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Four of four statuettes! True Rights wins top rating review at!

                "Excellent acting, directing, sound and cinematography throughout." Find the whole review here.

Rave Guerilla Filmmaker review! 

Thayer's Rights: A True Indie Masterpiece

(reprinted with permission)

by A. Bruno


                Ever watch a movie that captivates you from the very first frame that appears on the screen? Rarely lately, you say? Even if you’re not a fan of reality-based ‘shock TV type programs (as I am not), or if you prefer to skip the grim visuals that flicker into your living room courtesy of the evening news, you will be compelled to keep your eyes and ears open during the opening scenes of this film. There is a certain touch of elegance and style seeping through the images here, and it immediately tells you that you are in for something quite special. The frantic and unsettling nature of the opening title sequence sets the mood and pace for all that is to follow. Folks are screaming. A turbulent, handheld camera moves through the action in the attempt to capture some shocking images to accompany the story being sought. Leading the crew, are Elaine Kilgore (brilliantly portrayed by Claudia Christian), and her associate, Drew Stein (Tom Heard). They are ruthless in their pursuit to secure the story rights. They’ve hired a duo of aspiring filmmakers, Reynolds Portman and Ariaga Prada (Richard Lee Jackson & Gary Cruz), to document their search for the perfect, marketable “piece” - the one that will finally earn them the recognition and financial stability they feel they deserve. But if they cant quite get such a story, they’ll be happy to capture “anything graphic enough to sell,” as Elaine puts it. How far will they go to get “in” with the ‘Hollywood big shots? That is the underlying question posed in Meg Thayer’s riveting new film, True Rights.

                People who are willing to overcome all obstacles and risk everything they have to stand by a particular mission have always made compelling screen characters, but in True Rights, the protagonists are driven by a hunger for fame and fortune bigger than anyone this side of sanity has ever encountered. Elaine is passionate and frighteningly determined. Her slimy agent, Armand Cognescenti (played with comic flair by Tony Monziotti - he even has a scene-stealing moment when the film reveals the location of his office), describes her as someone who “would sell her mother to a Hungarian prostitution ring to make a deal.” Drew, identified by Armand as a person who has ‘three marbles short of a full bag,’ is a bundle of nerves and insecurities, brought to dangerous heights by his reliance on speed’ pills. Together, they literally chase ambulances by monitoring police action through the night. Their mission is simple and pretty straightforward: “Always walk away with the rights.” And this is something Elaine enforces so adamantly, that she even chases Drew away from an interview with an allegedly sexually harassed woman, when he undermines the woman’s emotional state.

Among the stories Elaine and Drew try to pitch to TV and movie studios are some bits about a French guy who lives in the sewers, a tax-evading militia group hiding in the mountains, and a serenading caterer who shows up to sing “0’ Sole Mio” at one of the pitch meetings. Their private lives are in shambles. Elaine’s husband doesn’t believe in anything she does, and couldn’t care less, admitting to Ariaga’s camera that he’d ‘divorce her if he had the time’. Her two teenage kids remain unmoved by any domestic turmoil they witness, and her housekeeper fails to do her job of keeping the kids from watching Elaine’s good TV.’ Drew has his own share of problems. His roommate, Sequoia, is a fun-loving transvestite who spends most of his screen time trying to get Drew to come to terms with his own sexuality and cross-dressing tendencies. Drew’s dreams of realizing his ‘one-man’ show featuring Napoleon as a prominent character are slowly being swallowed by Elaine’s demanding schedules. And, no one from his college days remembers who he is.

                Everything seems hopeless for the two ‘aspiring producers,’ but if you think that things couldn’t possibly get worse, think again. Drew winds up spending the night in a psychiatric ward after suffering an anxiety attack brought on by an encounter with a convict who insists on teaching him the ‘cowboy hip hop.’ As a result of this incident, Armand drops the duo from his client roster, sending them off to fend for themselves, and eventually attenuating the tension growing between them and their two faithful crew members, who are just doing the job to help pay their way through film school. Enter Thad Whitney (Jack Betts in an unforgettable turn), an aging, silent film actor repulsed by the existence of ‘pop movies’ and the mere mention of the word ‘videotape,’ calling it “the death of art and beauty.” Thad is so disenchanted with the turn his career has taken, he is contemplating suicide and willing to give Elaine and Drew a chance at capturing it all on camera - something they both know will be their way in.         

