Thomasson and Fisher | Photo: Facebook - Johnson Thomasson

‘HEADRUSH’, a 45-minute short film, written, acted, produced, advised and made by Mississippians, is a sci-fi medical mystery that premiered in Tupelo last week and comes to Madison’s Malco Grandview tonight at 7pm (purchase tickets here).

In the film, Kurt Schuler (Cameron Spann), a PhD student in Biochemistry, does cutting edge research into the nature of death, but when he discovers a mysterious human body in his laboratory, he must race to find the killer or risk losing everything he has worked for, even his own life.

We sat down with the film’s executive producer and producer, Robbie Fisher, a Fondrenite, to learn more about the production…

‘Headrush’ is written and directed by a Mississippian, stars Mississippians and has a crew of almost entirely locals. Why is that significant?
The five or six main characters, many extras and a crew of nearly three dozen were all from here. I think we’re just tapping into the talent that we knew we had here. I think it’s important to work with our locals and help give them opportunities to work on films in Mississippi.

Talk to us about your role as executive producer. What does that entail?
As an attorney, I assisted Johnson Thomasson (the writer, director and filmmaker) piece together funding sources to make the film. I can help from a business and legal background with things like location agreements and releases. As filming went along, I became more involved and that’s when the producer role kicked in. Johnson did an incredible amount on his own, but I was there to help. He’s a talented filmmaker and I was glad to be a part of it. (My work) allowed creatives like Johnson and (director of photography) David Matthews to do what they do best and support that. That’s my niche in production. I like to support that kind of work. You’re a part of the team, whatever role you play.

Where and when was ‘Headrush’ filmed?
We filmed in several locations in Jackson and Canton (depending on if you count interiors and exteriors as one or two places).  The exterior shots you see are of the old Central High School (now the Mississippi Department of Education) in downtown Jackson and the chemistry lab of the old Canton High School as well.

I met Johnson in December 2011 and the initial funding, script writing and certain ideas were already in place. It was mostly filmed from February 2012 to fall 2012, largely on the weekends.

How does a young, independent filmmaker fund such a production?
Johnson received two grants that greatly helped, one from the Mississippi Arts Commission and another, an Emerging Filmaker grant from the Mississippi Film & Video Alliance. It was a great basis for the funding. Early on, he raised funds through Kickstarter. As filming had almost completed, we needed more money, so we ran an additional Kickstarter campaign. That raised another $9,000 to complete the film and work post production on the film.

What is the state of filmmaking in Mississippi? There seems to be an influx of great projects lately…
It’s an exciting time for Mississippi! We have a great film office – Ward Emling, Nina Parikh and Betty Black – that has been working for years to build our industry. As a local producer and being a native of the state, I see films coming here from other places more and more and that is growing for two main reasons: I think the tax incentive program that the Mississippi Film Office spearheaded has a great deal to do with that and is bringing filmmakers here.

Secondly, I see people who live here developing stories, finding funding and crew to make films here. We have a growing crew base, so when films are made here, we can use locals. That’s important. It will continue to grow.

We have such a legacy of wonderful story telling in Mississippi with novelists and writers. That tradition is and will continue to carry over into film as well. It’s exciting being here at this time because I feel things are growing here. We’re going to do some great things.

Fisher, whose credits include ‘Delta 180: Changing Lives in the Mississippi Delta’, ‘As I Lay Dying’ and ‘Going Toward Love’, is working on two yet unnamed documentary projects and a project with a young filmmaker.