Aug. 6, 2014/For Immediate Release

Media Contact: Lauren Whitaker, 336-734-2891,



(WINSTON-SALEM) An alumnus and two returning students from the School of Filmmaking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) swept the 2014 National Student Operator competition conducted by the Society of Camera Operators (SOC). The awards were announced at the organization’s annual meeting July 25 in Burbank, Calif.

Joseph Blankinship VI of High Point took first place for his work on the film STARLIGHT. He graduated in May and is working in Atlanta for Panavision, which makes cameras, lenses, cranes and other gear for the film industry. Last year, Blankinship took third place in the competition for his work in TITLE FIGHT.

Returning seniors Tyler Harmon-Townsend and Donald Monroe took second and third, respectively. Harmon-Townsend, of Winston-Salem, was recognized for his work on THE MATADOR. Monroe, of Cornelius, won for the film COMBUSTABILLY.

“What a coup for our cinematography program,” said Film Dean Susan Ruskin. “These first-, second- and third-place awards are the result of a lot of hard work by the students, and expert mentorship by the faculty. It is gratifying for a prestigious group like SOC to recognize the caliber of work that we produce.”

Joseph Blankinship III, Tyler Harmon-Townsend and Donald Monroe (from top to bottom) received awards at the SOC annual meeting.

Faculty in the cinematography program include Thomas Ackerman A.S.C., best known for his work as director of photography in more than 35 feature films, including iconic titles such as BEETLEJUICE, JUMANJI, and THE LEGEND OF RON BURGANDY; David E. Elkins S.O.C., author of two basic textbooks for camera personnel, with credits including the television series “The Wonder Years,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and “Gabriel’s Fire”; and John LeBlanc, winner of a Golden Lion award in Cannes for his AT&T International campaign, with feature film, music video and commercial credits spanning two decades shooting for top named directors.


STARLIGHT is a 2014 fourth-year film directed by Alex Thompson, written by Jordan Crabtree, and produced by Justin Hoover. THE MATADOR is a 2014 third-year film directed by Lazarus Dance, written by Jack Caswell, and produced by Jacob Wells. COMBUSTABILLY is a 2014 third-year film directed by Jake Bellew, written by Nathaniel Hendricks and Taylor Zabloski, and produced by Chris Ellison and Taylor Zaboloski.


Founded in 1979, the SOC is an honorary organization composed of several hundred men and women internationally who make their living operating film and/or video cameras in the cinematic media. The society seeks to recognize and nurture excellence in the field of camera operation and allied camera crafts, and to encourage development of both technology and production methods to help members achieve excellence.

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