“To Be Alone” – (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

“To Be Alone” (2017), the seventh short film from writer-director Matthew Mahler, is a wholly unique, thought-provoking and brilliantly realized meditation on grief. Yet, it is as much about religious guilt, shame and the all-encompassing hopes of redemption which arise with theology. As a matter of fact, most of the sparse words spoken in the entirety of the twelve minute and forty-six second runtime are from unseen spiritual individuals. All of whom cry out from inside the television set to our lead, William (in a mesmerizing and quietly compelling turn from Timothy J. Cox). They angrily exercise the foremost element. In so doing, they almost immediately prompt William to run outside and engage in actions which suggest the last two latter stated emotions. Whether this is a symbol of the unquestioning fidelity or the apparently easy manipulation of the devout is left to the viewer. There is an equal balance of circumstances throughout the piece that could support both belief systems. Likewise, the non-judgmental tone Mahler crafts here, especially when dealing with such a touchy subject, certainly assists the piece. This is in evoking its continually haunting and meditative resonance.

What also helps is the underlying tension. This is erected most readily in a repeated sequence which involves law enforcement phoning William. Once this erupts, a certain darkness settles over the proceedings. This is as the audience begins to comprehend why he may be going through the previously stated catalogue of inward impressions. It also makes us understand how the pious personalities that are shouting at him have such swift control over his dealings.

The successfulness of these ingredients is a courtesy of Mahler’s deft, carefully constructed screenplay and same said direction. They perfectly compliment the material. What enhances this aspect is the inclusion of moments of sheer style. For instance, a spellbindly done sequence has William looking up the steps towards the closed door of his bedroom. The way it is shot, with Mahler’s ardently energetic music punctuating the bit with an electric fervor that makes it impossible not to step inside William’s nervousness at the unfurling situation, is reminiscent of what one might find in a classically designed opus of cinematic horror. Yet, there are other clever, smirk-inducing bits. For example,  there is a near climactic episode that features William carrying a cross. This is in a manner that is reminiscent of Jesus Christ in the tale of his crucifixion. The item William is holding is arranged with Christmas lights and other season appropriate decorations. Such details suggest a bit of playfulness amid this otherwise somber narrative. These items work immeasurably. They also add to the admirable and well-rounded qualities of the endeavor. This is while finding new ways to augment the representative essence of Mahler’s theme. It also makes for imagery that is as unforgettable as the fiction itself.

Adding to the immersive beauty of the project is Jonathan Giannote’s brooding cinematography. Mahler’s editing is also superb. The exertion also benefits from terrific makeup from Maggie Kurth and Morgan Mahler. Correspondingly, Jack Fitzmaurice’s sound contribution is exceptional.

Produced by 8mm Films, Mahler’s latest is among his most accomplished configurations to date. The brief undergoing is massively entertaining. Still, its lasting impact is undeniable. Best of all, it makes you ponder your own convictions. In turn, you can’t help but wondering if you would go through the same repetitive cycle of reaction that William himself is going through. This is if you were in an equally fateful circumstance. With “To Be Alone”, Mahler has fashioned a mandatory movie-going experience. This is one of the best storytelling fabrications of the year.

“Night Job” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

The strength of writer-director J. Antonio’s eighty-five-minute debut feature, Night Job (2017), is built on the unpredictable. More specifically, the various encounters with a wide assortment of individuals our ever-likeable hero, James (in a charismatic and always watchable personification of a fictional persona by Jason Torres), encounters. For example, he faces, in one of the most unexpected and amusing flashes in the invention, a priest (in a terrific depiction from Robert Youngren). The man of God has been summoned to James’ building to perform an exorcism. Likewise, one of the climactic passages, which involves an accusatory homeless man (in a smirk-inducing and wonderfully eccentric performance from Brignel Camilien), works just as well in this respect. Along the way, James meets a psychic by the name of Josephine (in an excellent representation from Shanane Christine Harris), a con man (Adam P. Murphy, who is terrific) and an adult DVD Vendor (in an extraordinary presentation from Lester Greene). There is even a woman that incites in James a flirtatious rapport. Her moniker is Catherine (in an endearing and proficient turn from Stacey Weckstein). Such transpires late in the endeavor.

These sections are all beautifully done. Moreover, they make the demonstration layered, rich and full of life. Adding to the mix are equally well-timed and successfully uproarious sequences involving various partygoers, cops and relationship related spats. Yet, each accruing happenstance is so apparently random that it makes the sum of the picture consistently entertaining. It also mirrors a certain reality. This is one that folks in twenty-three-year old James’ situation, whose first night shift as a temporary doorman in a Manhattan high-rise apartment building is the unique focus of the composition, must constantly undergo. This is as one of the various unwritten demands of his current employer.

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But, what is just as pleasantly erratic is the tender sequences of heartfelt depth. These are seamlessly peppered among the many effectively humorous instances that run through the bulk of the composition. The most noteworthy of these items is a discussion with our central figure and a near blind woman, Stella (in a quietly powerful, consistently credible and charismatic performance from Bettina Skye). In this exceptionally harrowing bit, which comes right before the hour mark, we learn of James’ literary dreams. Stella makes this portion increasingly enchanting. This is with her shared life learned lessons and positive reinforcement of James’ ambitions. The segments involving Stella and James are the cornerstone of the movie. They tap into an emotional honesty that is natural, graceful and transcendent. These qualities enhance the variety. They also touch upon themes that will assuredly prove relatable to a widespread audience. The sole color configuration in the photoplay, which comes immediately after the portion involving James and Stella, is both smirk-inducing, eye-popping and heart-stirringly ambitious. Here James sees himself as the poised individual he could be. Such an image is conjured by Stella’s optimistic words. In this sense, Antonio seems to be balancing out the oddness of those James meets with an underlying message concerning the kindness and unexpectedly hope instilling measures of strangers. Such only adds to the sly profundity at hand.

