Not so long ago, Jameson Irish Whiskey held its third annual ‘First Shot’ film competition – a partnership between Jameson and Kevin Spacey’s ‘Trigger Street’ production house. The comp sees three winners selected from around the world to have their short films produced by Trigger Street, starring some of Hollywood’s finest talent. Last year the films starred Willem Dafoe, while this year the star was Uma Thurman. Having spoken to the US winner Jessica Valentine yesterday, we now focus our attention on South African filmmaker Henco J, whose film Mundane Goddess brought the wrath of the Greek gods to Hollywood. Check out how Henco gets down in our interview below and be sure to watch his award-winning film above.
What was the inspiration for Mundane Goddess?
As we knew we had to write for Uma Thurman, I wanted to give her a strong female character. And being passionate about greek mythology all my life, I thought “what stronger female character is there than a goddess?” I thought it would be interesting and funny to see this powerful character struggle with life, just as we do everyday. There are a couple of themes running through the film, but the main one is about finding happiness by being yourself and standing up for yourself. Off course this is all within the context of lighthearted comedy and satire. I just thought the whole situation was quite funny.
The central character, Hera, and the story itself, have a lot to do with female empowerment. How do you think Uma responded to this theme?
I see it as empowerment in general, not just female. It is about being yourself. Uma responded well to this theme, as she herself exudes confidence and power. Her presence trickled down throughout the set; everybody could feel what she feels.
Was the script written specifically with Uma in mind?
Yes. The competition allows us to write with a specific actor in mind.
It must have been a fairly surreal experience working with Trigger Street. How hands on / off were they throughout the project?
It was surreal and amazing. They were part of the whole process, as they are the producing company. They gave great support for our vision and allowed us to grow in the process. This was a great learning experience, and their collaborative nature nurtured our talents and gave us confidence in ourselves and the project. We were the directors, we made the decisions, but they were always there to support us in this journey.
Was it intimidating / nerve-racking working with names of this caliber?
In the beginning I was very nervous. I mean, just look at the names connected with this project. But after the initial stages were done, you realize that everybody is there to do a job and to support your vision and film. The nervous energy subsides, and you get into the flow of the moment.
What’s next for Henco J?
Next would be feature films — writing the next script and finding funding for it. This was an opportunity. It is now up to me to work hard and make this opportunity count. Jameson and Trigger Street believed enough in me to give me shot, now I have to show them and the world that that belief was not misplaced. There are a lot more films to be made.