Growing in (and with) NoDa: Local filmmaker reflects on journey


Born in LA but raised in the Queen City, movie maker Phil Beebe has called NoDa home for the past seven years. He is the owner/founder of Go North Films (www.philbeebe.com).

“NoDa has always been special to me,” Phil explains, “because growing up in Charlotte during my teens, NoDa was always the fun, edgy, ‘Oooh, that’s a rebellious-to-go-hang-out-there’ kind of spot. We’d go to Fat City. There were a lot of little galleries back in the day, way more than now, and maybe a coffee shop.”

Phil is also the son of a local photographer. So from a young age, he was surrounded by cameras, lenses, darkroom chemistry, and the other accoutrements of that craft. “My father (Ken) always smelled like pipe tobacco and stop bath,” he recalls fondly.

Early on, Phil developed a fascination with movies and making them.

“I started off with ¼-inch film and then moved on to mini-DV. As things moved along technologically, I tried to stay current,” he says.

Phil’s artistic journey was anything but a straight path. “I definitely have not always had the luxury of doing what I wanted to do and make a living at it,” he says.

He spent the ‘80s and ‘90s trying to find himself — camera in hand, of course. For years he waited tables, managed a series of restaurants, and landscaped to pay the bills. “It’s that old thing, ‘You do what you hate, so you can do what you love.’ Artistically, I didn’t come into my own and discover filmmaking was something I was passionate about until the early 2000s,” Phil says.

It was around then that Phil began cutting his teeth filming weddings. “I think the whole idea of being able to shoot video and making a living at it seemed out of reach for me,” he says. “How could somebody pay me to do something that I love? It didn’t feel like work.”

As a commercial filmmaker, Phil finds himself most often in the narrative space. Currently he’s focusing on short films, documentaries, corporate videos, and non-profit work. “Anything that tells a story, I’m pretty passionate about,” he says. His long-term goal is to direct feature films.

“We’re in the age of video, of moving pictures,” Phil explains. “It’s a powerful tool and you can change the world with it.”

His favorite thing about the process is collaboration. “It’s something to behold, rolling up your sleeves with other artists – often strangers at the outset – and working together to achieve something you’d never be able to create on your own,” he says. From the client to makeup artists, script writers, lighting technicians, and numerous other team members, “it’s really hard to give one person the credit. It’s always a collaboration and that’s what keeps me coming back for more.”

Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, it was impossible not to be influenced by the work of Steven Spielberg. Phil hates to admit it, because of fears of sounding cliché, “but you cannot help be changed by his interpretation of film and how he shot. It was very inspiring for me because of how he dealt with issues around family relationships. You saw a lot of what was going on in his life in his films.”

He also counts the early impact of Frank Capra, Victor Fleming, Film Noir, and Turner Classic Movies. These days it’s the work of cinematographer Roger Deakins that wows Phil. Deakins is known for his masterful use of natural light and is responsible for the look of films like “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Skyfall,” “Blade Runner 2049,” and “1917.”

For Phil, like Spielberg, everything comes back to relationships. “NoDa and I have this kind of parallel,” he says. “We’ve grown up together in a way. Being here in the neighborhood and growing myself as I watched it grow around me was a cool thing to witness. It’s the first place I lived with my wife. There are parts of it I don’t want to grow any more, just like there’s parts of me I don’t want to grow anymore. But I think all in all, it’s always been a special place and always will be.”

He loves knowing the business owners on a first-name basis and finds NoDa still has a cool neighborhood feel to it. “People come from all over the city to hang out here on the weekends, but for the people who live here, it feels like you’re part of the family. I hope that never changes.”