Some students majoring in film and television production at WCU have a lot more in common than their love of everything cinematic. Several in the program’s growing family of future professional crewmembers, directors, producers and screenwriters grew up under the same roof.
As boys in their hometown of Lexington, Austin and Taylor Pleasants ’13 shared a fascination for films and filmmaking. “A good time for us was to have movie nights together when we would rent a video and watch it over and over again all night,” said Austin, a freshman who recently served for his first time on a student camera crew. Older brother Taylor, who graduated from the program last May, stopped by campus recently to provide moral support and advice to his brother, who was on the crew of a senior project film shooting over the fall break. Taylor was on his way to Atlanta, where he plans to pursue a career in the growing film industry.
As a member of the camera crew, Austin got a chance to see a new, state-of-the-art F65 camera in action. Sony donated the camera to WCU last May for use in the FTP program. Sony gave the cameras, valued at almost $100,000, to fewer than a dozen film programs in the country. WCU was the only program in the Southeast to receive one. FTP students are helping to organize fundraising efforts to buy the expensive accessories that go with the camera. “It’s extremely impressive equipment,” said Austin, “Being able to use the camera as a student would be an awesome opportunity and definitely something I’m looking forward to.”
Filmmaking professional David Elder ’13 of Cary also has a younger brother, Brian, following in his footsteps at WCU. Brian is a freshman in the FTP program. A third Elder, Brian’s twin brother Jonathan, plans to enroll in the program in the spring. David recently signed a contract to be the dolly grip on the crew of “Stranger in the Dunes,” a film under way on the Outer Banks. “I’m having a really fun career so far,” he said. Over the summer, David worked in Raleigh as a camera operator on the reality show “Garage Gold” for the Do It Yourself Channel. While there, he worked with another crewmember, Seth Lewis ’10, who also is an alumnus of the program.
Jack Sholder, the former Hollywood director and screenwriter who started the program at WCU in 2006, is excited about the connections being made, both the professional and the family ones. “It says a lot about our program when grads are recommending it to their siblings,” Sholder said. “And I loved that David learned the other cameraman on ‘Garage Gold’ was also one of our grads. It’s either long odds, or we’re starting to take over the world.”