Sheridan BFTV students craft short film ‘Blood Money.’

Story by Tim Kalinowski, Owen Matthews, Noah Amaral

After nine months of production, students in the Bachelor of Film and Television at Sheridan, Mitchell Denison, Matthew Donkers, and Jesse Telfer, founders of JM2 Productions, have put together their twenty-minute short drama titled “Blood Money.” The film stars Ahmad Nawabit as the main character Joel Reed, a financially struggling father who enters the underworld of crime as a contracted killer to support his family.

Denison, Donkers, and Telfer came up with the story in the spring of 2023. The film was shot for two months over the summer and was set to be released in December. However, due to issues, the film was pushed back to January 12th.

“We started in May. We came up with the idea and had a bunch of meetings at each other’s houses, and we were hoping to release it in December but due to some conflicts and issues that happened around that time, we had to push it back to January,” says Telfer.

Before the team landed on the story’s main idea, multiple different stories were thrown around. No matter the storyline, the main goal was for the film to explore thematic questions.

“We were exploring certain questions we wanted to do, and we landed on the question of ‘what would you do if someone made you have to kill somebody?’ and ‘what would be the conflict you would go through?’ and we wanted to pick a certain genre and landed on crime-thriller so let’s do a hit-man that doesn’t want to be a hit-man… so we wrote that, we shot it, and here we are,” says Donkers.

The film was shot on the Sony A7C with limited access to lighting. According to Denison, who served as director of photography, the camera and lights were not the best but got the job done. When shooting from July to August, including reshoots, the film faced some minor problems with the equipment. When difficulty occurred, the cast and crew came closer together.

“I don’t know if there were too many issues that came into play, other than the gimbal (camera stabilizer) that I have. It really likes to overheat and the battery likes to die a lot so that was one thing where we had to take a break partway through the shoot. The same thing for the camera, we only had one battery for the camera that we used to shoot, so that was another difficulty that we ran into. We had to sit back and let things charge but it also allowed us to sit around with the crew, it was a good bonding experience for us,” Denison says.

The three friends are no strangers to creating dramatic shorts. Last year, the group made a three-minute film titled ‘Midnight Passenger’, which follows a girl who orders an Uber to take her home but notices the driver is taking her elsewhere. Donkers and Telfer have also collaborated on ‘Interstice’, which follows a man named Zack dealing with the loss of his friend. Both films are available to watch for free on Denison and Donkers‘ YouTube channel.

Jesse Telfer, Mitchell Denison, and Matthew Donkers pose together for a photo. (Courtesy of Matthew Donkers’ Letterboxd).

‘Blood Money’ will premiere at the First-Time Filmmaker Sessions Film Festival which runs from February 26th to March 11th.

Sheridan has a history of successful graduates.

Here are some of the films they’ve worked on:

Shining on the big stage: Sheridan Alumni contributions by Noah Amaral