Such a stalwart attribute is also a courtesy of Antonio’s smart, honest, confidently paced and surprisingly bold screenplay. His dialogue is perfect for the material. It elucidates the small talk and other commonplace discussions strangers engage in among one another splendidly. His characterizations are proudly born from this existence mirroring trait. Such details make it easy to understand the motivations and the frequent confusion James alternately embodies throughout the construction. The deliberate, meticulous pace of the script augments these physiognomies masterfully. The result, when combined with Antonio’s luminous and assured guidance of the project, is an endeavor that promotes a great new cinematic craftsman. Simultaneously, it summons the soaring charming inherent in the greatest independent films.

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Also, building upon this magnificent foundation is the herculean impact of the enactments. Besides those mentioned above, Timothy J. Cox is brilliant in his fleeting role of Mr. Jones. Brandon J. Shaw, credited here as “Apartment 718”, fares just as well. Greg Kritikos as Romeo, Una Petrovic as Charlene and Carmen Borla as Olivia are also remarkable. The same can be said for Laeticia De Valer as Kelly, Steven L. Coard as Mark and Jose Espinal as Eddie. It is a distinctively large cast for an exertion that feels so intimate. Everyone involved delivers spectacularly. In turn, the labor is amended another of its many superior charms.

The crew is just as indispensable in creating the high-quality art that proudly radiates through every frame on-screen. T.J. Wilkins’ jazzy music is tone-setting and undoubtedly appropriate for the material. We notice this in the opening moments, which when combined with Valentin Farkasch’s immersive black and white cinematography, is guaranteed to generate nostalgia in fellow cinephiles. This is as an undeniable alignment to an old-fashioned noir from the 1930’s or 1940’s becomes evident. Such an impression is lifted throughout this comedy-drama. This is even when modern components which seem to dictate otherwise meet the bystanders’ gaze. Such an atmosphere is riveting and endlessly admirable. The seamless and sharp editing from Sam Druckerman makes this allusion complete. Correspondingly, Magda Suriel’s make-up is top-notch. Jennifer Humala and Luis Inestroza offer a crisp issuance of sound. Kyle Brown’s visual effects are a marvel. Unlike many modern mainstream undertakings, they do not take you out of what is occurring. Instead they vastly enhance the viewer absorption. Jonathan Alvarez’s camera department contribution is just as deft, capable and exciting.

Antonio has crafted a memorable masterpiece of movement and interaction. It calls to mind Kevin Smith’s ground-breaking debut, Clerks (1994). Not only is this noteworthy in its general focus on the inner-workings of a young man (or men as in Smith’s case), but it is true in the way it effortlessly develops its protagonists. This is while simultaneously diverting spectators via purportedly routine occupational dealings. Enhancing this comparison, is that in neither venture do any of the happenstances feel forced or inorganic. There is a low-key beauty to both, especially in its clever banter-oriented emphasis, that will keep cinema patrons repeatedly returning to the narrative. Such makes Antonio a promising talent. He has arranged an affair that is victoriously witty, graceful, funny and inspiring; a tour de force that onlookers will delight in seeing. Night Job, a Sacred 9 Films production, is scheduled to be released in November of 2017.

The Facebook page for the flick can be found here.

The Twitter page for Sacred 9 Films can be found here.

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“Gary From Accounting” -(Short Film Review)


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By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

The title character of director Daniel Lofaso’s smart and darkly comedic five-minute and eight second short film, “Gary From Accounting” (2016), is an unassuming and mostly unwilling hero. He is not the same first named individual who our lead, Nathan (in another of Timothy J. Cox’s various show-stopping, wholly gripping performances), has thought to have developed such a strong rapport with via their respective occupations. Hence, his confusion and wrongful invitation to the incident that is about to unfold. Still, he is, nevertheless, forced to partake in an intervention which confronts Nathan’s alcoholism. This event has been put together by Nathan’s wife, Hannah (in a brilliantly realized and believable depiction from Thea McCartan). Upon entering his home, Nathan is met with heart-rendering declarations that would move even the stoniest of centers. For instance, Nathan’s sister, Belle (in a riveting enactment by Jake Lipman), cries out: “I can’t sleep at night because I worry about you driving drunk!” Hannah declares immediately afterward: “I have no one to talk to because you are out drinking every night!” Uncomfortable and desperately trying to find a way out of the situation, Gary (in an uproarious, bulls-eye representation from Mark Grenier), meekly chimes in with: “Your expense reports are sometimes a little late.” The rest of the tale teeters on this sharply established, seriocomic edge. This is as Nathan’s kin confront him with genuinely troubling episodes based on his intoxicating habits. All the while, Gary, whose presence Nathan seems solely enthusiastic and truly supported by, struggles to come up with something a fraction as unnerving as the myriad tribulations Nathan’s relatives are hurling at him.

Such is a distinctly clever premise. It is made more so by first time screenwriter Phoebe Torres’ and Lofaso’s decision to plant Gary, a highly likable persona who would fit all too contentedly in a working-class sitcom, in a circumstance of somber beings and high drama. The well-penned dialogue from Nathan’s loved ones is wrenching; full of pain and grief. Their embodiments of these entities are equally gripping. The centerpiece of this is a terse instance at around the three-minute mark. At this moment, Nathan’s children, cited as Little Boy and Little Girl (Christopher John and Rhea Kottakis respectively, in roles which showcase talent beyond their young years), confess to their father the difficulties he has inflicted on their lives. Despite the undeniable poignancy of these illustrations, Lofaso and Torres make an almost acrobatic exercise out of the composition. The effort finds just the right tone and balance for its affected and guffaw-inducing components. Such is instituted immediately. From this perfectly symmetrical juggling act it never wavers. It makes this briskly paced, well-penned and stalwartly guided affair even more masterful in both presentation and construction. Consequently, the laughs become increasingly triumphant. They hit us all more potently because of this divide. This is because we find ourselves snickering at subjects that otherwise would be met with the gravest approach.

Assisting matters is Jesse Bronstein’s handsome cinematography. It is accessed on an atmospherically appropriate palette; a beautifully blended collage of dusky colors and cheery hues. Such creates a wondrous visual interpretation of the opposing moods of the piece. Additionally, Gusta Johnson provides sensational editing. Cecilia Lewis’ makeup is every bit as exceptional as these aforementioned traits. Joseph Iacobazzo’s sound is top-notch. The proficient turns from the camera and electrical department, which consists of Mihai Bodea-Tatulea and Adehm Geller, heightens immeasurably the intimacy evident in this gathering. They help construct a closeness so palpable that one can easily relate to all who try to pull Nathan from his addiction in one manner or another. This makes the relation between viewer and narrative personality continually taut. It is so much so that its spectators can naturally find themselves sitting alongside these fictional protagonists; a silent bystander.

