Thomas C. Gaunt is a filmmaker and screenwriter whose work has been recognized by film festivals and competitions (Austin, Heartland, Stage 32, Nashville, ScreenCraft, Nicholl and Coverfly) and has aired on television and streaming networks (PBS, The El Rey Network, Netflix and The Sundance Channel).
Thomas is currently in development on his first narrative feature, a dramatic crime thriller titled THE NIGHT WATCHMAN, about a homeless drifter that retreats to a cemetery to confront his past demons but gets drawn into a fight for survival after he witnesses armed sex-traffickers attempting to bury an immigrant girl in a nearby grave. THE NIGHT WATCHMAN has been recognized in numerous screenwriting competitions and is in the top 3% of all screenplays on Coverfly.
In early 2019 Thomas completed the pilot screenplay for WORLDS APART, a serialized one hour sci-fi action thriller about an introverted teenage gamer that makes an otherworldly discovery in the jungles of Belize. WORLDS APART was recently named a Semifinalist in the 2019 Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition and the 2020 ScreenCraft Sci-fi & Fantasy Screenplay Competition.
In 2016, Thomas also wrote and directed the short suspense thriller RED MAZE about a struggling boxer who makes an ill-fated decision in an attempt to provide for his family. RED MAZE premiered on Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network in 2017 as part of The People’s Network: Suspense Edition and won six major film festival awards including a Silver Remi Award in the suspense/thriller category at the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival.
Thomas’ recent storytelling success in narrative short films and screenwriting can be traced back to his roots in documentary filmmaking. While a student at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago (BFA, 1999), he was encouraged by the success of his second short CAUGHT IN THE LOOP, an experimental documentary on homelessness in downtown Chicago. The film aired locally on PBS and screened at film festivals winning three awards including the ‘Gold Remi Award’ at WorldFest Houston where Gaunt became the youngest filmmaker to win the award in the festival’s history (surpassing Steven Spielberg’s win for his short film AMBLIN at age 22). The success of the film led to a three year internship at Kartemquin Films, known for producing the acclaimed documentaries HOOP DREAMS (1994) and THE INTERRUPTERS (2011). At Kartemquin, Gaunt worked as a production assistant on a variety of documentary features such as STEVIE directed by Steve James and VIETNAM LONG TIME COMING narrated by Joe Mantegna.
Inspired by his experience at Kartemquin, Gaunt worked as a cinematographer on the documentary CORRECTIONS chronicling the privatization of American prisons which went on to premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival. He spent the next four years directing and producing his first feature documentary A PLACE CALLED HOME: AN ADOPTION STORY, about an Indiana family’s unique adoption of nine siblings. A critical independent success, the film won a ‘Crystal Heart Award’ at the Heartland Film Festival and the ‘Audience Award for Best Documentary Feature’ from the Indianapolis International Film Festival before premiering on PBS in 2005. Later that same year, Gaunt provided additional cinematography for the Sundance Channel documentary HOWARD ZINN: YOU CAN’T BE NEUTRAL ON A MOVING TRAIN narrated by Matt Damon. Gaunt spent the next five years as producer, cinematographer and editor of the PBS documentary ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE (2012), about a group of Chicago artists who convert an old metal stamping factory into a communal work/live space for fellow creative people. ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE received funding from the Illinois Arts Council and was executive produced by Academy Award nominated producer Daniel Alpert. In 2013 Gaunt made the leap into narrative filmmaking by writing and directing the short film DAYS END, about an impending apocalyptic event that alters a young man’s outlook on life. DAYS END premiered at the Indianapolis International Film Festival and was named an Official Selection at over 22 film festivals.
Unique traits: Imaginative, Collaborative, Dependable, Fair, Observant, Conscientious
WORLDS APART - Time and Again Budget: $10M - $30M | Sci-fi ⋄ Adventure When introverted teenage gamer (Max) accompanies his estranged mother (Janelle) on her work trip to the jungles of Belize, he makes an otherworldly discovery forcing her to choose between helping him or protecting her work.
CIRCLE OF THIEVES Budget: $1M - $5M | Action ⋄ Crime When a master thief is released from prison his parole officer manipulates him and five other ex-cons into committing a high stakes robbery in order to maintain their freedom.
BEASTS OF BURDEN Budget: $5M - $10M | Thriller ⋄ Crime A veteran's decision to help a victim of sex-trafficking exposes him and his remaining family to a criminal underworld full of sinister criminals hellbent on finding the girl and making him pay.
