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Setting the Charlotte screen for film

Jacob Wishneck spends every day of life striving to be a true renaissance man, while also staying grounded and balanced in what matters most.

Jacob Wishnek

Jacob Wishnek

The Charlotte Country Day School junior has a hand in seemingly everything, from academics, athletics, theater, service and the arts – he’s a member of the National Honor Society, a short distance runner and triple-jumper for the Country Day track team, recently completed his lead role of Jesus in the school’s production of “Godspell,” is active in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and president of the school’s film club.

“There are definitely stressful times, but I get passed it,” Jacob said. “I just want to have my hands in so many different things.”

This semester has been especially challenging, though. On top of it all, Jacob is planning Charlotte’s first citywide student film festival. Inspired by Country Day’s own upper school FilmFest and a culminating film festival last summer when Jacob attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts Filmmaking Summer Intensive, Jacob saw a need for Charlotte-area teens to display their films.

“It’s much more of a tight community than just putting your film on YouTube. This is really about students in our community working together, and hopefully it will be a really powerful experience,” Jacob said.

The inaugural Charlotte Student Film Festival will be held May 9, a Friday, at Charlotte Country Day School’s Gorelick Family Theater and is open to area high school students. Interested participants have three more weeks to enter their films in the festival, as all entries are due by April 25.  Students should upload their films to YouTube and send a link to

Films should have a maximum of a PG-13 rating and should be no longer than seven minutes. Only 10 films will be selected for viewing at the festival on May 9, where an overall winner will be announced. The winner will have the chance to attend an executive board meeting with Studio Charlotte and meet with CEO Bert Hesse, who also will be a judge for the festival, to discuss careers in film. Additional judges will include Kim Brattain, a longtime news anchor and reporter for WSOC-TV and owner of Phase2Productions, and Scott Warfel, Charlotte Country Day drama teacher who currently is seeking a master’s degree in film, Jacob said.

Jacob has already received entries from high school students across Charlotte, including students from Weddington High, Concord High and Charlotte Latin School.

“I say the more (entries) the merrier, but I am going to have to go through them all” to pick the top 10 and weed out those that may not be appropriate, Jacob said. “The more films we get, the higher quality we’ll be able to display.”

Jacob’s film teacher Erin Springfield started the FilmFest at Country Day 11 years ago with a three-foot wide screen, VHS tapes and about 50 people in attendance. The event has since grown to be one of the biggest productions at the school, Springfield said, featuring more variety and filling a need that goes far beyond the film club. The festival has featured series of short films, animations, commercials, stop motion and typical narrations.

“It’s really grown, and it’s really grown in quality, as well,” Springfield said.

Springfield, the film club advisor, along with teachers Chris Rydel and Warfel, has helped Jacob through the development of the Charlotte Student Film Festival.

“I really built the film program and started the film classes, so to have a student come about and really build another piece to it – really building an initiative for the community – is really a big deal,” Springfield said. “Jacob is in theater, he’s in sports and really great academically, so for him to find the time to do this is a really big deal. For him to add this to our offerings will really make our film program a lot

Jacob has a passion for filmmaking and loves every aspect of creativity that goes into creating a film. From brainstorming to writing the screenplay, planning the details on location, costumes and times of days – Jacob loves it all. While he won’t have an entry in the citywide festival, he’s just excited to create the platform and hopes the event will become an annual tradition for Charlotte.

His life after high school is still unclear, but he says one thing is certain – film will always be one of his greatest passions.

“It’s always going to be a big part of my life. I don’t know if I’m going to major in film, but it’s always going to be there.  Whatever I do, I’m going to always use creativity and just try to be happy,” Jacob said.


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