Braxton Thalberg, 13, of Grinnell was honored in May 2022 with the Iowa Motion Picture Association “Award of Achievement for Best Actor” for his part as Justin, in the Iowa-based feature film, Charcoal Skies. The film centers around Deena (Emily Portner), a single mother, and her 11-year-old son, Justin (Braxton). Deena is struggling to navigate a delicate and confusing relationship with her reclusive, artistic son. Mill Creek Entertainment released the film on Jan. 17, and it is now available on iTunes, Microsoft, Google, Vudu, Amazon, Comcast, Cox, Cablevision and Spectrum.
By J.O. Parker
The family drama, Charcoal Skies, featuring Grinnell’s Braxton Thalberg, is now available from various digital retailers.
Mill Creek Entertainment released the film on Jan. 17, and it is now available on iTunes, Microsoft, Google, Vudu, Amazon, Comcast, Cox, Cablevision and Spectrum.
Braxton, 13, the son of Wade and Cecelia Thalberg of Grinnell, is a seventh grader at Grinnell Middle School.
The film centers around Deena (Emily Portner), a single mother, and her 11-year-old son, Justin (Braxton). Deena is struggling to navigate a delicate and confusing relationship with her son.
With limited parenting skills, Deena tries to understand her reclusive, artistic son who wants to be the next Vincent van Gogh.
“Justin doesn’t like to associate with other kids or want to leave the solace of his bedroom,” noted info on the film. “His recent diagnosis of having a schizotypal disorder (early schizophrenia) only complicates matters.”
Although an elderly neighbor woman provides Deena and Justin with solid support and guidance, their ordinary lives are difficult in the small, working-class city. Through chance encounters and tragic events, they both find meaningful connections and learn to accept themselves and each other.
The film was written by Beth Hinde who along with her husband, Danny Hinde, were the executive producer of the project. The film was under the direction of Bill Cooper and was filmed in June 2021 in Cedar Rapids over an 18-day period.
The film features 56 actors and actresses along with additional staff including Emily Portner, Braxton Thalberg, Ben Rollins (Gods of No Mercy, Unhuman Nature), Bill Cooper (Rise Against the Fall, The Great War), Ernest Howard (Same Girl, Halfway House) and Wes Worthing (The Fence, Peace Patch).
The movie was originally slated for production pre-COVID. Hinde had cast a lead actor for the Travers’ role four years ago. With the later than anticipated production of the movie, that actor left for other obligations. Hinde said she knew Wade through other projects and that is how the connection with Braxton was made.
“I told Wade, ‘Hey, let’s have Braxton read for me,’” said Hinde in an earlier interview.
“This was Braxton’ first feature film,” said Hinde. “Not only is he talented, he was a true professional throughout.”
The film was an official selection in the Columbia Film Festival. Charcoal Skies was a finalist at the AFIN International Film Festival in Australia.
“Having Mill Creek Entertainment pick up the project was beyond my wildest dreams,” noted Hinde.
Braxton was recognized in May 2022 by the Iowa Motion Picture Association with the “Award of Achievement for Best Actor” in the feature film category for his work in Charcoal Skies. Braxton was up against five adults and another child actor in receiving the award.
“Saying I am excited about the release of this film would be an understatement,” added Hinde. “It took years of setbacks, cancelations, and rewrites. It may be cliché to say things happen for a reason, but in this case, I totally believe it.”
“Things went awry many times, but the day we started shooting, everything went off without a hitch,” Hinde said. “This was the effort of many people, who without them, this would not have been possible.”
Wade, who has been acting in commercials, movies and a few television shows during the last five plus years, and Braxton work through the Peak Agency in Des Moines.
“I’m really excited for everyone to be able to see this film,” said Braxton. “Everyone worked very hard to get this filmed during Covid, which was a challenge. It’s filmed entirely in Iowa so I hope everyone here gets a chance to watch it.”