On Location

Published 4:40 pm Friday, September 15, 2023

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WINDSOR – You don’t have to be in Hollywood to be a filmmaker.

That was the message from participants and guests at the inaugural “Pecan Pickling Short Film Festival” held Sept. 8-10 at Bertie County High School. The event featured 31 short films from filmmakers across the country along with informational workshops, a red carpet event, and an awards ceremony.

“This has been just an incredible journey,” said Patricia Ferguson, the founder and president of Equity Films which put the festival event together.

Ferguson said there were several reasons she and her organization wanted to hold this film festival in Bertie County. She wanted to help connect filmmakers in northeastern North Carolina to resources that can help them continue and learn more about the craft, and she also wanted to show people from out of the area that Bertie and the surrounding counties can be a great location for creating film as well.

Visitors to the festival flew in from as far away as Texas and California, and Ferguson noted that they supported the local economy all throughout the weekend event.

Caroline Stephenson (center), a local filmmaker from Como, chats with two individuals participating in the film festival. Staff Photo by Holly Taylor

“This is evidence that not only can film be done in this beautiful picturesque community, but also economic development is a natural outgrowth of people who want to come see what’s going on in northeastern North Carolina,” she explained.

Ferguson expressed excitement about the festival, and said she was looking forward to meeting more and more filmmakers in the future. She also thanked the variety of volunteers who kept the event running smoothly all weekend.

Workshops held on Saturday gave attendees the opportunity to learn more about how to tell stories through film. Erick Yates Green, a filmmaker and educator from East Carolina University, focused his workshop on the basics of filming and what kinds of equipment to use.

D’Aja Fulmore, a filmmaker from Jones County, was joined by her producer Ava Williams during their workshop to talk about their journey to moviemaking success. Fulmore’s film “Crossover” is available on Tubi, with the sequel film slated to be released on the same platform soon.

Fulmore talked about garnering community support and investment when she started the process of turning her script into a full-length feature film. She and Williams both spoke about connecting with people who could help mentor them along the way.

“A lot of people want to invest. If you can show them the roadmap for how you’re going to get where you want to go, they will invest,” Fulmore explained.

Both of Fulmore’s films were shot in Jones County and the New Bern area, and she said involving the community helped boost the support for the projects.

Fulmore emphasized that none of her success could have happened without taking the first step and deciding to move forward, and she encouraged aspiring filmmakers to do the same with their own ideas.

The third workshop was conducted by Caroline Stephenson, a longtime resident of Como who is also a member of the Director’s Guild of America. Stephenson shared how she worked her way through the business in Los Angeles and provided tips on how aspiring filmmakers can share their own stories.

Stephenson recalled one of her earliest film projects was a documentary she made while still in college. It was focused on women who worked at Perdue in Lewiston.

“I thought their voices should be heard,” she explained.

She also talked about the importance of connecting with people who can help provide opportunities in the future, explaining that her goal of joining the Director’s Guild as an Assistant Director was made possible by meeting a variety of people on different sets over the years.

“Make sure you know where you want to go,” was Stephenson’s advice.

Following the workshops was a discussion panel including professionals from northeastern North Carolina as well as local student filmmakers.

Throughout Saturday, attendees could watch screenings of the festival’s short films. With runtimes ranging from 5 minutes to 25 minutes, the films spanned different genres including comedy, drama, and documentary.

On Sunday, the panel of judges returned their results for the festival’s “Effie Awards.” The winners were as follows:

Best Comedy Short: “I Mustache You” (Director: Shara Ashley Zegler)

Best Family: “The New Light” (Directors: Nicholas and Joshua Ferguson)

Best Dramatic Short: “RUN” (Director: Brandon Broady)

Best Documentary Short-Short: “Capeless” (Director: Nomar Juarez)

Best Documentary Short Short: “Rosenwald: Toward a More Perfect Union” (Director: Charles Poe)

Best Documentary Short Long: “Freedom Hill” (Director: Resita Cox)

Resita Cox also received the award for Best Homegrown Filmmaker Eastern/Northeastern NC 2023.

Special awards included:

Emerging Young Filmmakers Award: Amara Jenkins, 1222 Productions

Raising Bertie Documentary Award: Vivian Saunders

First Full Feature Film Eastern NC Award: James Jones

The date for next year’s film festival has already been set for Sept. 13-15, 2024. The theme will be “LEAP.”

Submissions for next year’s Pecan Pickling Short Film Festival will open on January 18, 2024 and close on July 14, 2024.

Patricia Ferguson (left), the founder and president of Equity Films, presides over the awards ceremony at the Pecan Pickling film festival. Photo by Dr. Steven Ferguson