Fitness meets film: Teacher, screenwriter organizes race to support local industry

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Physical education teacher, author and now budding filmmaker Nick Westfall has helped organize a free 5K race this Saturday in support of the local film industry. Photo courtesy Westfall.
Physical education teacher, author and now budding filmmaker Nick Westfall has helped organize a free 5K race this Saturday in support of the local film industry. Photo courtesy Westfall.

On the header of Nick Westfall’s blog site is a tagline—“The only screenwriting P.E. teacher on the planet.”

“I did a little research online and I still haven’t found another screenwriting P.E. teacher, so I’m going to claim it for a little while,” he said, laughing. “Maybe I’ll start a trend, I don’t know.”

Whether his claims of singularity are true or not, one thing is certain—Westfall has found a unique way to bridge two unlikely passions: film and fitness.

Teaming up with Cape Fear Dance Theatre, Westfall’s Dock Street Productions, which he co-founded in January, is hosting the Independent Film 5K Race/Walk–an event aimed at raising awareness of the importance of the industry to this area—Saturday at Greenfield Lake. Registration begins at 9 a.m. and the free race and walk gets underway at 10. Click here to register online (keyword: film5k).

“Our slogan is ‘Keep Film Running in Wilmington.’ We’re trying to maintain what we had here [before the end of film tax incentives], trying to keep a good community of filmmakers together,” Westfall noted.

Organizing free 5Ks is nothing new for Westfall. He’s put together 12 SEARCH races—aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles–in Brunswick County, where he works as a physical education teacher at Virginia Williamson Elementary.

Free, Westfall said, is key to getting people from all walks of life involved.

“My biggest thing is, I’m trying to find solutions to childhood obesity, and obesity in general. So, when you take a financial barrier away completely and make the race free, it’s almost limitless,” he said. “I like to say that exercise is one of the last free things we have left in the world. If you want to support [a cause the races promote], then you can buy a T-shirt.”

The cause in the case of Saturday’s event is Dock Street Production’s first full-length feature, “Finding Home,” penned by Westfall and starring local actor Cullen Moss (“Iron Man 3,” “The Notebook,” “The Walking Dead”). Dock Street is nearing the end of a so-far successful Kickstarter campaign to raise $13,000 toward filming, which is slated to begin in June, and will be offering sponsorship opportunities at the race.

Set to premiere in November as part of the 2015 National Adoption Day event in Wilmington, “Finding Home” will follow Dock Street’s planned model of films with social awareness.

“My mother was adopted,” Westfall said of his inspiration for the script. “And my main goal as a filmmaker is to write unconventional love stories. So, this is about a man finding a home for a young boy and the paternal love between them.”

The piece was Westfall’s thesis while earning his master’s degree in filmmaking last year from online school Full Sail University.

While the camera is a new angle for Westfall, writing is not. The 27-year-old already has two published novels—“Sink on Impact” and “Escaping Yesterday”–under his belt and has just finished a third.

As he’s learned the world of film, he found yet another way to incorporate it into teaching, collaborating with fifth-graders at Virginia Williamson on an anti-bullying film.

“I think it’s pretty cool being able to say I’m on the credits for a production where all the cast and crew are under the age of 12,” he joked.

But that intersection of education and art is what he hopes to bring to “Finding Home” and Dock Street Productions.

“Anything to do with education, you’re always helping. Art doesn’t have to help anything; it’s just art,” he said. “But there is a certain kind of art where you can raise awareness and make social change.”

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6341 or hilary.s@hometownwilmington.com.