‘Carving a Life’ premiere screening happening Tuesday

Life in Reels is proud to announce the San Diego premiere screening of the independent film, “Carving A Life”. The event will kick off the new year on Tuesday, January 9th, 2018 including a red carpet, the screening and a Q and A with representatives from the non-profit, Smart Recovery, to follow. All proceeds after event costs will be donated to the San Diego Chapter of Smart Recovery.

The tale of Carving a Life is masterfully created by two San Diego women in film; through the imaginative and cutting-edge script of Lisa Bruhn and the artistic direction of Terry Ross. The team of Ross and Bruhn are best known for their award-winning shorts such as “The Last Resort.”

Watch us talk about it on the video here.

A Night of Hope presented by Life in Reels Productions

“A Night of Hope” is a red carpet event and screening of the inspirational indie film “Carving A Life” filmed in San Diego with San Diego cast and crew. This is the SAN DIEGO PREMIERE screening of Carving A Life

Take photos with the cast and crew on the RED CARPET 6-7pm

The screening is 7-830 followed by Q&A with the filmmakers.

A portion of the net proceeds from the event will be donated to Smart Recovery San Diego, a non-profit that offers self-empowering addiction recovery support meetings in San Diego.

Get tickets here.

Carving a Life indie film review by UK Film Review

Carving a Life indie film review by UK Film Review


Directed by Terry Ross

Written by Lisa Bruhn

Starring Tyler Bruhn, Karenssa LeGear, Sandi Todorovic, Aaron Landon Bornstein, Lisa Winans

Indie Film Review by Chris Olson

Genuinely moving, indie film Carving a Life, from director Terry Ross and writer Lisa Bruhn, lays bare its two central characters as they journey from initial courting through to marriage and beyond. A no-holds-bar examination of the splinters which can occur when you let the anguish of your memories affect the promise of your future.

Tyler Bruhn plays Mitch, a seemingly confident wood-carving artist at the beginning of the movie, the audience later learns that he hides a troubled past. His new relationship with school teacher Lauren (Karenssa LeGear) begins well, and the two enjoy the initial throes of puppy love and eventually get married. What becomes evident, through Mitch’s drinking, turbulent flashbacks, and poor choices, is that the baggage he has brought with him to this relationship is perhaps more than either of them bargained for.

What first appears to be a rather middle-of-the-road love story is actually layered with some fascinating themes surrounding alcohol abuse and mental/physical health issues. Mitch’s struggle to come to terms with aspects of his past and the incredibly poor choices he continues to make, are wonderful ruinous but also very relatable. Everything is done with a convincing tone and his behaviour does not smack of shallow totes emoshing, instead of a manchild weighed down by his tragic history. His relationships with his father (Aaron Landon Bornstein) and friend-cum-enabler Eric (Sandi Todorovic) are also well explored during Carving a Life.

Music was chosen well to add depth to the film’s chapters, the entire movie felt like a journey through time as the seasons changed and each of the characters had moved to a slightly different, and often more unstable, place in their life. It was compelling to watch the evolution of Mitch and Lauren’s relationship and how they attempted to merge all of their anxieties and fears with disastrous consequences. There is a moment early on in the film where Mitch talks about using damaged wood in order to create something beautiful, which becomes particularly poignant later on in Carving a Life. Another little reference to this is found when Lauren refers to her new class, saying there are no “bad eggs”.

The performances were by and large decent. Bruhn and LeGear have a nice chemistry, and there is a really nice sequence between LeGear and Mitch’s step-mother Rebecca (Lisa Winans) where she reveals some of the details of Mitch’s past. At times, there are some moments of stilted dialogue, but these are few and far between. Overall this was a tender and engaging romantic drama that combined emotive storytelling with fantastic thematic depth.

Oaxaca FilmFest Review of Carving a Life

Oaxaca FilmFest


Dear Terry and Lisa, Oaxaca FilmFest would like to thank you for entrusting us with your work and we are honored to present you with this review.

It is important to bring to your attention that this review does not constitute a critic of your work, but is aiming to offer you an objective commentary that can help enhance your artistic abilities.

