Wright State motion pictures student screens documentary at Cleveland International Film Festival

Nathanael Blair’s documentary about a bubble tea purveyor did not receive an award like “Oppenheimer,” the 2024 Best Picture Oscar winner, but he came away from the Cleveland International Film Festival feeling like the title of a 1979 Oscar winner, “Being There.”

Blair, who entering his senior year as a motion picture major at Wright State University, was invited to present his documentary “It’s in the CommuniTea!” in April at the Cleveland festival, where winning entries qualify for consideration for the Oscars.

“Just being there was a shock,” said Blair. “Being there was a great enough honor. It was a big leap from not being in any festival to being in one of the largest in the region and an Oscar-qualifying one. It was overwhelming.”

Blair was invited to submit “It’s in the CommuniTea!” as part of a special group of students who are trying to grow their own craft.

“For me to see so many people at such a prestigious event come to watch a film I had made, it really hit me. Truthfully, it was kind of emotional,” he said.

Blair was joined at the festival by the subject of his documentary, Nicole Cornett, who owns and operates Billie Gold Bubble Tea from a food truck and a Dayton storefront.

“Afterwards, we were called to the stage for a brief Q&A with the other filmmakers, discussing our process and any future projects we are working on,” Blair said. “The whole time was a bit of a whirlwind, but I am so grateful for the opportunity.”

Blair’s seven-and-a-half-minute-long film follows the story of Cornett, her business and her connection to the community.

“What makes her different is her personality and how she sees customers as friends,” Blair said.

Her story took a dramatic turn when she discovered that a $5,000 generator for her food truck had been stolen. Her customers quickly came forward, donating money for a replacement.

Blair is not the only one in his family with an interest in film.

His sister, Hannah, earned a bachelor’s degree in motion picture production from Wright State in 2019. She is a film editor for a production facility in Springboro and a librarian in Waynesville, near the Blair family home in Oregonia.

Blair enrolled at Wright State to study acting but changed his major to motion pictures because he loves films as much as my sister does.

Blair is preparing for his senior practicum, making a feature film of 10 to 20 minutes.

“I’m intending to direct a narrative film that I’ve been writing for the past couple of months,” he said. “I’ll be working with actors and see the whole process of filmmaking come to life.”

He looks back on his participation in the Cleveland film festival positively for many reasons, including that it made more people more aware of Wright State’s motion pictures program.

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