Indiana native lands role in film
Film debuts usually don't go like this, says actor Brett Mack.
With the short film "Knight to D7," the Indiana native worked closely with acting veterans on a project that has resonated so much with his family and friends they've become financiers. Plus, everyone on the set got along, he said, and showed patience with a budding screen actor.
"We were very blessed," he said during a phone interview from Los Angeles.
"Knight to D7" tells the story of the friendship between Brady (Mack) and Dustin (Angelo Salvatore Restaino) and their ongoing chess match, brought to a halt when Brady reveals he's dying of cancer.
The film also features Hector Elizondo, whose extensive film and television work includes "The Princess Diaries" movies and "Chicago Hope," and Jack￩e Harry of TV's "227" and "Sister, Sister."
A longtime stage performer, Mack filmed his role over a few days in July.
"I'm hyper self-critical, but I think I did a good job," he said. "I'm hoping I did."
The film has a special significance to Mack; he lost his stepfather to stomach cancer in 2005 and an aunt recently succumbed to the disease.
"It seemed like an ongoing theme with my family and friends in Indiana," he said.
The film's message has inspired many of them to donate toward the budget. So far $15,358 has been raised, but according to the film's website, www.k2d7movie.com, $7,500 is still needed for post-production work. Most of that will go toward hiring an orchestra to perform the film's score, according to Mack, with other cash going toward entry fees for festivals such as Sundance, the indie film showcase held every year in Utah. (Money can be donated via PayPal through the "D7" site.)
"To make it the way we want to make it," Mack said, "we don't want to cut any corners because we're really proud of it."
Proceeds from the project will go to the Lance Armstrong Foundation's Livestrong Grassroots Fundraising Program to help cancer survivors.
Mack got the job after the writer, Restaino, introduced himself at an acting class and offered a copy of his short film "Grande Drip."
"It was amazing," he said, "it was just great, it was really well done. I was like, 'This kid is the real deal.'"
Mack said they first intended "D7" only as content for their reels -- samples of their skills to help them land work -- but after a potential producer was moved by the script it became something more.
"I was like wow, this went from just being an idea we had for something simple to a whole production," Mack said.
Elizondo and Harry brought considerable skill and enthusiasm to the project, according to Mack.
"They really invested their time and energy into it, like it was it was a feature film with millions of dollars attached to it," he said.
Mack said he closely watched how they prepared for their scenes, maintaining focus despite the irregular nature of work on a set, where intermittent time is spent before the camera.
Mack said a screening will be held early next year at a sizable theater on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard, and that he'd like to organize a showing in Indiana.
In 2004, Mack landed a role on a television pilot being filmed in the region. More than 300 people auditioned for "Ghost-Hunters: PSI (Paranormal Supernatural Investigation)" at casting calls.
"Your guess is as good as mine," Mack said when asked about what became of the pilot. He's never seen any footage from the project, which was intended to be shopped around as a regular television series.
He made his stage debut his junior year at Indiana Area High School -- "I kind of fell in love with it right then" -- and would go on to be one of 16 college students nationwide to win the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship in 2005, earning a trip to perform at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. It would be the final time his stepfather saw him perform. That same year he graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a theater degree.
He later moved to Los Angeles, but returned after getting a contract to perform with Pittsburgh's City Theatre for several months. Since then, Mack said, he's been bouncing between L.A. and Pennsylvania. He does behind-the-scenes work -- "logging and research" -- for the Style Network's "Clean House" when he's not auditioning. He's sought parts in commercials and pilots for the likes of NBC and Syfy, and his last audition was for the feature film "The Ides of March," a political drama to be directed by George Clooney.
At his most comfortable on stage, Mack is less confident about his auditioning skills, although he says he's improving. He continues to perform on stage and is further honing his skills in acting classes.
"It's hard, and I'm broke most of the time," he said, "but at the same time I wouldn't want to do anything else."
To view the "Knight to D7" trailer, go to www.k2d7movie.com.