Sea Street Films: Filmmaking alumni continue tradition of collaboration

When Devin Peluso and Dillon DiPietro met shortly after arriving at UNCSA to attend the School of Filmmaking in 2017, they never imagined they were looking at their future business partner. Both were on the same track in school and quickly began collaborating and supporting each other.

After graduating with concentrations in Producing in 2021, the duo soon created Sea Street Films: an independent production company with a slate of films in development and exciting plans for the future. Looking back, Peluso and DiPietro share how they transformed their passion of filmmaking into a collaborative production company, and how they hope to support other young filmmakers launch their own careers. 

Dillon and Devin

Filmmaking alumni Devin Peluso and Dillon DiPietro

An on-ramp to to filmmaking

“I’ve been fascinated by movies since I was six or seven years old,” says Peluso, adding that film felt like a hobby for a long time until he took video production and film classes in high school. He discovered the School of Filmmaking when he researched where one of his favorite directors and screenwriters, Jeff Nichols (’01), attended school. He was impressed by the faculty’s work and connections to the film industry. “I also loved that it was a small school,” he says. “I knew I’d benefit from lots of one-on-one time with professors.”

DiPietro shared the same young adoration of films, but took a more circuitous route to film school. He first enrolled in college at Florida State University and pursued sports broadcasting. “I wanted to work in television production,” he recalls. “I didn’t think film was an available option. It felt like an artistic dream.” After two years, he found the courage to make the leap over to filmmaking. The intensive program at UNCSA appealed to him, as did the small size.

Dillon DiPietro

Dillon DiPietro, Filmmaking '21

Peluso and DiPietro, both from small towns in Connecticut and Florida, respectively, became instant friends as they worked on sets together during their first year. They discovered similar creative sentiments and interests, and collaborated on both school projects (like Peluso’s third-year film “Spread Among Us” and DiPietro’s fourth-year film, “Deepwater Sponger”) and separate creative endeavors.

During their second year, Peluso wrote, directed, and produced a short film, “The Old Man,” independent of his required film work. DiPietro served as the first assistant director. “Looking back, that project feels like the catalyst for what we are doing now,” says Peluso. “We’ve always stepped up to support each other.”

Narrowing the path

Neither DiPietro nor Peluso initially considered producing as a focus in their education. “I thought I’d be a director or cinematographer,” says DiPietro. “That’s all you study before coming to film school, so you think it’s the only option.” Similarly, Peluso was interested in directing or screenwriting. In the School of Filmmaking, students rotate through all concentrations before declaring and being accepted into a specific program during their second year, and DiPietro began to feel the pull to producing. “I felt I had some natural leadership abilities, and I liked managing things,” he recalls, adding that he enjoyed the challenging logistics of putting together movies.

Peluso moved into producing at the recommendation of his faculty mentors, Ron Stacker Thompson and Lauren Vilchik. Both Peluso and DiPietro praise the faculty for their commitment to supporting students and alumni. “Because it’s a small school, you have a close relationship with your professors and mentors — the school really values that,” explains DiPietro. “They were hugely influential in my time at UNCSA and were always in my corner. They still are.” 

Branching out

In the years following their graduation, Peluso and DiPietro have remained in close contact with UNCSA faculty — and also with each other. Peluso first created Sea Street Films as a banner for his own work, and quickly invited DiPietro to join him as co-founder. Peluso also wrote the first two feature films the company is producing, “Dennis, MA” and “Matthew.” 

Devin Peluso

Devin Peluso, Filmmaking '21

“‘Dennis, MA’ came out of a very personal place from Devin,” explains DiPietro. Peluso first scripted the film during his junior year, and DiPietro knew it was one he wanted to collaborate on. Meanwhile, “Matthew” is described as a dramedy that follows a successful woman in her 20s who returns to her small hometown for Thanksgiving following her older brother’s suicide attempt. It’s the first film on Sea Street’s slate and is planned to go into production by the end of this year.

Both projects have created opportunities to bring other alumni into the fold. Jacob Love (B.F.A. Filmmaking ’21) and Juli Reed (M.F.A. Design & Production ’21) are attached to work on both features — Love as director of photography and Reed as production designer. Peluso describes the ability to work with Fighting Pickles in the industry: “It’s aspirational; it’s what everyone at school wants… to have a ragtag team of close friends that you can have fun with and make good films.” 

It’s aspirational; it’s what everyone at school wants… to have a ragtag team of close friends that you can have fun with and make good films.

Devin Peluso, co-founder of Sea Street Films

While Sea Street Films will support Peluso and DiPietro’s own projects, they also hope the company will provide a platform for other young filmmakers. “We’re trying to build out a diverse slate of independent films,” says DiPietro. “Sea Street won’t take us into blockbusters, that’s not our model. But we hope it will expand the network of young filmmakers searching for a haven in which to make their projects.” 

“We just want to tell stories we’re passionate about,” adds Peluso. “If someone sends us a 10-page script or a short film with two characters alone in a room… if Dillon and I can’t imagine this film not existing in the world, we’re going to produce it.”

Keep up-to-date with Sea Street Films and the development of their current slate of films at or on Instagram @seastreetfilms.

By Hannah Callaway

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May 06, 2024