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Student film organizations sustain community, prepare for upcoming projects

CFA co-president Nathan Poesel poses for a portrait. Photo Courtesy of Dylan Thiessen/Carolina Film Asssociation.

The magic of the movies happens on a silver screen, but it also occurs right here on campus.

Every year, UNC students’ creative visions are realized through their productions, exploring the different facets of filmmaking and their own storytelling ideas.

Several clubs, such as Lightwood Entertainment, facilitate this process, allowing students to explore writing, acting, directing and other production roles with a supportive community behind them. 

“Lightwood is specifically for people of color who are looking for a creative, safe space at UNC to make film ideas and projects come to life,” Mikayla Sinclair, the club's co-head of campus operations and treasurer, said.

She said Lightwood typically starts multiple films per year, and they are currently finishing existing projects. Right now, the group is finishing the project they started last fall, “See How They Fly”, which Sinclair said they hope to release soon.

The film follows a group of friends — three Black men — navigating growing up, maintaining joy and finding their identity in an oppressive, capitalist society, she said. This is the project Sinclair said she is most excited about this year.

Sinclair also said the group strives to have a showcase to screen their films so those involved in the production can see the results of their hard work. Lightwood held its first premiere in the spring of 2022 for “Directions Not Included," which is now on YouTube. 

Sinclair said filmmaking in college is special because the pressures of the real world have not set in yet. 

“Filmmaking is really a release and it’s really a way to celebrate still being able to create with a community while you can,” she said.

Similarly, Carolina Film Association provides a space for filmmakers, writers and actors on campus to adapt scripts into short films.

The co-presidents of CFA, seniors Nathan Poesel and Jack Spencer Gentry, said the club is open to all students, even those who have no prior film background. 

Poesel’s introduction to filmmaking was through CFA, he said. 

“It really is a launching pad for students, people like me who just really loved movies, and who never once thought that they could be making them,” he said. 

CFA typically accepts around 20 short film ideas submitted by UNC students in the fall, which are then put into production during the spring semester and shown at the end of the year, according to Gentry. 

The film crews are made up of CFA members, who get to experience every part of the production process. The movies made vary in topic, and Gentry and Poesel said the group has made nearly every kind of story, from horror to romance to sci-fi. 

“We haven’t done any action, just cause stunt performing is kind of difficult to do with our resources and lack of insurance,” Gentry said.

Historical dramas are another genre Gentry said they haven’t yet explored, and that a CFA member hopes to create one this upcoming year.

The organization keeps in contact with many former members in the film industry, holding a conference call with them at the end of the year to gain advice and expand members’ networks, Poesel said. Gentry credits CFA for introducing him to people, including Poesel and industry professionals, whom he never would have met otherwise. 

Ultimately, Poesel said the group allows members to connect and explore different aspects of the filmmaking process. He also said seeing the final product is especially fun. 

"It’s really a treat to look back, or to go to the film festival, and then see that they were acting in something or maybe they were directing something or doing cinematography or lighting or whatever, holding a boom mic," Poesel said. "It’s like, 'Oh my god, I see you everywhere, and it’s cool to see you do this thing!'”


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