Short Films
Interviews Contact Links Cheez Blog

All My Presidents (2012)
Tonight's Short Presentation


Starring: Riley Donahue, David S Hogan, Nathan Gamble, Jonah Beres, Lisa Coronado, Trin Miller

Written by: Alder Sherwood, Sarah MacKay (story) Directed By: Connor Hair

See It Here: http://vimeo.com/40464123

The Story

When his father goes off to war and never returns, all young Franklin Polk (Jonah Beres) has left of the man is his Presidential coin collection.  Seizing upon this legacy, as Franklin (Nathan Gamble) grows up, he takes on the Presidents of the United States as his heroes. 

Now an adult, Franklin (Riley Donahue) finds himself working as a key player in the campaign for a gubernatorial candidate (David S. Hogan) who looks like he might be on the fast track for his own Presidential bid not so far in the future.  But in his new boss, Franklin does not see the ideals he’d come to believe in while growing up, and soon must answer what may be the most important question of his life: will he sit back and do as he’s told, as so many others do and as he himself has done for so long, or will he challenge the flow and stand up for what he believes in?

The Rundown

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


Accept no imitations.

Pairs Well With...


Specifically, one from the Columbia Valley.  Lots of good stuff coming out of Washington State.

“Don’t question, Franklin.  Just do.”

Whatever your profession, wherever you work, no matter how wonderful you think everyone else around you may be, there is an inevitable truth: sometime during your life, you will be asked to do something unethical and/or illegal.  Indeed, there will certainly be many sometimes, though we tend to rationalize most as “little things” or “harmless” or “not really bad.”

When those times happen, will you question them?  Or will you “just do?”

Such a heavy matter could easily take up an entire big budget feature film and then some, especially when the chosen backdrop involves American politics and the action takes place over half a lifetime; indeed, it often has, with varying degrees of success and failure.  But you will find no film of any length that deals with the idea better from start to finish than the fifteen minute short All My Presidents.

Once again, Seattle outdoes Hollywood.

Let’s start with the story, sprung from the mind of Sarah MacKay and woven into a screenplay by Alder Sherwood.  All My Presidents proves to be a model for truly economical storytelling that does not sacrifice detail or impact along the way.  Indeed, the detail is quite rich, but every moment has a purpose; not a page is given over to superfluousness or window dressing.  All of it is necessary to provide a fully realized understanding of the film’s critical moment, and that fullness – so often ignored even in movies that are ten times as long – gives this moment and therefore the entire film a much stronger, much more lasting impact.  Could a page or two have been cut, a scene or two snipped?  Perhaps by a lesser creative team, but this one knows better.  This one understands that the “why” makes the “what” more powerful, and that it can be presented well without running down the clock.

This economy of storytelling compounds what is already a formidable challenge faced by all short films: the cast has very little (and for some next to no) time to establish the characters being played.  (And remember, the character should ideally be well-established before his or her pivotal moment of action in most cases.)  Given that roughly half a lifetime is being covered in what really amounts to just thirteen minutes and change (take away credits from the runtime), that means some players have only a few seconds to shine… and in All My Presidents, shine they do.

Brian Sutherland has exactly one line of dialogue and maybe a minute’s worth of body language as Franklin’s father, but in that brief flash of time, his performance is so powerful that it’s plain to understand how his character would forever be a guiding measure of his son’s life.  (Director Connor Hair and company make it clear enough that the Presidents aren’t just the Presidents.)  Lisa Coronado gets slightly more time to take a more subtle approach toward establishing her character as the rudder of Franklin’s conscience, but understated though she may seem at first, it’s amazing how much what she says and does (and how she says and does it) sticks with the viewer.  Later on, Trin Miller does a marvelous job of using her own formidable talents to turn a small amount of dialogue into enough material to establish her character more fully than most Hollywood flicks do with an entire hour’s worth of sequences; before her first scene is even over, the audience knows exactly what her character’s about.  (Good as the screenplay is, that’s not just the script at work, folks.)  The same can be said right on down the line for everyone.

Experience has taught me, as it has taught many, to temper my expectations of child actors, but there is no reason to do so in the case of All My Presidents.  Jonah Beres and Nathan Gamble are outstanding as the young Franklin Polk during different stages of his childhood – a boy made to grow up too fast, eventually turning into the adult Riley Donahue.  Not only are all three actors impressive in their shared role, but the continuity from one actor to the next is unusually smooth.  Never for a moment does it seem as though these three people are not in fact the same person at different stages of life; there’s no uncanny disconnect from actor to actor.  Kudos to the casting director and friends for overcoming a problem that most big budget features can’t properly solve.

Above all else, though, between the cast and the crew, everyone involved with All My Presidents does an amazing job of making it all real.  I never doubted David S Hogan as a politician.  I never doubted Riley Donahue as the quiet accountant who’s deeper than most give him credit for being.  I never doubted Lisa Coronado as Mom, or Brian Sutherland as Dad, or Trin Miller as the radio show producer, or Conner Marx as a guy who hands out “I Like Ike” buttons.  The players make true a story that was already as real as it gets.  The location scouts and production crew seal the deal by making every era believable as the time it needs to be, and every building as the place being advertised.  And the director makes it all seem effortless, which any savvy viewer will quickly understand it is not.

This is quality far beyond the limits of budget or runtime.  Indeed, it’s quality that exceeds much of Hollywood (and an even greater majority of the various direct to video hubs of the world), and that can and should be measured toe-to-toe with “bigger stuff” funded by studios with budgets that can buy out subdivisions.  There’s nothing amateur about All My Presidents, folks.  Nothing at all.

Bottom line, All My Presidents is Seattle showing Southern California a royal flush and winning the table.  Wonderfully made in every respect from start to finish (if there’s a flaw in this flick, I didn’t find it), this is an outstanding picture that deserves to be seen by the widest possible audience.

So what are you waiting for?  The link’s up top.  Click it and become part of that audience, and then share it with everyone you know.  Great work deserves to be recognized.

Doom Cheez Cinema is now Cinema on the Rocks. Thank you for your support!

Tweet this page!

- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, February, 2013

More From The Bar! | Revelation | The Collectibles | Job Hunters |

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


- copyright 2000-2016, Ziggy Berkeley and Cinema on the Rocks, all rights reserved.

Promotional/still images copyright their original authors. If you're going to drink, please do so legally and responsibly. Thanks.