Face-to-Face with iDidTht: Featuring Mark Middlewick from Gentlemen Films
Director Mark Middlewick from Gentlemen Films is a true movie buff. He is obsessed with French New Wave cinema, the history of film, film critique and movements, and even pursued a successful career as a film academic. But his was a passion far too big for lecture halls, and let’s be honest, he could never make it to class in time while being weighed down by the crushing existential crisis and reality of his own purpose.
Meeting Mark in person, one is at first presented with a fresh-faced suburban-bred, Catholic schooled gentleman #ProudMom Perfectly coiffed disheveled hair, a beard that will impress even the most discerning Cape Town hipster, a great sense of humour, and a splash of welcoming irreverence. But his work reveals a much darker, melancholic side to this director. He sums it up best when he reveals: ‘I like really sad depressing things.’ 😢
“Commercials give me the chance to create. Being involved in the industry is so much fun, just to be making, collaborating and riffing. It’s an amazing experience. Sometimes I’ll be on set and it’s this massive ad and I’ll look around and say to myself ‘wow, we have the best jobs in the world’.”
As Picasso famously said: ‘Good artists copy. Great artists steal.’ Mark has many influences that he is not afraid to borrow from, which makes him a better director. He doesn’t overcomplicate the process and the core emotion, sincerity and the overall messaging is always there, often creating a beautiful piece of artistry. In person he is extremely open, but his work offers him the opportunity to exorcise another side of himself and grapple with that. Here are iDidTht’s top picks.
The Mascot, starring Adrien Brody (yes, you read that correctly), saw Mark head over to Los Angeles to shoot his screenplay over two days. The opportunity was awarded to him after winning the Jameson First Shot competition.
Security was made in 2013 when production legends Focus Features chose Mark as one of five African filmmakers to fly to the States to see his screenplay come to life.
If Nakahne Toure’s name doesn’t ring a bell, we presume it’s because you have recently obtained a severe head injury. We are sorry and wish you a swift recovery. To bring you up to speed, Nakhane (singer, actor and writer) is most recently known for his leading role in the highly controversial film ‘Inxeba (The Wound)’ and often collaborates with Mark on his music videos.
Mark: “Fog was super minimal and one of the bravest things I’ve done. We stuck to our guns to make something where very little happens and it’s just about his voice. We’ve just done his new video which is the launch of his album in Europe, and has been the highlight of my career. The video is set for release in March.”
And just because it’s the film on everyone’s lips (and Tweetdecks) at the moment, we had to ask, what Mark thinks of Nakhane’s latest film ‘Inxeba (The Wound)’. Mark: “It’s the perfect example of what we should be making. It’s a new wave of African cinema, it’s unique and it’s personal and it’s unapologetic. Nakhane has never sold out based on the integrity of his personal work, unwavering in what it is. And I think you can do that in commercials too, integrity is a big thing in what you do.”
iDidTht’s Director’s Chair for Mark Middlewick
Congratulations Mark! iDidTht awards you with the highest honour (possibly in the world, ever), your very own Director’s Chair.
Mark get’s this French T-Back Stool. French, because, well, he used to put ‘fin’ at the end of his screenplays at Varsity (we just had to bring that up Mark😉). But really, Mark has the wonderful ability to strip back his work. He dilutes it down to its core. Like this chair, each moment in his films are functional. We are only presented with the visuals that we need to see and Mark trusts that his audience will piece together the rest. He loves simplicity and doesn’t rely on over the top performances, flashy camera moves and excessively instructional music. And that, in itself, is damn refreshing in a time when everything from an ad to an Instagram post feels like a Sundance coming-of-age film.
Mark’s characters are beautifully created, each with a nuanced subtlety, and of course, the classic Mark Middlewick Stamp of Sadness.
“It’s a visceral feeling you get in your gut when the right actor walks in. I firmly believe that if they intrigue me they’ll inherently intrigue the audience. Often I’m casting them because of their essence and using that as the core of their character. At the end of the day, it’s not about ‘showing’ you a performance, but rather about revealing a raw honest human truth, whether comedic or dramatic.”
Mark The Bank Manager
2017 saw Mark direct a series of bank ads #ChaChing, which seems like a far stretch from some of the short films and music videos he has created in the past. We asked him to break it down for us: “With bigger budget commercials there are obviously many more voices in the room, but it’s a challenge I’ve relished. You’re very often the foremost voice in the room, the person that steers this massive cruise liner, and I like the challenge of guiding everyone toward a singular unflinching end result that upholds the integrity of the initial idea. Ironically, bigger budget commercials often give you less space to play, but because of the scale of the project you can have a bigger vision, which is always fun. But the end of the day it’s all about creating honest work that speaks to the audience.”
1. What boards excite you?
“Boards that aren’t afraid of being emotionally complex, and straddle the line between comedy and drama. Regardless of genre, I yearn for great boards that challenge me to unpack the concept from the inside out and grapple with the theory behind the board.”
2. Name the actor who would play you in the movie of your life?
3. Show us your most recently used emojis immediately!
4. What industry advice would you give an 18-year-old Mark?
“Just watch as much shit as you can. Watch everything. Consume everything.”
5. First movie you remember watching?
“The Land Before Time. That film is really sad…like everything I’ve made, haha.”
6. If you could be any film equipment on set, what would you be?
7. What do you want it to say on your tombstone?
Mark: “He was true to who he was.”
iDidTht: “Noooo Mark! That’s so 👊🍆💦”
Mark: “Haha, okay point taken…”
8. Okay, so now demonstrate the three emojis that best sum up Mark Middlewick.
The computer man 👨💻
The aubergine 🍆
The flic-flac one 🤸♂️
9. Who is the most famous person in your phonebook?
“I think I have Adrien’s number.”
(We faint internally as we realise he is referring to Adrien Brody)
10. What ad do you wish you did?
“Director Ali Ali strips this commercial down to its bare essentials. The camera, lighting and the actors’ physicality tell the story. No shot is wasted, with each one progressing the plot. Instead of taking three shots to get a beat across, he’ll only take one. At the same time, my inner cinephile loves that he’s riffing on directors like Bergman and Tarkovsky. A nice little Easter Egg for members of the audience.”
11. If you could change one thing about the commercials industry, what would it be?
“I think to trust creative more. Very often we are so worried about offending someone or we aren’t brave enough sometimes.”
Produced by the iDidTht Content Studio
Credits: Writer – Anne Hirsch / Art Director – Julie Maunder
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