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The Heart of Texas

Directed by Gregory JM Kasunich
Narrative Short
United States | 15 min | 2023

Janie May, an aspiring country singer stuck in the paycheck-to-paycheck grind, gets big news that she’s a radio contest finalist while finishing her overnight shift at a local diner in Waco, TX. She must race to the station to sing for hometown country music hero Harlan Thompson in hopes of winning the opening act spot on his upcoming tour. In a chaotic dash to the studio, she collides her car into Jesús, an undocumented worker who refuses medical care or police assistance out of fear of being discovered and deported. The two engage in a struggle, each in pursuit of their own American dreams. In the end, they do the only the thing they know how to do: fend for themselves.

“Highlights at the 2023 Indy Shorts International Film Festival”Roger Ebert

https://www.rogerebert.com/festivals/no-moment-was-wasted-highlights-at-the-2023-indy-shorts-international-film-festival/

“Emerging filmmakers empower audiences at Heartland’s 2023 Indy Shorts International Film Festival” Cinema Femme

When Lauren Noll and I sat down to write The Heart of Texas we were angry.

Angry at the fear and misinformation being spread by the highest office in the US as talks of border walls and drug trafficking filled the airwaves.

Angry at the way immigrants, the people who literally and figuratively built this country were being villainized, dehumanized, and criminalized daily.

Angry at seeing fundamental failures in the systems that were designed to protect us: the police, healthcare, etc.

From that anger formed a story about a man who, after being severely injured in a car accident, refuses help from paramedics and declines to turn the culprit into the police out of fear for his own life, well-being, and livelihood. It’s a story about the inherent privilege some have in a society that is built for them and not for others.

Lauren and I have both worked in foodservice. We know what it is like to work elbow to elbow with people whose very existence is illegal in the country, yet, the business where they work would not be able to function without them. We know what it’s like to feel marginalized and vilified for our choice of partner or lifestyle. We know how toxic hustle culture can drive people to do terrible things.

Like I said, we were angry.

We hope you connect with our story. It was made by a small and diverse team of filmmakers that include first-generation immigrants, male, female, POC, queer, lesbian, and deaf creatives and crew members in key roles. The film also features on screen performances by actors of varying ages, ethnic backgrounds, and orientations.

The film addresses themes of domestic policy, immigration, privilege, racism, fear of authority, hustle culture, and toxic performance culture. We hope this film will spark an ongoing conversation with its audience.

This is our interrogation of the “American Dream”, of broken systems and promises, and of the unavoidable collision of people who share the same hope for a better life.

The Heart of Texas - Poster

The Heart of Texas - Gregpry JM KasunichGregory JM Kasunich
Director

Gregory JM Kasunich is a filmmaker, producer, writer, and creator based in LA and New York.

He makes films, commercials, music videos, photos, art objects, animation craft coffee, and bad puns.

He has created work for studios like Netflix, DreamWorks Animation, Lucasfilm, Disney, Marvel, Stoopid Buddies Animation, and WildBrain Animation.

His music video work includes projects for Taylor Swift, Vampire Weekend, The Summer Set, The Pentatonix, Superfruit, Rainee Blake, Sophie Strauss, Lili Rose McKay, Sleight Bells, Cloud Nothings, Clues, Gene Micofsky, and others.

He has also designed campaigns and executed creative for brands like Elijah Craig Bourbon, SONOS, HBO Max, Hot Wheels, Lunazul Tequila, Top Chef, Char-Broil Grills, Cox Communications, Bear Naked Granola, eBay, VRV, iHeartRadio, and many others.

His live action and animated short films have played the world over and garnered awards in several categories.

He has recorded and released a a collection of instrumental and ambient music under his own name as well as records with his bands Poor Stars and Stones and Painted Bride.

Gregory’s portrait and dance photography has been published in both digital and print magazines and he has photographed artists and performers across the entertainment industry.

Interviews with Gregory can be heard on several podcasts including Respect the Process, Cinema Jaw, Some Shit We Like, and Evolving. He and his work has been mentioned in articles on Billboard, Shoot Online, the Los Angeles Times, Video Static, The Big Takeover, Shoutout LA, Voyage LA, and The Observer Reporter.

Gregory also loves sharing his knowledge and experience and is always looking for opportunities to mentor, consult, and teach. He has given talks at film festivals around the country on topics ranging from Film Production to Animation to Digital Marketing.

Outside of his professional work, Gregory has built the independent small batch coffee roasting company Curious Bird Coffee which supports small independent farms the world over. He has developed and original board game called Wayfarers Folly and continues his flight training toward his private pilot license.

He lives in Los Angeles, CA with his wife Dr. Anjali Barve Kasunich and his wire hair terrier Maxwell.

Film Information

Director: Gregory JM Kasunich
Country:  United States
Year: 2023
Language: English
Runtime: 15 min
Rated:  PG-13

Credits

Writer: Gregory JM Kasunich, Lauren Noll
Producer: Jordan Ochel, Sol Bautista, Andy Racoti, Trey Chamness
Cinematography: Brent Johnson
Editor: Wes Langdon
Composer: Gene Micofsky
Original Song: Aaron Konzelman

Connect With This Film

Principal Cast

BIFF - Beloit International Film Festival
BIFF | Beloit International Film Festival