Filmmakers working in North Carolina have a special place at the RiverRun International Film Festival.

Two programs, each containing eight short films, explore a variety of moods and topics, from the exuberant “The Hollerin’ Contest at Spivey’s Corner” to the introspective “Rotatio.”

The Journal talked with four of the filmmakers.

  • With “Rotatio”
  • that she co-directed with Ian McClerin, Shannon May Mackenzie worked her way through a traumatic personal experience.

When she was 16, Mackenzie left her home in Asheville to study visual arts in the UNC School of the Arts high school program. After graduating in 2011, she moved to Massachusetts to go to college and was raped her second year there.

“Rotatio,” part of the North Carolina Shorts 1 package, documents the creation and destruction of what Mackenzie calls a “performative drawing.” The art work was a 6-foot circle composed of sentence fragments, describing events leading up to the rape and its aftermath.

It took Mackenzie 33 hours over 14 days to make it, and four hours after she finished it, she painted over it. Now the film, shot by McClerin, is all that exists of the piece. It took about a year to make the film.

“The film walks you through the piece with interviews,” Mackenzie said. “Throughout the piece, I talk about how big it is and then tell you what it is about and eventually paint over the whole thing.”


  • Tom Green directed “Eudaimonia,”
  • a student film from Wake Forest University that is part of the North Carolina Shorts 1 package.He describes it as “a film about the way people experience creativity, and the way they try to balance it with their normal life.... It’s kind of a visual poem about creativity.” It focuses on four individuals from the Winston-Salem area.

Green, 40, has lived in Winston-Salem for about 26 years, so “it was an easy choice” to attend Wake Forest University.

“I’ve always been more interested in real life than imagined life, although I think they have similar amounts of truth in them,” he said. “I’ve been in a lot of different art forms. ... I was just doing kind of a lot of different jobs that weren’t really fulfilling me, and trying to find something that could bring all my artistic inclinations into one genre. Also something rooted in reality, so documentary was a good summation of all of that.”


  • Daniel Spiller,
  • who is based in Raleigh, is one of the directors of “Winston’s Ghosts,” also part of the NC Shorts 1 package. It is a nine-minute short documentary that follows local artist Ryan Gustman, who explores abandoned buildings and takes photos of their interiors.

“Documentary film is amazing, because you get to first-hand see a person and what they are passionate about, and share that story. So the ability to do that, in this case with Ryan and his photography, was amazing.”

One of the movies that helped influence him to a career in documentaries was “American Movie,” a quirky 1999 film about a man trying to make an ultra-low-budget horror film. “I saw that, and not only was it funny and witty, but also like deep at the same time and entertaining,” Spiller said.


  • Neil Soffer,
  • a senior at the UNC School of the Arts, moved to the United States from Tel Aviv in 2012. “I did research. I wanted to study film in the United States,” he said. UNCSA “caught my attention the most, for the location and the size. It was a place I felt I can express myself the best.”

“Frame Drop,” which is part of the North Carolina Shorts 2 package, was his junior year film, made at UNCSA. The film is a 13-minute narrative short about a control-obsessed young man who finds himself questioning his way of life.

Soffer said he has enjoyed his time in Winston-Salem. “The city specifically is a great environment, there are many students around and places to hang and beautiful views, but at the same time it is not too loud and distracting, so we can focus on our art and really develop it.”

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