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Filmmaker Spotlight

Filmmaker Spotlight

Filmmaker and Actor Mike Tyler

Filmmaker and Actor Mike Tyler

Mike (MJ) Tyler

Last summer, Mike Tyler discovered a house about to be demolished in the woods near his home and had an inspiration for a feature film. After getting permission to film on-site, he had only a few weeks to pull the production together before the house was destroyed. Over the next month, he wrote a screenplay, auditioned and selected the core cast and crew and began filming. Shooting continued for several months, additional scenes and locations being added along the way, with assistance from the Greater Philadelphia Film office. The open call for Harts Ridge elicited more than 200 entries. With a script calling for a broad range of actors, Tyler posted detailed character profiles on, craiglist, and Director of Photography Kyle Matthew Waldbuesser, first AD Matthew Cohn and SFX pro Mike Harvey were in from the start. The rest of the crew worked on the film as their schedules permitted. Filming was completed within three months on location in the Philadelphia Metro area, and is now in post production. The film was all volunteer and non-union. The story of Harts Ridge revolves around five lead characters caught up in an espionage investigation. Synopsis: Two FBI agents suspect civilian defense contractor Rick Hart of espionage. As their investigation intensifies, Hart unwittingly involves his wife in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, eventually resulting in blackmail and murder. Harts Ridge explores the subtler motives behind greed and betrayal, and the lengths a man will go to escape his own demise. This suspense thriller has elements of murder mystery, film noir and love story. It also contains graphic violence and profanity. Among Tyler’s influences are the Cohen brothers, Tim Burton, Altman, Kubrick and Hitchcock. Mike Tyler left a corporate job as a technical illustrator in 2000 to found Oceanfire Studios, a full-service media and production company ( He graduated from the University of the Arts (then the Philadelphia College of Art) with a degree in industrial design and worked as a freelance designer and musician. In 1998, he began studying acting at the Walnut Street Theatre, with Mike Lemon and other local acting coaches. After years of working as a background actor on films (Jesus' Son, Animal Factory, Jersey Girl to name a few) and TV (Deadline, Hack and Law & Order), he became a SAG actor in 2001. Independent study and working as an extra provided invaluable training for his own films. 'I learned a lot watching actors like Willem Dafoe and Steve Buscemi working on scenes in Animal Factory, and Kevin Smith directing Ben Affleck in Jersey Girl in a Philly high-rise at 3 am,' says Tyler. 'Working on location in films, whether big-budget or small independents, is the best classroom a filmmaker can ask for.' Tyler wrote, directed and acted in the 2001 short feature Hired Help and composed soundtracks for the independent Crimson Twilight and Bird in Flight. He made a documentary about the National Guitar Workshop and several music videos. As an actor, Tyler played the lead role (a Philly cop) in Alex Ballas's feature In Justice, which screened at the 2003 Philadelphia Film Festival. This year, he plays mob boss Little Jackie in The Death of Milo Freedman, which will show in October at the Prince Music Theatre during the First Glance Film Festival. 'I like to work on both sides of the lens,' says Tyler. 'Being an actor myself helps me identify with the actors I work with. I know what I want to see, and what it takes to get there.' Through Oceanfire Studios, Tyler creates multimedia packages and promotional video for clients such as GPTMC and does television production work for PMTV and others. For more info: and below.

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