All that matters is the story. The power of stories is something undeniable by creative minds. The power of stories is what turned a schoolmaster from the English countryside into William Shakespeare; it is what turned an usher at a porn theater into Quentin Tarantino, and it’s what will turn an aspiring filmmaker from California into the next big thing in film.
The creation of a great story adheres to the principle that essence precedes existence. A great story isn’t made overnight, it’s idea is conceived through inspiration and matures over time until it’s ready to be told. Yet only a small group can see their story come to fruition, one of them being Freddy Macdonald III, a 17 year old from the hills of Horgen, Switzerland who has dreams of Hollywood
Macdonald was raised in Santa Monica, California by two artists, Melissa and Fred Jr. From a young age, Macdonald was constantly exposed to the art of storytelling through most mediums imaginable. Sculptures, paintings, films, music. His childhood home was filled with his parents most recent work. As he walked through the halls stories would jump off the wall and fill him with inspiration.
He knew it. He knew the moment he took the last photo. A feeling of ecstasy washed over him. He knew that he was meant to tell stories; what he didn’t know was that he had just embarked on a journey to discover his passion.
But the medium that Macdonald immediately latched onto was film, specifically stop motion animation. As soon as he could walk he would roam around his father’s animation studio, fully immersing himself into the animation process. This particular upbringing led to a pivotal moment in Macdonald’s life in the Spring of 2009 when he molded two clay figures into position, picked up a camera, and took a photo. He repeated this process thousands of times. The result was his first film.
One decade, three short films, and a music video later, Macdonald is in his senior year at Zurich International School in Adliswil, Switzerland. While a lot happened during these past 10 years, he’s matured most through his films. Back in California, at the beginning of his career, Macdonald had no interest in making live-action films. “Growing up I thought it was too easy. I’m experimenting in the sense that I’m working on longer productions, working with actors for the first time” says Macdonald. This monumental turning point in his career occured in 2014. And it came in the form of a movie ticket.
With this ticket Macdonald watched Alejandro González Iñárritu’s film Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Innocence). The dark comedy, starring Michael Keaton and Emma Stone, was a pioneer with its unique cinematography techniques as the whole movie appears to take place in a single scene. The movie was subsequently recognized for its groundbreaking work by critics, leading to four Oscar wins including Best Picture and Best Director. However, the true power of the film was recognized by a fourteen year old boy who saw it as a gateway to a larger variety of filmmaking techniques that he could in turn apply to his own films. “I really appreciate when directors do something new, take a risk, and challenge the traditional Hollywood studio production.”
With this change of mindset, Macdonald became obsessed with live action. “By using real people in my films I found it to be a much better way to convey a narrative.” he claims. He sought out every opportunity there was to film, whether it be for his friends birthday party or a school project. He simply couldn’t get enough. This passion ultimately accumulated to a 2016 short film, lasting five minutes and forty seconds, called GIFTED (Thanksgiving Post Mortem). This marked Macdonald’s short film debut – an area that he would go on to excel in. GIFTED gives Macdonald’s take on the possible future of relationships as technology continues to advance. The film proved to be a hit with fans and critics alike. It was showed at 12 film festivals across the world including the LA Film Festival and won five awards.
Yet despite all the success and the accolades, the biggest takeaway Macdonald had from GIFTED was the formation of his and his dad’s newly established production company, Macdonald Entertainment Partners.
Soon after GIFTED finished its festival run, Macdonald went straight to the drawing board and after a couple of intensive months of writing, filming, and editing he released The Father of Art starring award winning Austrian actor Wolfram Berger. This mockumentary follows Swiss artist Dale Schröder as he introduces his art pieces to the public for the first time. Much like Macdonald’s previous work The Father of Art was met with instant praise as it was shown at six film festivals and won Best Student Film at the Beverly Hills Film Festival.
Even though his first two short films were hits, Macdonald felt that he needed an even greater challenge, an even better way to tell his story. Out of this desire came The Coachman. Coming in at 30 minutes long The Coachman is by far Macdonald’s longest project and his greatest achievement thus far. Along with Al Pacino’s producer, Barry Navidi, Macdonald finds new ways to experiment and innovate with his filmmaking – something he had learned from the likes of Alejandro González Iñárritu and some of the other greats. While the film is yet to be released to the public (as it’s still on its festival run) Macdonald has been hard at work on two more shorts that he thinks will be released in Spring 2019.
Macdonald looks up from his laptop where he reads over his newest draft for a script. “This is the project I’m most proud of due to it’s semi-autobiographical nature,” Macdonald says with a look of anticipation regarding his new unreleased film I’m Good. With this project Macdonald believes he has found his groove as a director as the message behind it is very personal to him.
“My biggest difficulty being a filmmaker is that I continue to encounter people who question how much of my films are a result of my budget rather than my skill.” Macdonald hopes to convey these struggles through I’m Good. “My intent is to explain my history as a filmmaker,” he says, “I’ve been creating content since I was a little kid and I started with basically no budget in my garage in California working for hours on end.”
As Macdonald enters into his final semester of high school, he is yet to hear back from the prestigious film institutions to which he’s applied. For Macdonald, the journey from his parents’ hot garage to his own film set is an inspiring one. It’s a story he believes people need to hear and after all, “all that matters is a story”. Reflecting on his career so far, he looks at me with a slight satisfied smile and says quietly with a sense of purpose: “As long as I’m making films I’ll be happy. Even if I’m a waiter and making these films on the side. I just hope that I continue to make films and hopefully have people watch them.”