'American Morning' is a short film that takes on the horrors and aftermath of a mass shooting in a suburban elementary school. Told from the perspective of a survivor, the film reveals the trauma, grief, and anger that so many suffer in the wake of what is sadly becoming an almost daily occurrence.
Mission StatementAmerica is in the throes of a gun violence epidemic. 100 Americans are killed by guns every day and it needs to stop. We believe that art can forge a path for conversation and we hope this film will provide catharsis for our pain and fear, yet ultimately unite and galvanize us to find a solution.
About The Project
Two years ago, Connor Mathis, a small-town elementary school music teacher, survived the seemingly unimaginable. A lone gunman forced his way into his school and killed 27 children and 5 adults with an assault rifle.
While this massacre was unfolding, Connor was forced to make a choice. A choice that no teacher should be forced to make, a choice that saved the lives of all the children in his class...except one. Inspired by actual events, our story takes place in the present where Connor has since quit teaching and moved back in with his father Dale, played by Emmy Award-winner Richard Schiff ("The West Wing", "The Good Doctor").
Haunted by nightmares and memories of that horrific day and enraged by the gross inaction of his country’s elected officials to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again, Connor resolves to take matters into his own hands to both reconcile his guilt and ignite change.
We have a gun problem in this country that keeps getting worse. Tens of thousands of Americans, many of them children, have died or been injured by a gun in just the last ten years. The United States accounts for just 4% of the world’s population, but 35% of global firearm suicides and 9% of global firearm homicides. Black Americans represent the majority of gun homicide victims and are 10 times more likely than white Americans to die by gun homicide. Black children and teens are 14 times more likely than white children and teens of the same age to die by gun homicide. Women in the U.S. are 21 times more likely to be killed with a gun than women in other high-income countries and in an average month, 53 American women are shot to death by an intimate partner and many more are shot and wounded. Approximately three million American children witness gun violence every year. In fact, in 2019 there were more mass shootings than days in the year. We need to figure out why this is and why nothing changes...except the names, place, and number of casualties. Most importantly though, we need to figure out how to fix it.
While we've always had an abundance of content in this country that glamorizes weapons and the American propensity for violence, we have very little that confronts the grief, loss, and aftermath of so many senseless tragedies and preventable deaths. We believe that this film, as well as all uncomfortable and inconvenient art, reveals a truth we seldom yet must-see in order to reverse course before it's too late. Before these horrors do indeed become the new normal.
When we shot this film in late February earlier this year, we could not have foreseen how drastically the world was about to tilt. As fear of the coronavirus pandemic spread, Americans bought 2 million guns in March alone. As animosity toward lockdowns orders grew, protestors armed with assault rifles showed up at the Michigan state capital in droves. We have a vastly over-militarized and under-trained police force that is disproportionately using deadly force on Black Americans. We are at the beginning of a long-overdue reckoning between our country's longstanding systems of oppression and colonialist past and our current identity. So you may ask, why this campaign now? As we continue to move through this painful period of national hardship and uncertainty, we believe that providing opportunities for citizens to come together to solve our national crises is more vital than ever. Bothersome art such as this film, a reflection of where we are today, can be a gateway for such discourse. If we are ever to heal and move forward, we must demand empathy, conversation, and decisive action.
The money we are raising here will go directly towards paying our hardworking artists for their time and phenomenal talents. We took out a loan to ensure that we could pay our freelance crew during production, so now we are raising money to cover that cost in addition to what we need to pay for top-notch post-production services. With your generous contribution, we can ensure we provide fair wages to independent film artists in an industry that, for the most part, has ground to a halt.
We cannot thank you enough for your kindness, support, and generosity during this most trying time as we work to make this film the absolute best it can be. We know that once this film is ready to be shared with the world, it will change minds and change hearts for the better. We are so honored to have you be a part of that...for this generation and generations to come.
The 'American Morning' Team
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About This Team
STEPHEN DEXTER - Writer/Actor/Producer
Soon after graduating from the Stella Adler Studio of Acting’s 3-Year Conservatory in New York City, Stephen began working as a professional actor both here and abroad. He has worked steadily on the Off-Broadway stage in such lauded productions as Turn Me Loose (starring Emmy-winner Joe Morton), Our Lady Of 121st Street and The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot (both directed by Oscar-winner Estelle Parsons), Pearl: The Story Of The Legendary Pearl Bailey (directed by Tony-winner Ben Harney and starring Hamilton’s Jennie Harney), as well as a 4-month tour of the hit drama Hikobae which performed all over Japan including a sold-out run at Tokyo’s famous Galaxy Theatre. On television, Stephen has appeared on “Billions” (Showtime), “Elementary” (CBS), & “Living With Yourself” (Netflix, starring Paul Rudd). His film work includes the multi-award-winning film “Physical Attraction”, “Being” (starring Lance Henricksen and Ben Browder, Cannes Film Festival premiere), and “Nineteen Steps”. He has had the honor of developing new plays alongside the likes of Frances McDormand ("Fargo", "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri"), Ellen Burstyn ("The Exorcist", "Requiem For A Dream", "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore"), George Meyer (Emmy-winning producer of "The Simpsons"), Doug Hughes (Tony Award-winning director of "Doubt"), David Straithairn ("Good Night And Good Luck"), and Chazz Palminteri ("A Bronx Tale"). He is also a lifetime member of the legendary Actors Studio and a bestselling and award-winning audiobook narrator with over 150 titles to his credit. He holds a BA from Central Connecticut State University in Creative Writing and Film and is a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and AEA.
