New Film Studies building set to open in spring 2021

Bethanie Simms, Contributing Writer


A new building has emerged among the trees in the back of the campus between Plyler Drive and Riegel Road. The 4,000 square foot structure, soon to be the home of UNC Wilmington’s (UNCW) Film Studies Program, is the first academic building on campus that does not match the Georgian-style architecture. 

The soundproof, metal building mimics Hollywood’s sound-stage architecture and includes a green screen film bay (big enough to fit a car), new production classrooms, a 75-seat movie theater, editing and sound mixing labs and a much-needed equipment storage room. 

Not only will the new building house over 300 undergraduate students who have outgrown their current home in King and Kenan Hall, but it will also include the two new masters-level programs that begin in Fall of 2020. The programs include a Master of Fine Arts in Film Making, a terminal three-year program and a Master of Arts in Film Studies, a two-year program. 

The building seeks to accomplish more than just the program’s expansion. The egalitarian structure demonstrates the program’s intentional focus to produce greater diversity in the community and the film industry. 

UNCW’s Film Studies Department Chair, Dr. Mariana Johnson, is passionate about diversity in film. The daughter of Cuban immigrants, she has spent her career focusing on the Latin American conversation within the film industry. She said the department was intentional in its design for the new space. 

“As we look to increase diversity in academia, we also need to consider what our architecture conveys to the public. We need to ensure that buildings are welcoming and approachable,” said Dr. Johnson, “We currently have two cannons in the front of campus that point out toward the community. What does that say about us?” 

For many years, the program has recruited diverse faculty members from various countries, cultural backgrounds and professional expertise. Dr. Johnson believes this is critical to ensure students receive an education rich with a variety of perspectives, so they will impact the industry in a meaningful way. 

Great cinematography is a force for cultural change. We are passionate about that in the film program. We believe we are producing forward-thinking professionals who will push boundaries in the film industry and ultimately create real social change,” said Dr. Johnson. 

The building, like the program, tells the community that all are welcome. 

In consulting with local firms, the building committee was deliberate to work with a local architectural firm. 

The chief architect for the project was Senior Associate Mark Loudermilk of Becker Morgan Group. His approach helped the program achieve this philosophical approach to the structure. Mr. Loudermilk’s daughter is a Film Studies alum and now works for Screen Gems Studios. 

“His connection to the program made this project truly special,” said Dr. Johnson.  

While they have not yet announced the building open date, it will be sometime this spring. They have delayed completion because of inevitable complications from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

“We hope the building will become a center for cultural events in the community and help to bridge some divides that currently exist,” said Dr. Johnson.