Davidson College staff member Peter Carolla will get to enjoy a hometown audience when he shows his most recent documentary short film to members of the Davidson Film Club at its Armour Street Theatre location.
Making the film even more relevant to the hometown crowd is the film’s subject matter. Carolla’s “Calling the Cops on Jesus” is a seven-minute, 37-second visual essay on the Town of Davidson’s reaction to the installation of the Homeless Jesus sculpture that riled or confused some residents in February 2014.
The film is one of three by local documentary filmmakers that the Davidson Film Club will screen at its first local filmmakers showcase on May 7.
Also being shown are “My Luchador” by Charlotte filmmaker Shea Sizemore and “Le Terroriste,” which was produced by Concord resident Mary Beth Ross. Both Ross and Carolla are members of the Davidson Film Club whose monthly schedule usually includes the screening of foreign, art house films.
The showcase “is not just to show some short films,” said Alan Singerman, the nonprofit film club president. “The idea for me and members of the board was to have these local filmmakers spend some time talking about the challenges a filmmaker faces (such as) how do you go about making a film a reality, where you start, where you get some money from, what kind of material challenges you run into.”
Carolla, a Springfield, Mo., native and a 2006 Davidson graduate, is a media production specialist at the college. He advises faculty and staff on projects that may include producing podcasts or short films.
Spending three years in Africa in the Peace Corps and as a journalist, another three at Wake Forest completing a masters of fine art in documentary film, and a year in New York City working in film production prove Carolla’s ambition and penchant for a cutting edge.
But in February 2014, Carolla made a safe decision and signed a two-year contract to work at Davidson, his alma mater. By then, he was hooked on making documentary films, partly inspired by one of his Wake Forest professors, Peter Gilbert, who is highly regarded in the documentary film industry as the producer and cinematographer of the renowned “Hoop Dreams.”
Within a couple weeks of Carolla moving back to Davidson, news spread of the Homeless Jesus sculpture that was installed in front of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church on Caldwell Lane, where it is nestled in a quiet, peaceful neighborhood off Concord Road, less than a mile from Carolla’s home.
The sculpture depicted Jesus as a homeless man laying on a park bench. Part of the response included a resident calling the police because she thought the sculpture was a vagrant who settled on the church bench.
“I’m always on the lookout for interesting stories,” said Carolla, 32. “It piqued my interest. I didn’t know what to do with it. It was a people story. I put it in back of my brain.”
During the next 15 months, Carolla and cinematographer Joe Cornelius, an assistant professor at Charlotte’s Queens University, shot about a dozen hours of film and edited it on a laptop.
Carolla, whose previous short documentaries have won awards, thought the original finished product of “Calling the Cops on Jesus” was boring. He was inspired to draw on the talents of Annie Wadman, a Davidson theater department faculty member, who provided narration to the film as the voice of God.
The film compares the community’s reaction to Homeless Jesus to the public’s response to a 2014 Christmastime assembly in Davidson proper that aimed to bring attention to police killings of young African-American men across the country.
To date, Carolla has screened “Calling the Cops on Jesus” at six film festivals throughout the U.S. including those in Atlanta; Hot Springs, Ark., and Missoula, Mont. He says audience response has been favorable.
Carolla admits he would love to make a living making documentaries but he is resigned to the probability that he’ll never reach that status. That doesn’t mean he will ever stop making movies.
“You don’t get into documentary filmmaking to get rich,” he says. “You get into it to tell stories. … If I keep working, no matter what on, if I make sure I always have a camera in my hand, then I’m going to be successful. But I don’t know how I would measure that success.”
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
These filmmakers will be showing films at the Davidson Film Club’s first local filmmakers showcase 7 p.m. May 7 at the Armour Street Theater in Davidson. http://davidsonfilmclub.com. Email contact firstname.lastname@example.org about tickets and price.
▪ Shea Sizemore from Charlotte, who has made over 20 short films and won over a dozen film festival awards from 2004 to the present. Most recently, Sizemore has written and directed two highly successful films, “A Chess Player” in 2014 and “My Luchador,” released in October. Both films were selected by a wide range of film festivals, and both have won prizes.
Sizemore will be screening “My Luchador,” which won a Best in Show Award at the Pensacon Short Film Festival in Pensacola, Fla., and a Founders Award at the North Carolina Film Award Festival.
▪ Mary Beth Ross is a documentary filmmaker and producer from Concord whose body of works includes an hourlong narrative-film about the death in 1189 of English King Henry Plantagenet (“Realms,” 2010) and her first feature-length documentary (“American Bedu,” 2014) about the life of Carol Fleming, an American spy who left the CIA after an exemplary career to marry a Saudi diplomat, and who worked to build better understanding between Muslims and Christians.
Ross recently produced “Le Terroriste,” a short narrative (almost 13 minutes) starring Charlotte-based French actor Emmanuel Barbe. This dark, political satire represents Barbe’s debut as writer-director. After the screening of “Le Terroriste,” Ross will speak to us about her role as producer in the making of this film.
▪ Peter Carolla, a Davidson College media production specialist, whose 2013 master’s thesis at Wake Forest University, “The One Who Builds” about a former Sudanese refugee who is now the director of a refugee resettlement organization in Greensboro, was selected for screening in a dozen film festivals and won Best Documentary Short awards at both the Kansas City Film Fest and the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival.
Carolla will screen and discuss his short film, “Calling the Cops on Jesus,” which is based on the controversy surrounding the life-size Homeless Jesus sculpture that appeared in February 2014 in front of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Davidson. Narrated in voice-over by Annie Wadman, the producer for the Department of Theater at Davidson College, the film has been selected by six film festivals throughout the U.S. and won the Platinum Award from the Spotlight Film Awards.
Davidson Film Club