UNCW MFA Student’s Documentary Pitch Wins Competition at RiverRun International Film Festival

Monday, June 28, 2021

UNCW graduate student Kiersten Houser won first place in the RiverRun International Film Festival’s “Pitch Fest” competition for her documentary concept, America vs. Herself. The $500 prize will enable the MFA in Filmmaking student and her crew to complete the production they began in fall 2020.
America vs. Herself is described as “a collective personal essay documentary chronicling the crew’s capture of the 2020 presidential election results in Washington, D.C.”
The project began with the working title Unity, because the goal was to show that Americans are more unified than divided. But upon traveling to Washington, D.C., to capture interviews about the election results, the filmmakers found a nation deeply divided.
“We were and still are shocked at what we filmed,” Houser said in the video pitch. “And since we didn’t find what we were hoping to, we did some soul searching upon our return to North Carolina, and we decided this footage was more than just a time capsule. It’s an important milestone for us as filmmakers and storytellers. This story is about our journey in finding what we didn’t expect.”
Houser’s crew included graduate students Hugh Feldmann (MFA); Megan McDeavitt (MFA); Genie Mason (M.A.); and Tanner Benson (M.A.). Faculty advisor for the project was Georg Koszulinski, associate professor of film studies.
“Our faculty advisor gave us resources and advice in both travel safety and the filming itself. He was a great help, and it very likely would not have happened without his encouragement,” Houser said.
After realizing their original goal was not attainable, they turned their sights on North Carolina and Wilmington, hoping to document whether unity is more evident closer to home. The $500 prize will help them travel to Raleigh to interview state lawmakers.
“Despite what we learned in D.C., we still have hope for the future,” she said.
The RiverRun Film Festival is held annually in Winston-Salem, and the Pitch Fest invites university students to submit their concepts. This year’s competition was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Houser’s team hopes to complete its documentary by the end of the 2021-22 academic year.
-- Tricia Vance