This Brooklyn, New York shot winner and Chirality Films release is also a masterclass in the power of brevity. In its brief runtime, Lofaso and Torres also successfully tackle the notion so prevalent in our society of feeling more of a bond, an excitement towards the proceedings of a popular television program than their our own personal measures. Such is utilized as an entry into the underlying commentary concerning the disconnect many of us impress upon ourselves. This is from the happenstance of our own existence. Perhaps this is an insight into Nathan afflictions. Either way, Lofaso and Torres have given us a chance to find the humor in ourselves. Yet, there are countless opportunities to reflect. All of this is implemented in a manner that is always respectful to the stern core of its commanding central themes. This is without ever falling into the trap of being pretentious, preachy or overwrought. What we are, ultimately, given is a largely dynamic, warm and inviting affair. This is a herculean display of cinematic storytelling and aptitude at its finest.

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“Dark Romance” – (Short Film Review)

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By Andrew Buckner
Rating: **** out of *****.

“Dark Romance” (2013), the debut short from co-writer and director Matthew Mahler, accomplishes in eight minutes what most thriller features need approximately an hour and a half or more to do. It tells a complete tale, albeit a familiar one, without the excess often utilized in a full-length fiction. But, the most intriguing element about Mahler’s account is that there is a considerable build-up. There is a high level of of suspense generated in its brief run. We, as cinematic patrons, are also offered a consistent focus on the obsessive signposts of affection directed toward our lead, Tim Cooper (another remarkable portrayal from Timothy J. Cox). They begin simply enough. But, soon they spiral quickly, wildly out of control. On Monday, Tim is given a card with a poem inside. They announce the regards of a mysterious someone in his office. By Tuesday, the chain of events have become violent. Wednesday is the bleakest day of them all. Thursday unveils a darkly smirk-inducing epilogue.

This condensed frame works beautifully. It also helps keep the intensity and pace wire tight. This also assists, in the tradition of the best white knuckle fabrications, in keeping our interest piqued to increasing levels throughout. Mahler makes the scenes showcasing the rapidly bizarre episodes for each of the previously stated spells as diminutive and to the point as possible. This narrative modus strengthens all of the aforementioned components terrifically well. Such is utilized via Mahler’s smart and claustrophobic direction. It is also strikingly unveiled in the sturdy screenplay he co-wrote with Ross Mahler. We are only allowed enough space in each sequence to see how unhinged Tim’s admirer is becoming. Before we can begin to fathom what is occurring, Mahler moves onto the next cringe-worthy instance. This makes for an undertaking that certainly delivers the exciting, expected ingredients of its genre.

To its discredit, the central figures are vaguely etched. Nevertheless, we know enough to care for them. It more than suffices given the scant duration of the piece. This is especially true of our labor-minded advertising executive antagonist. But, Cox more than makes up for this by being continuously affable. He fluently projects the type of managerial individual everyone at any place of employment, be it genuine or imagined, would like to have making the daily decisions. Tim’s secretary, Tiffany (Tiffany Browne-Tavarez), shares nearly as much screen time as Cox’s character. She proves herself to be a capable counterpart to Tim. This is with a simultaneously vulnerable, unflinching and bravura enactment. Though she is as broadly authored as the personality Cox brings to life, the duo both make their respective interpretations feel clearly unique. Because of this, we are more than willing to overlook the expository gaps in the Mahlers’ script. The proceedings are so well-done that we can also forgive another lingering sensation. This is that there is nothing new about the Fatal Attraction (1987) style confines of the straight-forward story arc. The twists are mostly expected. Correspondingly, the reveal of Tim’s devotee is obvious.

But, Mahler, who also provides the impressive cinematography and editing found herein, builds a plethora of memorable horror moments in an undersized expanse. Aside from the depictions and technical aspects, with Brian Shields and Ross Mahler both giving stirring turns in brief roles, this is where the real strength of the photoplay lies. Besides the already noted finale, what occurs on Tuesday is macabrely amusing. It is also masterfully designed. The segment optimizes its impact by eluding, but never glimpsing. Wednesday proves an appropriately unsettling, and grandly designed, climax. This arises as it more than ups the ante on the murderous crush taking place. The more light-hearted occasions of Monday mechanize just as well. They add a natural sense of enhanced disposition to Tim, Tiffany, and fellow employee, Cam (in a likable, credible and proficient representation by Cameron Rankin). It also adds similar personality to the composition as a whole. This is reflected in the natural, jesting banter that we hear early on. Such an attribute is just as active when the speech is more somber and terrifying in the advanced stretches.

Mahler has offered an all-around solid exertion with “Dark Romance”. The 8mm Films production, made for a mere $500 as a part of The 48 Hour Film project, excels as an exhibition of perpetually worrisome mood. It lacks the visual potency and risk-taking apparent in Cox and Mahler’s later collaboration, “What Jack Built” (2015). In this concoction not a word was spoken. Furthermore, the entirety of its eleven minutes was a one man display. Still, this is a gripping effort. The New York shot opus intends to both entertain and frighten. This is while summoning a vibrant aesthetic and authentic sensibility. It does this splendidly. The chemistry between Cox and Mahler, as well as the crew and their spectators, is more than visible in every frame. There is abundantly enough here to recommend this labor of fanatical love. The devotion to the craft from all involved resonates throughout. “Dark Romance” is a true gem. Because of this, I greatly anticipate seeing what Cox and Mahler’s next collaboration, “Finality” (2017), brings about.

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“Transience” – (Short Film Review)

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By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***** out of *****.

