How being fearless landed one filmmaker on Maggie Gyllenhaal’s doorstep.
As we close out our partnership with the folks at Jameson First Shot, we’d like to take a moment and spotlight one of the up-and-coming filmmakers who was selected by Kevin Spacey, Trigger Street Productions and Maggie Gyllenhaal to bring his short film to life.
Our spotlight is on Cameron Thrower, a filmmaker from South Carolina who had been plugging away at his dream of becoming a filmmaker for over a decade before winning Jameson First Shot. In an interview published on Buzzfeed, Thrower describes what brought him to Los Angeles and inspired him to tell stories like the one in his winning short, Beauty Mark: “I joined the AmeriCorps for about three years, teaching theater to K–12 grades about domestic violence, homophobia, conflict resolution… I learned so much from that. I really just wanted to tell those stories. So that brought me to LA almost 10 years ago. Throughout those years, I was on set as a PA, so I learned so much when I first got to LA about the actual industry instead of just reading it from books and being in a classroom. After that, I was like, I really want to focus on my own projects. I really want to start writing for me. To do that, I had to leave the set and work at a restaurant. I just learned that as long as you’re taking care of people then it will come through in your projects.”
But after a while, Thrower realized that working 15–16 hours a day as a PA wasn’t providing enough time to work on his own projects, so he did the classic LA thing: he got a job in the service industry. Though as he describes, there’s even more to the flexibility that working at a restaurant offers: “You know in LA, a restaurant is a casting agency… I’ve met so many amazing actors who are actually in big movies today.”
Ever since, Cameron has been embodying the “Sine Metu” mantra, which is the Jameson Family motto and means “Without Fear”, living and working without fear in one of the most competitive industries in the world. It led him to writing Beauty Mark and finding himself behind the camera for a Maggie Gyllenhaal movie, the opportunity of a lifetime. Below, we conducted a brief Q&A with Cameron about his short, the experience of making Beauty Mark, and what advice he’d give to future Jameson First Shot
Go Behind The Scenes with Cameron:
FSR: What would you say is the biggest thing you learned while shooting ‘Beauty Mark’? What tools will you take with you as you move forward as a filmmaker that you didn’t have previously?
Cameron Thrower: The biggest thing I’ve learned was to be myself and trust my gut throughout production. All these people believed in me, and I didn’t want to let them down. There are so many things and so many amazing emotions I went through; from actually winning Jameson First Shot on Hollywood Blvd., to working with Maggie, to collaborating with Trigger Street and the entire cast and crew. I think the biggest takeaway is to trust the process and have fun! I’ve wanted to do this since I was 10 years old, and now to be in my early 30’s, having worked with this A-list talent gives me the confidence to go out there and make anything happen.
2. Your film shows an affinity for the 1980s, both aesthetically and tonally. What about this story felt right for that specific time period?
I grew up in the 80’s and the whole story just kind of fell into place once we had our main character, which was a door to door beauty saleswoman. While I was writing this movie, I listened to so many 80’s songs which help create the overall tone I wanted for the film. As for the actual story line, I think filmmaking and script writing gives one the opportunity to educate oneself. I learned that the 80’s were a crucial time in the development of the Trans community. Support groups were beginning to form and people were learning more about these vital members of society from talk shows (Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael). I really wanted the story to take place in the 80’s because that’s when the light was beginning to shine a little brighter on this hidden community in a very pure way; before all the reality shows, internet, cell phones, etc. What would it feel like to be so alone and lost that you would be comfortable enough to invite a stranger into your house to help you? That’s the question I kept asking myself while writing “Beauty Mark”. I wanted to tell a story without labels; a story about a human being.
3. Who would you consider some of your influences for this particular story? And beyond that, who are some storytellers that you admire?
I’m inspired by so many filmmakers. One of my favorites would have to be John Hughes. The stories he tells are his stories, you can tell there is a little piece of him in every single movie he has made. The comedy, the drama, the insecurities. Also after almost 30 years, his films are still relevant and people can’t help but watch them when they are TV. A couple other favorites are Spike Jonze, Robert Zemeckis, and Nicolas Winding Refn.
4. What is some wisdom that you would impart to future First Shot hopefuls? What did you find to be the thing that helped you stand out among the numerous other contestants?
For me, it’s not about making tons of money, it’s about learning to make a living telling stories that can inspire others. I’ve met so many people out in Los Angeles that are all about making money first, when they should be about the characters, story, and developing their craft. I think that’s why so many people have given up on this industry because you can go broke real quick. I’ve been there… so many times and I plan on being there again. As long as I feel I’ve gotten that movie out of my system and it’s reached an audience and impacted just one person, I can go to bed and wake up wanting to do it all over again. My biggest advice is to follow your own path and don’t give up halfway through. Some people go to film school, some work on movie sets, and some work in restaurants living off tips making short films. As long as you have that passion for filmmaking for the right reasons, then you are sure to succeed at one point or another. We all have a movie within us and we all express them differently; through dance, painting, filmmaking, writing, or singing. I just happen to have a 1000 movies within me, and if I don’t get some of them out, I will go crazy. My last piece of advice is enter Jameson First Shot! You have nothing to lose except an opportunity of a lifetime! Be true to yourself and write a script that inspires you.
Watch Cameron’s Film Beauty Mark:
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