Lights, camera, action. Student filmmakers take center stage during first North by Northeastern Film Festival

person holding Canon video camera
During the first North by Northeastern Film Festival, movie lovers will be able to watch 29 films from Northeastern University students, graduates and faculty over three days. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

The Oscars are over and film festival season is long gone, but this weekend the magic of the movies is coming to Northeastern University’s Boston campus

From Friday to Sunday, March 24 to 26, student and faculty filmmakers will hit the red carpet for the first North by Northeastern Film Festival. For some, the festival, which is open to the general public in the Boston area, will be the first time they see their film on the big screen with an audience of movie lovers and fellow filmmakers. For everyone involved, it will be the first large-scale attempt to bring together Northeastern’s filmmaking community.

“One of my biggest goals of the festival is creating this space for the Northeastern community or creative community to come together, see each other’s work, engage with each other, get to know each other,” says Lauren Walsh, founder of the festival and a fifth-year media and screen studies student. “Having this will at least start to shed light on the creators at Northeastern.”

North by Northeastern is the end result of Walsh’s capstone project, but she hopes its impact goes beyond the classroom and her GPA. After working the film festival circuit as part of her co-op with IFC Films, Walsh realized Northeastern was in dire need of a university-wide film festival. 

“There’s not any student film showcase for the whole school or something that’s even open to the public and definitely not something that’s on a larger scale,” Walsh says. “I saw a need for that there because I personally know of a ton of really amazing student filmmakers at Northeastern.”

In fall 2022, she started working on the idea for North by Northeastern: a completely free film festival that would celebrate all Northeastern filmmakers and be open to the general public. After whittling 40 film submissions down to a selection of 29 films, she brought on fellow students AJ Sacknowitz and Jack Fuchs to help organize the event. The final slate of films is divided into different themed showcases, including music videos, experimental films, faculty-made films, documentaries, animated films, drama and comedy. 

For a taste of what to expect this weekend, three featured filmmakers––Trevor Peckham, Marie Siopy and Gabriel Joy Reid––shared their story of getting their work on the big screen.

Peckham, a 2011 graduate and independent filmmaker, kicks off the festival on Friday with his feature film “Discontinued” about a depressed millennial who learns to the world is a simulation. Siopy, who graduated in fall 2022, is bringing four films to the festival, including a surreal miniseries pilot for “Joe’s Pizza.” And senior Gabriel Joy Reid is bringing animation to the forefront with “Super Dawg and The Pet Crew: Paws of Power,” an animated motion comic about a superhero dog.

Return of the alumni

North by Northeastern kicks off in style on Friday with an opening night screening of “Discontinued,” a science fiction film from independent filmmaker and class of 2011 graduate Trevor Peckham. 

Peckham grew up surrounded by filmmakers: His grandfather, great uncle and father have been filming commercials for major corporate clients like IBM and Pan Am for decades.

Despite that legacy, after graduating with a degree in business from Northeastern, Peckham was adamant he would work a “normal job.” But between bouts of full-time employment, he started working with his dad on film sets, including on the TV series “Four Courses with JB Smoove,” and found that he enjoyed the casual chaos.

“Being on that show made me realize that everyone working on set was kind of a little bit crazy––and I liked being with the crazy people,” Peckham says.

What was the first film you saw in a movie theater?

“Batman Forever”

Trevor Peckham

“Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium”

Marie Siopy


Gabriel Joy Reid

In 2015, he started working as a cinematographer on music videos, short films and feature films, but he grew frustrated with the chaos that had initially appealed to him. 

His work on “Discontinued,” a 90-minute feature film that he wrote and directed and which was shot in 18 days, was an active attempt to make a film without the human cost. Most days were 10 hours long, which might seem long for most jobs but is a vast improvement over the industry standard 15- to 16-hour days.

“It was about trying to be efficient and make an indie film in a better way, and I think we succeeded,” Peckham says. “The film industry is pretty abusive honestly, especially the lower budget stuff but all of it.”

What are your favorite films? 

“Star Wars: A New Hope,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “The Big Lebowski”

Trevor Peckham

“Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol 2,” “Mamma Mia!”

Marie Siopy

“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” “Kung Fu Panda,” “Finding Nemo,” “Lilo and Stitch,” “The Lego Movie,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”

Gabriel Joy Reid

Shot in Westchester County, New York, the film follows a depressed millennial after she learns that 1) the world is a simulation and 2) the simulation is being shut down in a week. Peckham says it captures the “millennial condition,” focusing on issues of mental health––Peckham has anxiety, depression and panic attacks––and the concept of reality itself.

In reflecting on his own journey through the movie industry, Peckham has been surprised by how much it’s been influenced by his time at Northeastern. 

