02/02/14 — Filmmakers share stories at WCC's film festival

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Filmmakers share stories at WCC's film festival

By Steve Herring
Published in News on February 2, 2014 1:50 AM

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The Foundation of Wayne Community College's fourth annual Praxis Film Festival held this past weekend marked two firsts -- hosting its first professional filmmaker, Alonso Alvarez Barreda, right, and expanding to include film screenings at the Paramount Theatre downtown. Talking with Barreda Saturday morning at WCC is Adrienne Northington, Foundation associate director.

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Zach Boylston, left, a film student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, talks with Anita Croasman, founder of the Praxis Film Festival, Saturday morning about the festival.

Alonso Alvarez Barreda was 12 years old in his native Mexico when he saw the movie "The Shawshank Redemption."

"I remember when the movie ended I felt something I had never felt before," Barreda said. "I felt really touched. I asked my dad, 'Who does the movies?' He said, 'Well, there is a director and there is a writer.' I literally said at that moment in my life, 'I want to be a director.' Since then I have looked for ways to try to make that happen."

Barreda told those gathered for a Saturday morning presentation at the fourth annual Praxis Film Festival at Wayne Community College that realizing his ambition wasn't easy.

"After being rejected by all of the film schools in Mexico, I met someone who became my mentor. He took me under his wing and he said, 'You do not have to go to film school. If you want to be a filmmaker, you can find another way if you want it.' So I started making short films and that is how I learned. Thankfully, the short films became successful and opened doors for me to come to the United States. I took that chance without thinking twice."

Now 29, Barreda, who has lived in Los Angeles for the past six years, this past weekend became the first professional film director to participate in the festival. The films are mainly by students.

Sponsored as fundraiser by the Foundation of Wayne Community College, this past weekend's fourth annual festival marked another first -- the addition of a second venue.

In prior years the films, some just a few minutes long, were screened at Moffatt Auditorium on the WCC campus over the final Friday and Saturday in January.

This year, the screening began earlier on Friday afternoon and at the Paramount Theatre downtown. Foundation officials said having the event downtown encouraged people to visit and patronize the cafes and restaurants there.

"I just think that if we stay the course in the next four to five years you will see it be a destination place for people around us," Kannan said. "We just have to be supportive in the formative years. They are great movies."

A highlight of the festival was the Saturday night screening of "Muscle Shoals," a feature-length film about the legendary FAME Studio in Alabama.

Barreda and Zach Boylston, 27, a film student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, agree that the festivals are good for the community as well as the filmmaker.

"I was fortunate enough to receive an email from (festival founder) Anita Croasman requesting to see a short film, 'Crescendo,' that I had made," Barreda said. "She was really excited with the idea of maybe bringing it to her festival.

"I was more excited to be invited. I love film festivals, and I could immediately tell that she was excited and trying to get films to get this festival going. I identify with that and, of course, I said yes."

Boylston found out about the festival through his professor at UNC-Wilmington.

Barreda compared the film festivals to the training Olympic athletes undergo to prepare for the games.

"It is just a great platform to see their work and to connect with people," Barreda said. "At least in my case, that is what I do the films for, to start a conversation with someone. All of the film festivals that I have been to start small and they really need help from people in the community to keep them alive, especially monetarily. My opinion from Praxis is that it (Goldsboro) is a great community. They have the infrastructure and the venues to screen the films that are state of the art."

Barreda said he would gladly do anything to help keep the festival alive and growing because he thinks it brings people together in a very special way.

For Boylston, a native of Wendell, the festivals provide networking opportunities and a chance to meet new filmmakers and people who are there who love films and enjoy watching them.

"It is always nice to sit in the back of the audience and see the reactions, whether it be body language or laughter while your film is being screened," he said.

Barred has made three short films, the first shot in 2007 on a $50 budget in his hometown in Mexico.

"It was a simple story about the encounter a blind man has with an advertising guy," he said. "It all takes place in a plaza and there are only two people. It is hard to say what it is about without giving away the ending. People can see it online. It became a big hit. It had six million hits (on the Internet) in three days back then. It is called the 'Sign Story.'"

It ended up winning an award at the Cannes Film Festival.

"That immediately made a huge change in my life," he said. "Then my second short was in 2009, called 'The Finding.' That, to me, was a very intimate film because I needed to prove to myself that I could do something better. I was afraid of failing. Due to the success of the first one I said, 'Maybe I should stop and retire with no money, but I made something good.'

That film did well also, he said.

His third film, "Crescendo," which was screened during the festival, was shot in a Los Angeles studio. Unlike the first $50 film it was "big budget," even though he didn't want to say how big.