“Transience” (2013), the seven minute debut short from writer-director Tan See Yun, is a testament to the power of images projected silently on-screen. Without the use of sound or dialogue, until a haunting piano melody creeps emotively over the soundtrack at five and a half minutes in, Yun relies on simple motions, facial expressions and repeated pictures to tell his tale. For instance, there is a sight early on where Tom (in an enactment by Joshua Michael Payne that is credible and accomplished) is shown putting his wedding ring back on his finger. Our minds are left to ponder the visage: is he not being faithful in the relationship? If so, why? What is causing this fracture between him and George (Timothy J. Cox in a wrenching, human and heartfelt bravura performance)? With no speech to push us along and provide an answer, we search through what Yun allows us to spy to find out why. Such only heightens the emotional resonance of all we encounter, enhanced by the brute professionalism radiating through every frame in its brief span, immensely.

Likewise, there is a continued spectacle of a batch of flowers sitting in the middle of a kitchen table. This comes off as a symbol of George’s attempts to bring peace and re-ignited intimacy to the duo. There is also a moment that stands as a cornerstone of the endeavor. It arrives at three and a half minutes in. Such a happenstance oversees Tom coming across George by accident in a public place. This is an example of Yun’s tremendous capability to give a sequence a dream-like, poetic quality while maintaining a thoroughly authentic grasp. Such occurs as the bridges, lake and trees in this park area loom entrancingly, like gothic figures, in the background. Such is utilized to beautiful, chill-inducing effect. We also get a glimpse of George in this instant, as he sits in slumber with his hands on his stomach, clearly through Tom’s visage. It is than that we understand both of the points of view which culminate the project. We also comprehend the ability Yun has over his audiences all the more in gut-wrenches cases such as these. The result is further proof that what the psyche can conjure, especially in this manner, is far more substantial to the individual than any such reply pre-woven into the fabric of the narrative.

Yun tells the tale of Tom and George. Tom appears to be unfaithful. He may be leading a life that George may be unaware exists. George is the most commitment inclined of the pair. He has a professional life that is thriving. All the while, George seems to want to cling onto the mannerisms of the young bachelor. This is where much of the turmoil derives in their multi-year marriage. We see George making many attempts to patch up this distance. This is via a hug or a kind glance. Still, Tom is distant. Such triumphs as a unique representation of the early and advanced phases in the cycle of the existence. What is all the more impressive is that Yun has put them in frame together. This act makes their polar opposite natures unmistakable. It also exemplifies wonderfully how different personalities create unique angles, which may become problems, in a romantic rapport.

This is a fascinating concept. It is one which is stirringly erected throughout. With this, Yun gives us just enough to take in through his visual modus. Such is without weighing down the flow of the natural storytelling. Correspondingly, his writing and directing are similarly brilliant. They parallel moviemaking maestros such as Ingmar Bergman. This is in the way that the production often can be viewed as an extension of the stage as cinema. It also draws a sharp parallel to Federico Fellini. This is in Yun’s masterful aesthetic emphasis and command. All of these elements are sure to please fellow cinephiles. Yet, Yun showcases as much authority in his balanced, fluent pacing as in the aforementioned components. He has taken as many strides to make the piece a mirror to life itself, in its flawed and often harsh light, as he has a display of sheer talent.

Also assisting matters is Mark Boyle’s breathless, illuminating and gorgeous black and white cinematography. Yun’s editing is exceptional. Ekin Asar compliments both the ordinary and extraordinary components of what we spy in the composition with splendidly done set decoration. The location design and assistant camera contribution Asar provides is incredible. Fairful Nizam’s lighting is immersive and spectacular. It makes every shot all the more potent, dramatic and delightful to the eye. The uncredited, lately used score fares just as astonishingly. These technical attributes all add on-going awe to an already hypnotic, cerebral and poignant endeavor.

“Transience” begins, endures and ends remarkably. Furthermore, the New York City, New York recorded exertion is artistic, daring and refreshing. Yun’s undertaking harkens wonderfully back to the eloquence of the days of abstract, silent photoplays. This is while maintaining a consistently modern approach. In turn, Yun has presented an illustrious melding of the classic and contemporary. It is one which is simultaneously refreshing and necessary. This is a love letter to the big screen, derived by stripping cinema down to its bare essentials. Yet, the SIGH production is also a nuanced, striking and multi-dimensional character-study. It never forgets that focus. Moreover, it is an affair where even the meekest of optical bits, such as a flash where a game of Chess is quietly glimpsed in frame, seems to personify the twosome’s constant struggle for dominance in their nuptial link. A fiction which makes its spectators look that closely at all the details in the proximity of the account is evidently operating on a whole new level of prodigiousness.

Yun has consummated this and more with this intensely evocative tour de force. This is that increasingly rare undertaking that satisfies on all levels. It will captivate and demand multiple viewings to fully appreciate and recognize all that lies beyond its surface. In this era, that is equally infrequent. We desperately need more moving pictures such as these. Yun has erected an envy-inducing exhibition of skill. This is film at its finest.

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“Yeah, Love” – (Short Film Review)

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By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

“Yeah, Love” (2008), the seventeen minute and fourteen second debut short from writer-director Becca Roth, is simple, straight-forward and honest. This is in the most effective manner possible. The gentle sincerity it takes towards its coming of age content and characterizations elevates both the general charm and overall optimism of the piece tremendously well. Unlike most romantic comedy-dramas of late, Roth has derived a narrative credibly built from reality imitating dialogue, circumstances, causes and effects. Never once do we sense the project is deliberately pushing its audience and manipulating its leads towards a pre-conceived destination. Instead, we are given a finale which is merited, spectacularly designed, quaintly ambitious and sentimentally rousing. To its continued praise, the means in which the configuration doesn’t weigh itself down in melodrama or overwrought idealism, so prevalent in similar fare, makes this all the more genuine, joyous, upsetting and refreshing.

There is no lack of subtlety in Roth’s use of symbolism. These often expose the men of the fiction as stereotypically hormonal and occasionally combative. Regardless, this certainly enhances the perspective of hurt, angst, confusion and unexpected bliss which formulates the singular outlook of the affair. It is also just as reflective of the largely confusing teenage years as a whole. This range works exceptionally throughout. This is because it mechanizes, though often in a standard fashion, as a way of getting us inside the interior of our awkward heroine, Emmily (in an ever-likable performance by Crystal Franceschini which is impossible not to be captivated by.).

