Julie McElmurry had to make a movie in two months. Never mind that McElmurry hadn’t made a movie before, didn’t have a studio or much time. McElmurry was going to make a movie in two months.
In January 2016, McElmurry received a $1,000 grant from National Catholic Sisters Week with the only requirement of “hosting an event that shares the work of nuns.” Most other grant recipients hosted luncheons.
But not McElmurry.
McElmurry decided she wanted to screen a film – her own. The initial hurdle was that she didn’t yet have a film to screen.
“The first thing I had to do was Google ‘How do you make a movie?’ And that’s not a joke.” McElmurry said.
McElmurry used some of the grant money to buy a film-grade camera and hunkered down at Morrison Regional Library to figure out how to do just that. For entire days, she would lock herself in one of the Library’s study rooms and pause others’ documentaries to learn basics like where she should position her camera, where to seat a subject and how to work the best lighting into a shot.
“Nobody would bother me, and I could sit there for hours and hours,” she said.
Once she thought she understood the basics, it was off to interview her subjects – nuns across the country. Before her deadline in March 2016, McElmurry, who earned master’s degrees in religion/religious education and Franciscan studies, traveled to Tampa, Fla.; Honolulu, Hawaii and Philadelphia to interview and live with different nuns.
After returning to Charlotte, McElmurry returned to Morrison Regional Library to edit the footage she had filmed. It was the perfect place to create a movie.
“To have a quiet dedicated space where I could work was really useful,” she said.
Her hard work and long hours at the Library paid off. The film, eventually titled Energy of Nuns, was so good that the Chatauqua Film Festival, the Endless Mountains Film Festival and the Glass Tulip Film Festival all accepted the film in either 2016 or 2017.
“I’m so thankful to the Library,” McElmurry said about her experience. “It was so nice to have this beautiful space where I could feel safe while creating my film.”
She paused and thought about what the Library had given her.
“I don’t like working in coffee shops,” she said. “Libraries are the original coworking spaces.”
Interested in making your own movie like McElmurry? Join McElmurry’s newly founded company, the Charlotte Unconventional Film School, and Charlotte Mecklenburg Library for a free 10-part film-making series, starting in January 2019 and running through May 2019.