The film, the fourth by Cornelius Muller Productions, will be shown on Feb. 24 at Carousel Cinemas at Alamance Crossing before a broader release this spring.
Filmmaker and actor Cornelius Muller ’93 is offering local audiences a first look at his latest feature film this month before it appears at cinemas later this spring.
“Making Him Famous,” the fourth film by Cornelius Muller Productions, will premiere at Carousel Cinemas at Alamance Crossing on Friday, Feb. 24. Directed by Burgess Jenkins (“Remember the Titans,” “Army Wives,” “The Reaping”), the film features Muller in a supporting role and as executive producer. The movie was produced with the support from members of the university community.
“From the onset of my film career, Elon has always been a big part of it,” Muller said. “Elon was good to me as a student, and has been just as good to me if not better since I’ve graduated.”
The film tells the story of Mario King, an inspirational speaker played by Vonii Bristow who is seeking fame only to find himself veering from the values and integrity his grandfather, played by Cameron Arnett, instilled in him. As he heads down a “path of destruction fueled by his own greed and arrogance,” he finds himself facing criminal charges with community service offering a path to redemption. It’s through that work and with the encouragement of Steven Young, played by Muller, and Olivia McBride, portrayed by Morgan Graham, that he discovers the true meaning of “making Him famous.”
Muller, who is originally from Brooklyn, graduated from Elon with a degree in human services studies, and went on to study with Herbert Berghof Studio in New York. He returned to North Carolina and pursued his studies with the Actors Group in Winston-Salem. More than 10 years ago, he decided to make his own films.
Muller said the narrative in “Making Him Famous” is derived in part from his own life experience. As a younger man, he was driven by the desire to be rich and famous but incidents in his life have reoriented him to be more focused on service and giving back. “Life is more than just having a lot,” Muller said. “In ‘Making Him Famous,” Mario desired to be famous and realized that God was using him instead to make him famous through a life of service.”
With his films, Muller has focused on promoting equality and diversity with family-friendly films that entertain, inspire and change lives. The film production company also seeks to generate sustainable income to use to fund charities such as Feed the Hunger, a Christian nonprofit that seeks to fill the spiritual and physical needs of children, and other organizations that provide clean water to those in need.
Since then Cornelius Muller Productions has produced films including “Brother’s Keeper,” “Find a Way” and “Sacred Hearts.” “Find a Way,” released nationally in 2015, is based on the sudden death of Harry Cohen, a star quarterback at Walter Williams High School in Burlington in 2012. Muller had mentored Cohen through his personal training company, Xplosion, which is located in Burlington, and much of the movie filmed on Elon’s campus.
Elon President Connie Ledoux Book played a role in helping Muller get his start in film. More than a decade ago when she was associate provost, Book helped with editing and rewriting the script for his first film. “Brother’s Keeper,” and connected him with one of her best students, who would become production manager for the film.
Muller has maintained a consistent connection to Elon as his filmmaking career has progressed. In 2020, Muller led a Unity in Communications discussion with Elon students about how he got his start in the industry and his experience running his own film company. For “Making Him Famous,” Muller has several Elon interns working on the project, with Associate Professor of Cinema and Television Arts Vic Costello and former School of Communications Dean Rochelle Ford visiting the set on multiple occasions. Bryan Baker, director of technology, operations and multimedia projects, worked with Muller for the film to use School of Communications facilities as the backdrop for one of the film’s scenes.
Ben Johnson, a 2020 Elon graduate and a 2021 graduate of the Interactive Media graduate program, began working with Cornelius Muller as an undergraduate, and continued throughout his graduate-degree work and now works part time with the production company, including work on “Making Him Famous.” Other alumni and current students who contributed to this latest film are David D’Ardenne, Joycelyn Bentley, Anaya Jones, Hector Lopez-Sanchez, Ella Nutt, Heather Shevach and Katie Smith.
“I want to keep it going,” Muller said of working with Elon students on his productions.
Next up for Muller is “Buddy: Against All Odds,” which will tell the story of a young man with cerebral palsy who is repeatedly told he would never amount to anything. That project is now in pre-production.