                Here is where the moral questions begin to surface, but only in the heart and mind of Reynolds Portman, who displays an honest affinity in Thad’s regard. While Elaine and Drew only care about the signature that secures them all the rights to Thad’s suicide story, and Ariaga is practically confined behind the camera’s viewfinder, Reynolds tries to conceive of ways to revive the old actor’s career, thus trying to keep him from taking his own life. He truly respects Thad, and that respect and admiration is reciprocated, even if Reynolds is, indeed, documenting everything on videotape. Thad knows that Reynolds possesses an ‘old-style’ passion - perhaps he sees it in the young man’s apparel, as he affectionately makes reference to. Both characters represent the purity of the art’ of film. They believe in the magic of movies, and this is something that they understand about one another. This bond also generates the stark contrast that exists between these two characters and the rest of everyone else in the film. It is the very core of the film, which wisely begins with very unstable, handheld shots, symbolizing the ‘just get the images’ attitude of “real TV”, and ends with a beautifully framed shot that represents the very essence and grace of ‘pure cinema.’

                If it sounds as if I’ve given away too much of the story, worry no more. This film is so intelligently written, so meticulously crafted, and so thematically multi-layered, I couldn’t possibly begin to capture one tenth of what it has to say during its 103-minute running time. Director Meg Thayer, whose feature directing debut this is, has achieved something short of a miracle here, and all for way below the half-million dollar mark. Now, most of you guerrilla filmmakers may be whiplash-turning your heads at that figure. But folks, this entire film was photographed on 35mm color stock - an incredibly superb job by David Darby (even if Meg Thayer achieves the incredible task of convincing us that Gary Cruz is operating that camera at all times). It was shot on location in Los Angeles, never seeming confined or static, and it employed an ensemble of actors generally deemed unattainable at such a low budget. Sure, there are moments when the film seems to veer off into slightly superfluous territory (i.e. one instance where Drew, Ariaga, and Reynolds are treated to a ‘total make-over’ by some of Sequoia’s slumbering friends). And there’s also a gag with a stuck-up, ‘big studio’ executive who pees in a wastebasket and practices some martial arts moves whilst Thad Whitney pours his heart into an audition, which comes off a little on the ‘unbelievable’ side. However, I felt that only because Drew, Reynolds, and Ariaga’s camera were allowed to remain present during the proceedings. But this is an important film. Even if it takes the small liberties of playing some scenes with a hint of silliness, we are more than ready and willing to disregard those moments in favor of all the significant elements that make up the rest of the film.

                True Rights is the kind of film that, when backed by a major studio or marketed with the kind of money needed to get it the wide distribution it truly deserves, racks up Academy Award nominations. It possesses the same satirical virtues and witty writing present in such ‘studio’ fare like Network and Wag the Dog, both ‘best picture’ Oscar nominees. Two other surefire nominations would come by way of Claudia Christian (yes, she does yell a lot throughout the film, but her ‘over-the-top’ breakouts are justified), and Jack Betts, who truly gives Thad Whitney a legendary aura, reminiscent of a Capra-esque creation. Of course, none of this would be possible without the sublime wit and resonance of Meg Thayer’s original screenplay and her solid direction. It comes as no surprise that True Rights has already swept several national festival awards since its ‘Dances with Films’ Audience Award 2000 triumph, and I’m quite sure it will continue to garner praise and accolades wherever it may surface. To anyone who has mistakenly identified or referred to this film as just another mockumentary about the media, please take a closer look. There’s a lot more here than what appears on the surface. This is truly an indie masterpiece, and for that, I’m very confident in bestowing upon this film our first official highest rating’ of four bananas.

                                                    --- A. Bruno

True Rights wins General Hospital Fans 

General Hospital fans of Jonathan Jackson followed his career into the strange nether regions of True Rights. And what do these fine folks have to say about the film? 

If you have to drive 500 miles, run, walk, or crawl through glass, GO SEE THIS MOVIE!! Yes, it is that good.

In one of the most insightful and detailed reviews ever written about True Rights, this fantastic review also features links to many of the principle actors in the film.


J2 - True Rights

J2 is dedicated to finding all the latest news on the talented young actor, Jonathan Jackson. And boy do they ever. At this fantastic site, you'll find an extremely complete list of reviews and articles, along with some fab photos. Definitely worth a click.

Jackson Lane

Jackson Lane, the first ever fan site dedicated to the multi-talented siblings, Jonathan and Richard Lee Jackson!! Another meticulously complete page about True Rights by a fan of the brothers Jackson.

IMDb - Internet Movie Database

The biggest, best, most award-winning movie site on the planet. 

User Rating: ******** 7.8/10 

User Review: Magnificent, Beautiful, Exciting, Funny & Dramatic. Just a few words to describe how great this movie really was. All the actors were superb, especially but not limited to Jonathan Jackson, Richard Jackson and Jack Betts. The fact that the director Meg Thayer in her directorial debut was able to give us such a blend of drama and comedy in a single camera film is amazing. She truly deserves to take a bow. She truly captured the lust of Hollywood producers and the pursuit of the story above all else. This movie would do well on the big screen and should be shown at every theater in the country. If it comes to a festival near you, take time out of your day to see it. It'll be well worth your time. - lila 11

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