Students, alumni and faculty from the School of Filmmaking at UNCSA have multiple connections to films selected to screen at the 25th RiverRun International Film Festival. The festival, which runs from April 13-22, is celebrating its silver anniversary
this year featuring over 170 projects from over 1,700 submissions. RiverRun will also
host a variety of free panels that are open to the public, as well as its Annual Pitch
Fest, giving student documentary filmmakers the opportunity to pitch to judges, receive
feedback and win cash prizes.
The festival is mainly in-person this year with several virtual options. The screening
venues include the UNCSA Main and Gold theaters in the ACE Exhibition Complex; the Hanesbrands Theatre; Marketplace Cinemas; and RED Cinemas in Greensboro. UNCSA
is a title and presenting sponsor.
“Having an international festival be an accessible option for Filmmaking students,
staff, faculty and the Winston-Salem community is an invaluable resource for the university,”
said School of Filmmaking Dean Deborah LaVine. “The connections that are fostered through the screenings, panels and events are
laying the foundation for our emerging and established filmmakers to build long-lasting
The connections that are fostered through the screenings, panels and events are laying
the foundation for our emerging and established filmmakers to build long-lasting professional
relationships.School of Filmmaking Dean Deborah LaVine
“I’m particularly proud of the students, alumni and faculty who have films screening
this year and I’m thrilled that a collaborative project made between the School of
Filmmaking and RISEBA University in Riga, Latvia, will be screening, showcasing our
growing partnerships with international film schools.”
From the Archives
As part of the From the Archives program, Dean LaVine, who is also on the RiverRun
board of directors, will do a special introduction with producer Craig Berenson prior
to the screening of “Snakes on a Plane” at 8:30 p.m. April 21 in the Gold Theatre on campus.
As part of the From the Archives salute to the 100th anniversary of Warner Bros.,
faculty member Renata Jackson will give a special introduction for “You’ve Got Mail” at 1:30 p.m. April 22 in the Main Theatre.
Lastly, emeritus faculty member Dale Pollock, who was instrumental in moving RiverRun from Brevard, North Carolina, to Winston-Salem
and is on the board of directors, will give a special introduction of “Shanghai Express” as part of the From the Archives program commemorating the career of Anna May Wong,
the first Asian film star and first Asian on U.S. currency. The screening is 5:30
p.m. April 21 in the Gold Theatre.
Graduate Filmmaking faculty member Kim Zubick will host an onstage conversation with Academy Award-winner Tom Schulman prior to
him receiving the RiverRun Master of Cinema Award at 8 p.m. April 14 at Hanesbrands
Theatre, ahead of a screening of the new film he wrote and directed, “Double Down South.”
Current fourth-year Filmmaking student Aiden Winter-Deely will be pitching in the
festival’s 12th Annual Pitch Fest Student Documentary Film Competition. The competition
will be held at 1 p.m. April 22 at the Milton Rhodes Center Reynolds Place Theatre.
They will be pitching “Print is Dead: A Documentary About the Decline of the Publishing Industry.” The documentary is about the impacts of digital media on print media and the publishing
industry. It will explore the history of print media, Amazon’s impacts on the medium
and what a world without print books could look like.
Several projects with UNCSA connections are screening in the Carolina Stories category. Feature films in this section focus on stories made in or about the Carolina
- “Blessed Unrest” is the story of composer Michael Dodds as he draws from his life experiences to produce a symphony. A new documentary film
by Baltimore-based production company Bonnemaison, Inc., “Blessed Unrest” examines
questions such as “How do you reclaim your purpose when everything feels lost?” and
“What does the creative process look like when confronted with facing your past trauma?”
Raised in the Peruvian Amazon, Dodds is currently a faculty member in the UNCSA School of Music. His story begins in a cacophony of nature, followed by traumatic experiences and
personal setbacks, and finally takes him on an extraordinary journey of creation.
Dodds travels from Peru to coastal North Carolina and Italy, ending with a concert
in Winston-Salem. Acclaimed actress, frequent UNCSA guest artist and supporter Rosemary
Harris narrates. The project will screen at 1p.m. April 15 in the ACE Exhibition Complex
Main Theater and online April 14-22.
"Blessed Unrest" / Photo: Michael Dodds
- “The Problem of the Hero” is about the relationship between controversial author Richard Wright and Pulitzer
Prize-winning playwright Paul Green as they work together to adapt a book. Fast-forward
to the eve of opening night when a difference of opinion over a single page of the
script threatens an impasse. As rehearsal continues around them, the two end up in
an argument that dives into race, class, politics and personal story that seems destined
to dissolve their friendship. The project recently won best production design at the
Sante Fe Film Festival. Alumna Kendra Archer (B.F.A. ’19) was the film’s production
designer; alum Camryn Brone-Hammer (B.F.A. ’21) was the art director; and alumna Meghan
Cowen (B.F.A. ’21) was the graphic designer. The screening will be at 8 p.m. April
18 in Hanesbrands Theatre and online April 14-22.