Roth taps into a portrait of youth that is charming and endearing. This is because it is so universally relatable. For instance, Emmily often tries to mask the embarrassment her loving dad (Timothy J. Cox in a standout role that is hilarious and earnest; proving again his chameleon-like ability to make any character he is given completely his own) unintentionally casts her way. We are also given more than our share of tear-jerking moments. Such is apparent when Emmily tries to shut the world out entirely. There is an extended segment where she lies on the floor of her home in complete defeat. Such arrives late in the second half of the arrangement. This is a deft example of such tropes operating at uniquely high levels of relevance. Emmily’s voice-over, credited to Roth, also adds infinitely to these sharply drawn qualities. This is because this aspect stings with often self-deprecating humor and wit. It is also laced with tragic doubts and observations. Such makes for a rounded, smartly paced, tonally fluent and always enjoyable slice of cinema.

Roth chronicles the shy, Emmily. Often seen avoiding social situations and making a fool of herself when all eyes are on her, the unimaginable pressures of high school on the introverted is beautifully and tenderly expressed. The nervousness that Emmily elicits when around others is heightened when she finds herself having a crush on an older female student, Milo (Paton Ashbrook in a wonderful turn; a perfect counterpart to Franceschini’s bold enactment). After a chance meeting in a park between the two, the once seemingly unmanageable relationship Emmily would like to have with Milo doesn’t appear so unlikely. There is a comically successful and engaging montage where Emmily tries to put her feelings for Milo into words. The next day, Emmily hesitantly and fearfully delivers the composition to Milo. The harsh laughter it exudes from fellow classmates causes a crushing, and terrifically captured, flash of pain and humiliation. From herein, Roth seems intent to make the heart soar. This is as the exertion hits an impassioned and splenderous zenith. Such is a sensation it carries on its back victoriously in resonate concluding minutes. All of these incidents are given extra dimension by the perfectly punctual songs which formulate the soundtrack. “Be Be Your Love” by Rachel Yamagata is especially atmospheric.

It is this canvas of alternating ambiances Roth paints this undertaking with spectacularly. The aforementioned sequence involving Emmily’s writ impressions is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the tale. Still, Roth turns out an arc that has more than its share of familiar categorical beats. Such is perceived in an opening that finds our lead riding in a form of public transportation by herself to personify her loneliness and isolation. Yet, the product endures as stalwart and refreshingly authentic. It never for an instance becomes as noticeably rote and stale as the similarly ardor filled entries which fill theaters nowadays.

This is largely courtesy of Roth’s uncanny ability to immediately pull us deeply into the Emmily’s vulnerable world. It keeps this watchable hold on its audience for the runtime. The result is the raising of the emotional stakes to unfathomable levels. We dearly want Emmily to unveil her happiness just as desperately as she does. This is proof of the brilliant writing Roth orchestrates. It is also a bravura showcase of the apparently effortless directorial style she demonstrates. Such is also a testament to the incredible caliber of the portrayals herein. Representatively, Paul Fabre as Toby, Ryan Radermacher as Brad, Michael Steiner as Duke, Monisha Chowdhary as Therapist and Isabel Hilario as Morgan are all fantastic in their small bits. Likewise, various other technical angles fare just as luminously. The cinematography from Aaron Fisher and Roth, who also issue the proficient sound gracing the endeavor, adds a gritty edge to the proceedings. The same can be said for Roth’s editing.

The Finding Emma Productions release is a massively illuminating achievement. Though Milo and those in the background of the story are intentionally only vaguely formed personalities, Emmily is incredibly developed. Roth has given us an exhibition of singular viewpoint that is fully encapsulating. This is a courageous student film. It is one brimming with talent and endlessly successful risk-taking. Though the theme Roth presents has long been utilized on the silver screen, it is as direct and necessary as ever. There is a natural, unrushed and clear touch to all we come across in “Yeah, Love”. Where lesser indulgences would sink beneath the acquainted components Roth weaves into the fabric of the saga, this opus is largely strengthened by them. Roth has crafted a real winner. This is a display of art imitating life at its finest.

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“It’s Not You” – (Short Film Review)

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By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

“It’s Not You” (2013), the four-minute debut short from writer-director Sophie Peters-Wilson, is a sentimentally searing powerhouse; a visual poem told largely via flashbacks. It is one where joy is overtaken by a hidden heartache. What makes the material all the more potent is that it these memories, and the emotive journey attached to them, personify what is occurring in the mind of a young girl. She is referred to in the credits merely as Daughter (a performance by Abigail Spitler that tremendously conveys all the conflicting sensations someone in her position would undergo in such a situation). As the undertaking commences, she is being told that her parents are about to partake in a divorce. What follows showcases magnificently, achingly Daughter’s altering perspective. This is concerning what initially appeared to be happy times.

Peters-Wilson communicates this to the audience with small tidbits, all of which suggest transformative secrets, which were either regressed or deliberately hidden from Daughter’s eyes. For instance, one sequence showcases a close-up of Father (in another commanding, passionate and hypnotic enactment from Timothy J. Cox) pulling himself out of the locked hand of Mother (in a phenomenal, well-rounded depiction by Sarah Ruth Blake). This is to address another woman who has stopped to ask Father a question. Yet, the moment, heightened by the angry glimmer in Mother’s eyes as the instant occurs, speaks of jealousy. There are also various other hidden undertones. These are of her suspicions that Father is not being faithful. As the mid-section becomes a balance of arguments between both the maternal and paternal halves of this familial unit, Peters-Wilson clearly states the concealed tiff, revolving around the fear of breaking the matrimonial bond, between the two. It is during this succession, more than ever, we also note how remarkably Peters-Wilson has put us into the mind of Daughter. This transpires as we find ourselves asking many of the same questions that the character herself must be forced to ask during this deliberation. These are inquiries like: “Is this particular time what caused their falling out? Was this simply part of a bigger sequence? What could’ve been done to change this while it happened?”