ROBBIE BRYAN - Director/Producer
In 1997, Robbie formed his own film company, GOOD TO BE SEEN FILMS, with partner Christie Botelho. The company soon after completed its first feature, "The Stand In", which Bryan wrote, produced and starred in, along with Judith Ivey, David Ogden Stiers, Lou Myers, and Kelly Ripa (Co-Host of "Live with Kelly and Ryan"). It was released worldwide on DVD. In 2006, he was hired to co-produce the feature film, "Man From Earth", starring Tony Todd, William Katt, John Billingsley, and Richard Rhiele. The film was one of six films nominated for a 2007 Saturn Award, for Best Sci-Fi DVD release of the year and was released on home video globally by Anchor Bay. In 2008, Robbie made his directorial debut on the feature "iMurders", which he co-wrote, and starred Frank Grillo, William Forsythe, Gabrielle Anwar, Tony Todd, Billy Dee Williams, Charles Durning, and Margaret Colin. The suspense/thriller/horror film was released through Anchor Bay/Starz and distributed worldwide. In addition, he was honored to co-produce the 'Gilda’s Club'-sponsored, "The Grief Project", a short film designed to help those dealing with the loss of a loved one through terminal illness. It starred Alysia Reiner of “Orange Is the New Black” and David Naughton. After studying film and cinematography at NYU, 2011 saw Bryan tackling cancer with his provocative short film “Choose”, starring Deborah Twiss ("Kickass") and Carter Roy. The film was an official selection of the Academy Award-Qualifying Festival LA Shortsfest, prestigious Oldenburg Festival, and screened for charities all around the U.S. to raise money and awareness. In 2017, Bryan helmed the psychological thriller, "The Eyes", which is described as "'Saw' meets 'Twelve Angry Men'" and starred Nicholas Turturro and Vincent Pastore. It received a theatrical release in 8 cities and is currently available on Showtime. He is also pleased to have served as consulting producer on the romantic comedy "Sam", directed by Nicholas Brooks, son of legendary talent Mel Brooks, who acts as Executive Producer.
SARAH WHARTON - Producer
Sarah Wharton is an award-winning producer, writer, and actor based in New York City. Her feature "That’s Not Us" played at over 35 festivals around the world and was released as a Netflix exclusive through Strand Releasing. The follow-up feature, "The Ring Thing", a documentary-narrative hybrid about same-sex marriage, is now also available to watch on most digital platforms. She has produced work in Oslo, London, New Orleans, and served as an associate producer for the Harare International Festival of The Arts (HIFA) in Zimbabwe. She produced "Bite Me", a romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her, and "The Joyful Vampire Tour of America" - a 40 city screening tour of "Bite Me" across the United States. Most recently, she produced and starred in "The Volunteers", a dystopian story about a white supremacist militia and the people who are trying to escape them. The film is in post-production and will premiere later this year.
CHRISTIE BOTELHO - Executive Producer
Christie Botelho attended Emerson College where she received her BFA in Performance. Upon graduation she formed Mass Motion Dance Company with co-founder Terri Gordon, formerly of the Boston Ballet. The two won many choreography awards throughout the area for their innovative style. She moved to NYC in 1995 where she began to pursue a career in acting and dance, honing her craft at the Michael Howard Studio and studying with dance aficionados, Linda Kent and Donald Byrd, while continuing to work in both television and film. In 1998, with her partner Robbie Bryan, she formed Good To Be Seen Films, and Executive Produced the company’s first independent feature, “The Stand-In”, which starred Kelly Ripa, Judith Ivey, Lou Myers, and David Ogden Stiers. In 2008 she served as Co-Producer on the multi-award-winning suspense thriller, “iMurders” which starred Frank Grillo, William Forsythe, Gabrielle Anwar, Tony Todd, Billy Dee Williams, Charles Durning, and Margaret Colin. In 2010 she took on the lead Producer role for the company’s cancer-themed dramatic short entitled “Choose”. The film was an official selection at the Academy Award-qualifying LA Shortsfest, the prestigious Oldenburg Film Festival, and World Fest Houston where the film won the Platinum Remy Award. Most importantly, the film raised thousands of dollars for cancer charities including Susan G. Komen and the Lustgarten Foundation. She then Executive Produced the psychological thriller “The Eyes” in 2017, starring Nicholas Turturro and Vincent Pastore, which received a theatrical release and recently ended it’s 2-year run on Showtime.