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Summer Soltice Movie at the Woodstock Film Festival 2023

2023 Woodstock Film Festival: A Conversation With Filmmaker Noah Schamus

By inside + out | September 10, 2023

In celebration of the 2023 Woodstock Film Festival, INSIDE+OUT presents a series of interviews with filmmakers showcasing their films in this year’s festival. Today we catch up with filmmaker Noah Schamus to talk about their debut film, Summer Solstice, a touching, funny, and beautifully rendered study of friendship through change, and an exploration of sexual identity. When Leo, a trans man, and his cisgender, straight college friend, Eleanor, take a weekend trip together, their dynamic rides through waves of emotion and psychological nuance. While Leo pursues his acting career, exploring an artistic approach for his upcoming audition, he gains confidence in his own authenticity and honesty. Meanwhile, Eleanor’s unhinged behavior creates a push-and-pull between these two old friends. Her experience reveals the difficulties of connection, self-knowledge, and, ultimately, acceptance.

Noah Schamus is a Brooklyn and Minnesota-based filmmaker and educator whose first feature, Summer Solstice, world-premiered at the Provincetown Film Festival and won the Panavision New Filmmaker Program. Noah was included in the 2021 Outfest Screenwriting Lab as a Notable Writer, and Summer Solstice was the winner of the Platige Image Award at Us in Progress at the American Film Festival in 2022. Their most recent hybrid documentary short, The Script, co-directed with Brit Fryer, was produced by Multitude Films, supported by Chicken & Egg Pictures and the Ford Foundation, and premiered at CPH: DOX 2023.

INSIDE+OUT is pleased to share our conversation with Noah Shanus about Summer Solstice, AI technology in film, and (a blast from the past…) the Y2K apocalypse.

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INSIDE+OUT: Tell us about your latest film, which will be shown at this year’s festival.

Noah Schamus: I’m coming to Woodstock with my first feature film, Summer Solstice. We shot the film in the Hudson Valley and in Brooklyn in July and a bit of August 2022 over 15 days. The film follows Leo, a trans man and aspiring actor, on a weekend away with his cisgender (non-trans) and straight college friend, Eleanor, in upstate New York. Over the course of the weekend, they both discover the ways in which their friendship is no longer what it was when they were 18. The film is a bit of a dramedy of errors about the increasingly chaotic lengths these two friends go to attempt to preserve their friendship.

2023 Woodstock Film Festival: Writer + Director Noah Schamus and Producer Arno Mokros

What inspired you to choose a career in the film business, and what was your journey?

In my first year of college, I felt really lost in a lot of ways and was taking classes that didn’t particularly excite me. I was having a bit of an existential crisis about who I wanted to be in the world. On a whim, I signed up for a film studies class about Film Noir. By the second class, I knew I wanted to major in film. I fell in love with film history, film theory and analysis, and, of course, making scrappy short films with friends. I also have the privilege of having two parents who have careers in the arts, which gave me an understanding of the different paths forward as an artist, as well as a lot of support and understanding from my family.

I went to film school, graduated, worked in feature film post-production until 2020, and then cycled through a few day jobs as I tried to develop my own work until I landed on teaching film, which I love, and have been teaching and working on writing/directing for the past few years.

What was your most rewarding or the most challenging project to date?

Summer Solstice is both the most rewarding and most challenging project so far in my career. It was my first time making a feature, so at times, I felt overwhelmed by the immensity of tackling a project of this scale, creatively and logistically. But things started to fall into place, and I started feeling less overwhelmed, so by the time we were on set, I felt really engaged and present and was able to tackle the challenges that arose each day. It was a dream to collaborate with all these incredibly talented artists. I learned a lot as a filmmaker and as a person.

2023 Woodstock Film Festival: Writer + Director Noah Schamus and Producer Arno Mokros 2023 Woodstock Film Festival: Writer + Director Noah Schamus and Producer Arno Mokros2023 Woodstock Film Festival: Writer + Director Noah Schamus and Producer Arno Mokros

What are your thoughts on technology and the changing landscape of the TV and film industry?

As AI technology continues to improve, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what advancements in AI will mean for art and artists. I believe, or at least fervently hope, that people turn to art because of the unique perspective of the human beings who created that art and the flaws, weirdness, messiness, and humanness of their craft. I also hope we can work to value art as labor and artists as people who deserve compensation.

What is one question you’re constantly asked?

I’m frequently asked, “What is the future of trans cinema?”

Can you put your finger on what makes a great filmmaker and who inspires you?

I don’t think there’s any particular formula for being a great filmmaker. It’s a truly herculean task to make a movie of any kind, much less a good or great one. I have so much respect for people who make films that prioritize the humanity of their collaborators. I can’t speak to whether or not these qualities make the final film good or great, but I think directors and producers who are organized, direct in their communication, decisive, confident, humble, and willing to collaborate and learn from others’ help are a recipe for better and kinder work environments.

I’m really inspired by the community of filmmakers I’m a part of who are thoughtfully building up really incredible bodies of work that I admire. Anytime I need inspiration, particularly when I’m thinking about my own narrative film projects, I continually return to movies like Sally Potter’s Orlando, Cheryl Dunye’s The Watermelon Woman, Claudia Weill’s Girlfriends, and Bob Fosse’s Cabaret. I know, it’s not a list that necessarily makes a lot of sense. But that’s kind of the point.

2023 Woodstock Film Festival: Writer + Director Noah Schamus and Producer Arno Mokros

What are you working on now that you’re excited about?

I’m currently developing my second narrative feature, Black Wave, an adaptation of Michelle Tea’s incredible novel of the same name. It’s about being chaotic and queer and lost and trying to find your voice as an artist, and also the Y2K apocalypse. I’m also working on my first hybrid documentary feature, currently called In Time, which will bring a group of trans/GNC/non-binary people over the age of 50 to devise and stage important memories from their past as a way to push against a really toxic recent trend of delegitimizing gender non-conformity and transness by pretending that it’s a uniquely 21st-century phenomenon as a means of trying to erase transness from the past, present, and future. I’m really excited about the projects themselves, but also about the collaborators who I’m working alongside to develop both of these films.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Hmmmm. Maybe the ability to fly? I used to have lucid dreams about flying through my neighborhood, and I always had a fun time, just flapping my arms and lifting off the ground.


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About the Woodstock Film Festival
Connect > Website | Facebook| @woostockfilmfestival | INSIDE+OUT Premium Page

 2023 Woodstock Film Festival

Founded in 2000, the Woodstock Film Festival (WFF) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that nurtures and supports emerging and established filmmakers, sharing their creative voices through an annual festival and year-round programming to promote culture, diversity, community, educational opportunities and economic growth.

WFF provides innovative mentoring and inspired educational programs benefitting filmmakers, students and diverse audiences while serving as a powerful cultural and economic engine for New York’s Hudson Valley and beyond. Such efforts have consistently resulted in the festival being hailed as one of the top regional film festivals worldwide. The Woodstock Film Festival is an Oscar®-qualifying festival in the short film categories – Live Action Short Film, Animated Short Film, and Documentary Short Film.

Now in its 24th year, 2023 promises to as exciting as ever! 2023 lineup and Tickets HERE.
Full and Weekend Festival Passes are available – Get Your Festival Passes HERE

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