UNCW student wins TikTok contest, produces short film with Netflix

UNCW student wins TikTok contest, produces short film with Netflix
Published: Mar. 27, 2022 at 5:44 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - UNCW student Jonny Morales was one of three winners of a contest to produce a short film with Netflix.

Last May, Adobe and Netflix launched their ‘The Great Untold’ partnership. The effort reached out to TikTok users with the prompt “What’s a story only you can tell?”

Morales, a popular TikTok user with over three million followers, was immediately up for the challenge.

“I found out that the idea that I wanted my short film to be about,” said Morales. “What’s the point of making some story up and trying to, you know, go sci-fi, go crazy and go, you know, out of this world when I can do a story that already exists or do a story that is already, you know, a part of my life?”

Morales was inspired by his childhood growing up in a Hispanic household and interacting with refugees from Columbia. The Refugee tells the story of a teenage girl from Colombia who attends an American high school. To help her adapt, a Mexican American student played by Morales is forced to spend his time showing her around. Just like her, he struggles with his own conflicting identities.

In August, Netflix selected Morales as one of three winners to have their submissions made into short films. It wasn’t long after that Morales was knee-deep in production as he would write, direct and act in his own film.

“The Great Untold is the reason I now believe in myself as a storyteller,” said Morales. “It was a blessing that through this, I made new friendships with people from Adobe and Netflix who are gifted in filmmaking, and we’re willing to pour into me. And having Ryan O’Connell as a mentor gave me so much confidence that my story was worth telling the world. It’s one thing to tell yourself that you are capable, but when someone who has thrived in what you’re passionate about confirms it, it makes you feel like anything is possible when you pour your heart into it.”

The project hired local talent and production workers for the short film, including its director of photography Zai.

“It was a true dream to come true -- not only to do with your best friends, but you know, with the people that you see yourself working with for a very long time,” said Zai.

The Refugee is available to watch on YouTube now. You can watch the short film here and learn more behind-the-scenes details here.

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