Armed with nothing but a Sony Handycam 40X, Nease High School student Connor Dunwoodie’s first film project was a public service announcement about bullying he created for his middle school in Leesburg, Georgia.
The film would go on to win accolades and two awards – one in the Lee County Middle School Film Festival, and the other in the Southwest Georgia RESA Media Festival.
The young director has thrown himself into cinematography ever since.
“I’ve learned a lot from others and I’ve taught myself how to make films in my own way because you have to know how to do your own thing,” Dunwoodie said. “Finding your own style is what makes you a better filmmaker.”
Having first developed an interest in movie production at the age of 9, Dunwoodie cited his Hollywood producer aunt Rebecca Donaghe and Steven Spielberg as major inspirations. Now, working on creative film projects slightly more ambitious than PSAs, Dunwoodie is more sure-footed; the teen premiered his third original short film in February called “Sight,” a sci-fi flick following the exploits of a group of friends on the brink of a major extraterrestrial discovery who are having trouble getting the world to listen.
With his sci-fi debut in the bag, the independent filmmaker has fixed his efforts on a mini web series by the same name. Picking up just one week after the events of “Sight” the movie, Dunwoodie’s ragtag group of teenaged investigators must uncover new information about the aliens as they learn how cruel and unforgiving the world can be. Production for the project began in May, and the multi-part story is set to premiere Aug. 13 on Amazon Video Direct followed by a YouTube debut one week later.
The message of both projects carries over to Dunwoodie’s mission as a teen director looking to break into the world of filmmaking.
“I am trying to make a career out of this,” he said. “Eventually, I’d like to go out to Hollywood to make films.”
One major goal, he noted, is admission into Florida State University’s exclusive College of Motion Picture Arts, the film school whose alums include “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” director Wes Ball and writer T.S. Nowlin. Having come a long way since his Handycam days, Dunwoodie has also set production for his next film for later this year.
Filmmaking hasn’t been without its challenges, however. According to Dunwoodie, it takes more than most might imagine to pull a project together.
“I try my best to keep everything organized and controlled,” he said. “Communication with your actors and crew is key. Keeping everyone on track and helping them understand your vision, being able to rely on one another, is extremely important.”
Dunwoodie insists his passion isn’t fleeting – a sentiment echoed by his resume: the 15-year-old rising junior is heavily involved in production both in and out of Nease High School as a student of the communication department’s TV production program. He’s also an International Thespian Society officer for the drama department and an academy ambassador for communication.
Ultimately, the teen wants his work – and the work of his peers – to be taken seriously.
“I think that most people don’t understand or see how hard it is to make a film,” he said. “I don’t just do this to play around. I do have fun, but I also like to be professional and some adults don’t think teenagers are capable of doing that. That’s something I’d like to change.
“I want people to know that teenagers are capable of doing things that adults can do,” he continued. “And using (my work) I’d like them to open their eyes.”