Cinematography professor wins Telly Award for ‘Wesley’ movie

Arledge Armenaki, Western Carolina University associate professor of cinematography, is recipient of a Telly Award for his work as director of photography on “Wesley,” a historical movie about a co-founder of the Methodist church.

Armenaki won the bronze prize in the category of creative lighting, one of four Telly Awards given to the makers of “Wesley.” The motion picture, filmed in and around Winston-Salem and Morganton in 2007 and 2008, also received a silver award in the category of religion and spirituality production, and bronze awards in the categories of computer-generated imagery and special effects, and historical and biographical production.

Now in their 31st year, the Telly Awards honor the best local, regional, and cable television commercials and programs, top video and film productions, and work created for the Web. Each category is judged by an independent panel of professionals in that area, and judged against a standard of excellence.

Foundery Pictures’ John Jackman, director of “Wesley,” credited Armenaki with giving the movie an authentic look and feel.

“I asked Arledge to create a classical, naturally-lit look like the Renaissance painter Caravaggio, and he succeeded beyond my expectations,” said Jackman. “He is a wonderful director of photography who really knows what he is doing.”

While serving as director of photography on the movie, Armenaki also guided 16 WCU students in the motion picture and television production program who worked as crew. With his coaching, students served as a unit production manager, assistant directors, construction coordinators, set dressers, carpenters, boom operators, grips, camera assistants, wardrobe managers, office manager and script supervisor.

As crew members, the students helped find, manage and build sets fitting for the 18th century and in line with the storybook feel that Armenaki and Jackman wanted to create. Some helped build a re-creation of a large sailing ship inside an old gymnasium, and a 50-by-20-foot blue screen, which required a lot of sewing and lighting, to hang behind it.

Jack Sholder, director of WCU’s motion picture and television production program, said the “Wesley” project is an example of the type of valuable hands-on learning experience that students can have, working side-by-side with professionals from the industry.

“Arledge Armenaki’s cinematography on ‘Wesley,’ collaborating with a mostly WCU student crew, is exemplary,” Sholder said. “This award confirms his status as one of the industry’s finest cinematographers.”

WCU students and faculty also were cast in the movie. In addition to WCU alumnus and professional actor R. Keith Harris, performers with WCU ties in the film included faculty and students who were extras; Peter Savage, visiting lecturer of theater, and Terry Nienhuis, retired professor of English.

As an award winner, Armenaki received a Telly Award statuette, which is made by the same firm that produces the Oscar and the Emmy awards. Other winners included programs by National Geographic, The History Channel, The Discovery Channel, NBC Universal, and other prominent networks.