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The girl behind the scenes: UNT student Ciara Boniface makes waves as Visionary Filmmaker Award winner

The girl behind the scenes: UNT student Ciara Boniface makes waves as Visionary Filmmaker Award winner

Ciara Bonafice won the Wrinkle In Time Visionary Filmmaker Contest from Disney. She also won $100,000 to work on a film.

The girl behind the scenes: UNT student Ciara Boniface makes waves as Visionary Filmmaker Award winner
April 04
23:25 2018


The room goes silent as the camera rolls and the actors dive into the scene. Looking at every detail through her director’s lens, UNT media arts junior Ciara Boniface watches the short film she wrote, “Skintight,” come to life on the 7-inch monitor in her hands.

At just 19 years old, writing, directing and editing is the rhythm of her life as a filmmaker. It’s a passion requiring long hours of hard work, but Ciara cannot imagine anywhere she’d rather be than behind the scenes creating art.

“It’s just really a great feeling for people to trust your vision and trust that you can tell a good story,” Ciara said.

Even though being a filmmaker is her passion, it is a profession that goes against her natural demeanor. When Ciara decided to submit a video to the “A Wrinkle In Time” Visionary Filmmaker contest, this was a quality on which she focused.

“One of the things I mentioned that makes me unique is the fact that I’m a more reserved person,” Ciara said. “Even though that’s true, it’s not something [I] think about when I’m on set because all of that goes out of my mind, and I know it’ll get done.”

Ciara’s focused yet quiet determination as a young filmmaker caught the attention of “A Wrinkle In Time” director Ava DuVernay. At the end of February, Ciara was handpicked by DuVernay and a team of Disney executives to be the winner out of 1,200 submissions.

She won $100,000 to work on a film, a car from Nissan, and a new HP computer system and a trip to Los Angeles to meet DuVernay and her other filmmaking inspirations at the world premiere of the movie.

“At the premiere, Ava told me she handpicked me, so that was really cool,” Ciara said. “It’s really unreal that these people already in the industry are pushing for me — a student filmmaker — to keep making stuff.”

The entire experience was one that any filmmaker would dream of having, and Ciara checked it off her list at just 19 years old. Although it may seem like she showed up overnight, this dream has been many years of hard work in the making.


Humble beginnings

Ciara remembers the moment she held her first camera. It was Christmas morning 2011 when she opened the gift she had asked her parents to get her: a white, ultra-flip camera.

“She was so interested in filming and videos and all that stuff, so we decided to get it for her,” Ciara’s dad Armstead Boniface said. “I think that’s what really fueled the excitement and enthusiasm to move forward and to try to create more videos.”

At first, she stuck to skateboard videos, because that was her main passion at the time. It wasn’t until she created a music video for her English class at Roach Middle School in McKinney that she started to look for more opportunities to create.

“I remember it being really big because it was one of the first things people actually saw,” Ciara said. “I thought that was cool how people liked it, and that just made me want to keep doing stuff.”

When she was in ninth grade, Ciara wrote, directed, recorded and edited her first film.

Both of her parents starred in the film and were amazed as they watched their youngest daughter, who was typically soft-spoken, direct them behind the same camera they had given her as a Christmas present.

“To see her blossom into this person that we didn’t know was there that can direct people and tell them what to do is still amazing,” Ciara’s mom Paulina said.

Ciara’s parents have proudly supported her dreams every step of the way over the years as her passion for telling stories through film has grown.

From watching her open her first camera to walking down the “blue” carpet with Ciara, her parents are grateful they have been a part of nurturing her passion for filmmaking.

“We just want to see her be successful with her passion, and it’s happening so fast and so young,” Paulina said. “She’s always been so humble and is a gift to the world with what she does.”

Just getting started

For Ciara, winning the Visionary Filmmaker Award is only a step on her journey toward telling meaningful stories through her films. She has already made 12 films during her career and is looking forward to many more.

The short film she recently wrapped up in March, “Skintight,” is what she is focused on now in its post-production phase. It will eventually be turned into a feature film, which she plans to do with the $100,000 she received from her winnings.

“She cares about the entire story and characters, and it’s so transparent when you read her scripts or see her work,” said Parker Foster, who has worked as director of photography on two of Ciara’s films.

The film will focus on the scary reality of being stalked, a fear many of Ciara’s friends told her they had. Ciara was even more inspired to tackle a real-life issue and apply it to a horror film after she saw the movie “Get Out.”

“’Skintight’ is an important story to tell because it’s based on actual events, in a way, and it’s also something that people aren’t really talking about as much,” Ciara said. “I guess it’s mainly inspired by ‘Get Out’ because of the social conversation that it could start.”

The possibilities for the stories Ciara can tell and the films she can create are endless. And as her parents and peers watch her from the sidelines, they can’t wait to see where she goes.

“Instead of just making up fictional stories, she’s making films to change the world,” Parker said. “I have no doubt she’s going to be in the conversation for best new female director in the next five years.”

For now, Ciara keeps reminding herself she is still young and has more room to grow as a filmmaker. Since she won the award and checked off a bucket list item, Ciara has new goals and is going to keep working hard — she believes she is just getting started.

“It’s just really a cycle to constantly keep going and not let anything push me away from that path,” Ciara said. “As a filmmaker, it’s easy to get distracted, but anything is possible if you keep pushing for it and believing.”

Featured Image: Ciara Bonafice won the Wrinkle In Time Visionary Filmmaker Contest from Disney. She also won $100,000 to work on a film. Omar Gonzalez

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Rachel Linch

Rachel Linch

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