Distilled spirits met spirit of indie film, as Kevin Spacey’s Trigger Street Prods. picked three aspiring filmmakers to write and direct shorts starring Willem Dafoe, in a competition sponsored by Jameson whiskey.
Trigger Street, in conjunction with Pernod Ricard’s Jameson brand, sorted through hundreds of entries to select one winner each from U.S., South Africa and Russia — the three biggest markets for the whiskey.
It’s second year for the Jameson First Shot contest. Three-year pact came together when Spacey was at 2011 Dublin Film Festival, which Jameson sponsors. Spacey, Oscar-winning thesp whose recent turns include starring in “House of Cards” on Netflix, said he stipulated from the outset that films not include product placement. Rules specify that films not include scenes of excessive drinking, among other conditions.
“It just sort of made sense to take it one step further with Jameson, from sponsoring a film festival to actually supporting short films,” Spacey said.
The competish’s 2013 U.S. winner is Shirlyn Wong, an NYU graduate film student currently working on her thesis project. She described her 9-minute short, “Love’s Routine,” as a dark comedy about Barry (Dafoe) and his elderly wife, Margie (Linda Porter), that explores the nature of human love. The other two winners were South Africa’s Hanneke Schutte and Russia’s Anton Lanshakov.
“There’s so much rejection in the industry,” said Wong, 30. “For me, now I have so much more confidence and drive.”
Trigger Street prexy Dana Brunetti declined to provide project’s production budgets but said they were on the order of a “student film.” But he added that the company enlisted experienced cast and crew for the shoots, which took place in L.A. this spring over the span of two weeks.
Dafoe, who boarded project at Spacey’s behest, said he had never worked on short films before (or student films, for that matter) but found the experience rewarding.
“I believe in it,” Dafoe said. “It was exciting to work with people at the beginning of their careers who aren’t jaded.”
Spacey starred in the three 2012 Jameson First Shot films but said he wanted to bring in another actor to give the project more credibility.
Trigger Street and Jameson premiered “Love’s Routine” and screened the other two shorts Wednesday night at Hotel Wythe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Companies posted them online at jamesonfirstshot.com and YouTube.
Jameson First Shot will run at least one more year, with potential to extend beyond. Contest solicits films geared around one of three themes: “legendary,” “humorous” and “a very tall tale.” In an odd twist, California residents are not eligible to enter because of a state law that prohibits sweepstakes sponsored by liquor companies.
Watch the three 2013 winning shorts:
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