He was first exposed to many of his filmmaking heroes––Stanley Kubrick chief among them––in his dorm room in Speare Hall. He met his wife in a class at Ryder Hall and bonded with her over David Fincher films outside of Speare Hall, the same place he would have his first panic attack.

“This film would have never been made if that didn’t happen, for better or worse,” he says. “Northeastern is more related to this movie than I think I realized until recently. … Going to Northeastern is going to be, to a certain extent, like showing the movie to my family.”

What’s the best thing you’ve seen recently? 

“All Quiet on the Western Front,” Banshees of Inisherin,” “Tár” and the Amazon Prime Video series “Patriot”

Trevor Peckham

“Derry Girls”

Marie Siopy

“Howl’s Moving Castle”

Gabriel Joy Reid

Funny business

Marie Siopy is coming to North by Northeastern with a lot of stories to tell. 

Siopy, a combined theater and media and screen studies student who graduated in fall 2022, is bringing four films to the festival. Her prolific work as a director and producer proves her passion for filmmaking, but her first love remains theater and acting. In most of the films she’ll be screening this weekend, she is both behind and in front of the camera.

Because of her experience in theater, Siopy says she is drawn to character-driven stories because of how they capture “how we as individuals stop ourselves from being able to accomplish certain things based on our circumstances, how we were raised, our personalities.”

“Joe’s Pizza,” a pilot for a hypothetical miniseries that she directed, will screen during the drama and comedy showcase on Sunday. The pilot follows a college student who feels stuck in her life and in her head. In the middle of another depressive episode, she is transported to the titular pizza parlor, which exists outside of time and space. It’s her largest scale project to date, which took some getting used to for the burgeoning director.

“I remember getting to the studio on campus and being so surprised with how many people were there and how professional it all looked––the cameras, the lights, everything,” Siopy says. “People were asking me what I wanted. I was like, ‘I don’t know.’”

Who is your favorite director? 

Stanley Kubrick

Trevor Peckham

Greta Gerwig

Marie Siopy

Pete Doctor

Gabriel Joy Reid

Her other three films came out of her narrative filmmaking class and range from a revenge story (“Catcalling”) to more experimental fare (“Narrative Film Project.prproj.FINALmp4.mp4” and “Funny Business”).

For Siopy, this weekend comes with a mixture of excitement and nerves. It’s not the first time she’s screened her work, but it will be the first time with such a large audience. Ahead of the festival, she is reminding herself of why she loves filmmaking in the first place.

“After you tell a story somewhat successfully to an audience, whether it be through film or through theater, there is a feeling of pride in having told that story well, in a way that it becomes impactful and now that story won’t be forgotten,” Siopy says.

Pen, paper and a dream

“I’ve been doodling ever since I had a pencil in my hand, and no teacher ever told me to stop,” says Gabriel Joy Reid. 

A senior media arts and screen studies major and president of Northeastern’s animation club, Reid is bringing his lifelong commitment to the animated arts to North by Northeastern. Reid’s animated motion comic, “Super Dawg and The Pet Crew: Paws of Power,” will screen during the festival’s documentary and animation showcase.

“Animation is not just a genre, it’s a medium, and we can explore all different kinds of stories with it depending on the imagination of the artist,” Reid says.

The story, which is the first chapter in a potential series, follows the titular Super Dawg, a superhero puppy who is trying to discover his superpower. With its physical comedy and silly jokes, “Super Dawg” is designed for a younger audience but has plenty to offer for all audiences. 

It’s also a highly personal project for Reid. The voice cast is made up of friends and familiar faces from Reid’s hometown, Kansas City, most of whom had never voice acted before. 

North by Northeastern won’t be the first time Reid has shown “Super Dawg” to the world. He posted the 15-minute pilot on YouTube last year and screened it for an audience during the animation club’s festival. Even though he spent the majority of that screening with his head in his hands to avoid seeing peoples’ reaction, Reid is looking forward to North by Northeastern as a celebration of all the creative work Northeastern students have done and will do.

What is your favorite scene from a movie? 

The scene in “Hail Caesar!” where a rabbi and priests discuss the depiction of Jesus Christ in an upcoming film

Trevor Peckham

“The scene in Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of “Little Women” where Father March returns home from the war on Christmas”

Marie Siopy

“The scene in “Ratatouille” where it is revealed that Remy the rat has been under the chef’s hat”

Gabriel Joy Reid

“What I really hope it does is it opens up more opportunities in the future for the students coming up behind me to showcase films and art and all the creative stuff that happens here at Northeastern,” Reid says. “I think giving art students and people who happen to make films a pedestal for their work is just fantastic and hopefully gives people the confidence to keep making more stuff and submitting to more festivals maybe outside of Northeastern.”

Cody Mello-Klein is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on Twitter @Proelectioneer.