UNCSA student film “Sammy, Without Strings” selected for Creative Artists Agency’s Moebius Film Festival

For the first time, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) will be represented in the Moebius Film Festival, presented annually by the leading entertainment and sports agency, Creative Artists Agency (CAA). UNCSA is the first East Coast film school ever represented in this festival. 

Directed by Ralph Parker III, “Sammy, Without Strings” is a narrative with puppets. It debuted during the UNCSA School of Filmmaking’s year-end screenings presented on the Winston-Salem campus earlier this month. 

A two-day screening series showcasing diverse graduate student filmmakers, CAA Moebius will return as a live event beginning May 18, with agency client and Moebius alumnus Max Barbakow, director of “Palm Springs,” set to kick off the festival. 

Now in its seventh year, Moebius features live-action and animated short films by 13 emerging directors from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts, the School of Film/Video at CalArts, Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, the American Film Institute Conservatory, and, for the first time, UNCSA.

“I am very proud of our UNCSA students who collaborated to make a stellar film that has earned a place in the prestigious CAA Moebius Film Festival,” said School of Filmmaking Dean Deborah LaVine. “I also commend the distinguished faculty who mentored the team behind the film and allowed UNCSA to be recognized for the truly exceptional film program it is. 

“But perhaps most of all I am proud of the message that ‘Sammy’ sends to a world that is besieged by racism and inequality: that we are better than this!” LaVine concluded.

Still from Sammy Without Strings

Still from "Sammy, Without Strings"

“Sammy, Without Strings” focuses on a Black puppet named Sammy, who, performing at the hands of his malevolent Puppeteer, falls in love with a Woman in his audience. Sammy sets his sights on freedom from his strings and performing for oppressive audiences to live a life of dignity and humanity with her. 

“Sammy, Without Strings” was written by Will Henderson III and Ralph Parker III; produced by Jenna Cusack and Grace Williamson; cinematography by Ariano Treviño Angelone; production design by Grayson Fisher; edited by Kendall Best; sound design by Kendall Best and Daniel Christie; music by Wilfred Moeschter; costume design by Erin Justice; and hair & makeup design by Courtney Kakac. All are students in the UNCSA School of Filmmaking, except Justice and Kakac, who are students in the UNCSA School of Design and Production

The cast for “Sammy, Without Strings” includes Murphy Applin of the UNCSA School of Drama as Sammy, Diana Craycroft of the UNCSA School of Drama as Woman, and Khalid Greenaway as Woolworth. Audience members include Owen Harrison of the UNCSA School of Drama; Jake Hektoen and Maxwell Rousso of the UNCSA School of Filmmaking; and Annika Low and Cassandra Sisson of the UNCSA School of Design and Production. 

This year’s Moebius festival includes storytellers from Mongolia, Mexico, South Korea, the U.K. and Thailand, plus the U.S., each showcasing stories that spotlight a variety of topics, from marginalized voices, mental health issues, the search for identity, and dream logic, to a comedy about an 8-year-old’s plot to see his first R-rated movie, and beyond.

Conceived in 2015 by then-trainees and now CAA Motion Picture agents Christina Chou, Zach Kaplan and Pete Stein, plus Lingie Park, Moebius is produced through a collaboration of colleagues across CAA’s Motion Pictures department. The event draws attendees from major agencies, management companies, production companies, studios, networks, and streaming companies.  

“Each of these gifted filmmakers brings a unique perspective to their craft. Their rich storytelling explores a range of topics and genres that celebrates a diversity of experiences,” said Chou, Kaplan, Park, and Stein in a joint statement. “We are thrilled to continue Moebius’ mission of providing a platform to help open doors to a new generation of filmmakers that reflects a rich tapestry of voices.”

Moebius supports CAA’s larger commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, within the agency and beyond. A longtime leader in the space, CAA has launched a number of programs and initiatives to support diverse creators and executives from underrepresented communities, including the Writer’s Bootcamp, the Full Story Initiative, an industry-led effort designed to generate more authentic and equitable storytelling in television and film, and CAA Amplify, a platform to connect a cross-disciplinary group of leaders from media, entertainment, sports, and social justice to discuss timely social issues, and generate solutions and collaborations that address them.

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May 17, 2022