Mark Jason Welch defines passion: in storytelling, in writing, in filmaking. The Barbados-raised film-maker has recently wrapped the short film Portrait and a music video for the single, “Get It Right”. Welch dropped by DC Actors Examiner to explain what makes him so prolific.
Q – What got you into film-making?
A – Good question William. I’ve always been into storytelling. I started out as writer in Barbados and after moderate success there gave everything up and moved to the U.S. to pursue an MFA in Film Production from Howard University.
I was always fascinated by film and for the most part loved the stories. Still, I felt like most of the time they didn’t speak to me specifically. I wanted to see more characters like myself on screen: brothers who did things that weren’t some derivative socio-political exploration of black life or what black life was expected to be like…just people being people; falling in love, solving mysteries, being superheroes, punk musicians, skateboarders, artists and failing or excelling at it; doesn’t matter; just not defined by ‘blackness’. Stories, good stories surrounding people of color that would appeal to mass audiences.
And then I saw Slumdog Millionaire and felt that good, rich, organically told stories, much like music, do transcend geographical and cultural boundaries. I decided to get off my ass and pursue making the kinds of stories I wanted to see and not wait on anyone else to do it for me. I also felt that coming from the Caribbean, a largely untapped treasure trove of interesting subject matter, I would have a unique perspective to offer. We’ll see how it goes.
Q – Do you have a favorite genre that you like to produce?
A – Not really. My stuff is kind of weird. Coming from a poetic/ creative writing background I feel that my stories largely reflect that….not following a wholly linear narrative but focusing more on subtext – what’s not said. My favorite film-makers evoke that: Bergman, Fellini, Bunuel, there’s always a sense of something deeper and more sinister at work. It’s a tough and tedious but rewarding profession. I’m just trying to learn and hopefully follow what I was put on this earth for to its logical conclusion. Make stuff that I’m happy with and hopefully viewers would be as well.
Q – Who would you say is your biggest inspiration for becoming a filmmaker?
A – I dunno. For most of my adult life I kept a folder of things I wanted to get involved in or learn that I had sketched or cut out from magazines or whatever (this was before Pinterest of course). When I was cleaning some stuff out one day, around the time I was deciding whether I should take the risk and leave a pretty solid career behind to pursue my Masters, I found something I had cut out from years back of the Coen brothers advertising some Film Program or the other, their faces pasted beneath the program logo along with all the requisite information one would need to apply. It wasn’t Howard but I saw it as a sign and took the plunge.
I wouldn’t be actively working in film if I didn’t study it or at least the path would have been much more circuitous. So for now I’ll thank the Coens. I guess….. but I love what film allows, how all the other art forms come to rest beneath it’s umbrella. I mean, it leaves none of them out. It really lets you play. That is ultimately inspiring and sublime.
Q – What projects are you currently working on right now?
A – I’m working with the production company Twelve14. Our focus is music video and visual storytelling. We recently shot Tenia Mackall’s video for the track ‘Get It Right’ (https://vimeo.com/114414936) and there are more videos in queue to be released, in production or in pre-production.
I recently wrapped principal photography on a film I wrote called Portrait about a shy somewhat sociopathic, reclusive artist who is stricken by a beautiful girl he meets at a gallery, becomes completely loss in the fantasy of painting her and effectively begins to stalk her. I’m working on the editing now so promotional material will be available soon. A lot of really talented people joined me for this project.
By the way you can follow me and Twelve14 on FB at facebook.com/imagesbyTwelve14, Twitter: @markjasonwelch/@Twelve14, IG: @Twelve14Film @mjasonwelch.
Q – Do you have any other projects in the works?
A – Yes. I have a screenplay for another film going into pre-production in a few weeks; more music videos and the production of a feature film. I really just want to keep shooting visually muscular entertaining material which challenges folks and keeps them engaged.
Listen to my Inside Acting Radio Show and follow me at Twitter at /Inside_Acting and Facebook at /william.t.powell.
Remember to do something for your career every day and break a leg!