PULEO’S TOM CRUISE SATIRE MAKES WAVES IN FILM FESTIVALS by CHRIS DUGGAN Some would consider making it in the film industry “mission impossible.” Though it is a “risky business,” Joseph Puleo (’14) hopes he’s making “all the right moves.” If the reception his short film Top Son is receiving is any indication, he may soon be saying, “Show me the money.” The film is a comedy done in a “mockumentary” style about a young man trying to make it as a Tom Cruise impersonator and earn the respect of his judgmental father. Like a documentary, the film includes interviews with his eccentric family members, who have varying reactions to his chosen vocation. Puleo said the seeds of the story were planted when he was still studying at Lindenwood toward his Bachelor of Fine Arts in digital cinema. “To begin with, I’m a big fan of Tom Cruise,” Puleo said. “I thought it would be funny to have a character who was obsessed with Tom Cruise.” He considered it for his capstone project, but instead made a film called Hit , about a college baseball superstar. In 2015, Puleo’s adviser, Ben Scholle, steered him toward an internship working on a low-budget film in the St. Louis area. There, he met Abby Wathen, an actor on the film, whom he showed Hit and an earlier project, The Birthday Dinner . Puleo told her about his Tom Cruise fan idea, and she put him in touch with a Tom Cruise impersonator she knew, Evan Ferrante of Beverly Hills. Puleo sent a rewritten script to Ferrante, who said he would do it. Wathen also signed on to play the sister. Ben Giessman (’06), Steve Silvester (’15), and Steve Cakouros (’14) produced the film with Puleo, funding the $1,300 production cost with their own money. Lindenwood grad Joey Jetton (’13) shot the film, and Jonathan Holden (’16) played the brother. The film was shot in three days in part at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts and on a stretch of road in Linden Terrace women’s housing, all with university permission. The film was completed in spring of 2016 and since then has been well received in a handful of film festivals, including the St. Louis International Film Festival and St. Louis Filmmakers’ Showcase, at which it won awards for Best Comedy and Best Actor for Ferrante. On the same day in spring of 2017, the film was selected for the Holly Shorts festival in Hollywood and for the Just for Laughs Eat My Shorts competition in Canada, presented by comedian Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Network. Top Son was among 400 films selected from 4,000 submissions for Holly Shorts, and it was among 20 selected from 650 entries for Eat My Shorts. Through fan voting, the film went on to place in the top five, which earned Puleo and Holden a trip to Montreal, along with red carpets, interviews with the media, and a showing of the film to an audience of 900, introduced by Hart. “It got lots of big laughs and really connected with the audience,” Puleo said. “The experience was a definite whirlwind.” Puleo has since written a feature-length version of the film, and now the short serves as a “proof of concept” for that project to show to film studios and possible financiers. He hopes to be able to move forward with that project within the next year. “Joey is a talented director and producer,” said Peter Carlos, professor of cinema arts. “An excellent student of film, he lives and breathes movies. We’ll be hearing in a couple of years that he’s written, produced, and/or directed a film.” Lindenwood University ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT 6 It got lots of big laughs and really connected with the audience. The experience was a definite whirlwind.” Joseph Puleo “ Joseph Puleo (’14) and Jonathan Holden (’16) at a film festival in Montreal . Movie poster for Top Son.