Social change on the big screen: P.E. teacher’s feature film about adoption premieres this weekend

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Cullen Moss, of 'The Walking Dead' and 'One Tree Hill' fame, stars in 'Finding Home.' Courtesy photos.
Cullen Moss, of ‘The Walking Dead’ and ‘One Tree Hill’ fame, stars in ‘Finding Home.’ Courtesy photos.

The “only screenwriting P.E. teacher on the planet” is premiering his first feature film this weekend.

Nick Westfall’s “Finding Home,” a fictional story about adoption, starring local actors Cullen Moss, Tamara Mercer and Abel Zukerman, screens during a red carpet event Saturday at Bourgie Nights, 127 Princess St.

Saturday’s event has already sold out, but two additional screenings will be held at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday (doors open 30 minutes before showtime).

It’s a fitting weekend for the new film, considering Nov. 21 is National Adoption Day, and November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Bill Vassar, executive vice president of EUE/Screen Gems Studios, and Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo are expected to speak on the issue Saturday, and cast and crew plan to answer questions following the film.

Screenwriter Nick Westfall said he was inspired by his mother's own story of adoption.
Screenwriter Nick Westfall said he was inspired by his mother’s own story of adoption.

“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 actually Westfall’s thesis while earning his master’s degree in filmmaking last year from the online school Full Sail University.

It’s the first full-length film from Dock Street Productions, which Westfall co-founded in January. Dock Street’s aim is to make movies advocating social change.

Dock Street ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise money towards filming, which began in June, and offered sponsorship opportunities during the Independent Film 5K Race/Walk–an event aimed at raising awareness of the importance of the industry to this area–in May.

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

The film, which also stars Abel zukerman, is aimed at raising awareness and promoting social change.
The film, which also stars Abel Zukerman, is aimed at raising awareness and promoting social change.

And while the camera is a new angle for Westfall, writing is not. He already has two published novels—“Sink on Impact” and “Escaping Yesterday”–under his belt and has just finished a third.

With his background in teaching, Westfall also hopes “Finding Home,” and future Dock Street films will help bridge education and art in a way that can make a lasting impact.

“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.”

Tickets to Sunday’s screenings are $15 ($7.99 for teachers) and available through the “Finding Home” website. Click here to see the film’s trailer.

Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.