by Edwin L. Carpenter, Editor – The Dove Foundation
Rick Eldridge, the producer of The Ultimate Gift and many other films, spoke with us recently and he couldn’t say enough about a young talented director named Mark Freiburger, a man Rick has helped mentor in filmmaking the last few years. We were able to secure an interview with Mark, and he comes across in a positive manner. We predict a happy future for this maverick. The twenty-five year old Freiburger was born in Roanoke, Virginia, and recently helmed the movie Dog Days of Summer which received our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal. He also directed the live-action segments of Gigi: God’s Little Princess. Mark was voted the “Most Talented” of six hundred students at Providence Senior High School in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2001. His father was a leading engineer and supervisor in the development of the Night Vision Goggles at ITT.
Dove: “We spoke with Rick Eldridge earlier and he thinks highly of you, Mark. He thinks we’re going to hear your name more often in the future.”
Mark: “I appreciate that. I’ve got some other stuff coming up so I hope he’s right!” he said with a chuckle.
Dove: “Mark, how did you become involved in this particular story, Dog Days of Summer, and you wrote part of this story too, correct?”
Mark: “Yes. When I was about fourteen, I made a conscience decision I was going to be a filmmaker because I got on the set of my first film ever as an extra and was on it for a few days, and just really loved the process. I started studying what the director did on the set and from that point on in high school I just kind of devoured every book on filmmaking that I could get my hands on, and started practicing with the old, classical home movie route. I applied for college and went to a four year school through the North Carolina School of the Arts, specifically for filmmaking. My last two years there I studied the directing discipline and so I had an emphasis on directing.
“Then I ended up linking up with two guys who were writers there and one of which is now a writer on the TV show NCIS, which is the big CBS show, and another one who has sold a couple of scripts and wrote the new Clash of the Titans remake that Warner Brothers is doing. I just knew in school that these guys were very talented and so I teamed up with them and asked them to write the screenplay for me for Dog Days and gave them the story, and told them what I’d like to see in it. They went away and wrote it and I ended up with this great script and we set out to go get the movie financed and then brought Rick on as an executive producer and we went from there.”
Dove: “It sounds like Dog Days of Summer really was conceptualized by you and then the writers fleshed out the story, is that right?”
Mark: “Exactly, yes. They did bring a lot to the table. It is what it is because of them and they changed a lot from my original story. The original story that I handed them was about this small town and exposing the secrets of this seemingly paradise kind of town. From the beginning I was real interested in telling basically a modern day allegory on the Garden of Eden and just wondered what that would look like. I thought it would be great to set something like that in the south and the story just kind of grew and grew from there.”
Dove: “As director, we are sure that you were greatly involved in casting. For example, Will Patton plays Eli Cottonmouth, a kind of dark character and he plays it quite well. It seems that part of the story is about hiding behind masks and how that you don’t always know everything about a person. What was it like working with Will and what was the casting process like?”
Mark: “It was great working with Will. I’d love to work with him again. He’s just incredibly talented. He’s been around for years and he’s done New York theatre for thirty years, and movies. He’s worked with most of the big directors in Hollywood. It was just a real pleasure to work with him and learn from him. The role he played was great on paper but he really brought it to the next level when he brought the role to life and added a lot of input.”
Dove: “We understand you have done some acting as well.”
Mark: “Yeah, just a little bit,” he laughed. ‘That’s kind of how I got into the industry. I sorted starting out thinking I wanted to be an actor and then, like I said, the first time I ever got on a real set, I decided the acting part was boring. I write now too to make a living and am involved in some producing but I don’t particularly like producing. Directing is by far more my passion. And others have said as well it’s my talent.”
This is what Rick Eldridge had to say about Mark: “Mark Freiburger has been someone we’ve kind of watched grow up. He went to school in my hometown of Charlotte. His oldest sister went to school with my daughter. He is very talented and has a bright future.”
To Mark’s credit, he tweaked Dog Days of Summer in order to reach a family audience. “What’s the point of making it if no one sees it?” he asked. The film is now available on DVD and includes a behind-the-scenes featurette. Also included will be some clips from the original casting session. Mark says he learned a lot from his first few stabs at directing and he believes he was as prepared as he could be without having previously attempted a major directorial job, such as he was faced with on Dog Days of Summer.
Mark Freiburger remained open to suggestions from the cast as he directed the movie and will always be open he says as long as it coincides with the vision of the story. Mark’s future plans include a film called The Trial, which he co-wrote, and is based on a Robert Whitlow novel. “Robert Whitlow’s kind of considered the faith-based John Grisham. That film’s going be shot soon,” said Mark. “We’re in the middle of casting that right now. That film is going to be bigger than Dog Days” he said, happy that he’ll have a bigger budget to work with and he might be able to land some really big name actors. The next project he’s directing is based on the novel Jimmy, also written by Robert Whitlow. “It’s about a mentally challenged boy who interacts with angels that no one else can see,” said Mark.
Mark Freiburger has won the applause of his high school and of Rick Eldridge and it is safe to say we will be hearing his name more often in the near future.
Read Dove’s Review of “Dog Days of Summer“