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UNC alumnus to make film debut in Film Fest 919


The poster for UNC alumnus Jake Lawler's "Good Samaritans," one of the 15 films at Film Fest 919. Photo courtesy of Film Fest 919.

Film Fest 919 is back in Chapel Hill for its third year and will feature the debut of UNC alumnus Jake Lawler as a writer, actor and producer in the short film, “Good Samaritans.”     

This year’s Film Fest 919 will feature 15 different films, including “Good Samaritans,” in which Jake stars alongside his brother and co-writer Conor Lawler, a UNC School of the Arts student.

The 8-minute-long film focuses on an interaction between two strangers who debate the topic of homelessness after witnessing a homeless man being abused. 

“The formation of that ideology was really grounded in the perspective of delving deep into a conversation that we have heard on a routine basis but we’ve never necessarily seen represented,” Jake Lawler said.  

The idea behind “Good Samaritans” initially emerged after the two brothers watched a scene from “Reservoir Dogs” featuring a conversation between characters on whether or not to tip a waitress. Soon after, the brothers heard the Kendrick Lamar song, “How Much a Dollar Cost,” and decided to move forward with writing a script for “Good Samaritans.”

The Lawler brothers worked with Nick Stathopoulos, the president of Vintelnus Productions, to edit their script and discuss filming plans.  

The setting of the original script was in a car, though after changing it to take place in a restaurant, the group decided to film at Zack’s Hamburgers in Charlotte.  

“It’s like a secret staple of Charlotte that many people in Hollywood always try to get their movies and TV shows filmed there,” Stathopoulos said. "Just because the aesthetic of the restaurant is just very old-timey.”

Founded by Randi Emerman and Carol Marshall, Film Fest 919 will be operating differently than it has in the past due to the pandemic. Instead of only taking place at Silverspot Cinema, the festival will also be showing films at a drive-in theater in Carraway Village until its final night on Oct. 31.  

“Good Samaritans” is set to show alongside “Fatman” on Oct. 29 at the Carraway Village location. 

“Given what our circumstances are with this pandemic, it’s the best and safest way to be able to get out and watch a movie on the big screen, like they were intended,” Marshall said.  

The Lawler brothers hope the film will generate conversations and awareness among viewers on the issue of homelessness, which they feel can be easily misunderstood. 

“We really wanted to encapsulate the fact that that is why this is a pervasive issue: because we are choosing to blatantly ignore it while talking about it like it is a thousand feet away from us while it is right outside the door,” Conor Lawler said.

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