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Friday August 12th

UNC theater graduate, Estes Tarver, in the spotlight

His colleagues agree that Estes Tarver deserves a standing ovation.

While staging his acting career amidst greats like Oscar-winner Colin Firth and writing quirkily murderous characters, Tarver still manages to participate in local theater.

The actor — who graduated from UNC’s graduate theater program in 2007 — has performed in a host of local productions and is currently directing and producing an original feature-length film.

This year, Tarver established a production company, Hushpuppy Media, in Raleigh where he writes and produces his own material.

“I love to act, but it’s so on and off,” he said. “Being able to create your own work is a real bonus.”

But Tarver has been lucky.

He is playing a supporting role in “Arthur Newman, Golf Pro,” which is expected to be released next year. The film was shot in Raleigh and stars British actors Colin Firth and Emily Blunt.

Tarver, who’s had roles on shows filmed in North Carolina like “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill,” said he is excited to move up in the acting world.

In the meantime, he is focusing on his original work.

Hushpuppy Media has sold four commercials to national companies like Walgreens, and Tarver’s first feature length film, “Mrs. Wildermuth,” will begin shooting next fall.

The film follows a baker who is also a hit woman.

“It’s a dark comedy about this cute old lady who gets into a lot of mischief but is a good person deep down,” Tarver said.

Playing the lead in “Mrs. Wildermuth” is Joan Darling, a retired UNC professor and an Emmy-nominated director.

She was the first female director to be nominated for an Emmy.

She is best known for directing an episode of “Mary Tyler Moore” called “Chuckles Bites the Dust,” renowned as one of the funniest episodes in television history.

Darling taught Tarver at UNC and directed him in PlayMakers Repertory Company productions.

“I loved working with Estes,” Darling said. “He worked his head off.”

Tarver said that the script came close to being chosen by the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab — a writer’s workshop that helps independent screenwriters produce their films.

But it was not selected, and Tarver said he has to raise about $90,000 to produce the film.

Tarver is also an audition coach for children aged 8 and up at Raleigh’s North Carolina Theatre Conservatory, where he has helped young actors get roles in television shows and movies.

He said that one of his students just booked six episodes of “Eastbound and Down” and others are landing major film roles.

Tarver also recently acted in the Carrboro ArtsCenter’s “Halloween Shorts,” and in the UNC Writing for the Screen and Stage program’s “Long Story Shorts.”

Dana Coen, director of the Writing for the Screen and Stage program, said he was pleased with Tarver’s work in the festival.

“He turned out to be the ultimate professional,” Coen said.

Darling said that Tarver’s organized follow-through allows him to take on challenging projects.

“He has a passion to function as an artist and also as a businessman,” Darling said.

“He’s an extraordinary talent, and he’s an extraordinary person.”

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