Solihull secondary school teacher ‘dried up’ while chasing horror film Dream

Lights, Camera and Bank Balance – A teacher at Solihull Secondary School has ‘dryed herself up’ by entering the tumultuous world of filmmaking.

But for first-time director James Mason, making a decade-long dream come true has been worth every penny and savings during his first two years of work.

The premiere screening of his short horror film To Catch a Fish will take place at Millennium Point on the Friday before its release on YouTube later this month — but you can check out the trailer first.

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To make his 30 Minutes debut on the line, the English teacher and media lead at St. John Henry Newman Catholic College in Solihull used online forums to source his production team.

First-time director James Mason has realized a decade-long dream of making a short film – To Catch a Fish

James then shot the film at his parents’ home in Stratford-upon-Avon, starring his father Graham in a bad role as ‘The Gent’ and former university friend Hugh Brentnall in the lead. Award-winning acting services were called.

Estimating that the film cost him £7,000 to make, James said: “While my friends are saving for the mortgage, I’m saving for the film. All I had left was , he will go that way.

“While this left me really drained, I was determined to be the sole financier and by focusing the expenses on the crew I was able to hire a high-end production team.”

Dad Graham trods boards at the Old Rap Theater in Birmingham – where Laurence Olivier, Albert Finney, Derek Jacobi and Brian Cox all cut their teeth.

First-time director James Mason cast his own father, Graham Mason, as the villain in his first short film, To Catch a Fish.
Schoolteacher James Mason casts his own father, Graham Mason, as the villain in his first short film To Catch a Fish

The Friend Who was nominated as Best Actor at the Rainbow Umbrella Film Festival in 2020 and, like James, is a former member of Keele University’s drama society.

James shares his name with the late Huddersfield-born film legend James Mason, who made over 100 films and was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Actor in 1955 for George Cooker’s version of A Star Is Born. Approval was also included.

Because of the language of To Catch a Fish, James is not yet sure whether he will be allowed to show his film to pupils at the school – either during after-hours or with parental permission.

But it will be released on YouTube later this month with the blessings of his mother, who has a voice-over part.

Friend Hugh Brentnall stars in schoolteacher James Mason's debut short film To Catch a Fish
Friend Hugh Brentnall stars in schoolteacher James Mason’s debut short film To Catch a Fish

“Budget was tight and so there was only seven days of shooting.” James said.

“During one scene we had to stop midway and let my mother finish dinner on the table.

“As a director, it felt a little strange to tell the crew that my mom had to eat a bowl of pasta before I could say the action again!”

James’s leap into the film world follows the mark blown by Steven Knight, who used an Oscar nomination for Dirty Pretty Things to open the doors for his Birmingham-based Peaky Blinders TV series.

Stars and filmmakers who have worked in Birmingham since 2015 include multi-Oscar-nominated actress Glenn Close, legendary director Steven Spielberg and all-action Hollywood star Tom Cruise.

To Catch a Fish will be available on YouTube in late January 2022
To Catch a Fish will be available on YouTube in late January 2022

what is the film about?

To Catch a Fish is inspired by The Twilight Zone and is the first part of an intended anthology series called The Unfortunate Tales.

Hugh Brentnall plays Noel, a young unsuccessful writer who begins to realize that his desire for fame far exceeds his current talent and work ethic.

In classic Faustian fashion, he visits a stranger named The Gent (Graham Mason), who promises him fortune and glory at a very small but painful cost.

Award-winning television and film scriptwriter Tim Prager, whose credits include Silent Witness and Dalziel and Pasco, advised James throughout the editing process.

Tim said: “Making a movie is always close to a miracle. James Mason did what he could by saving from his teacher’s salary, increasing each day to 26 hours, finding a talented cast close to home, and an excellent professional crew. He has done it. Those who believed in James and his project were nothing short of extraordinary.

“James chased his dream and grabbed it. His relentless dedication deserves to be celebrated as much as the film. Hardly, can you say with complete confidence that there will be more to come. This one dead with James Mason certificate.”

To Catch a Fish was shot using a professional Netflix grade RED camera – the kind of technology used to capture Jennifer Lawrence’s phenomenal breakthrough role in Winter’s Bone (2010).

The film’s first screening will only take place on Friday, January 14, inside the former IMAX theater at Millennium Point, ahead of its YouTube release later this month.

Designed to produce more of a ‘hair growing on the back of your neck’ than a graphic shocker, the film is believed to be borderline 12a/15 based on the approach to the language used by the BBFC. Will be

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