Thomas C. Gaunt is a filmmaker whose films have won awards at film festivals across North America and aired on PBS, Netflix, Direct TV, The Documentary Channel, The Sundance Channel and MTV2 Europe. Gaunt is the writer of the upcoming feature film THE NIGHT WATCHMAN. The dramatic crime thriller was recently a Semi-Finalist in the 2013 Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest, a Quarter Finalist in the Chicago Screenwriter’s Network Contest, won a Prize in the Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition and placed in the Top 20% in the 2013 Academy Nicholl Fellowships.
Gaunt took a special interest in filmmaking as a career while an undergraduate student at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago where he was initially enrolled to study painting. Before graduating, he spent a three year stint as a production assistant for Kartemquin Films, known for producing such critically acclaimed documentaries as HOOP DREAMS and THE INTERRUPTERS. At Kartemquin Gaunt worked as a production and post-production assistant on a variety of documentary features such as STEVIE and VIETNAM LONG TIME COMING.
Inspired by his experience working at Kartemquin, Thomas directed the award winning PBS documentary A PLACE CALLED HOME: AN ADOPTION STORY, about a unique adoption of nine siblings, ages 1-15 years old. Over the course of three years, the film follows the family’s progress and hardships as the parents and the adopted children come to terms with their past and begin to reshape their future. A PLACE CALLED HOME won the Crystal Heart Award at the Heartland Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best Feature at The Indianapolis International Film Festival and premiered on PBS in 2006.
Gaunt also produced, shot and edited the Illinois Arts Council funded PBS documentary ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE, about a group of spirited Chicago artists who pool their resources and convert an old factory into a communal work/living space for fellow creative people. ARTISTS IN RESIDENCE premiered on PBS in Spring of 2012.
Other notable projects include additional cinematography for the 2004 Sundance Channel / Netflix documentary HOWARD ZINN: YOU CAN'T BE NEUTRAL ON A MOVING TRAIN, Narrated by Matt Damon. The film chronicles the life of historian and author of the bestselling classic "A People’s History of the United States". In 1999 Gaunt also co-photographed the critically acclaimed documentary CORRECTIONS, directed by Ashley Hunt which premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival and is distributed by Third World News Reel.
Name: Thomas C. Gaunt
Company: GAUNT FILMS
Occupation: Screenwriter, Director and Producer
Unique traits: Imaginative, Collaborative, Dependable, Fair, Observant, Conscientious
THE NIGHT WATCHMAN
Film by GAUNT FILMS (Crime, Drama and Thriller) Screenwriter, Director, Producer While coping with the recent revelation that he is the father of a teenage boy, a homeless vet's life is further complicated when two armed men arrive in the cemetery he inhabits to bury an abducted young woman near the grave of the boy's mother. The screenplay for THE NIGHT WATCHMAN was a Quarter Finalist in the 2015 Stage 32 'Happy Writers' Feature Contest, a Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest Semi-Finalist, a Quarter Finalist in the Chicago Screenwriter's Network Contest, won a Prize in the Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition and placed in the Top 20% of all submissions in the 2013 Academy Nicholl Fellowships.
Film (short) by GAUNT FILMS (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.
STATIONARY BIKE (in production)
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.
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 short film DAYS END, a disillusioned young man's self-loathing is interrupted by a life altering cataclysmic event. 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. Best friend and co-worker, Nate, listens to his worries 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. DAYS END premiered at the Indianapolis International Film Festival, is a Finalist in The From Beyond Online Film Festival, a Semifinalist in the Highway 61 Film Festival and is an Official Selection of the 2015 Wasteland 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.
Television by Chicago Access Network Television (Talk-Show) Series Creator, Producer, Director Now in its 15th year, COMMUNITY FORUM is Chicago's longest running public affairs program that focuses on the issues and concerns of Chicago nonprofit organizations in areas of labor, health care, economic development, arts, education, immigration, gender equality and domestic violence among other community issues. With Thomas C. Gaunt as Producer, COMMUNITY FORUM won a First Place Award and 2 Honorable Mention Awards at the Hometown Video Festival in 2001.
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.
Documentary by Kartemquin Films / Maria Finitzo Post-production Assistant For two years, filmmaker Maria Finitzo followed five teen girls between the ages of 13 and 17. Unlike the myriad reports, books and "specials" that focus on young women as passive and powerless, 5 Girls explores the ways these girls discover the resources necessary to successfully navigate the rocky waters of adolescence. It focuses on the positive ways girls learn to adapt to challenge in their lives by understanding and exercising choices, by believing in their strength when others do not and by resisting powerful cultural messages, which urge them to be silent. 5 GIRLS was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary and aired on the PBS series POV in 2001.
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.
VIETNAM, LONG TIME COMING
Documentary by Kartemquin Films (Documentary, History and Biography) Post-production Assistant Narrated by Joe Mantegna, VIETNAM, LONG TIME COMING takes viewers on an emotionally healing journey as Vietnam Veterans participate in a bicycle race across Vietnam. The last American officials were airlifted out of Vietnam from the embassy roof in Saigon in 1975. Most have never returned. In 1998, World T.E.A.M. (The Exceptional Athlete Matters) Sports organized a 16-day, 1100 mile bicycle expedition through once war-torn Northern and Southern Vietnam. A non-profit organization that focuses on events for the disabled, World T.E.A.M. Sports drew an array of veterans from the U.S. and Vietnam, as well as celebrity riders like Greg La Monde and Senator John Kerry. Those without use of their legs used special hand-powered bikes, while blind riders pedaled from the back of tandem bikes. What is immediately apparent on the veterans' arrival in Vietnam is that their biggest handicaps are the ghosts of their pasts. Past enemies ride as one team in peace across a landscape they once killed to stay alive on. Much more than a race, the ride is an exorcism; the real finish line is the painful emotional confrontation each must make alone along the way. Directed by Jerry Blumenthal, Peter Gilbert and Gordon Quinn, VIETNAM, LONG TIME COMING won an Emmy Award for 'Outstanding Program Achievement', a DGA Award for 'Outstanding Directorial Achievement' and was Nominated for 'Best Documentary' at the 1998 Chicago International Film Festival.
