Published on February 1st, 2015 | by Jameelah "Just Jay" Wilkerson0
Film producer Jason Fields talks his newest sports film ‘Midrange’
Talented Chicago-born ‘Midrange‘ film producer, screenwriter and actor, Jason Fields, passionately pursued an elusive goal of entering the illustrious film industry and achieving success when other individuals silver screen dreams faded to black. Things are not always what they seem from the outside looking in when you have name recognition and a sterling reputation throughout the United States as a respected triple threat in independent motion picture, even with the positive-filled Fields hot off the heels of inspirationally acclaimed sports-drama ‘Midrange‘.
Jason Fields unequivocally explains in his very own words of his fulfilling journey in entertainment thus far that has created a brand new meaning and path in providing a prosperous future with strong self-belief and faith. The gifted creative subscribes to the notion that everyone has the right to a second shot, and the arrival of ‘Midrange‘ has provided both a slam dunk and game-winner amongst critics and film fanatics seeking to enrich their soul with a heartfelt story filled with love, brotherhood and faith.
Did you experience any major obstacles prior to entering the film industry?
It’s hard to pinpoint just a few as there were many along the road. I think the biggest challenge for myself was finding my place in the industry. I moved out to LA when I was 23 all bright eyed and bushy-tailed. I was clueless on how the LA scene can just swallow you up if you’re not grounded. My first stint lasted about a year, as I spent way too much time getting caught up in the party scene, and only managed to take one acting class and didn’t even attempt to get any representation. I actually felt really lost towards the end of that year, and so the biggest obstacle came at that time, which lead to a heartfelt prayer while lying in my bed one night. At that point in time I didn’t even know how to pray, so I just cried out to God from my heart and a peace came over me and I heard two simple words “Go home”. It was clear to me what he meant, but I still needed to pull the trigger on the move. All I knew was I was supposed to leave LA and go back to Chicago, and so I did. I wouldn’t end up moving back to LA until about a year or so later after also spending some time in San Diego. At this point in time, I had a fresh perspective on things. My faith in our heavenly Father was pretty solid and I wasn’t partying. The next seven years or so was practically one big long obstacle. It seemed like I was switching agents and managers as often as I was changing my clothes. Although it was challenging not getting the breaks that I thought would come, there was a lot to take from that period in time. My understanding of Production, my chops as an actor, and my faith all grew tremendously. Believe it or not, for me to actually begin making a film I needed to move out of LA again. This time I moved directly to San Diego, took a two year breather from anything having to do with film, and then finally got focused and wrote two screenplays in about a one year span. The obstacles that were to come in raising finance, finding locations, polishing the script, not to mention the post-production demands that I would have to learn through the fire, were only possible through leaning on our Creator’s strength, period.
How much of a daily undertaking was it for you to produce, write and star in ‘Midrange’?
I couldn’t find any fits on a Director so I Directed the film as well. It was a day in and day out thing for about seven straight months. The Pre-Production consisted of calling on locations, and then flying to Chicago to make sure they were going to work. The city of Chicago and its people were amazing when they heard about what I wanted to do. Many gave up their homes and business establishments for free for me to shoot for a few hours. It was really inspiring. In that time, myself and a few others were trying to find the right actors for the roles which had us back and forth to LA and Chicago. I know this is off topic, but there was a strong possibility that Talia Shire, who played Rocky’s wife Adrian in the ‘Rocky’ movies, was going to play the Mom in ‘Midrange’. If it wasn’t for a medical procedure that she needed to get done, in all likelihood she would have. Oh well, such is the nature of the business. During this time, I was polishing up the screenplay as well. This whole time was a whirlwind of the Father’s provision, including the actual Production. During Production, my days consisted of waking up at about 6am to go over my lines and make sure I had them down, grab some breakfast and then head to the shoot at about 9am. We would shoot for about 12 hours, of course grabbing a lunch in between, and wrap at around 9pm. Then we’d grab some dinner and go back to the hotel and watch all the dailies (what was shot that day) for a few hours. I’d then kick everybody out of my hotel room so I could go over my lines for a couple of hours before hitting the sack for a few just to get up and do it all over again. This went on for 11 days and I wouldn’t trade any of it as it was one of the best experiences of my life.
‘Midrange’ has an underlying inspirational theme of Christian faith throughout. How has the overall response been from individuals who are non-Christian?
It’s been pretty positive for the most part. I recently started communicating with people through Facebook. I’m always a little hesitant with things that can completely consume you. So, I finally got rolling with that after the film got released and I’ve been able to connect with a lot of people that way. All the people I’ve encountered through Facebook that don’t consider themselves Christians have said they really enjoyed the story and thought it was real. Some said it really made them consider things that they’ve never considered before. That was my hope, to have the story stir some questions for a non-Christian in that way.
What is the greatest aspect of being an independent film producer?
