A queer filmmaker originally from Indiana, Tommy Craven is finding success with his first short film, Getting Off, the story of Dane (Jonathan Rentler), a college student moonlighting as an escort to pay for classes whose graduation means preparing for a new start in a new city along with an uneasy goodbye to Harris (Paul Walling), a sweet middle-aged client who has, it seems, become more than a client.
The film's rather fundamental title conceals Craven's wicked intelligence and subtle sensitivity, both qualities brought beautifully to life by co-leads Rentler and Walling. The two exhibit a comfortable and believable chemistry that is intimate, passionate and worthy of the 35-minute investment you'll make in watching the film.
Getting Off has already screened at Kokomo, Indiana's Hoosierdance International Film Festival and just this past weekend at Philadelphia's qFlix. The film has also lined up screenings at the Rhode Island International Film Festival and the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
With a tag line of "Getting off clients is easy, getting off to a new start isn't," Getting Off is all set up to be both a sexy and intelligent film that benefits from both a great cast and a tremendous production crew including Craven's own relaxed, intuitive direction and authentic dialogue. Rentler is an absolute delight as Dane, sexy enough to be convincing as an escort yet possessing of a sweetness and naturalness that makes you believe he truly sees this as a life choice leading to another life choice.
Indeed, much of Getting Off isn't necessarily about getting off but about the choices we make in life that get us where we are going and the little choices along the way that can often times lead to bigger ones.
As Harris, Paul Walling gives a comfortable, slightly vulnerable performance that makes it understandable exactly why Dane would come to realize that this older yet just as spirited man is more than just a client.
Lensing from Colin Allen and Tyler James Ribble is intimate yet not intrusive, while Brenna Gehlen's production design gives the film a wonderful warmth and, at times, a sense of tension as Dane's move toward a new life is revealed.
Tommy Craven's little indie gem is a promising debut revealing not just a bold new talent, but also an intelligent one whose voice should easily be welcomed on the LGBTQ filmmaking scene and the filmmaking scene in general. Getting Off is the best kind of sexy - intelligent, warm, intimate and downright entertaining. If you get a chance, check it out.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic