Watch ‘Spectacular Now’ Star Miles Teller in His Teen Movie Debut ‘Moonlighters’

miles teller moonlighters

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.

Ever since his breakthrough supporting role in 2010’s Rabbit Hole, Miles Teller has been on a sharp rise towards stardom. Major parts in the Footloose remake, Project X and this year’s 21 & Over could have been career choices of any young actor looking to quickly fill his Hollywood resume, but he’s been earning notice for his talents even when appearing in so-so movies. The skill has paid off the most so far with The Spectacular Now, an indie teen romance that debuted at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where he and co-star Shailene Woodley collectively won the festival’s dramatic acting award. With the film now in theaters, audiences are getting to see why he deserved the honor and why we can expect great things from him in next year’s Divergent adaptation and beyond.

Before Rabbit Hole hit theaters, Teller had starred in four short films, filling the lead role of each. I’ve seen the three that are available online — Jesse Newman’s Moonlighters (2004) and A Very Specific Recipe (2007) and Eric Laplante’s The Track Meet (2010) — and I can say he outshines the rest of the cast in every one and can actually be witnessed growing as an actor along the way. In the first, then-17-year-old Teller plays a kid who gets dumped by his longtime girlfriend and then attempts to rob her house with help from a young crew. Much of the cast seems pretty amateurish (well, it was), making the whole thing play like a dark production of Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket as performed by the Max Fisher Players.

Watch that and the other two after the jump.

That and the second film, below, come straight via Newman’s YouTube account. It would be nice if they were better quality streams, but who knows what the source quality is like? Newman was also only 17 when he made Moonlighters as a high school junior, for a reported $500. Both he and Teller went to Lecanto High School in Florida, and I assume the same is true for many of the other young actors. The film won the Florida Choice Award at the 2004 Independents’ Film Festival in Tampa and Best Screenplay at the Daytona Beach Film Festival while Teller won the Best Actor award at the Melbourne Independent Filmmakers Festival.

For more on how they made Moonlighters, check out a message board thread on IGN from 2004 where Newman bravely takes harsh criticism from others after sharing a link to the just-finished product (Teller is praised by some and panned by others). In a 2005 profile on Newman in the “St. Petersburg Times,” Teller is quoted saying, “Moonlighters was my first time working with Jesse, but we collaborated so well that it was like we had done it countless times before. Jesse is easy to work with because he is so professional, and he doesn’t leave empty spaces. Every shot, lighting effect and prop is accounted for before we started the operation.”

Actor and director reunited again three years later for A Very Specific Recipe, which cost a reported $450 and has Teller playing a young man who starts a romance with a girl he meets at a wedding. It’s about the rise and fall of the relationship, kind of like (500 Days) of Summer (which is interesting since that film’s writers also wrote The Spectacular Now), but ahead of it. Given the timing, I think this was made while both were in college, Teller at NYU and Newman at the University of South Florida. Watch the extended version of the short here:

Another three years later, Teller starred in The Track Meet for director Eric Laplante. He plays a young man who goes running (at the McCarren Park track in Williamsburg, Brooklyn) and becomes fascinated by a woman walking through in high heels and wants to find her more comfortable shoes. Another cute romantic story for the guy being called his generation’s John Cusack (or Matthew Broderick). This one’s picture is of much better quality than the Newman videos, as is the overall craft, so be sure to give it a shot regardless of what you think of the others. Watch the 11-minute short here via Laplante’s Vimeo page:


Rather than a reject, Christopher Campbell is a film school dropout. But he has since gotten a master’s degree in cinema studies and has been blogging about movies since 2005. Earlier, he reviewed films for a zine (a what?) that you could buy at Tower Records (a what?). He is married with two children.

Read More from Christopher Campbell
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