• May 7, 2020
  • WTOB Blog


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Six North Carolina Schools Participated in 2020 Competition

WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina (May 7, 2020) – The RiverRun International Film Festival has announced the winners of its 2020 Pitch Fest competition, which was held virtually this year in light of COVID-19 and the cancellation of the festival. 

Pitch Fest invites student filmmakers, to pitch their ideas for new documentaries to a panel of expert judges in the hopes of being awarded a cash prize and recognition within the industry.  Six schools from North Carolina participated: University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Elon University, High Point University, Wake Forest University, UNC Wilmington and North Carolina A&T State University.  This was the 9th year of the Pitch Fest competition and was sponsored by Piedmont Federal Savings Bank.

The usually in-person event was adapted to an online format and had those competing record five-minute video pitches from home to then be reviewed by a panel of film industry experts.  This year the panel judges were Rachel Raney, Bri Castellini and David Fenster.

Raney is a veteran non-fiction filmmaker and public TV/radio producer with deep experience producing content.  Among her many accomplishments in the film world, Raney served as the first Executive Director of the Southern Documentary Fund and has now joined UNC-TV as Director of National Productions and Executive Producer of Reel South.

Castellini is an award-winning independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. She is an adjunct professor for LIU-Brooklyn and Stephens College and the Film Community Manager for Seed&Spark, a highly regarded and innovative crowdfunding platform for independent filmmakers.

Fenster’s short and feature films have shown at film festivals, art museums, and media outlets around the world including: The Sundance Film Festival, The Museum of Modern Art, The New York Times, The True/False Film Festival, and HBO. He currently makes documentaries at Arizona Public Media in Tucson.

All 3 judges convened virtually to deliberate and select first and second place winners.  Winners will receive cash prizes to help fund their projects, and all students received constructive feedback from judges.

First Place: Yuqi Lu, WFU Documentary Film Program with “Painting Your Room in My Heart”

Synopsis: “The family trauma Ngoc Du experienced as a Vietnam War refugee has defined much of her life, from her decision to become a pediatric surgeon, to providing medical help to children around the world, to putting the decision to start her own family on hold. Now Ngoc Du finds herself in another war–this time with COVID-19–as she takes on the challenges of adopting Tianfeng–a 12-year-old boy with Spina Bifida from China”

Judges noted the “strong narrative structure of the pitch itself” and described her filmmaking as having an impressive “elegance and polish.”

Second Place: Madison Rae Reitz UNCW with “Clickbait: Stop the Traffic”

Synopsis: Clickbait: Stop the Traffic is documentary that will take a look at the manipulation and abuse of women who are victims of sex trafficking and how social media has impacted and changed the way that trafficking happens. This film will address the misconceptions surrounding the topic and the platforms that allow it to continue.

Judges noted that her pitch was “Extremely strong, specific, passionate, clear, and focused.

Both winning Pitch Fest entries can be viewed for two (2) weeks on RiverRun’s website riverrunfilm.com/film/pitch-fest-2020.

“Adjusting Pitch Fest to an online format allowed RiverRun to still be able to offer this opportunity for new filmmakers to learn from industry professionals and grow as filmmakers,” said Caroline McMahon, RiverRun’s Programming and Operations Associate.  “This wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of the students, their advisors, and the judges, and I commend everyone on being so resilient and adaptable!”

SPONSORS: The sponsors of the 2020 RiverRun International Film Festival help sustain the organization’s mission to foster a greater appreciation of cinema and a deeper understanding of the many people, cultures and perspectives of our world through regular interaction with great films and filmmakers. Festival sponsors include:

Title Sponsors – Reynolds American, The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, Wake Forest University, and UNCSA; Presenting Sponsors – City of Winston-Salem, Shift Creative, Nelson Mullins, Millennium Fund, MullenLowe Mediahub, and Wells Fargo

Marquee Sponsors –Forsyth County, Parkway Lincoln, PNC, Salem Smiles Orthodontics, Visit Winston-Salem, and Kilpatrick, Townsend & Stockton

ABOUT RIVERRUN: The RiverRun International Film Festival is a non-profit cultural organization dedicated to the role of cinema as a conduit of powerful ideas and diverse viewpoints. Founded in 1998, RiverRun is a competitive event that annually showcases new films from both established and emerging filmmakers around the world. Each spring, RiverRun screens new narrative, documentary, short, student and animated films, offering both audience and jury prizes in competition categories.

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