Following the review of your project, here are some points that deserve attention:

– Mitch Martindale (Tyler Bruhn) is a woodcarver who begins a relationship with Lauren (Karenssa LeGear) a kindly and lovable elementary schoolteacher. Mitch and Lauren appear to be perfect for each other, although Lauren has to tolerate Mitch’s best friend Eric (Sandi Todorovic) whose party animal ways don’t sit well with her. Despite this and a few other hic-ups, Mitch and Lauren get married and everything seems to go well for a while until Lauren realizes that Mitch likes to drink a bit too much at times, a habit that becomes exacerbated when Lauren announces her pregnancy, something which triggers Mitch’s guilt due to past trauma. Mitch’s alcoholism worsens and it begins taking a toll on his marriage as well as his own health. Mitch will have to confront his inner demons if he wants to defeat his alcoholism and save his marriage, or risk losing not just the love of the woman he loves, but also his own life.

– As a love story, CARVING A LIFE doesn’t embellish things in a “Hollywood” way when it comes to romance, both Mitch and Lauren look like attractive normal people rather than “movie-attractive people” as well as their courtship and relationship development feels natural in its progression rather than some idealized and unrealistic depiction of love. However, it is this sweet way it is written that makes us root for them as two people who deserve to be together, and that’s why when the film becomes a study in the effects and causes of alcoholism that the drama becomes so powerful to watch. It’s all in the development, in how the film builds these characters and then breaks them in front of us. When we first meet Mitch and Lauren, they are introduced through the “meet-cute” trope which is common in love stories, taking place at Mitch’s wood workshop where he has carved a wooden dolphin, which according to Mitch symbolizes freedom (a symbol that will play its part later on). From then on things progress as they date and become emotionally involved. During their first date there’s one moment, one second in which we know this will not be the typical love-story; When Mitch is preparing dinner for Lauren for the first time, she arrives with a bottle of wine. When he sees the bottle there’s this subtle reaction (excellent work by Bruhn) we see in his eyes that moment of precognition where he can see exactly what’s going to happen next. Mitch still believes he can have a drink without succumbing to his buried alcoholism, but eventually his condition begins to devolve and what began as a love-story transforms into a complex portrayal of addiction and its consequences on different levels. Mitch drinking is enabled by his best friend Eric (himself an alcoholic) who likes to have other alcoholics around him so as to not feel alone. Eric dwells in the abyss and he likes company, and he wants Eric to be his wingman into the pit. Eric is just a catalyst for Mitch’s drinking, but not the cause. Eric has some deep seethed and buried traumas that have driven him to seek solace in a bottle. He has nightmares where he relieves over and over his mother’s death when he was a child, an event he blames himself for and that he feels has strained his relationship with his father Stephen (Aaron Bornstein) this situation as well as Eric’s own parental troubles pushed him to drink at a very early age. Mitch eventually enters a rehab program as a pre-teen, and kept his alcoholism somewhat in check until Lauren entered his life and something about her (perhaps her resemblance to Mitch’s mother) ignites his vices once more. What drives Mitch to the edge is the news that he will become a father, suddenly all his fears and self-doubt exacerbate due to his guilt and feelings of undeserving of happiness. And from the moment Mitch finds out he’ll become a father, he allows Eric to drag him with him in a downward spiral of endless partying which causes a severe rift between him and Lauren. What we see next is Mitch’s downfall as he keeps embracing the bottle and growing apart from Lauren who in good sense decides she’s had enough.

– CARVING A LIFE is not just concerned with the damage alcoholism causes in an individual’s psyche and relationships, but also on their health; Mitch develops a liver decease which will kill him if he doesn’t quit drinking, his addiction is so bad he doesn’t believe the doctor’s diagnosis and gets Eric to smuggle alcohol into his hospital room. We have seen the best in Mitch and now we see him at his worst, we have seen him be a loving husband and now we see him destroying his marriage and his body. We care because we have seen him at his best and we know he wants to do better, but his alcoholism overpowers him at times, he’s a prisoner to this bottle monster who has dominated him so thoroughly he act irrationally beyond just drunk behavior, his addiction makes him crave the drink despite knowing his body won’t be able to sustain him anymore. Mitch eventually confronts his addiction on all fronts. First beginning with himself, coming to terms with his guilt, his relationship with his father, finding closure and severing ties with Eric, his enabler. Regaining his health and finally rebuilding his marriage and working his way to becoming the father he knows he can be. Throughout the film, we see Mitch carving the image of a bigger dolphin in wood, giving shape to it as the film progresses. Once the dolphin is complete, so is his progression into sobriety. The dolphin represents Mitch’s freedom from alcohol, finally complete.

