Martin Gaiss leads a double life. By day he is Los Angeles-based vice-president of creative content at Twentieth Century Fox International. But in whatever spare time his job leaves him, the widely travelled German native is a writer-director whose first completed short, a witty tale of urban neurosis called Jarred, screened this summer at Venice and continues to play on the international festival circuit (it is competing this week at the Stockholm and Gijon festivals).
Gaiss says his film-making itch started when he was working in international publicity in Paris, first with Buena Vista and then with Fox.
'I always loved reading scripts,' he recalls. 'We worked on all these campaigns and I remember sitting by the river going through the scripts. And I thought, 'I wonder if I could write something like that.''
When Fox transferred him to Los Angeles in 1998, Gaiss did a producing course at the University of California Los Angeles (Ucla) and a screenwriting course at Writers Boot Camp, and wrote a script for a Venice-set caper film that he describes as, 'Don't Look Now meets Topkapi.'
Writing took a back seat as Gaiss rose to become Fox International's director of publicity, but when he took on his current job two-and-a-half years ago, 'it reopened my eyes creatively'.
Working at home, he completed the script for Jarred. The story, partly inspired by personal experience, centres on an anxiety-plagued young man (played by Matthew Allan from Charlie's War) whose meticulous daily routine is disturbed by a sloppy neighbour. The film was shot - by a team including producer Ian Putnam, experienced Venezuelan cinematographer Carlos Luis Rodriguez and composer Sean Schafer Hennessy - on weekends and financed by Gaiss and investments from supportive friends.
Acceptance by the Venice Film Festival as the out-of-competition closing night film of its Corto Cortissimo section was a dream come true. Encouraged by Jarred's success (and by a letter of congratulation from George Lucas), Gaiss is now rewriting one feature script and has two more in the pipeline. But he is in no hurry to quit his day job developing material - from mobile phone content to documentaries - used in support of Fox features.
'I love my job,' says Gaiss, 'because my bosses give me all this room and we create so many inventive materials.' Writing and directing, he says, 'has been a great experience even if nothing comes out of it, because you get so much more appreciation for the amount of work involved in film-making'.