Teach’er (2011) – By James Dubbeldam

Teach’er is a 14 minute short film written and directed by Cody Campanale. It stars Cameron Rufelds as ‘Jason’, Robert Nolan as ‘The Professor’ and Katie Ulhmann as ‘Vanessa’.  The film takes a look at two theatre students who both want to ‘make it’. They’re competitive and driven, willing to do almost anything to win an acting apprenticeship and their professor’s approval / affection.  The main character Jason (Cameron Rufelds) is cold and calculating, yet easy to understand and sympathize with. And he never takes anything too far (in my humble opinion) as he keeps his sights on the price.

It’s immediately clear that Teach’er is a professional, well-polished film. The acting in the introduction is so strong and believable you’re immediately drawn into the story. To say Robert Nolan plays the part well is an understatement. He’s perfect. Both Cameron Rufelds and Katie Ulhmann never waiver, always keeping their characters real and believable. Overall the acting is incredible.

The production value of this short is very high- there weren’t any issues that I could find with anything! It’s a great looking film, well-shot, well directed and the audio is close to perfect. It has its style – that of a mainstream Hollywood film; clean and easy to watch.  The film does deal with a graphic topic or two, and I wasn’t sure exactly why that was necessary. It’s not exploitative but also not completely necessary. I’d love to hear what the writer/director’s intentions were.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed this film, I do have a few suggestions. First, I really wanted to see Jason’s character act in the film, especially after the first scene. Because the film is about ‘how good he is’ and essentially about actors, I almost felt the need to see him work his magic.  I also found the ‘flipping out’ scene a tad anti-climatic. For some reason Jason is SO mad and angry in this film, so when he finally snaps and unleashes his rage in his room, it didn’t do it for me. I really wanted to see more rage, and at the same time understand his depth and emotional range.  Lastly, like many short films, I felt like the use of establishing shots and wider angles (especially in new locations) could really have drawn the viewer into the settings and locations. Without the geography of the settings it’s difficult to imagine being there as a viewer, and yet so simple to do.

Overall Teach’er is a short film to watch. It’s a prime example of what can be accomplished through a short film with a lot of love, patience and skill. The film felt big; it was complex, deep and involving, and…it was believable.