Indie Short Film Series Explores Two Lives Over One Long Night | Movies

Bruce Gorman’s latest film needs just 29 minutes to unfold the longest night in the lives of two characters.

In “East River Story”, Richard Bird plays Desmond, a man who seems to have everything to lose. Tomike Ogugua plays Henry, a man who seems to possess only loss and invisibility. As the intersection of their lives in a dark night of the soul probes the painful impact of homelessness, isolation and suicide, it also explores the undeniable humanity of the people behind the circumstances, assumptions and the stereotypes.

“It’s really about respecting people on their journey, whether they’re on the streets or making big bucks on Wall Street,” Gorman said. “These guys are very complex. There’s a lot going on.”

“East River Story” will screen as part of the sixth installment in the series of independent shorts, which begins at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Vinegar Hill Theater. A round table with filmmakers will follow the screenings.

In “East River Story,” Gorman is grateful for the chance to let the characters Henry and Desmond introduce themselves to audience members. After investing time in an extensive rehearsal process, the director and cast shot most of the film in one night which added realism to the character interaction and illustrated the dedication of both actors.

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Ogugua, who had worked a full day before arriving for the shoot, “had been up for 8 hours, or something like that,” Gorman said.

Such moments of dedication abound in small, hand-crafted films highlighted by the series of independent shorts. “East River Story” is one of seven to air this weekend, giving viewers a chance to see different approaches to storytelling.

Gorman said shorts give directors and actors the flexibility to let stories unfold organically without watching the clock. There’s no need to complicate the dialogue or risk exhausting a character’s welcome. The economy of lines and movements keeps the focus on the story, the characters and the meaning.

“There’s kind of a middle ground where you get to know the characters, but it doesn’t become a feature and you wouldn’t lose interest,” Gorman said.

Bird also starred in Gorman’s film “Thurman Goes Home,” which screened at a previous event in the series before the pandemic. This story took six minutes to tell.

The short film format also allowed the story to follow as Henry d’Ogugua goes a long time without speaking for the first time. Henry is not used to being spoken to or even recognized, but in Ogugua’s hands, his humanity cannot be ignored.

“He’s a very powerful actor, so when he’s quiet there’s a lot of presence,” Gorman said. “You already care about him, and he didn’t do anything.”

Saturday’s screening gives moviegoers a chance to immerse themselves in exciting new movies, Ty Cooper said.

Cooper, founder of the series of independent shorts, is a writer, director and producer. Her own short film “Amanda” won numerous awards, including Best Drama Short, Best Narrative Short, and Best Ensemble Cast in a Short Film. Cooper recently produced an Eric Hurt film, “Runaway,” which tells the story of a runaway slave and a young slave hunter.

Cooper said creating shorts benefits both filmmakers and viewers.

“It benefits me as a filmmaker as an inexpensive way to get into the film industry system,” Cooper said. “It gives us the access to get into the film industry – to be creative, to see what works.”

For viewers, it’s a chance to savor films that will linger on them, but probably won’t reach the big screens they frequent.

“It allows us to expose the market to movies they probably won’t see,” Cooper said. “If we don’t show it in Charlottesville, most likely no one in Charlottesville will see this amazing German film. Short films are not always in theaters.

It also doesn’t hurt to introduce Charlottesville to more moviegoers as a place to think about meaningful films. “It’s also eyes on Charlottesville,” he said.

Gorman, who was recently in town to screen “Thurman Comes Home” for the series, appreciates the opportunity to appear and share the story with audience members.

“When you’re a stranger, you don’t know who’s going to see that except your mom,” he said with a chuckle.

Tickets are $20; plan to get them ahead of time at and bring your photo ID to pick them up at Will Call.

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