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‘Goonies’ Actor Promotes Movie, Talks to Students About Careers in Film

Actor Sean Astin made a pit stop at Reeves Theater this past Tuesday morning while en route to Tampa’s “Gasparilla International Film Festival”. Astin, known for his roles as ‘Samwise Gamgee’ in Lord of the Rings and ‘Mikey’ in The Goonies, was joined by producer Jeff Gendelman and director Gil Cates Jr. to discuss their new film The Surface, which premiered Tuesday evening at the Tampa Theater.

The film chronicles the story of Mitch, a suicidal man who seeks to end his life by charting the tumultuous waters of Lake Michigan. Before he can off himself, however, he finds Kelly, the survivor of a plane crash (Chris Mulkey), and together the two form an unlikely bond. 


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Beyond just having the aforementioned trio speak about their experiences shooting the indie flick, film professors Aaron Walker and Gregg Perkins (the facilitators of the panel discussion) wanted to give student filmmakers, actors, and media enthusiasts a chance to glean knowledge from the consummate professionals. The panelists fielded a bevy of student-asked questions, ranging from “What is your best advice for an aspiring actor?” to “How do you adequately budget a film?”

Though each delved into various topics and stories, the consensus among Astin, Gendelman, and Cates Jr. was that patience will ultimately pay off. Gendelman recalled his experiences as a martial artist and told the crowd that “Before you start dabbling in other forms of martial arts, you have to get a black belt in one discipline first.” In other words, sharpen your craft before spreading yourself too thin. Astin agreed with Gendelman’s sentiments, explaining that he felt a lack of identity and direction before ultimately landing his big break in Lord of the Rings. 

“You’re going to get your moment, and when you get that moment, take advantage of it,” Astin said. 

Patience may be a virtue, but Gil Cates Jr. also stressed the avail of being bold and having a healthy air of confidence when first entering the business. As a brash young filmmaker, Cates Jr. managed to sneak Morgan Freeman into one of his movies by simply walking up to him and asking if he would do a cameo for his film.

“One take,” Freeman said. 

The talk left students beaming as they exited the theater; reassured by the panel’s sage advice that their dreams can come to fruition with hard work, forbearance, and a bit of luck. 

Senior, film major Stevie Handwerk said that the talk empowered her to remain persistent in her goals. “Hearing from guys that have been successful and have achieved what they have it made me feel like with determination I could make it as a filmmaker,” she said.

Immediately following the discussion, Astin took to his Facebook page to thank the UT community. 

“What a blast. Your questions were awesome and it’s clear you all have very bright futures ahead of you. Thanks for having us. We’ll see you at GIFF,” he said. 

Griffin Guinta can be reached at


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