Mark Sayre remembers the precise moment he knew he wanted to make movies—although the 2006 Puget Sound grad hedges a bit when revealing the details of his epiphany.
“So, um, I was seeing Titanic with my mom at the Vashon Theatre,” says Mark by phone from his apartment in West Hollywood, audibly a little dismayed at having to say “Titanic” and “my mom” in the same sentence. “And I looked around the theater at the end of the movie—I was the only guy there—and saw that all the girls, including my mom, were crying. I was like, ‘Hey, I can do that. I can make movies!’”
James “King of the World” Cameron might object to the idea of some kid from Vashon Island declaring he could equal the biggest box office hit ever, but Mark’s early passion for filmmaking cannot be disputed. Neither can his acumen: Last spring, a film that Mark produced called Perfect Sport won the Seattle International Film Festival’s online contest, “MyFestival,” which pitted 10 indie movies against each other, with the winner determined by viewers’ votes. (Perfect Sport beat the second-place finisher by more than 10,000 views.)
The movie—a coming-of-age sports drama about a high school wrestler and his father-figure coach—was Mark’s first serious effort as a producer. The star and executive producer are Mark’s childhood friends, and filming took place entirely on Vashon, including scenes shot at their former high school.
“The community was so supportive,” he says of the brisk 24-day shoot in February 2007. “They put us up in their homes. They let us use locations for free. This film in L.A. would have cost 2 or 3 million bucks to make. In the end, the whole production cost us $700,000,” a still not inconsequential sum that Mark helped raise.
Though Mark clearly leaned early toward a career in Hollywood, he opted against film school in favor of “a more well-rounded education” at UPS (and he says the school’s laid-back atmosphere mirrored his personality). He majored in theater and says being able to star in and direct several plays only reinforced his craving for the creative life. “There is only so much film theory you can take,” he says. “Directing plays, learning how to block scenes, the mechanics of putting a story together—it was the perfect counterbalance to my passion for film.”
Mark moved to Los Angeles immediately after graduation (“I had my bags packed before finals”) and soon after landed a marketing and acquisition job at a distribution/production company called Xenon Pictures. There he learned the ropes of what doesn’t sell and what might sell in the straight-to-DVD market. It was during his almost two-year run at Xenon that Mark connected with his Perfect Sport team, writer/actor/director Anthony O’Brien and executive producer Zach Mann. The three forged a partnership he calls “the most rewarding of my life so far.”
These days, Perfect Sport is still making the film-festival rounds, and another film Sayre produced in 2007, a comedy called The Life of Lucky Cucumber was sold to Xenon Pictures/Lions Gate and will be released on DVD in January 2009. He also has a new comedy project in the works called Meatheads, though is mum about the details. “It’s about a Venice Beach police officer,” he says. “But that’s about all I can say for now!”
— Stacey Wilson ’96