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Touring the world, penning hit songs and acting in mainstream feature films are all in a days work for Mark Collie. But playing Johnny Cash, whose imposing black clad figure towers over even most country legends, is quite another thing.

"I think I sure would have been intimidated playing Johnny if he and June hadn't encouraged me to do it," Collie says with his heavy southern drawl. "They're planning his bio-pic right now and I thought it was a great compliment. I've really been focused on feature films more than music in the last few years and something like this is a dream project."

Collie's feature film work includes the Steven Segal film "Fire Down Below", a few independent features, TV movies and a film with Paul Newman where Collie did his own stunts.

"I still live in Nashville but I've been taking cram courses in Hollywood," he says. "It's been some great location work and I've picked up a lot just by hanging around and watching. I've become the guy they call when they want a 'hillbilly heavy'."

But they don't come any heavier than Cash, and the film, entitled "I Still Miss Someone" is utmost in Collie's mind these days. Johnny and June suggested that Collie screentest for the movie so they could have something on tape. That led Collie to think about creating a scene that plays out like a one-man play--something with a more theatrical feel. He called his friend and frequent video director John Lloyd Miller and started a dialogue about how much they could shoot of this idea.

"We initially thought it would be 5 or 10 minutes, but when we wrote up the script it was more like 20 minutes. We included live performances and then some dialogue and shots of liquor bottles, pills, cigarettes. We shot it in 2 days out at Billy Ray Cyrus's farm house, and poured a lot of integrity and passion into it. It turned out better than we expected for a demo reel. The next thing we know it got entered into the Nashville Film Festival and ran on the Independent Film Channel during the Woodstock Festival weekend. We've got another screening coming up for the Directors Guild in Los Angeles. Not bad for a demo reel."

Collie hopes the exposure will help him in his current project, a screenplay he's been working on--the script and the soundtrack--for several years. It's subject he won't discuss.

In the meantime his music career is still rolling along, with tracks on the new George Jones, Tim McGraw, Garth Brooks and Alabama CDs. "I'm trying to stay focused on writing and film," he says, "telling stories is something I'm comfortable with and the transition from songwriter to screenwriter is fascinating to me."

- by Sandra Schulman

.. / Issue 1 - September 2018
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