Performing Arts

Miami Gardens man finally gets his film produced

Tony Larkin (in orange sweater), and the cast of 'The Life Exchange' : Far left, from the rear: Karina Vardoulias, Mireya Kilmon, Elliott Schertzer, Tommy O'Brien, Nicole Denise Hodges and Chris Easey (kneeling) Far right, from the Left: Carole Wood (star of movie, yellow blouse) Brian McCormack, Karen Gill (back row) Carol Munroe Jenna Newhart (far right) Center: Marilyn Carlisle (seated), Demitri Vardoulias (little boy), Megan Lynn Gill (little girl) Jerome-Anthony Larkin, Scott J. King (posing center)
Tony Larkin (in orange sweater), and the cast of 'The Life Exchange' : Far left, from the rear: Karina Vardoulias, Mireya Kilmon, Elliott Schertzer, Tommy O'Brien, Nicole Denise Hodges and Chris Easey (kneeling) Far right, from the Left: Carole Wood (star of movie, yellow blouse) Brian McCormack, Karen Gill (back row) Carol Munroe Jenna Newhart (far right) Center: Marilyn Carlisle (seated), Demitri Vardoulias (little boy), Megan Lynn Gill (little girl) Jerome-Anthony Larkin, Scott J. King (posing center)

Jerome-Anthony Larkin will walk the red carpet for the first time on Sunday.

The Life Exchange, a film written and directed by Larkin that tells the story of a psychological skirmish between a mother and daughter, will premiere Sunday evening at Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale.

The completion of Larkin’s film brings a sigh of relief to the quintessential story of trying to make it in New York. In 2005, Larkin, who grew up in Miami Gardens, moved to New York to pursue acting.

“Living in New York is difficult — either you’re going to have a job or you’re going to do the gig thing,” said Larkin, 47. “But it’s very difficult to do both.”

Larkin found small roles as a body-double in films like American Gangster and I Am Legend, but never anything substantial. And quitting steady jobs for temporary gigs often put him in a financial bind.

“Every time I would get a long-term temp job, a gig would call,” he said. “I would always have to make a choice; you know, American Gangster was calling, so I would quit the temp job and go to the gig. But of course, the gig would come to an end and I would be back to square one.’’

On top of that, he was dealing with losing his father.

“I could tell by the sound of his voice when he called that he was down,” said his mother, Pastor Jimmye Finch-Larkin, 73. “That’s when he told me, ‘I’m coming home.’”

Larkin returned to his mother’s home in Miami Gardens on a Greyhound bus in 2007. Along with not reaching his goal, he says “an irrevocable depression became a major part of my new character.”

But through Larkin’s rough patch came a realization that he was a writer, and according to friends and the people closest to him, a good writer. Being the child of two strict Baptist ministers, Larkin said he was instructed to stay inside. As a result, he spent much of his childhood watching a lot of TV, falling in love with the art of storytelling through film.

“I was drawn to those storylines; I was drawn to those characters,” he said. “So one day I just started writing.”

Larkin has been writing stories since he was 15, but most of them either lived in a notebook or in his computer.

Andrea Nugent, 45, an author and speaker, met Larkin in 1993 where he worked under her as a telephone operator at the Florida Relay Center, which works with hearing-impaired people. Nugent says the young creative was always focused, driven and “even at a younger age, he already seemed older than we has.”

The two lost contact in 1999, and recently reconnected again through Facebook.

“When I ran back into him, I wasn’t surprised to see that he was making films. He was always that creative type,” said Nugent, a Miramar resident.

In addition to the film, Larkin also wrote three plays: An Exit to Nowhere, Yield Not To Temptation and Thanksgiving Day, which was produced at the Joseph Caleb Center and Betty T. Ferguson Center.

Jenna Lynne Newhart is an aspiring actress from Pennsylvania who met Larkin through a mutual friend. Although Newhart usually takes on roles, she plays the daughter in “The Life Exchange.” Her character is one of the darker roles throughout the movie.

Newhart says Larkin’s presence during filming was constructive and open. She says Larkin is a workhorse, but an easy person to work with.

“As far as being on set, it was great to have someone who respected your opinion,” she said. “If I felt something was lacking or wanted to try something new, he was always open with me calling him to side asking if I could try this or that.”

If you go

What: ‘The Life Exchange’

When: 6 p.m. Sunday

Where: Cinema Paradiso — Fort Lauderdale Art House Theater, 503 SE Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale

Cost: $10, cash only

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