The greatest aspect is knowing that I didn’t compromise in the strory I wanted to tell. Being independent brings a lot of challenges, but it’s so rewarding to know that those challenges were met and all and all I’m pretty pleased with the way it turned out given the obstacles that were in front of me. It gives me a major appreciation for anyone who chooses to take on this endeavor.
How much did growing up in Chicago mould you to become the successful person that you are today?
It actually had a profound effect on me and my personality. I grew up around so many cool people. It seems like everybody was a character in their own right. I think the biggest goal between my friends and I was to make each other laugh as hard as we could, any way possible. Being animated and doing voices and telling stories was a big part of the way I grew up. My family was the same way, so that gave me the freedom to not be shy in expressing myself. Chicago people are real people that try their best to live in the moment. You can be anywhere in Chicago and somehow find yourself in an entertaining converstaion. That’s what made being able to shoot my first film there so special.
Did you essentially have to train routinely in order to portray a basketball player in ‘Midrange’?
I became a pretty solid player in my late teens and early twenties. I ended up putting in a lot of games over the years playing pretty much anywhere I could find a basket. I started having knee problems so it became a concern of mine if I would even be able to pull off the role. About six months prior to shooting the film, I started playing three times a week against some pretty solid competition, so my game was looking alright. Then, about three months before shooting, I tore a ligament in my left knee, not to mention my right knee already had some major ligament damage of its own. Through a lot of prayer and trust, I was able to get back to playing some in just a month, but I still wasn’t sure how I would fare, especially considering I was going to have to be on the same court with pros in the film (‘Midrange’). It really is a testimony of how good our heavenly Father is that I was able to kind of have that last gasp on the court during filming. It kind of played into the character anyways that the dude had no hops. What’s cool is I had just enough left in the tank to make the movie, and now it’s all about a mean game of horse or a grueling game of around the world.
When you proceeded with acting classes in Los Angeles before entering the movie business, what was the greatest piece of advice that you acquired?
To do your homework on your character. They call it doing character analysis. If you know who your character is like his background, what makes him tick, what’s driving him, then you’ll know how he would respond in a given situation. Another important piece of advice was don’t actually act. Just live in that moment using all of your senses, and most importantly really listen to the other actors you’re in a scene with so you can feed off of them.
What are your general expectations for the Chicago Bulls in the NBA 2014-15 season?
Given the status of their injuries thus far this season, that question requires two answers. If they have everyone healthy going into the playoffs with a minimum of their last ten games played together with that unit, they will go to the finals and possibly win. If it’s the same kind of situation they had the last couple of years with key injuries going into the playoffs, they will just get out of the first round of the playoffs, simply because they are a little deeper this year then the last couple of years.
‘Midrange’ is now available at Walmart. Why do you personally believe film fans should purchase this movie?
You can also purchase the film at www.midrangethemovie.com or at Amazon. Well, first of all I believe it’s a great story about what’s most important in life. Also, I’ve had tremendous responses from young people about ‘Midrange’. I believe strongly that the film will lead to the necessary conversations with young people to not give up on their purpose in life only to be lead down the wrong paths of drugs, alcohol, and racism. Not to mention there is ten pro athlete interviews as a bonus feature on the DVD sharing their heartfelt stories of what they’ve had to overcome in their lives.
Former Golden State Warriors standout Kelenna Azubuike, two-time NBA All-Star Allan Houston and Toronto Raptors star Greivis Vásquez all make special guest appearances in ‘Midrange’. Were there any other choices before invariably casting these individuals in ‘Midrange’?
We actually had quite a few guys lined up to be in the film that weren’t able to. Isaiah Thomas had a significant role and was committed right up until his day of shooting, and suddenly wasn’t able to. At different times, we had Ben Gordon (Orlando Magic), Thabo Sefolosha (Atlanta Hawks), Danilo Gallinari (Denver Nuggets), and Al Harrington (former Washington Wizards and New York Knicks player) among others that were supposed to make appearences, but it didn’t come together. You know, I couldn’t be more pleased in the guys that came forward to take part in the project. They were truly guys with tremendous character. Of course the guys you mentioned, along with Jerome “Junk Yard Dog” Williams (former Toronto Raptors standout), Wayne Simien (former Miami Heat), Roger Powell Jr (one-time NCAA Illinois Fighting Illini and Utah Jazz player), Curley “Boo” Johnson (Harlem Globetrotters legend), Austin Daye (San Antonio Spurs), Romel Beck (UNLV standout and Mexico basketball star), and even Corey Maggette (former Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers star) and Dan Dickau (ex-Atlanta Hawks) coming on early in the process as Producers. I have been working on a book for the last four or so years on understanding the Bible in its original context with the figures of speech that apply to the culture at the time it was written. The book is called ‘Road Map to the Promised Land’, and a sneak peek is available at www.whatiscovenant.com. I also have another film that I could possibly be making called ‘Gentle Men’ which is about the hidden talents that Developmentally Disabled people possess and how they’re a complete gift from the Creator in the lives of those they share life with.
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