– Directed with sensitivity by Terry Ross and smartly written by Lisa Bruhn, CARVINGA LIFE is a mixture of endearing romance and searing addiction drama. Among its best qualities as a motion picture, is its pace. The film moves fast, but never in a hurry. Its narrative is clear, but it never lingers unnecessarily in redundant scenes. In other words, besides being a very complete look at alcoholism it is also a very entertaining film. The backbone of the film is Mitch and Lauren’s relationship, which feels real and not an unreal idealization at all. They and their story are grounded and relatable, we all know people like them. And credit goes to the casting of Tyler Bruhn as Mitch and Karenssa LeGear as Lauren. Their chemistry is believable, they look good together, but after knowing them as people we really want them to succeed and stay together. Bruhn’s does great work depicting Mitch in his different stages. We meet him sober, loving and thoughtful, and then we see the subtle change in him. Beginning with that very brilliant moment where he sees the bottle of wine for the first time and he does all the work through his eyes. Later on his condition worsens and Bruhn captures the need for sedation and forgetting his troubles through the drink. It’s a harrowing performance to watch, particularly in the moments where his health worsens and we see him drinking while bedridden. LeGear herself captures the other side of the coin, she represents the loved ones, the people who are affected as collateral damage by alcoholism. Lauren is put through the wringer as Mitch humiliates her and lets her down. She is at first in love but we see her slowly becoming more and more disenchanted and disappointed with Mitch while still maintaining hopes that he will do better. Sandi Todorovic as Eric is a key component as he is almost an anthropomorphic representation of alcohol, Todorovic is a stand in for alcoholic giving it a voice and a personality as an attractive devilish and fun charmer that keeps dragging Mitch to parties and pressures him into giving into his cravings. Overall, this is a very complete and honest look at a story we all have either heard of in real life, happening to people we know or that some of us have gown through in the flesh. This is an authentic film on the subject of alcoholism and most importantly, rehabilitation.

These various elements constitute the strength of this project. Under no circumstances would I change any of these.

Nonetheless, there are a few points that need to be addressed, that possibly should have been handled differently.

– The cinematography can be hit and miss at times. Some shots take great advantage of the San Diego sun, bathing the frame in golden light. Other times the image can look a bit soft and the camera even seems to vibrate at times, not looking quite hand-held but rather as if it was shaking. The pace is fantastic, it’s not a slow movie at all, and despite the harsh subject matter at times, it’s very entertaining. However, there’s some scenes that seem as if it was missing, the editing sometimes seems abrupt, sometimes even cutting music off in a very choppy way, and some transitions don’t work that well.

– Lauren seems to be taken out of the narrative at times, while focusing entirely on Mitch’s struggle. We could have seen more of her coping and her own struggle as well. Another detail is that she looks a lot like Mitch’s mother (perhaps intentional) but it got a bit confusing at times to tell Lauren from Mitch’s mother at times.

– There’s a couple of plot-holes or details that seem like plot-holes. We figure at first Mitch has some control of his alcoholism when he can’t find a bottle opener (because he doesn’t have one) nor he has wine glasses. But if he has been hanging out with Eric for a while now (since kids) then it is hard to believe he kept his addiction in check for longer than a day. And while we understand that Mitch didn’t want to tell Lauren of his drinking problem so as to not scare her away, his problems could have been solved just by being honest about his condition.

One quote to summarize the project:

CARVING A LIFE is a very complete and honest look at alcoholism and how it affects relationships, psyche and health while also being a love story and a very entertaining and rounded-out film with two fantastic central performances.

Oaxaca FilmFest

Carving a Life Interview with Pat Brymer : Creator of Frank the Dog

Interview with Pat Brymer the creator of Frank the Dog in the Carving a Life film…

Carving A Life Interviews: Karenssa LeGear (Lauren)

Karenssa LeGear talks about first day on set with Tyler and how they developed their chemistry; and also touches on what it was like playing Lauren.

Carving A Life Interviews: Terry Ross (director)

Interview with CAL director Terry Ross about realizing her creative team

Carving A Life Burbank Film Festival Nomination

Carving A Life nominated for best dramatic feature at Burbank Film Festival!

Carving A Life team wins at IndieFest Film Awards

Congrats to the Carving a Life team for winning awards of recognition for:
“Leading Actor” presented to Tyler Bruhn as Mitch in Carving a Life
“Women Filmmakers” presented to Lisa Bruhn and Terry Ross
As well as “Film Feature” presented to the entire Carving a Life team.

Cast And Director Of Carving A Life Win Big At San Diego Film Awards!

Director Terry Ross is the 2017 Recipient of the “Women in Film Award” for her contributions in directing, casting and coaching at the San Diego Film Awards held April 2 at the Music Box Theatre.

Shipping and tax includes to USA. Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery. Dismiss