- “Susan” is a documentary about a public elementary school bus driver who opens up about her
extraordinary past owning and operating one of the most successful dance studios in
North Carolina for over 30 years. We follow her heroic journey through her incredible
impact on thousands of children for decades. The director is School of Dance alumna Amber Patee Adams (H.S. ’07). The screening will take place at 4 p.m. April
22 at Marketplace Cinema inside theater one and online April 14-22.
- “An American Love Story,” a documentary film based on the life of former Filmmaking faculty member Ron Stacker Thompson and his wife, Cle Thompson. The audience meets Ron and Cle at their 50th wedding
anniversary – the springboard to reveal their rollercoaster marriage that takes on
their professional and personal challenges in a complex national landscape. The film
was written, directed and co-produced by founding Filmmaking faculty member Laura Hart McKinny and her son John McKinny under their production company, Stone’s Throw Films, Inc.
Faculty member Michael Miller served as a co-producer and supervising editor. Alumni Sam Scott (B.F.A. ’17) and
Ryan Morris (B.F.A. ’17) were the cinematographers. The composer is alumnus and faculty
member Chris Heckman (M.F.A. ’09.) The editor is alumnus Liam Mallett (B.F.A. ’22) with assistant editing
by alumna Aliyah Bryant (B.F.A. ’20). Additional postproduction assistance was provided
by alumna Hayley Vinson (B.F.A. ’19) and third-year student Ashley Luckadoo. This
film is screening at 4:30 p.m. April 22 in the ACE Exhibition Complex Main Theater
and online April 14-22.
"An American Love Story"
Re: Vision Independent Competition
Drama alumnus Nicholas Logan (B.F.A. ’08) is in the cast of a film screening in the Re: Vision Independent Competition. This category highlights emerging talent and six independent films of the year which
are eligible for jury prizes and the Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP Audience Award.
In “Every Man for Himself,” a reformed ex-convict with a debt to repay picks up his former cellmate from prison
and drives him wherever he wants to go. As they travel through the desolate landscape,
both men seek redemption and a second chance. Alumna Mónica-Tezla Solís Vega-Görsün produced the film. The screening for this film is 4:30 p.m. April 14 and 7 p.m. April 15 at the Marketplace
Cinema inside theater one.
Saturday Morning Cartoons
Filmmaking students and an alum have a film in the Saturday Morning Cartoons program. This category is aimed at younger audiences, but programmers select films
that appeal to children and adults. The films encompass different animation types
and stories. In “Processing Magic,” a dragon takes his first foray into wizard school and he along with those around
him soon discover that not everyone learns magic the same way. The film is co-directed
and written by alumnus Vale Stanley (B.F.A. ’22) and rising fourth-year student Jo
Knorpp. The lead animators are rising fourth-year student Cameron Panone and Knorpp.
The editor and sound designer is fourth-year student Meg Fisher. Film music composition graduate student Kory Bailey oversaw the music for the project. The film will screen
at 10 a.m. April 15 and 22 at the Hanesbrands Theatre and Reynolds Place.
North Carolina Shorts, Program 1: Documentaries
A filmmaking alumna has a film in the North Carolina Shorts Program One Documentaries category.
“In the Rearview” centers around childhood road trips taken through the Great Smoky Mountains with the
filmmaker’s father and brother. The film was shot on location in Cherokee, North Carolina, with
the help and support of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Filmmaking alumna Meagan
Massa (B.F.A. ’04) is the director. This film will screen at 4:30 p.m. April 14 and 4:00 p.m. April 20 in the Reynolds Place Theater and online
"In the Rearview"
North Carolina Shorts, Program 2: Narratives
Filmmaking students and alumni have numerous films screening in the North Carolina Shorts Program Two Narratives category, which is screening at 7:30pm April 14 and 20 in Reynolds Place Theater
and online April 14-22.