THE NIGHT WATCHMAN Budget: $100K - $1M | Crime ⋄ Drama ⋄ Thriller A homeless drifter retreats to a local cemetery to confront his past demons but gets drawn into a fight for survival when he witnesses two armed men attempting to bury an unconscious immigrant girl near the grave of his departed fiancée.
STATIONARY BIKE (in development)
Film (short) by GAUNT FILMS / Thomas C. Gaunt (Drama, Horror and Thriller) Director, Producer STATIONARY BIKE is a short story from Stephen King's 2008 'Just After Sunset' anthology. After being told by his doctor that his cholesterol level is too high, Richard Sefkitz begins riding a stationary bike in the basement of his apartment building. To help alleviate the boredom, he buys maps and plots a route from New York to Herkimer, a town on the U.S./Canadian border, each day marking the amount of miles he has "ridden" towards his goal. He also paints a scene of a road on the blank wall in front of the bike to help him imagine actually traveling the road. As he nears Herkimer (according to the miles plotted on his map, at least) and has gotten in great shape physically, he begins having strange thoughts that there is someone following him on his daily rides.
THE NIGHT WATCHMAN (in development)
Film by GAUNT FILMS (Crime, Drama and Thriller) Writer, Director, Producer Upon learning he is the father of a teenage boy, a homeless vet retreats to a local cemetery to confront his past demons only to be drawn into a fight for survival when he witnesses two armed men attempting to bury an unconscious young woman near the grave of the boy’s mother. SCREENPLAY RECOGNITION: Top 20% (2013) – 2013 Academy Nicholl Fellowships* Top 20% / Second Rounder (2018) – Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition Scored 7/10 – The Black List Finalist (2017) – Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Rebel Without A Crew’ Television Program Semifinalist (2013) – Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest* Semifinalist (2017) – ScreenCraft Drama Feature Script Contest Semifinalist (2018) – Roadmap Writers/Route One Entertainment Contest Quarterfinalist (2020) – Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition Quarterfinalist (2018) – ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship Quarterfinalist (2017) – ScreenCraft Action/Thriller Screenplay Contest Quarterfinalist (2015) – Stage 32 Feature Contest *formerly titled ‘AMONG THE DEAD’
Film (short) by GAUNT FILMS (Action, Crime and Thriller) Director, Writer, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor On the verge of losing custody of his son, a struggling boxer breaks into an apartment complex in an attempt to score quick cash and makes an ill-fated discovery forcing him into a dangerous confrontation.
PAUSE OF THE CLOCK
Film by RandomCha / Rob Christopher (Drama) Assistant Camera The year is 1995. Two college roommates, Dylan and Rob, are making a movie called "Crueler Than Truth" with a group of their friends in Colorado and Chicago. During the shoot Dylan stumbles upon Rob's diary and secretly begins to read it. PAUSE OF THE CLOCK features music from Kill Hannah, Royale and Steven Pate.
Film (short) by GAUNT FILMS (Drama, Fantasy, Horror, Sci-Fi and 1 More) Writer, Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Co-Editor In the science fiction short film DAYS END an impending apocalyptic event alters a young man’s outlook on life. How much time would you need to say the things left unsaid? Even with news of a massive solar flare threatening electronics and communications, Dylan’s mind is elsewhere wondering about the status of his relationship with his girlfriend (Liz). Best friend and co-worker Nate, listens attempting to put an end to Dylan’s self-loathing. However, his incessant worrying is rendered meaningless when an abrupt power outage leads to a horrifying chain of events, thrusting Dylan and Nate into a fight for their lives. In his darkest moments of fear and desperation, Dylan is about to discover an unforeseen clarity to put things in perspective. FULL FILM FESTIVAL LIST World Premiere – Indianapolis International Film Festival Finalist – The From Beyond Online Film Festival Semifinalist – Highway 61 Film Festival Official Selection – Southway Film Festival Official Selection – Indie Possible International Film Festival Official Selection – The Strange Film Awards Official Selection – Broken Knuckle Film Festival Official Selection – Blackbird Film Festival Official Selection – Mac Horror Film Festival Official Selection – Rhode Island Comic-Con Film Festival Official Selection – Northern Frights Festival Official Selection – Chicago ParaCon & Film Festival Official Selection – Los Angeles CineFest Official Selection – Indie Film Festival Official Selection – Armageddon Expo Film Festival Official Selection – Wasteland Film Festival Official Selection – Rendezvous Film Festival Official Selection – The Online Film Festival Official Selection – Viewster Online Film Festival Official Selection – Freedom Film Festival Official Selection – Silver Dollar Film Festival
ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE
Documentary by The Kindling Group / Lightfellow / GAUNT FILMS (Documentary, Drama and Biography) Producer, Cinematographer, Editor ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE tells the story of five artist families looking to own their own work/live space (most for the first time). Forced to move around the city due to gentrification, this group of spirited artists (led by Laura Weathered) pool their resources and apply for mortgages in an attempt to transform an old metal stamping factory into a communal work/living condo space that they can afford to own. As the documentary unfolds, viewers learn that the project is not without its flaws. The artists (now owners) form an association to address a whole litany of building issues. Soon ideals begin to clash with practical concerns. What starts out as a profile of the aging artist's quest to find agency within ownership, ultimately becomes about the trials and rewards of community building. The film premiered on PBS in the spring of 2012 and screened at The Chicago Cultural Center and The Talking Pictures Film Festival and .
