The Tell-Tale Heart

The Old Woman's nurse is driven mad by her dead eye. One night, the Woman murders the Old Woman, buries the body under the floorboards.

  • James Cotton
    Violet, Iguana Pizza, One Man's Poison
  • James Cotton
    Violet, Iguana Pizza, One Man's Poison
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • James Cotton
    Violet, Iguana Pizza, One Man's Poison
  • Carl T. Rogers
    Annabel Lee, One Man's Poison
  • Stefani Cronley
    Key Cast
  • Lisa Ewers
    Key Cast
  • Carl T. Rogers
    Director of Photography
    Annabel Lee, One Man's Poison
  • Justin Michael Brittain
    Sound Design/Music
    Annabel Lee, One Man's Poison
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Thriller, Horror
  • Runtime:
    9 minutes 55 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 1, 2014
  • Production Budget:
    1,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Top Shorts Online Film Festival
    July 1, 2015
    Online Premiere
Director Biography - James Cotton

James Cotton, a North Carolina native, has been entertaining people all his life. From an early age it seemed obvious he would eventually be an entertainer. His first onstage roles were Lt. Brannigan in Guys and Dolls and Eugene in Grease for which he won a Favorite Character Actor award from the theatre.

He went to Western Carolina University, graduating in 2000 with a BA in Theatre with an emphasis on acting and directing. While at WCU, he appeared in such shows as Steve Martin’s Picasso At the Lapin Agile, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and Willi with David Forsyth as well as writing, producing, directing and starring in a one-man show titled The Tragedy of the President of the United States (in 1999). He also worked backstage as Stage Manager, soundboard operator, sound effects technical, and many other jobs on shows such as Mustang, Arsenic and Old Lace, and Barefoot in the Park. He was property master on a post-apocalyptic production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

James worked for a season at Flat Rock Playhouse, the state theatre of North Carolina. While there, he appeared on stage with Pat Hingle in You Can’t Take it With You and worked as a scenic artist on West Side Story, The Woman in Black, Oklahoma, and many more.

James then appeared in productions of Arsenic and Old Lace as Teddy, The Odd Couple as Felix, and Clifford in DeathTrap at various theatres in North Carolina before turning to directing in 2003, directing The Rainmaker and The Diary of Anne Frank for the Uwharrie Players, a theatre group in central North Carolina where he has also served as a member of the board of directors for many years. In 2010, he directed Smoke on The Mountain for them.

In 2004, James decided it was time to go to film school and enrolled in Vancouver Film School, where he started in the summer of 2005. While there he was the editor on the documentary Rev-Up, assistant director for the midterm drama Mary McPhearson and director of the midterm drama Iguana Pizza as well as serving in several other jobs on other short films.

After graduating from VFS in 2006, James adapted, produced, and directed the short film Violet that was included in the 2008 Cannes Short Film Corner at the 2008 Festival de Cannes. He produced and directed a short parody of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as Twas the Night After Christmas in 2008.

James worked for Stanly Community College, running the local PEG channel, SCC-TV, since 2010 where he produced all the programming for the channel as well as promotional material for the college.

In 2013, James wrote, produced, and directed the 20-minute short film One Man’s Poison, a 1930s Film Noir detective story.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

The Tell-Tale Heart started out as a weekend film and quickly bloomed into a much larger project. The idea came out of a conversation with Carl T. Rogers about wanting to shoot a short film on one lens, preferably a 50mm. Carl said it would be difficult and I took that as a challenge. It took me a while to settle on a story, originally intending to write an original story, but being unable to come up with anything I felt would be small enough to shoot in a weekend, I decided to look at Edgar Allan Poe for inspiration.

I looked through several of Poe’s stories and settled on “The Tell-Tale Heart” as it is one location and only four people, the perfect weekend project, I thought. It is also a story that lent itself to being a bit more creative with the camera angles and lighting, so I thought it would be more fun for us. After adapting the script, I had a conversation with my make-up artist, Lena Olson, who had been doing a little research and mentioned the idea that the main characters do not necessarily have to be men like it has always been done. I liked the idea of adding a new twist to the old story and doing it in a way that’s not been done before, so I changed the Old Man to Old Woman and Man to Woman. It seemed a natural change.

We shot the film in the oldest public building in Albemarle, NC, the Freeman-Marks House, built around 1847. It is a very small, four-room house. It was going to be a cramped shoot, and quickly we determined we would not be able to stick with the 50mm only idea, so Carl and I decided to shoot the film entirely on my old Canon FD manual lenses. This, too, gave the film an interesting look.

Filming took two hot days in July. Once finished, I quickly edited the film so that it could go to our sound design person, Justin Michael Brittain, because we knew that the film would really take life once the sound design and music were added.