Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It's a Dramatic Life: Review of Short Film "Teach'er"

“Sometimes you have to take a risk in order to be rewarded.”

So lectures the drama professor to his acting students in the opening scene of Teach’er, a lesson that one of his students will teach him the hard way by the end in a delicious act of revenge.

The Canadian short film is about the politics of competitive student theatre, including everything from sex to blackmail.

The lead character Jason is an acting student who goes to wild lengths to win an acting apprenticeship -- except, it seems, work on his acting. He is so repulsive he sends instant messages on his smart phone while receiving oral sex.

The film was well acted, particularly by Robert Nolan, who plays the sarcastic, morally-confused professor – a type of role he played brilliantly in last year’s short film Worm. Nolan plays his character with just the right amount of condescension and arrogance for a role like this. At first I wasn’t sure what to think of Cameron Rufelds, the actor who plays Jason. I thought he played anger unconvincingly, but I quickly changed my mind: Rufelds's over-the-top performance quietly, but brilliantly, shows us how insecure and desperate his character really is.

But there were some annoying points. The dialogue is awkward in parts, most notably early in the film when, after a sarcastic exchange with his girlfriend, Jason tells her, “We’ll be in touch.” Who says that to his girlfriend?

And then there’s one weird scene in which director Cody Campanale tries too hard to make an apple, a long symbol of respect students give their teachers, a literary device. In weirdly long, quiet, awkward blocking, Jason pulls out the apple, stares at it, then puts it on the desk of the professor with an audible thud to get his professor’s attention. In awkward pauses during the heated exchange with his professor, Jason picks up the apple again and puts it down, closer to him and later bites into it. We get it. The apple is Jason’s way of saying “F— You” to his professor. It’s too forced.

Also, the soundtrack is terrible. The abrasive guitar and whiny vocals remind me of a late 90s teen movie, only the music isn’t even that good.

But these are tolerable issues in a clever, engaging film that kind of made me want to get into acting again – provided I don’t end up with a professor like Nolan’s character and I don't date an actor like Jason.


  1. Did this aire on tv there or is there a venue near you that features short films?

  2. After reading this post it definitely doesn't make me want to see this movie. What made you leave acting in the first place?

  3. Mythopolis - I have asked the director for this information and when I get it, I'll let you know.

    Sir Lancealot - Ah, the power of reviews, but I assure you this was not my intention. I didn't really "leave" acting, I just did some in high school and a little in university and then didn't seek other opportunities. Acting is a lot of work and I didn't want to have to do that on top of another job, which would probably be necessary to survive, let alone comfortably. I also have difficulty following direction and health issues make it difficult to work as hard as I would need to as an actor, as often as I would need to.

  4. One place that TEACH'ER may play in the future (but it will most likely do the film festival circuit first.
    A place to see great new indie films (used to be THE GERRARD THEATRE - now renamed PROJECTION BOOTH EAST and under new management).

    For the latest news on the film, you can go here:
    TEACH'ER (on Facebook - The Fan Page)

    Also, go here to the website of LESSER MEN (the film production company) for news on this and their other films.