Film (short) by GAUNT FILMS (Student Film) (Action, Crime and Drama) Writer, Director, Producer Eddy just walked into the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately for him, the wrong place was his apartment and the wrong time was just as his deadbeat roommate Marcus was getting the shakedown and a beat down from the Lopez brothers (neighborhood muscle who work for a local bookmaker and loan shark named Charlie). A machinist in training at a local tool and die shop, Eddy is just a working class guy. Unbeknownst to Eddy, Marcus’ gambling addiction has gotten out of control and has him deep in debt owing money to the wrong element. Eddy’s untimely entrance sets off a chain reaction that leads to a fight for his and Marcus’ survival as fists fly and bullets rain down. OVER KILL was Thomas C. Gaunt’s third film while a student at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago. Shot in 1997 on black and white 16mm reversal film stock, it represents Gaunt’s first film based on an original screenplay written by him.
OUT OF THE LOOP
Documentary by Headache Productions (Documentary, History, Biography and Music) Production Assistant / Sound OUT OF THE LOOP is a feature-length documentary on Chicago rock bands and fame in the music industry. From Veruca Salt's virtual overnight success to Steve Albini's caustic wit to the bizarre rants of the clinically-diagnosed schizophrenic/singer Wesley Willis, Out of the Loop provides and insider's look through the Chicago's diverse rock music scene and offers a slice of how musicians make decisions when confronted with the lures of fame in the notoriously fickle music business. Using liberal doses of exclusive live footage and interviews, Out of the Loop allows those who lived through the music industry feeding frenzy recount the funny, tragic, and bittersweet tales of stardom. Directed by Scott Peterson, OUT OF THE LOOP won '2nd Place' Best Documentary at the 1998 Chicago Underground Film Festival
CAUGHT IN THE LOOP
Film (short) by GAUNT FILMS (Student Film) (Documentary and Drama) Director, Producer CAUGHT IN THE LOOP is an experimental documentary short about homelessness – a societal issue hidden in plain sight. The film juxtaposes various perspectives from homeless residents in Chicago’s “Loop” district with the passing comments of neighboring pedestrians. The feelings expressed resonate with a tone of despair, regret, disgust, anger and hope all in effort to shed light and stimulate discussion. CAUGHT IN THE LOOP is the second film from Thomas C. Gaunt. Made during his time as a student at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago it went on to screen at over 20 film festivals around the country ultimately winning a Gold Award at WorldFest Houston (Houston International Film Festival). At age of 21, Gaunt surpassed Steven Spielberg’s 1968 win for his short ‘Amblin’ (age 22) making him the youngest filmmaker to win the award in the festival’s history. CAUGHT IN THE LOOP also won an Indy Award and the Audience Award at the Indiana Film & Video Festival before premiering on the PBS short film showcase Image Union. CAUGHT IN THE LOOP also earned Gaunt an internship at Kartemquin Films where he contributed to documentary films STEVIE, VIETNAM LONG TIME COMING, TEEN STREET, GRASSROOTS CHICAGO and 5 GIRLS.
Film (short) by GAUNT FILMS (Student Film) (Action, Crime and Thriller) Director, Producer Inspired by Alan Barone's BLAST OF SILENCE and William Friedkin's THE FRENCH CONNECTION, Thomas C. Gaunt's micro-short (THE PAYBACK) is a hard-boiled action thriller / film noir depicting the mechanics of a violent revenge. An unknown dock worker is chased down a city alley and savagely beaten by two men (a corrupt union boss and his goon). Once caught, the camera assumes the POV of the victim alternating between film and video formats with each brutal blow. Filmed in 1994 on black and white super 8mm film and VHS tape, THE PAYBACK was the first student film made by Gaunt. The film was screened in 1995 as part of a Spring student showcase while Gaunt was an undergraduate student at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago.
Official Selection – Freedom Film Festival
Official Selection – Blackbird Film Festival
Official Selection – Broken Knuckle Film Festival
Official Selection – The Strange Film Awards
Official Selection – Rendezvous Film Festival
Official Selection – The Online Film Festival
Quarter Finalist - Stage 32 'Happy Writers' Feature Contest
Finalist – The From Beyond Online Film Fest
Official Selection – Wasteland Film Festival
Official Selection – Armageddon Expo Film Festival
Official Selection – Indie Film Festival
Official Selection – Los Angeles CineFest
Official Selection – Northern Frights Festival
Official Selection – Rhode Island Comic-Con Film Festival
Official Selection – Chicago Paranormal Film Festival
Official Selection – Silver Dollar Film Festival
Semi-finalist – Highway 61 Film Festival
Official Selection – The From Beyond Online Film Fest
Official Selection – Viewster Online Film Festival
Semi-Finalist – Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest
Quarter Finalist – Chicago Screenwriter’s Network Contest
Top 20% – 2013 Academy Nicholl Fellowships
Prize Winner - Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition
Official Selection / World Premiere – Indianapolis International Film Festival
Audience Award, Best Feature – Indianapolis International Film Festival
Hoosier Lens Award, Best Indiana Film – 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 (Chicago, IL)