Brook”.

“Cecilia Wingate is only in about 45 seconds of 'Winding Brook,' but she does great," Jones says. "That’s a great example of someone who has a really small role — she’s a nurse — but she owns that 45 seconds. There are no small parts.”

click to enlarge Corey Parker, Kim Justice, Ryan Azada, and Jack Prudhome in "Winding Brook"
  • Corey Parker, Kim Justice, Ryan Azada, and Jack Prudhome in "Winding Brook"

Jones was recently named Honorary Director for Life of the Outflix Film Festival and is the primary mover behind Indie Memphis’ IndieGrant program.

All proceeds from this screening will go to the Indie Memphis Youth Film Festival. His next short film “Football Jocks vs. Theater Fags Memphis Style” is already in the can.

“It’s different,” he says with a laugh. “I want to make another feature, but I’m enjoying this two-year run of short films.”

The Mark Jones film showcase starts at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24 at Studio on the Square. You can purchase tickets on the Indie Memphis website.

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