WCU Students Win Awards at Asheville’s 48 Hour Film Project

A group of Western Carolina University filmmakers and actors won five awards including Best Film and Best Directing at the 2009 Asheville 48 Hour Film Project.

This is the third year in a row that WCU students have won five or more awards at the Asheville event. The film project began in Washington, D.C., and has spawned sister events across the globe, challenges filmmakers to make a movie in just 48 hours. Filmmaking teams are given a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre on which the film must be based and must write, shoot, edit and score it. The tight deadline emphasizes creativity and teamwork skills.

“I am very proud of these students, who were able to work collaboratively under great pressure to do such great work in such a short amount of time,” said Jack Sholder, director of WCU’s motion picture and television production program.

Mike Santoro, a junior from Atlanta, directed the WCU student group, which created “Nostalgia,” a suspense/thriller film based on a script by Kirk Gunton, a senior from North Wilkesboro; Kai Hamilton, a senior from Saluda; and Zach Johnson, a senior from Knoxville, Tenn., who also served as the film’s director of photography. The film centered on an up-and-coming star baseball pitcher on his way to a game when he gets lost in the mountains. Seeing a diner, the ball player pulls in and orders a cup of coffee from a friendly waitress. To his dismay, the athlete soon realizes that all the customers in the diner are dead.

“What comes out of the movie is a cat-and-mouse thriller that escalates into a bone-chilling climax in a tunnel,” Santoro said.

In addition to the Best Film and Best Directing awards, “Nostalgia” took Best Female Actor for Alex LaBelle, a senior from Charlotte; Best Use of Prop; and an Audience Award for favorite film. The group, working under the name Team Pandemonium, was composed of students from WCU’s programs in motion picture and television production, theater, and commercial and electronic music.

“The technical quality, teamwork and professionalism displayed by Team Pandemonium is that of people beyond their years,” said M.K. Harrison, producer of Asheville’s 48 Hour Film Project.

Santoro came to WCU from Atlanta knowing he wanted to major in film production.

“Movies and creating stories had been a passion of mine for many years and I was trying to find the perfect school that blended real
professional film work and an actual college university experience,” he said.

What Santoro found at WCU was a stage and screen department with a program specifically geared toward motion picture and television production led by Sholder, an Emmy Award-winning producer/director best known for his work in the science-fiction, horror and thriller film genres.

Sholder and the rest of the faculty have been an absolute joy to work under, and their motivation and feedback regarding my aspiration to be a filmmaker has only motivated me and helped me prosper,” Santoro said.

For more information about the stage and screen department, contact (828) 227-2324.