A PLACE CALLED HOME: AN ADOPTION STORY
Documentary by GAUNT FILMS / At The ROOTS Films (Documentary, Drama, Family and Biography) Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor A PLACE CALLED HOME is the heartwarming true story of one family's struggle to adopt nine children in the face of overwhelming odds. Five years in the making, A PLACE CALLED HOME is a documentary filled with the joy and pain that can often accompany the adoption process. After reading a Mother's Day newspaper article, Baby Boomers Tom and Jean (of Indianapolis, Indiana) decided to wave goodbye to their four year-old empty nest and attempt the second largest sibling group adoption in United States history. As the story unfolds, we learn of the abuse the children suffered at the hands of their stepfather and watch as they prepare for a possible new life with Tom and Jean. Sensitive and affectionate in its portrayal, the film chronicles the evolution of the adoption from moments of doubt to moments of hope and triumph giving viewers a rare glimpse into the emotional bonding of two families. A PLACE CALLED HOME screened at numerous international film festivals winning a Crystal Heart Award at The Heartland Film Festival, Audience Award for Best Feature and Hoosier Len's award at the Indianapolis International Film Festival before premiering on PBS in 2005. A PLACE CALLED HOME has since aired on The Heartland Channel, The Documentary Channel and Pivot TV.
HOWARD ZINN: YOU CAN'T BE NEUTRAL ON A MOVING TRAIN
Documentary by First Run Features (Documentary, History and Biography) Additional Cinematography Narrated by Matt Damon, HOWARD ZINN: YOU CAN'T BE NEUTRAL ON A MOVING TRAIN chronicles the life and times of Howard Zinn: the historian, activist, and author of several classics including 'A Peoples History of the United States' and 'Declarations of Independence'. Featuring rare archival materials, interviews with Howard Zinn as well as colleagues and friends including Noam Chomsky, Marian Wright Edelman, Daniel Ellsberg, Tom Hayden and Alice Walker, YOU CAN'T BE NEUTRAL captures the essence of this activist and thinker who has been a catalyst for progressive change for more than 60 years. Directed by Deb Ellis and Denis Mueller, the film won the Audience Award for Best Documentary at the 2004 Provincetown International Film Festival and the 2004 Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival. It also won the John Michael Memorial Award at the 2004 Big Muddy Film Festival and screened at the Vermont International Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Festival before premiering on the Sundance Channel.
Television by Porpoise Inc. / GAUNT FILMS (Documentary, Biography and Reality-TV) Series Co-Creator, Producer, Director IN PRODUCTION is a television series that takes an honest and amusing behind-the-scenes look at the unscripted lives of independent films and their makers. At no other time in history have so many people been making films and with the proliferation of digital technology new voices in cinema are emerging everyday. People from all walks of life are writing scripts, and picking up cameras with an itch to and make a movie. The only question is... which of these filmmakers has a story worth telling? With each episode focusing on a different American city, IN PRODUCTION's story lines come from the real experiences of each locally profiled film crew. In each of the segments that make up the show, the audience is introduced to a director and their faithful crew. Often overworked and underpaid, many of these dedicated foot soldiers of independent film have dreams of fame and fortune. However, others simply want to bring their creative vision to the screen, no matter the cost. As they face the day-to-day realities on the sets of their current productions, viewers learn of the inspiring stories and bizarre journeys that led these dreamers to become filmmakers.