- “Fireflies save the Night” follows the story of an embattled teenager who comforts his younger sister and discusses
the purpose of fireflies before finding a solution to his family’s misery. Alumnus
A.J. Riggins wrote, directed and co-produced the film. "Having produced this film
in Winston-Salem with a collaborative team of UNCSA alums and current students, it's
humbling that we can share it at RiverRun first,” said Riggins. “This project is a
derivative of a world-building effort for a feature film that I began during my time
in the M.F.A. program." Alumnus Miles McKeller Smith (M.F.A. ’20) was the co-producer,
alumna Katie Sanderson (B.F.A ’19) was the first assistant director, alumna Katherine
Reeves (M.F.A. ’20) played the role of the mother and was the associate producer,
Pree Nayak (M.F.A. ’19) was the post-production supervisor, , alumni C.J. Duncan (B.F.A.
’19) and Zachary Smith (B.F.A. ’21) were the editors, alumnus Nigel Scott was the
sound designer (B.F.A. ’21), alumna Jordan Sayman (B.F.A. ’21) was the production
designer and alumna Anna Ray-Smith (M.F.A. ’20) was the unit production manager.
- “Pick Up Stick” follows the story of a man after he was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Alumnus
Joey Poach (B.F.A. ’12) directed and wrote the film. Alumni Meghan Cirillo (B.F.A.
’12) and Michael A. Fry (B.F.A. ’12) were the producers, alumnus Daniel Satinoff (B.F.A.
’12) was the cinematographer and alumnus James J.A. Houle (B.F.A. ’13) was the editor.
"Pick up Stick"
- “Sonata” is an animated student film about a blackout that derails a young man’s plans for
the perfect first date. He must navigate his nerves, the heat, and a mischievous gang
of shadows if he has any hope of connecting with the girl of his dreams. The film
was co-written, co-directed, and animated by alumni Madison Crisp (B.F.A. ’22,) Abby
Davenport (B.F.A. ’22,) Vic Sosa (B.F.A. ’22) and Fern Singleton (B.F.A. ’22). The
story is by fourth-year student Ava Tennis and alumna Hailey Hudson (B.F.A. ’22),
who also produced the film alongside alumnus Robert Mageau (B.F.A. ’22). Fourth-year
student Lyric Abbott was the sound designer and editor. Alumnus Ryan Mulder (B.F.A.
’20) oversaw the music.
- In Sammy, Without Strings,” a Black puppet named Sammy, performing at the hands of his malevolent Puppeteer, falls
in love with a woman in his audience. He sets his sights on freedom from his strings
to live a life of dignity and humanity with her. The film was directed by alumnus
Ralph Parker III (B.F.A. ’22), who co-wrote the film with Will Henderson III (B.F.A.
’22). The producers were alumna Jenna Cusack (B.F.A. ’22) and fourth-year student
Grace Williamson. Alumnus Ariano Trevino Angelone (B.F.A. ’22) was the cinematographer. Editing and sound design were by alumnus Kendall
Best (B.F.A. ’22).
Still from "Sammy Without Strings"
- When the funding used to prepare meals for the needy begins to disappear, a volunteer
at the organization starts to investigate a local businessman in “Food For Wolves.” This film was written by M.F.A. student Dylan Arruda and was the result of an annual
partnership between UNCSA and RISEBA University in Riga, Latvia. UNCSA screenwriters
create scripts for films shot in Riga by RISEBA student directors/cinematographers.
This year’s exchange included composers from the School of Music composition RISEBA students Krista Keisele was the director and producer, and Edijis Elksnis
was the director of photography and editor. UNCSA graduate student Evan Kibiloski
was the composer.
North Carolina Shorts, Program 3: Winston Stories
Several alumni and a student have a film screening in the North Carolina Shorts Program Three Winston Stories category, which is screening 5:30 p.m. April 21 in the Hanesbrands Theater and online
- “In Her Absence” is a documentary that follows the story of Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough
when he was a federal agent working on stopping the opioid epidemic and unexpectedly
lost his wife to an overdose. The film was directed by alumna Clarke Phillips (B.F.A.
’22), and produced by alumnus Robert Mageau (B.F.A. ’22) and fourth-year student Emma
Grace Reynolds. Alumnus Ben Trevey (B.F.A. ’22) was the cinematographer.
"In Her Absence" / Photo: Clarke Phillips
Narrative Shorts Program 2
A Dance alumna has a film screening in the Narrative Shorts Program Two category. After their mother’s death, a cognitively disabled woman and her estranged
sister must learn to communicate in order to move forward in “Take Me Home.” Alumna Liz Sargent (C.A.D. Dance '02) is the director of the film. The screening will
be at 7 p.m. April 16 in the ACE Exhibition Complex Gold Theater and at 8 p.m. April
21 at Marketplace Cinema inside theater one and online April 14-22.
Information in this release reflects what could be obtained by press time. If we missed
a connection please contact us at the link below and updates will be made as they
are brought to our attention.
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