"We filmed a feature in 2 days, I still don't know how we pulled it off!"
Growing up in a small town in Michigan, Mason Heidger always knew he wanted to be an actor.
After having played in several films, such as "Batman v Superman" ("It was a huge role for me"), and "Notes From Melanie" ("The script was the best thing I ever read"), Mason played the lead role of Nick in "Making Time" a time travel feature film, shot in just two days. This role earned him the Actors Awards' Best of Fest award in September 2019.
So what was his favorite role, and how did he prepare to play Nick in Making Time?
Here's Mason's story. Warning: you might fall in love while reading.
Mason Heidger. Photo by Jessica Osber
Mason, congratulations on winning Best of Fest for your wonderful performance as Nick in Making Time. Before we dive into that, can you tell us a little bit about yourself, where did you grow up, and what made you passionate about acting?
I grew up in a little town called Gaines in Michigan. Really small town. We had a post office, a bar, and a little general store. That’s it.
As long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be an actor. My mom tells me I asked her who the people were on tv when I was 3 and she told me they were actors. Since then I was interested in it.
How did you get started? What were some of your first gigs?
I went to The New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts from 2008-2010 and after graduating I started submitting like crazy to projects but I think it was 6-12 months before I booked my first project. A student thesis film called "Anecdote". They shot it on a RED which blew my mind. After that I booked some more gigs here and there but it wasn't for years before I really felt like I even knew what I was doing. Hell, I still have days I'm convinced I have no idea what I'm doing.
Looking at your list of credits on IMDb, it's impressive to see that you've worked on so many productions: long-form, short-form, and TV. Some credits include Notes from Melanie (for which you won Best Actor here at the Actors Awards), Batman v Superman (2016), and the upcoming Scapegoat movie, to name a few. What was your favorite, or most memorable role?
Batman v Superman was a HUGE role for me. I heard about the role I eventually booked about 5 months before I actually auditioned for it and when I went to the callback I had the worst cold I may have ever had. For 5 more months I assumed they recast it but eventually they scheduled the shoot dates and for another year and a half I assumed the scene would get cut. But it didn't. I went to the NYC premiere without a ticket and somehow convinced someone to give me one by saying I was in it and sure enough there I was in the film in about a 4 minute scene where it was essentially my scene, and I got to shoot at Batman which is always fun. But it all still blows my mind.
But is it my favorite role? I'm not sure. When I first read the script for Notes from Melanie it was the best thing I ever read. It was full of amazing acting moments and comedy and drama and everything in between. This 20 page one scene short film between 2 people only and they just sit there and talk. It blew me away.
But then you also have Making Time, which possibly could be the craziest thing I ever do in my acting career. Grant comes to me one day and says "I'm thinking I want to film an entire feature film in one day with you as the lead role. You in?" and everything inside is screaming "well that's insane and most likely not doable" but the words that always come out are "hell yes". I mean if we pull it off then that's a huge accomplishment. That one day eventually turned into 2 days with 8 months in between each day and we had ourselves a movie. I was there and I still don't know how we pulled it off.
Let's talk about Nick, the divorced scientist who travels through time to re-meet his future-wife in Making Time. When reading the screenplay, did you feel instantly connected with him?
Yes. I always try to find something similar on a first read whether big or small and if I can't then that's always fun as well because you don't know where that's gonna take you. With this film I think we've all had dreams of using a time machine at some point in our lives and it's something I've always loved in media. Back to the Future was my favorite movie when I was a kid.
How did you prepare for this role?
We didn't have much rehearsal except for the night before the shoots essentially so we were all kind of on our own. I decided the best way to learn the 55-61 pages each day was to record me saying all the lines in 1 minute intervals and dividing them into scenes and then listening to them over and over wherever I went was gonna be the easiest way to learn all the dialogue and that's what I did. For a good month before I listened to it every day and acted it out over and over again in my apartment. Then whenever I had character questions I'd ask Grant and whenever I needed to get deeper with something I did a lot of research online.
Tell us about working with director Grant Pichla. Is this your first time working together? How did you come on board?
Grant is amazing. What he pulled off with Making Time is nothing short of a miracle. All I did was memorize lines and act out some scenes. Grant MADE the film. Wrote, directed, edited, sent us 10 different versions of scenes to get our opinions on things, ran a successful crowdfunding campaign, got together podcast interviews etc. The list is endless. He's a really gifted filmmaker and I hope he continues to make films forever.
I worked with Grant first on his College Thesis film called Niner. I played this character called Jonas Whalen and immediately fell in love with the dude. He essentially ran this huge drug house in a bath robe and the couple scenes I had I really tried to go all out. Got to make a lot of people mad, which is always fun.
What's the most exciting thing for you on set?
The entire thing. I love showing up and walking into holding or wherever they need me to go. I love saying hi to everyone and seeing if there's anyone I already know and meeting new people. I love getting in the makeup chair and being mic'd up. I love being called to set. I love when cameras are in my face. I love being able to press these words I've been saying for weeks or months down into film forever and hope it's something I can be proud of. I love finding something new in myself on every single set. I love it all.
Were there any unforseen challenges?
Well, we filmed an entire 111 page feature film in 2 days so you'd be surprised to hear the answer to that is... not really. Everyone was pretty much on top of everything. If there was anything it would be that running out of time was a serious issue throughout the days. We had 1 take a lot of times, sometimes 2. We'd start a scene and hear "we have 10 minutes for this" and I think if I weren't in every single scene in the film I would have stressed more but I just didn't have time. No one did. We shot and shot and shot.
What was it like to work with Tori Titmas? Did you guys meet on set and what was the rehearsal process like?
Tori is great. I didn't meet her until the night before shooting and we spent a few hours rehearsing all our scenes and there was instant chemistry. We were improvising things and making things funnier and seeing what else we could find and it was just perfect. Then we got 6 hours of sleep and spent 16 filming the next day. Most of our scenes we spent some more time on to really get right because there were a lot of emotions all over the place.
How do you prepare for an audition?
Surprisingly, Grant just gifted me the role. Those are always the best ones. Do you have any spare roles lying around?
What do you do in-between productions?
I spend a lot of it looking for more productions and working everyday jobs while waiting to hopefully book something else. Seriously, any spare roles at all?
Making Time - Trailer
Where do you see yourself in ten years? Is there a particular genre you'd like to focus on?
I don't like playing these games anymore. I have dreams and goals and I'm gonna continue to work towards them but the last 10 years has been incredibly crazy in the best of ways so all I can hope for is that I'm pulled into more crazy places along the way. As for genres I love them all. I haven't done a western yet. That sounds like a plan. I think I'd look pretty good on a horse.
Is there anything else you wish to share with us?
I just want to thank you for the award. You hope your work will resonate with people when you do something but it's hard to judge your own stuff.
Where can our readers follow your work?