Cameron Rufelds, Katie Uhlmann, Robert Nolan
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Having already proven himself willing to tackle challenging subjects with relentless authenticity with his date rape-themed short film Roofies & Romance, writer/director Cody Campanale goes dark again on Teach'er, a 15-minute short involving two ambitious acting students and the lengths they'll go to in chasing down a prized acting apprenticeship.
Jason (Cameron Rufelds) and Vanessa (Katie Uhlmann) are acting students in the class of an arguably blue collar acting professor who makes the final decision on who will acquire the prized possession. In rather quick fashion, it becomes abundantly clear that Vanessa is, by most accounts, the more talented of the two. However, there's no question that Jason is the most ambitious.
In Campanale's realistically cynical world, it's not out of the question that ambition's going to trump talent and, as well, Vanessa isn't particularly above violating her own value system if it means getting a chance to one-up her constantly competitive friend. Does she really have what it takes to trump someone who seems to take a rather sadistic glee in constantly attaining the upper hand on everyone around him?
Relative newcomer Cameron Rufelds plays Jason without an ounce of sympathy, an uncomfortable yet refreshingly honest approach to his playing a young man who bears more than a passing resemblance to The Fighter's Christian Bale. Rufelds' Jason is the kind of guy who approaches nearly everyone with a "You fuck me once, I'll fuck you twice" attitude. From enjoying 10 minutes of silence while casually involved with a young lady to his not so subtle command for Vanessa to admit that he's a better actor, Rufelds portrays Jason with a brutal honesty that isn't particularly fun to watch but it leaves a powerful impact.
As Vanessa, Uhlmann, for all her talent and willingness to take risks, is infinitely more vulnerable than Jason and lacks his killer instinct. While she's willingness to compromise her values to a degree, Uhlmann's ultimate inability to completely go into attack mode makes her more sympathetic and the storyline itself that much more disturbing and unforgettable.
As the professor, Robert Nolan embodies the character with that a sense of faux authority Rufelds' Jason picks up on and finds a way to exploit. It's ultimately a power struggle and, in the end, Campanale paints a portrait of power that is taken not given.
D.P. Alex Dacev's camera work is solid throughout, painting the film in gritty tones consistent with Campanale's stark realism. The film has a similar look and feel to Campanale's Roofies & Romance, though the action has shifted from a dingy barroom setting to a slightly less dingy campus setting.
Teach'er premiered at July's Long Island International Film Expo and will soon be seen at Montreal's World Film Festival. At slightly under 15 minutes, it should be noted that the film does contain coarse language and scenes of sexuality and is not particularly suited to younger viewers.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic