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Student film featured in international 100 Words Film Festival

When Marlon Newman ’19 learned his work would be showcased in the 2018 100 Words Film Festival, it was a bit of a surprise. That’s because the Columbia, S.C. communication arts major didn’t submit his work— Sitara Sadler, associate professor of video and film production, did.

“I was pretty hesitant due to only knowing to how to create YouTube videos,” Newman said. “But Prof. Sadler told me I’d come out a better director with increased credibility. She walked me through what to expect.”

Sadler has a reputation for pulling the best out of film majors. Through her elective course, students produce The Drop on Bull Street, a web-based news and variety show with blog and podcast components. When resources for her students come up short, Sadler makes a way, calling in favors from the community to ensure JCSU graduates leave with as comprehensive a film background as she can make it.

Three years ago, she established a relationship with the 100 Words Film Festival, a Charlotte-based festival showcasing independent short movies from all over the world. Each entry at the annual event must have exactly 100 spoken words, with a small ticker in the corner of the screen keeping track. Previously the festival screened in Charlotte, but this year it went international: the festival ran Oct. 14, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.

Sadler picks a student each year to partner with film industry professionals, and together they create a short work focused on a Charlotte-based nonprofit organization. Newman chose WINGSforKids, an after-school program he has been involved with for five years which teaches children social and emotional learning so they can excel in school. Sadler submitted his film project as an entry in 100 Words.

“I chose Marlon because he’s a beast—he has a passion for this work and he lives and breathes creativity,” Sadler said.

Early on in his college career, Newman sought out a mentorship relationship with Sadler, taking time to introduce himself to her even before he’d taken any of her classes.

“He said, ‘You’re going to be tired of this face but I have things to accomplish.’ And he’s right, I do get tired,” she joked. “But what he doesn’t pick up in class, he goes and studies on his own. He’s constantly learning, working on his craft.”

As his mentor, Sadler has pushed Newman to stretch and experience the unfamiliar before. Last year, she urged him to take a gig recording the Soul Junction jam series. It required evening hours and was unpaid. Initially, Newman was unimpressed, but Sadler insisted.

“You still have to pay your dues, do free things sometime, but you never know what will come of it,” she’d said.

She was right—Grammy-award-winning R&B outfit The Hamiltones came to a jam session and, though they were just supposed to be guests, gave an impromptu performance. Newman got it all on tape. Not only did he record the Hamiltones, but he got to meet them, obtained content for his social media brand, and two weeks later landed a paid shoot through a connection with The Hamiltones’ manager.

“I go hard for those who go hard for themselves,” Sadler said. “If you prove that this is what you want to do and put your heart in it, I’m going to go in and support your passion. The ones who are editing in their spare time, working on projects that aren’t class assignments—the minute I hear about an opportunity, those are the ones I call first.”

The 100 Words Film Festival’s selection process was rigorous. Only two students in Charlotte have work in the lineup—Newman and a student from UNC Charlotte. 

“The writing component had to be the hardest,” Newman confessed. “Fitting in an exact number of words at just the right time was much more difficult than I thought, but once I built storyboards and had concrete ideas it seemed to flow easier.”

Newman is the founder of his own production company, GenreBeatProd, which handles all aspects of film, video, or photo shoots. He oversees a staff of makeup artists, writers, production assistants, and shooting crew. Currently he is directing another short film called “Agree,” a dramatic thriller which he wrote, and is putting to use all the knowledge gained from his mentor, Prof. Sadler.

“Without her, I literally wouldn’t be where I am,” Newman said. “I have the utmost appreciation for all she’s done for me.”

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