It all helps to make this brief affair, which was shot in New York City, victorious. This is as both a psychological portrait and a maturely fashioned character study. Likewise, Peters-Wilson, who created this haunting composition with a reported budget of only $100, provides a screenplay that is credible at every turn. This specific section is also brilliantly structured and fluently, suitably paced. Moreover, the sparse bits of dialogue Peters-Wilson provides her leads are endlessly believable. Such is especially accurate with the circumstances the collective kin unveils. Though Daughter’s outlook fuels the majority of this stalwart opus, Peters-Wilson goes out of her way to be respectful to the plight and perception of all involved. Such a decision amends the effort with all the more dimension and detail. In turn, it makes it feel all the more complete. Peters-Wilson’s stirring, meditative authorship is given a stylish visual component through her directing. It is one which is equally elegant and impressive. Both elements find the perfect note for the material immediately and execute it beautifully throughout. All of these aforementioned attributes are more than visible in the final product.

Peters-Wilson also offers cinematography which is absolutely stunning. This is from the aspect of its overall veneer and tonal mastery. The more upbeat moments are merry, bright and cheery. When the story exposes the dark underbelly of Mother and Father’s relationship, what we see on-screen is drenched in a color palette that is appropriately bleak. Peters-Wilson’s contribution in this respective category is all the more striking and wondrous because of how well she speaks to her audience through this, and all the previously stated, mediums. Her editing is just as sharp and seamless.

With the further assistance of tremendous camera work from four individuals, this is just as pleasurable to admire from a technical angle as it is to witness. Peters-Wilson and her moviemaking crew have provided a narrative that has undoubted resonance and true cathartic value. This is for those who, sadly, may find themselves in a similar condition as those we encounter within the venture. It is just as much for the personalities who can look back, much as Daughter may do years after the events of this tale have happened, in continued meditation. “It’s Not You” is a heartfelt, courageous, challenging and necessary drama. Peters-Wilson has crafted an unflinching, cerebral masterpiece. It is one which all of its spectators can utilize to understand, in one arena or another, and grow from. That, in itself, makes it certainly worthy of recommendation, seeking out and experiencing for yourself.

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“Mail Time”- (Short Film Review)

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By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Writer-director Sebastian Carrasco’s six minute and twenty-four second short, “Mail Time” (2016), is quietly compelling and magical. It is also grandly emotive in the manner of silent films from the early twentieth century. This sentiment is greatly enhanced, and made all the more operatic, by the remarkably stirring, uncredited score which drives every frame of the composition. Such an element is made so herculean that even mundane bits are immersed in a magnetic cinematic light. An example of this can be spied in a mid-way sequence that involves our lead, Ted (in an enactment by Timothy J. Cox that is commanding and likable as always and made all the more impressive by the performance being completely without dialogue), sitting at home. The moment conveys volumes by merely showing him smiling giddily as he watches a magician on television.

What continues to assists matters magnificently is that Carrasco has erected a screenplay which is artistic, beautifully honed, structured and contemplative. Yet, he gives Cox room to breathe and to create. Such a decision makes Ted something special. He is a hero who, like many of us, are unaware of such a stature. This is projected through the duration to great impact here solely through the lens of his everyday actions.

The narrative focuses in on Ted’s faux magician act suddenly becoming genuine. Initially, this behavior is an undertaking he has evoked to make the grinding routine of his occupation enjoyable. This is as much for his customers, the faces he sees repeatedly and to divert the nefarious man who constantly tries to rob him, as it is for Ted’s own sense of childlike wonder and awe. It is also utilized for the sake of keeping Ted’s employment as fresh and new as possible. This also mechanizes as a method to help make the transaction between mailman and customer memorable. Almost unthinkably, genuine mysticism begins to finds its way into his life. Soon the humdrum pattern of his days are anything become anything but ordinary. Ted now has now become real-life illusionist. His once banal delivery route has become a stage, a setting for truly joyous and numinous exploits.

The piece is a simple, innocent tale at its heart. It knows this on a conscious level. Therefore, it never gives into any possible inklings lesser exhibitions of this ilk may have. This would be to make the work more complex than it needs to be. That, in itself, heightens the wonderfully old-fashioned joviality and storytelling at hand. This assists in making Carrasco’s brief endeavor all the more charming.

Carrasco’s direction is equally illuminating. It is endlessly stylish and further calls to mind similar entries which are a hundred years or more behind us. Moreover, Carrasco has a sharp sensibility of pace. This effort moves along much in the manner Ted does through his day of labor here. It is briskly casual. We glide from incident to incident with sufficient time to get a strong impression of all necessary details of the situation. Also, we never assume the sensation of being pushed along doggedly to get from point A to B. Despite this, it miraculously never feels as if it lingers or any of the sequences go on longer than they should. This is a difficult and delicate balancing act in itself. It is one worthy of great acclaim. Such is one of the many astounding feats this marvel pulls off wonderfully.

Enhancing the overall prowess of this composition is Makeela Frederick. She is excellent in her small role as The Girl. Additionally, Bernardo Salazar’s cinematography is resplendent and certainly striking. Carrasco’s editing is just as impressive. Simultaneously, the sound and make-up contributions are just as terrific as the previously stated traits. These details conduct an account, stated to have a budget of only $1,000, which is pure, exuberant delight.

Carrasco opens on a loving note. He carries that ardor respectfully, engagingly until the closing credits. Such evokes an undeniably positive experience. It is one which will undoubtedly leave even its sourest of spectators in a far better mood after viewing it. That, in itself, is a rarity. This only makes “Mail Time” all the more worthy of recommendation. To its further recognition, the touches of comedy here are natural and endlessly successful. They appear as much of the story as everything else we come across. For instance, a commencing gag in the first sequence which dramatically showcases postage articles falling onto a table in slow motion, reminiscent of something one might see in a soap opera, are where this is most effective. Such an aspect only further represents the upbeat nature of the visions radiating on-screen.

It all comes together to create a tour de force. Carassco has concocted a mesmerizing opus; a well-deserved ballad to the often unsung powers of those who take up the reins of laborer dutifully. This is a stroke of brilliance. It is one that broad ranging audiences will assuredly have no problem relating to. Carassco has provided us a touching, illuminating and enchanting masterpiece. It is as much necessary viewing for the stressed out adult who is long exhausted of the repetitive nature of our quotidian doings as it is for the wide-eyed youth lurking within. Carassco has fashioned a gentle character study. It is one that hits us on a passionate level, speaks to us and makes us want to unveil the magic in our own lives.

