UNCSA Film grad receives screenwriting award at Sundance Film Festival

by YES! Weekly staff

Up next for UNCSA film alumni: The Oscars and South by Southwest Film FestivalUniversity of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) Film alumnus Chad Hartigan ’04 won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the recent Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, for his film MORRIS FROM AMERICA, which premiered in the U.S. Dramatic competition.Hartigan wrote and directed the film, which also won a Special Jury Award for Individual Performance for actor Craig Robinson.MORRIS FROM AMERICA was just sold to A24 Films, whose titles include DARK PLACES with Charlize Theron, and AMY, an Oscar-nominated documentary about singer Amy Winehouse.”This is great news for Chad Hartigan,” said UNCSA School of Filmmaking Dean Susan Ruskin. “Winning two of the top prizes at Sundance is a splendid testament to his talent. His star is rising and we are proud to call him one of ours.”Hartigan’s film THIS IS MARTIN BONNER won the Audience Award for Best of NEXT at the 2013 Sundance festival. Hartigan also won the John Cassavetes Award at the 2014 Independent Spirit Awards.UNCSA Film alumnus Sean McElwee ’04 was the cinematographer on MORRIS FROM AMERICA, and the costumes were designed by Design & Production alumna Johanna Kolbinger ’05. Altogether, there were 12 UNCSA students and alumni involved in eight films that screened at Sundance.

Morris from America

“During the past few years, UNCSA students and alumni have had a growing presence and involvement with high-profile projects at Sundance, which is the premier film festival in the country,” Dean Ruskin said. “Because of this, UNCSA has become a sponsor of the festival and an official partner of the Sundance Institute.”As part of that collaboration, the School of Filmmaking hosted a luncheon for alumni and an official panel discussion that was moderated by Dana Harris, editor-in-chief and general manager of Indiewire. Panelists included alumni Hartigan and Rebecca Green ’01, producer of I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, which premiered at Sundance in 2015 to rave reviews, and IT FOLLOWS; Morris Ruskin, producer of more than 50 films, including GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, and CEO of Shoreline Entertainment; Peter Van Steemberg, Motion Picture Agent, ICM Partners International Division; and Alex Brunner of UTA (United Talent Agency), the agency that sold Hartigan’s film to A24.Also in Park City, more than 20 students and alumni were involved in four films that screened at the alternative Slamdance Film Festival, which happened concurrently with Sundance in Park City. One of those films was a 2014 second-year student film. And student film, ANOTHER EVEREST, was a finalist for the Windrider International Student Film Festival, which also took place in Park City. UNCSA alumni also figure prominently in the upcoming South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) in Austin, which is in March. Films chosen to screen include MIDNIGHT SPECIAL, a sci-fi thriller by Jeff Nichols ’01 (writer and director), and LITTLE SISTER, a film written and directed by Zach Clark ’04 (story by Clark and Drama alumna Melodie Sisk ’04, with Drama alumnus Peter Hedges ’84 in the cast). “Vice Principals,” a series created by Danny McBride ’99 and Jody Hill ’99, is in the Episodics category.”With two more alumni on Oscar-nominated sound design teams – Will Files ’02 for STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, and Alex Nomick ’15 for THE REVENANT – 2016 is shaping up to be a great year for the UNCSA School of Filmmaking,” Ruskin said. The Oscars will be presented on Feb. 28.The University of North Carolina School of the Arts is America’s first state-supported arts school, 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 dance, design and production, drama, filmmaking, and music. 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 when it was formed in 1972. For more information, visit