Nov. 26, 2013/For Immediate Release, high res. photos available
Media Contact: Lauren Whitaker, 336-734-2891, firstname.lastname@example.org
HOLIDAY FILM RELEASES ‘BLACK NATIVITY’ AND ‘HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE’ FEATURE WORK OF UNCSA FILMMAKERS
WINSTON-SALEM – Two holiday film releases will showcase the work of faculty and alumni of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA). School of Filmmaking faculty member Joy Goodwin was executive producer for BLACK NATIVITY, and several alumni worked on HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE, which opened Nov.22, scoring the biggest November opening of all time, with $158 million for the weekend.
BLACK NATIVITY opens nationwide on Wednesday, Nov. 27. It stars Jennifer Hudson, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Mary J. Blige, and Jacob Lattimore. The film, adapted from the Langston Hughes gospel libretto, has been transplanted to modern-day Harlem.
Kasi Lemmons (EVE’S BAYOU, TALK TO ME), who adapted the screenplay and directed the film, joined Goodwin on campus recently for a screening of the film and a question-and-answer session with students.
Goodwin, who teaches screenwriting and producing at UNCSA, said reaction to the screening was a reward in itself. “The students were really engaged throughout the film, laughing and gasping,” she said. “Then, after the screening, there were so many people who wanted to talk to the director about how the film touched them personally. It was gratifying.”
Film Dean Susan Ruskin, who has worked with Lemmons, said she valued the director’s willingness to come to campus and share her experience making BLACK NATIVITY. “It means a great deal to our students to watch a soon-to-be released film and to be able to speak to the filmmaker directly after the screening while it is still fresh in their minds,” she said.
Kasi Lemmons, right, director of BLACK NATIVITY, talks with UNCSA Film students following a recent preview screening of the film.
From left, Film Dean Susan Ruskin, writer/director/actor Kasi Lemmons, and Film faculty member Joy Goodwin discuss the film BLACK NATIVITY following a campus screening.
Goodwin said she was drawn to the project after seeing a New York stage production of the Langston Hughes work. “It felt like a movie to me. I was so intrigued by the fact that it’s a cultural phenomenon, done every year in African-American community theatres across the nation,” she said.Landers’ visit is especially exciting for students working on thesis films, who are “crossing the finish line in the post-production process,” Wilson said. “To have her guidance is tremendous for these students as they prepare to begin professional careers in film,” he said.
Goodwin is an independent film producer and a screenwriter. She has been active in developing and producing independent films for more than a decade, including Cherien Dabis’s forthcoming MAY IN THE SUMMER, which opened the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Between 2005-10, she was head of development at Plum Pictures in New York, where she co-produced five independent features, all of which were acquired and released theatrically.
Prior to becoming an independent filmmaker, Goodwin was an Emmy-winning television producer for ABC, A&E, The History Channel, and ESPN. As a writer, she has covered theater and dance for The New York Times and The New Yorker, and has published an award-winning nonfiction book, “The Second Mark,” with Simon & Schuster.
Ruskin said it is important that faculty members continue to work in the industry while teaching. “We hire faculty for their expertise and their ability to translate their experience to the classroom. As artists, they need to work. It fuels everything they offer to the students.”
Goodwin said she began teaching because it gave her a chance to reflect on her work making films. “You learn a tremendous amount making a film. Through teaching, you can pass that along and make more use of what you have learned. I love those moments when you watch a young filmmaker ‘get’ something new,” she said.
Ruskin added that faculty working on film projects often leads to internships and paid jobs for students and alumni. “It is vital that we develop and nurture our contacts in the industry,” she said.
A graduate of Harvard, Goodwin has taught film at New York University, Hunter College, and the University of North Carolina, but says UNCSA is unique. “I love the energy of this place, and I love the fact that students here are always making films. I teach them something and then they use it right away. There is no lag time in this program,” she said.
Her next project is a screen adaptation of William Faulkner’s INTRUDER IN THE DUST, with Debra Granik (WINTER’S BONE) directing. “It’s a great yarn, with depth of character and authenticity of material that is typical Faulkner,” she said of the project, which she expects to begin shooting within a year in Mississippi.
The other holiday release, HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE, opened Nov. 22. A sequel to the 2012 film, it stars Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson and Elizabeth Banks. Nine UNCSA alumni worked on the new film, including two whose internships on the first HUNGER GAMES film resulted in paid jobs on the sequel.
Film alumni who worked on the sequel include:
· Michael Fry (2012), office production assistant. He was a set production intern on the first HUNGER GAMES film.
· Adam Meadows (2012), digital preview technician. He also interned on the first HUNGER GAMES film as video assistant.
· Ryan Price (2008), assistant to Woody Harrelson on both films
· Paul E. Woods (2009), film loader
· Danny Lerch (2009), second unit electrician
· Gerik Gooch (attended UNCSA 2001-2003), video production assistant
· Aeric Adams (2003), production assistant
· Jeff Taylor (2009), utility assistant.
In addition, Monty Schuth, who attended the UNCSA School of Design and Production, worked on the wig/makeup staff.
Ruskin said several students were able to intern on the original HUNGER GAMES movie because it was filmed in North Carolina. “And those internships resulted in paid jobs on the sequel for two of them,” she said. “That is why it is so important that we continue to make major motion pictures in this state.”
As America’s first state-supported arts school, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts is a unique stand-alone public university of arts conservatories. With a high school component, UNCSA is a degree-granting institution that trains young people of talent in music, dance, drama, filmmaking, and design and production. Established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1963, the School of the Arts opened in Winston-Salem (“The City of Arts and Innovation”) in 1965 and became part of the University of North Carolina system in 1972. For more information, visit www.uncsa.edu.