Locally Made Mockumentary Rakes In Festival Noms

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Mark Stewart wears many hats. He consults, does video work for the non-profit Move to Prosper, and sits on the board of directors for Mid-Ohio Food Bank. He’s also a filmmaker—apparently a pretty good one. Mock and Roll is his first screenplay, and it’s already racking up nominations on the film festival circuit.

“I retired from Alliance Data a few years back,” he says. “I was an executive there and decided to pursue this. I’d written a lot in my career, but never a screenplay. I found a collaborator (Julian Cicone) who was interested in the idea I had, and so we worked together on it.”

The idea, which sprung from Stewart’s lifelong love of music, is Mock and Roll—the story of a parody band attempting to perform at South by Southwest who wind up putting their careers and lives in danger.

“It’s really about the struggles they go through and some of the not-so-wise decisions they make along the way,” Stewart says.

“I’ve always wanted to write,” he says. “I didn’t know what I wanted to write, but I’ve always loved music and rock and roll and parody. This idea came to me. It really started with writing a lot of the parodies and then building a story around it. That’s where my collaborator really came in, and the director (Ben Bacharach-White), who then became a co-writer as well.”

Stewart also serves as executive producer for the film, an effort he kept close to home.

“I’m from Columbus,” he says. “The core group is really from Columbus, although we have a director and a producer and some of the actors are not from here. But most of the cast and crew are from Central Ohio.”

Mock and Roll was filmed exclusively in Columbus and Central Ohio, in local venues Big Room Bar, Ace of Cups, Tree Bar, Rehab Tavern, Express Live and others. They even filmed on campus.

“We shot at the Ohio State University physics lab,” he says. “Folks were just so generous across this whole area, enabling us to film at their various locations.”

Stewart leaned on his own experience when scouting locations.

“I’ve lived in Columbus for 23 years now,” he says. “I know the area and reached out to a number of different people trying to identify places that might be good fits for the various scenes.”

Originally, Stewart considered filming in Los Angeles, but he quickly changed his mind.

“I found out about the vibrant arts community and music community here,” he says. “Even the film community, even though it’s very small, there’s a lot of work that’s been done by the Columbus Film Commission. John Daugherty has done a lot to bring film to Columbus, and he really helped us. I see Columbus growing in that way. A lot of great work is being done for big films as well as small films like ours.”

Stewart and producer/fellow Ohioan Leah Wharton worked together to find locations. Wharton was also responsible for casting, bringing in, among others, Ohio musician Molly Bhanja for the lead. Bhanja’s nomination for best actress by the Austin Revolution Film Festival ranks among the film’s early recognition.

“We’re very excited about those nominations,” Stewart says.

Aside from Austin Revolution, Mock and Roll has also been accepted into the Orlando Film Festival as well as Eye Catcher International and the Cincinnati Inside the Loop.

“We sat down and really targeted key festivals,” Stewart says. “For that, I have to thank Jason Tostevin at Gateway Film Center, who has been a tremendous mentor to me and to this film.”

Stewart says he sees a lot of local interest in the film and hopes to turn his attention to screening it here in Columbus sometime soon. In the meantime, he’s focused on festivals and appreciative of the efforts of the whole group.

“I don’t see this as much being about me as it is about the film and the team,” he says. “It took a team like this to really pull this all together—a terrific director, a great mentor in Jason, a terrific cast and crew that really made it happen.”

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