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How Hartford became the star of the upcoming feature film ‘Midas,’ opening this week in CT | Hartford Courant

Jun 23, 2024

Christopher Arnott

It may be about the theft of money and documents from an insurance company, but the new indie comedy/heist film “Midas” makes Hartford look really good.

The film is about a young man who attempts to help an ailing relative and uncovers nefarious dealings at the insurance company where he works. Every scene in “Midas” was filmed in Hartford. There are bright cheery shots of the streets in the downtown area. A classy business shindig was filmed at The Bushnell, and local eateries figure prominently.

“Midas” opens June 28 at cinemas in Hartford and Westbrook, not to mention in New York City, Los Angeles and Boston.

It was at Real Art Ways in Hartford that “Midas” director TJ Noel-Sullivan first got interested in filmmaking when he took a summer course in high school nine years ago. Noel-Sullivan, a Hartford native, attended Classical Magnet School in Hartford, then Yale University where he directed “On the Whistle,” a short film about basketball, as a class project and affirmed his desire to become a movie director. He got a job with Mattel Films in Los Angeles just as the megahit “Barbie” was going into production.

Noel-Sullivan took all the knowledge he gained and returned to Connecticut, starting The Hartford Film Company mainly as a way to make “Midas.” The company, which has offices in the same building complex as Real Art Ways on Arbor Street, has taken on a life of its own, helping with several commercials and short films in the state.

Noel-Sullivan is a member of the new Connecticut Film & TV Alliance dedicated to bringing more filmmaking opportunities to the state. “I was in L.A. on Zoom calls with people from all over the world,” he said. “You can be a filmmaker anywhere.”

He decided he wanted to be one in Hartford.

“Midas” is largely a comedy with elements of caper films like “Ocean’s Eleven” scaled down to a bunch of broke 20-somethings that break into an office building and hack some work computers. It also has references to social issues like the affordability of healthcare, the difficulty of finding a job and starting a career and unethical business practices.

“I want to make films that are accessible and entertaining but also thought-provoking, something beneath the surface beyond just eating your popcorn,” Noel-Sullivan said.

The director noted that he is “very appreciative of what the insurance industry has done for Hartford” and that the Midas firm and its diabolical leader are entirely fictional. “First I came up with the premise. I had that structure. But should it be a tech company? A bank? When I came back to Hartford, I had that lightbulb moment: Oh! It should be an insurance company!”

Noel-Sullivan wrote the first draft of “Midas” in the space of just a few days in 2020. It was shot in Hartford over four weeks in 2022. Then there was a year of post-production and the successful search for a distributor.

Noel-Sullivan didn’t just write and direct “Midas” but selected its Hartford locations.

“I wanted to show both landmarks and hidden gems,” Noel-Sullivan said. “The entire thing was shot in Hartford proper.”

For locals, the film’s closing credits may be as entertaining as the rest of the film. There’s a long list of thanks to dozens of Hartford institutions from The Bushnell to the restaurants that catered the location shoots. Many of those same places are honored with shots in the movie’s opening montage of downtown Hartford.

A critical scene in a restaurant/bar, where Ricky and his friends create a distraction so they can gather some secret data on Midas, was filmed at Dish Bar & Grill on Main Street, which closed for good during the COVID shutdown.

“Midas” employed dozens of local actors and crew members. Noel-Sullivan said crew members whose work usually consists of TV commercials and industrial films liked the variety of working on a feature-length film.

Some familiar faces pop up in the film. While most of the lead actors were chosen from a national search in which Noel-Sullivan said he had to sift through over 5,000 audition tapes, one of the key comic villains in the film is fellow Connecticut filmmaker Erik Bloomquist.

Noel-Sullivan and Bloomquist are longtime friends who have collaborated before, and Bloomquist gets a co-producer credit, sharing his considerable experience of making movies in the Hartford area. Noel-Sullivan also challenged Bloomquist by giving him a role in the film that was completely unlike the leading man or serial killer suspect he’s played in his own films.

Bloomquist plays Tom Brent, the immediate boss of the film’s main character Ricky Pryce (played by Georgia-born, L.A.-based actor Laquan Copeland). Ricky has lucked into a decent job at Midas, an insurance company, through a well-timed self-inflating lie at a cocktail party. Brent happens to be the nephew of Midas’ president (played by character actor Bob Gallagher) who takes an interest in Ricky because Ricky has started dating his daughter Claire. Claire is played by Lucy Powers, a Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts graduate who grew up in Farmington and now lives in New York City. When he needed a young actor to play Ricky’s little sister, Destiny, Noel-Sullivan asked Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts for a recommendation and cast local teen Kendyl Grace Davis in the role.

Also starring in “Midas” as Ricky’s cohorts in white-collar crime are non-Connecticut actors Preet Kaur and Federico Parra. Exquisite comic relief is provided by local stand-up comic and actor Rob Santos in a small but unmissable role as a harried security guard in the Midas building.

Noel-Sullivan said he crafted Bloomquist’s and Santos’ roles with them in mind, and that they brought them “to a new level. Erik said he had a lot of fun.”

The movie had its world premiere at The Bushnell eight months ago in a private screening for the hundreds of people who worked on it or supported it. Until it was picked up by a national distributor, “Midas” had to lay low for a while. A deal was made with the L.A.-based Entertainment Squad, which is handling the openings in New York, Massachusetts and California. Noel-Sullivan is doing the planning for the Connecticut screenings himself, as he knows the area so well.

“Midas” was an independent, non-union production, but it was important to Noel-Sullivan to maintain high production standards. “I wanted to make this a sustainable filmmaking process,” he said. “When you have a limited budget, you want to make sure you treat everyone well. We had a firm cap on 10-hour workdays so people could get some rest before the next day’s shoot.”

Noel-Sullivan said he can’t reveal the film’s overall budget due to agreements with the distributor. “What I can say is that for every dollar in cash, we had $2 in in-kind contributions or discounts from local businesses we worked with.”

“Midas” certainly paints a lovely picture of downtown Hartford. It felt that way behind the scenes, too, Noel-Suliivan said. “The cast who came from out of town arrived during the food truck festival. We brought them to a Yard Goats game. They were like ‘Is Hartford always like this?!’

“That was really my goal — to showcase Hartford in a positive light.”

Now that “Midas” is opening, Noel-Sullivan is on to his next film, which he hopes will begin production in 2025. Yes, it is also set in Hartford. He’s also teaching a summer filmmaking class at Real Arts Way, the same program that inspired him to become a filmmaker.

The June 28 opening night screening at Real Art Ways at 7 p.m. will feature a Q&A with Noel-Sullivan. “Midas” will continue to play every night at 7 p.m. at Real Art Ways through July 4. More information is available at

“Midas” is also playing at the Westbrook Cinemas starting June 27 at 5 and 7:15 p.m., followed by screenings on June 28 at 1:10., 3:25, 5:25 and 7:30 p.m.

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