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“Linda LeThorn & the Music Box” – (Short Film Review)

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By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

One of four short films writer-director Meg Skaff constructed in 2012, “Linda LeThorn & the Music Box” is a hypnotically erected, splendidly paced and, ultimately, rousing success. Skaff takes the tried and true horror element of a haunted music box and builds a world around it that is mesmerizing and wholly new. This is courtesy of, and made all the more engrossing by, Skaff’s witty, wry observations of the weird and commonplace intertwining. Her brilliant screenplay and impeccable eye for framing these components into entertaining, stylistic bravura makes this mixture all the more illuminating. Such items punctuate the plethora of uncanny observations at hand. All of these are produced in a manner as if the camera itself is reflecting the interpretation of our enthrallingly odd title heroine (in an impeccably realized performance by Aundrea Fares where her monotone, emotionless character expressions only heightens the effectiveness of the already potent humor).

Such a tone is established immediately in an opening montage of sorts which showcases LeThorn’s various pets. This sensation never wavers throughout the seventeen minute runtime of this dazzlingly made comedic opus of innocence and melancholy. Even the most routine of moments, such as a repeated sequence in the first half which showcases LeThorn peering at frozen food as if both ravenous and drugged in a grocery store, are put together in a manner that is both hallucinogenic and ominous. They are also darkly hilarious and captivating. All of these words are perfect for the atmosphere Skaff gives the material. It fits wonderfully. Such makes the intelligence and expertise resounding through every frame all the more intense. Yet, all of the distinctive images, and the incredibly delivered bits of Skaff’s well-penned and credible dialogue which accompanies them, conjures a wisely underplayed, yet visible, level of emotion. I related to LeThorn and the projected assessment of the landscape she inhabits more than I care to admit.

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Skaff, who has a small bit as a homeless person here, tells the tale of LeThorn receiving a collection of one of a kind articles from her Aunt Lucinda (in a fantastic role of the domineering by Susan Kirby that etches her character, largely via flashbacks, remarkably well through brief glimpses). Among these is the aforementioned container of sound. It is one which happens to play songs on its own accord. Almost immediately after receiving this resplendent item, LeThorn becomes possessed by Lucinda. From herein, she learns of a debilitated love triangle involving Lucinda. She also feels the need to start a skin-picking society. This is something of an ode to one of Lucinda’s equally inexplicable traits. Such a characteristic becomes the pushing force for a large portion of the dryly riotous second half. Likewise, the account ends on an appropriate note. It is just as attention-garnering and expressive of LeThorn’s isolated domain as what opens the venture.

The rest of the cast and crew provide exceptional work. Timothy J. Cox is delightful in his depiction of the sweat-suit wearing, bespectacled individual we come to know as Purple Green. He lives in the same building as LeThorn. Simultaneously, he also appears to be named after the color of clothing he wears. Ashley Peoples as Geraldine, Brit-Chardle Sellers as Terry Kendall and Kimberly David as Traffy are all terrific. The previously stated depictions are as singularly off-beat and watchable as LeThorn herself.

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Composer Insula Dulcamara’s music echoes the nature of the fiction well. The soundtrack is melodic, uniquely beautiful, dramatic and evocative. Skaff’s cinematography is marvelous. It makes all we encounter into a consistently gorgeous visual feast. This is especially evident in the more dream-like instances. We see this in one spectacularly done early moment. Such transpires when LeThorn is viewed dancing in her apartment. This strange segment is made all the more so as a majestic glimmer of a disco ball arrives out of nowhere. Immediately, it begins spinning radiantly in the background. The direction, editing, production design, costume, wardrobe and make-up work by Skaff are just as proficient and appealing.

Skaff has proven herself an incredible talent with “Linda LeThorn & the Music Box”. There is a striking parallel to her approach here and that of a film by Wes Anderson (2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums, 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel) at his most sophisticated and striking. Furthermore, some of the more ethereal scenes call to mind, in their own way, the behind the camera flare of moviemaker Tim Burton (1988’s Beetlejuice, 1990’s Edward Scissorhands). Best of all, the laughs are quietly underplayed. They are never highlighted as such as many modern mainstream genre entries appear obliged to do. Each guffaw is planted in one sense or another in reality as exclusively spied by LeThorn. Such only adds to the skill and craftsmanship pulsating throughout. It all comes together to create a masterpiece; a commentary on social interactions and society itself that is biting, bold, memorable and downright hysterical. This is a must-see!

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An Interview With Actor Timothy J. Cox

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By Andrew Buckner

Today I have the one of a kind honor of speaking with a prolific character actor, Timothy J. Cox! Welcome! Can you tell us about yourself?

Thank you so much for having me, Andrew!

When I first moved to New York City 15 years ago, all I wanted to be was a good supporting actor in the theater. I wanted to do Shakespeare, Chekov, Ibsen…the classics. I loved all of those stock characters…they were all so much fun to play. So for several years, theater is all that I did, with an occasional film job, but in those early experiences, I wasn’t terribly pleased with my work or the overall projects.

In the last 6 years though, I’ve done more film and have come to really love it. I still love the theatre and I would jump into a play tomorrow if the project was the right fit, but right now, my focus and energies are in film.

What were your earliest acting influences?

Movies have always been an influence to me. Even before I was an actor, I was always a fan of the movies, doing impressions of Brando in The Godfather for my family.

From an acting standpoint, the biggest influence on me has been the work of Jack Lemmon. Lemmon was just so familiar up there on screen, with characters that dealt with the comedy and tragedy of every day life. The average Joes. Those characters really appeal to me. Those are the types of characters that I love to play.

What are some of your all-time favorite performances?

Aside from Jack Lemmon, I am also a big fan of anything that has Jason Robards, Albert Finney, Alec Guiness, Kathy Bates, Patricia Clarkson have done. Same goes for Paul Giamatti and William H. Macy. Allison Janney is wonderful in everything she does and to me, Bryan Cranston is a God.

