(pictured above: Cornelius Muller (center) appears alongside fellow cast members in “Find a Way.”)
Alamance County resident Cornelius Muller is endeavoring to change the world, one film at a time.
Muller recently wrapped filming of his third project, “Sacred Kind of Love,” an inspirational feature he wrote, co-directed and produced. The Elon University alumnus also appears as a main character in the film, which he calls “a very special love story.” Muller says his work is divinely inspired.
“Everybody has a purpose and calling in life, and I believe this is what mine is,” he remarked. “It’s just another vehicle to evoke inspiration.”
Muller first got a taste of the spotlight as one of New York City’s top high school basketball players. The possibility of fame and fortune initially drew him to acting and filmmaking, but somewhere along the way, the 43-year-old said he fell in love with the craft. Unwilling to conform to the roles that Hollywood had to offer him as an up and coming African American male actor, Muller decided to take his career into his own hands, crafting the kinds of roles he wanted to play.
“My desire as a filmmaker is to act – that’s my passion,” he confessed. “…I don’t want the industry to define what kind of work I do, so instead I started making my own films.”
His first feature, “Find a Way,” was loosely based on the death of Harry Cohen, an Alamance County football star who died after one of his stellar games. Muller executive produced and starred in the film. Burgess Jenkins, a Winston-Salem-based actor and acting coach, wore the director’s hat.
“Brother’s Keeper,” a short film billed as a tale of “ultimate love, faith and forgiveness,” was his first feature film. Muller wrote, produced, directed and starred in the 2011 project. Jenkins, who has been Muller’s acting coach for seven years, co-directed “Sacred Kind of Love” with Muller.
“Cornelius is a rare breed of a very, very hard worker,” noted Jenkins, well-known for his roles in movies like “Remember the Titans” and television shows like “Army Wives.” “He was an outstanding ball player … and he applies that same type of work ethic to his pursuit of the acting craft. He’s a risk taker and that is a huge part of becoming a creative and successful actor.”
Jenkins, who teaches the art of acting at his school – Actor’s Group, praised Muller’s work, which he says fills a void for films with meaningful, uplifting messages in Hollywood.
“His stories are very important stories,” said Jenkins, an alumnus of Reynolds High School. “They’re more than just entertainment. They’re meant to spread an important word, which I believe in as well.”
All of Muller’s projects have had successful local premieres and enjoyed limited exposure. He is hoping to change that. He said he is shopping “Find a Way” to the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). He thinks the spiritually-driven messages of his films will be a good fit for the network.
“Nobody wants to be beaten over the head with the Bible,” he said. “Our films, whether you go to church or not, are relevant. We all go through the same things in life, whether you’re a believer or not.”
Muller said words of encouragement from Dr. Maya Angelou, who was moved by “Find a Way,” have buoyed him to seek a wider audience.
[pullquote]“She said, ‘What do you want?’ I said, ‘I want the masses of the world to see my work.’ She said, ‘Go. Do it.’”[/pullquote]
Jenkins believes that Muller has tapped into a wellspring of potential. The father of one says the public is hungry for films with a message of strong family values.
“The Hollywood model has always been, and still is, a pursuit of what sells,” he observed, noting that that pursuit has led to a departure from family values and feel good films over the decades. “…I think that Hollywood is constantly surprised by that response because they don’t think that people, generally speaking, want to see this.”
Muller is hopeful the growing following his company is cultivating will eventually translate to economic power so he can spread his message of hope even further, but his impact is far more important than his income, he said.
“When I do leave here, I don’t want people to talk about how much money I had. I want people to talk about how I changed the world,” he declared. “I want people to say, ‘He loved God. He loved people. He inspired change in his community.’”
For more information about Muller or his work, visit www.corneliusmullerproductions.com.