A Louisville Actor Follows His Dream

By STEVE KAUFMAN
Contributing Writier

Roll film.

The young aspiring actor gets off the bus from the Midwest in Hollywood and realizes he has no idea what to do next.

He goes online and finds the Hollywood Film & Acting Academy, promising professional tutoring, acting roles and important connections with agents and producers. That turns out to be a total scam, with a class that includes illegal immigrants and wanted convicts. It at least gives him a place to live, but it wipes out his nest egg.

He works security at night on seedy Hollywood Boulevard, tends bar, manages a motel and looks for auditions on Craig’s List that generally turn out to be sleazy come-ons.

He gets a nice commercial role for Jeep but his part is cut from the version that plays at halftime of the Super Bowl.

Then – cue uplifting music – the sun begins to rise along Sunset. He auditions for the prestigious John Kirby Acting Studio and gets accepted. Through Kirby, he finds a manager and an agent.

A fellow student tells him one night at a bar, after class, about a movie script he’s developing. They collaborate on the screenplay – about a rodeo steer roper who needs a team partner – and convince, through fortuitous connections, a noted actor to appear in the 11-minute short.

Suddenly, they’re getting accepted at various film festivals and preparing a follow-up film, a full-length feature, with some real financing.

Music up –

THE END.

That old chestnut of a plot is more movie script than true story – except in the case of Brett Edwards, Louisville native and St. X graduate, whose “The Heeler” will be shown this month as part of the Louisville Film Festival. The “heeler,” Edwards explained, is the member of the roping team who secures the steer’s legs after the “header” has roped the steer around the neck and shoulders.

The movie got a boost when Edwards’ classmate and collaborator, Cash Black, met actor J.K. Simmons (“Spider-Man,” “Oz,” “Up in the Air,” “Closer”), a fellow University of Montana theater graduate, at a softball game. Simmons agreed to be in the short film and Edwards is hoping he’ll reprise his role in the full-length feature follow-up, “American Cowboys.”

It’s a long way from the stage of the Kentucky Center for the Arts, where seven-year-old Edwards appeared as Young Simba in “The Lion King.” But sports overtook acting – high school golf and hockey – and then a desire to join the U.S. Marines Officer Candidate School. Asthma cut short that dream.

Then studying communications at the University of Dayton, which led to a six-month gig with a Louisville ad agency (“which made me realize how much I don’t like advertising”) while tending bar at Wet Willie’s.

And then the ultimate dream, heading to Hollywood. “If I was going to pursue this acting thing, this was the time of my life to do it – or forget it,” he says.

He almost did forget it, but his persistence has paid off. “The Heeler” was accepted to six local film festivals, including Los Angeles, Las Vegas and South Dakota. His angel for the Lousville festival was founder Conrad Bachmann, an actor who’s been doing the Hollywood thing since the early 1960s (from “Dobie Gillis” to “West Wing”) and has a spot in his heart for talented youngsters trying to break through – especially if they’re from his home town.

Louisville’s International Festival of Film will take place Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 10-13, at five locations: the Center for the Arts, Galt House, Muhammad Ali Center, the downtown public library and Spalding University. “The Heeler” is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 12, at noon in the Daisy Room of the Galt House.

During the festival, Bachmann will also present the first annual Stanley Kramer Award to Gill Holland, and Kat Kramer will sing a medley of songs from her producer-director father’s films, such as “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling” from “High Noon” (1952) and “Waltzing Matilda” from “On the Beach” (1959). There will also be a screening of Kramer’s 1963 comedy extravaganza, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

And the next big step of Brett Edwards’ dream will be to draw enough positive attention on his 11-minute film to get “American Cowboys” financed, produced and distributed, which will follow in full the family story of the Cooper brothers, who were the subject of “The Heeler.”

Until it all comes true in the end, though, Edwards has done his share of work in various L.A. bistros, such as Wolfgang Puck at the Hotel Bel Air.

“In Los Angeles,” laughs Edwards, “they don’t call them waiters, they call them actors.”

  • Cathy Katz

    Thats fantastic Brett! I wish you the best and great success!

  • Paul Arnold

    Great article ! Love the determination, persistence and passion to fulfill his dream.