The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) cites you as acting in 117 different titles! That’s amazing! Where do you get this drive from?

It’s simple. I like to work and try to work as much as possible. I get an immense joy from the process and the energy of a film set, plus I learn something new with every role, even the bad ones.

What was your first acting role?

When I was in the 8th Grade, there were auditions for the school musical being held during the school day, during Math class, so I decided to audition just to get out of class. I went into the audition, with no desires or aspirations to be an actor, but the director must have seen something in me because he cast me in the leading role and 25 years later, I’m still doing it.

How do you feel you have grown as an actor in the time since?

Oh, I’m still growing. I think as actors we are all works in progress. That’s the wonderful thing about this work, you never stop learning. You can always dig a little deeper, push a little more. The challenges are what make it great.

You are also a screenwriter. Your credits in this category are the 2011 short, “The Teacher’s Lounge” and “But It’s Valentine’s Day” from the same year. Also, you were the author of the up-coming “Finality” (2016). You also were among the top billed in these works. Comparatively, what is the experience like of conjuring up a character, penning it and then bringing it to life on-screen? Do you think you were successful at portraying the individual the way you imagined him on these occasions?

It was nice to experiment with screenwriting on those occasions. Some of it worked, most of it didn’t, but I will say that I loved to have the opportunity to try. Like everything else that I have done, those screenwriting assignments were interesting learning experiences.

As I mentioned, “Finality” is your latest effort in this category. What can we expect from this undertaking?

I wrote this script a couple of months ago, after reading an article about Bernie Madoff. I wondered what his final moments, before going to prison, were like. I wondered what he felt, if anything in those final moments, so that’s where the idea for the script came from. I presented the script to Matthew and Ross Mahler of 8mm Films, who I really enjoy working with, and they liked it. We had such a wonderful time on “What Jack Built”, that I was thrilled and delighted that they were excited about the project. I’m really looking forward to bringing that one to life.

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Returning to your incredible acting abilities, you recently played the part of Dr. Bradley in a short film which struck a chord with me called “Dirty Books”. What can you tell us about this character?

Dr. Bradley is a genuinely decent man who, I think, secretly admires what David is doing in the film. David’s fighting for something he believes in. Yes, Dr. Bradley needs to maintain order, as part of his position, but there’s also a little twinkle in his eye, especially at the end of the film. I think Dr. Bradley wishes that he had the passion and tenacity to fight for something like that when he was David’s age. That was so much fun to play, so I must credit Zach (director/writer Zachary Lapierre) and Ian (writer Ian Everhart) for penning such an original script.

What was it like bringing Dr. Bradley to the screen?

Zach and Ian wrote such a great script, with characters that felt very real, so I just trusted the material. When you have great material, it makes your job as the actor much easier. You just show up, trust the material and the people around you and great things can happen.

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Another depiction of yours that was tremendously powerful was in Mark Battle’s short film, “Here Lies Joe”. In it you play the head of a group called Suicide Anonymous. His name is Bill. What can you tell us about this experience?

It’s a beautiful film; a wonderful slice of life, served up in such an honest manner by Mark and Pam Conway. I read the part of Bill and I really gravitated to him. Like Dr. Bradley, Bill is a genuinely decent man, the kinds of guys we see every day. Not terribly extraordinary men, but men who go out there in the world every day and struggle and survive through all the madness that is thrown at them. There was an honesty to Bill, a sweetness that was very easy to play. I especially loved that even though he appears in one scene, Mark and Pam made him very real on the page. He jumped off the page for me.

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You were also in the 2015 comedy from director Sean Meehan, “Total Performance”. In it you played Walter Baron. Let’s talk about this character. What was it like?

Walter is a man in a very unfortunate situation. He runs a company with his best friend and the best friend is not cutting it, so he has to fire them, but he can’t get the words together to do it. Again, something drew me to Walter. The words. The character. The situation. Another average Joe. I really like these guys. They’re very relatable. I know them very well.

I knew that the film was going to be something special and unique, as all of Sean’s films have that quality. It’s such a delightfully unique film that cannot really be categorized. It has it all and I’ve been delighted at the reaction that it has received.

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You also brought to life Mr. Bowers in Foster Vernon’s debut comedy, “Hell-Bent”, from this year. What was that like? 

Yes. I just shot that movie a couple of months ago and I am thrilled that it’s out for people to see. I worked for one day and that was a fun experience. It was great to play a real hard ass in the Jason Robards from “All the President’s Men” mold. Just a no-nonsense kind of guy.

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I also see that you have a lot of works that you are featured in that are in post-production. Can you tell us about them?

I have the film One of Too Many written and directed by Amber Robinson of Sustained Entertainment in post. That’s the first part of a two part film series that addresses the recent rise in shootings that have been taking place in the country. I will be working on the second part of the series as well in the fall.

The comedy, “Gary from Accounting”, written by Phoebe Torres and produced by Chirality Films is also in post. I had a lot of fun working on that.

Lastly, I have the magical short, “Mail Time”, from writer/director Sebastian Carrasco. Just wrapped that a week or so ago. I played another average Joe, a real mensch, who gets a little taste of magic.

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Do you have any other up and coming projects you would like to talk about?

I am in pre-production on the web series Shade, in a recurring role, produced by 1 Brain Productions. It’s a great part, so I’m excited to jump into it.

In August I will be working with writer/director John Henry Soto on the short film “And on That Day”, in a fun supporting role. John’s a great guy and I’m really thrilled that I get to work with him.

I’m also in pre-production on a zombie film currently titled Project Z working with writer/ director Daniel Pozmanter. Looking forward to working on a zombie film as I am a big Walking Dead fan.

Do you have any final thoughts for us?

Thank you for having me, Andrew! It’s been a real pleasure. Hope to have more films to share with you in the coming weeks. Thanks for your support of my work and for your support of all film.

Thank you for your time! I look forward to checking out your future works!

You can find out more about Timothy J. Cox at his actor’s site here.

Mr. Cox’s profile can be found on IMDB here.

You can connect with him on Facebook here.