Camilla, Keep Your Word

Saturday, Aug. 29, 7:00 p.m., free

Virtual premiere at The Carolina Theatre

In 2005, Holland R. Gallagher, 11 years old and living happily in New Orleans, was unaware that his world was about to be turned upside down.

That, of course, is when Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, leaving millions homeless.

Gallagher and his parents fled to North Carolina, ending up in Durham after a brief stay in Charlotte. They had originally planned to head to Texas, but when they saw how many others from New Orleans were going that way, they drove a little farther to North Carolina, instead, where they had some relatives to stay with for a while. Gallagher was able to take his iPod and the clothes on his back, but not much else.

“In retrospect, it kind of changed my whole life,” Gallagher said.

Once here, though, Gallagher thrived. He ended up at UNC, where he studied arts entrepreneurship and statistics. He also met Taylor Sharp, a fellow UNC student with an interest in film. They would go on to form a Durham-based partnership, Blue Cup Productions, a couple of years after both graduated. Their latest production is a short film, a romantic drama set in Louisiana during Katrina called Camilla, Keep Your Word.

It is also a further step into narrative filmmaking for Blue Cup, which until now has mostly produced documentaries. Holland and Sharp plan to keep making documentaries but also get deeper into the world of fictional storytelling in the future.

Gallagher has been writing screenplays since he was a student and has plenty of ideas yet to be realized on film. He originally wrote Camilla as a full-length feature, but he and Sharp decided to shorten it to make it cheaper and easier to make.

After Gallagher and Sharp graduated and had been working on films independently for a couple years, they had a meeting to compare their experiences and ideas. Gallagher told Sharp about his idea for Camilla at that first meeting.

Blue Cup and The Carolina Theatre will host the virtual premiere at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, August 29, on the theater’s Facebook page. Carolina Theatre members, sponsors, and supporters will have an opportunity to screen Camilla in advance and ask questions of the filmmakers in a post-film Q&A that will be recorded.

Though the film has been seen at local festivals such as River Run, Full Bloom, the Carrboro Film Festival, and the Charlotte Film Festival, this is the first time it’s available to the public. The screening also marks the 15th anniversary of Katrina hitting New Orleans.

“It feels full circle now to be putting out this film in Durham,” Sharp says.

Although Gallagher was still a child when he and his family fled the hurricane abruptly, the lead characters in the 15-minute film look to be in their early twenties. The film focuses on a couple that has presumably been together for years but that is going through a major fight over moving in together when they check into a hotel to shelter from the storm.

Gallagher says that a devastating fact of life during Katrina was that phones were out long after the storm passed. In the world of the film, the main character, Remy, can’t reach his family back in New Orleans, even though he and his girlfriend, Natalie, are safely out of the storm’s path.

Gallagher wrote and directed the film, and Sharp produced it.

Gallagher got into the world of film through his interest in hip-hop. He used to make DIY rap tracks and has served as producer for North Carolina rappers like Well$ and Ace Henderson.

“Making rap music with my friends kind of got me into the arts scene in Durham,” he says.

Working on music led to making documentaries about hip-hop. In 2018, Gallagher released a web series called Hype about the music scene in Durham and the influx of tech money into the city—a sort of fictionalized documentary. It also premiered at Carolina Theatre.

He followed it with two short documentaries on Durham rap stars Little Brother, one about the group’s debut album and one about its reunion at the 2018 Art of Cool festival.

Gallagher plans to make a full-length documentary about Little Brother in the near future, and he says Blue Cup’s next project will be a full-length version of Hype.

Before Blue Cup, Sharp started out by making a full-length documentary called Hoops Africa: Ubuntu Matters, a collection of stories that celebrates the past, present, and future of basketball in Africa. It features NBA stars Dikembe Mutombo, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Chris Paul, and the NBA was a partner in making the film.

Sharp says they each bring something unique to the Blue Cup table. While Sharp has more experience in the world of film than Gallagher, Gallagher has the ideas. The storytelling and production values of Camilla, Keep Your Word indicate that the duo, as it were, is going to live up to the Hype.

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