Documentary by Kartemquin Films / Steve James (Documentary, Drama and Biography) Post-production Assistant In 1995 Director Steve James (Hoop Dreams) returned to rural Southern Illinois to reconnect with Stevie Fielding, a troubled young boy he had been an 'Advocate Big Brother' to ten years earlier. Part way through the filming, Stevie is arrested and charged with a serious crime that tears his family apart. What was to be a modest profile turns into a intimate four and half year chronicle of Stevie, his broken family, the criminal justice system and the filmmaker himself, as they all struggle with what Stevie has done and who he has become. STEVIE was Nominated for the Documentary Grand Jury Prize and Won the Cinematography Award at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival as well as a 2003 Independent Spirit Award Nomination for Best Documentary.
Documentary by Third World News Reel (Crime, Documentary and History) Co-Cinematographer CORRECTIONS is a documentary about prison growth and prison profit, investigating why the U.S. has the largest prison system and what it tells us about our economy, government, race and class. Directed by Ashley Hunt, CORRECTIONS was an Official Selection at the 2001 Slamdance Film Festival and is distributed by Third World Newsreel.
LIVING ON THE BORDER: IN MIDDLE AMERICA
Documentary by GAUNT FILMS (Thesis Film) (Documentary and Biography) Director, Producer, Cinematographer, Editor LIVING ON THE BORDER IN MIDDLE AMERICA documents the lives of four Latino college students in the mid-1990's as they come to terms with their identity in America’s rapidly evolving cultural landscape. While possessing vastly different social and cultural backgrounds each student is a member of Junta de Acción Latina (Council of Latino Action), a Latino student organization at DePaul University. Through the group’s four student leaders (Adrián Aragonés, Marisol Morales, Andrea Durón, and Alicia Herrera) the documentary confronts issues that are affecting Latinos in Chicago and across the nation. Issues like bilingual education, self-determination, gentrification of Latino neighborhoods, and proposed laws that cut much needed learning and assistance programs for new immigrants. As first and second generation Puerto Ricans and Mexicans in Chicago these four students have decided to use their privilege of higher education to become mentors within their respective communities and push for cultural empowerment through education. The documentary juxtaposes media clips, archival footage, interviews, and location footage to paint a picture of these amazing young students, educators, and activists. In 1997 LIVING ON THE BORDER received a grant from the Puffin Foundation and premiered at the Olympia Film Festival in 1998 before premiering on local Public Television.
Quarterfinalist – Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition (Hour Pilot)
Semifinalist – ScreenCraft Sci-Fi & Fantasy Screenwriting Competition
Semifinalist – Nashville Film Festival Screenwriting Competition (Hour Pilot)
Official Selection – Chicago International REEL Shorts Film Fest
TV Premiere – Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network – The People’s Network: Suspense Edition
Quarterfinalist – ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship
Semifinalist – Roadmap Writers/Route One Entertainment Contest
Best Web Short – Woodengate Film Festival
Officially Groovy Film Award – Planet 9 Film Festival
Quarterfinalist – ScreenCraft Action/Thriller Screenplay Contest
Finalist – Robert Rodriguez’s ‘Rebel Without A Crew’ Television Program
Semifinalist – ScreenCraft Drama Feature Script Contest
Semifinalist – San Mauro Torinese International Film Festival
Film Market Selection – Palm Springs International ShortFest
Silver Remi Award – WorldFest Houston (Houston International Film Festival)
Best Horror Film – NCCC Film & Animation Festival
Audience Award – First Friday Film Festival (Kansas City)
Finalist – Los Angeles CineFest
Finalist – Frostbite International Online Film Festival
Semifinalist – Anatomy: Crime – Horror International Film Festival
Semifinalist – San Mauro Torinese International Film Festival
Quarterfinalist - Stage 32 'Happy Writers' Feature Contest
Finalist – The From Beyond Online Film Fest
Semifinalist – Highway 61 Film Festival
Semifinalist – Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest
Quarterfinalist – Chicago Screenwriter’s Network Contest
Top 20% – 2013 Academy Nicholl Fellowships
Top 10% – Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition
World Premiere – Indianapolis International Film Festival
Best Feature – Indianapolis International Film Festival
Hoosier Lens Award, Best Indiana Film – Indianapolis International Film Festival
Audience Award – Indianapolis International Film Festival
Best Documentary Finalist - International Family Film Festival
Honorable Mention – ReelHeART International Film Festival
Crystal Heart Award – Heartland Film Festival
Honorable Mention Award – Athens International Film & Video Festival
Official Selection – Olympia Film Festival
Grant Recipient – The Puffin Foundation
Gold Remi Award – WorldFest Houston (Houston International Film Festival)
Audience Award – Indiana Film & Video Festival
Indy Award – Indiana Film & Video Festival
School of the Art Institute of Chicago