UNC Charlotte Senior Erik Button is a busy man.
As the president of the UNC Charlotte Film Club, an Open Mic host at The Evening Muse, member of a folk-punk band and leader of his own film making company, Button does all of this and more while being a full-time student at UNC Charlotte.
He began to pursue his interest in film back when he was in middle school. Button and his friend Matt Willets shot short films and edited them using old Hi8 videocassettes.
“We’re both from Burlington, NC, and there, you either find a hobby yourself or become an alcoholic,” Button explained. “So we just started making films.”
The two have stuck together since then and both currently head up their own film-making company, Very Professional Films, here in Charlotte. His company aims to make small budget short films that “represent how uncomfortable and strange and terrible and hilarious and fun life is”.
One of his films, “Get Away”, is about a man named Chip who decides to help a criminal who just robbed the bank Chip was fired from.
Another of his films, “Sude’s”, is a true story of Button’s where a man accidentally becomes trapped in a bathroom while on a date.
“It’s weird – I mostly write comedies, but I’m not influenced by any comedians at all.” he says.
His biggest influence, the horror genre, has given his comedies a particularly unique darker aspect to them.
Some of Button’s films, including “Sude’s”, have been very successful throughout the Charlotte area. Three of them placed in two separate film festivals in 2010: the Manifesto Film Festival and the UNC Charlotte Film Festival.
The festival process, however, sometimes is a daunting one.
“The deadlines [for the festivals] are usually close to finals, and it’s really stressful to try and manage your time properly,” he says. “Unfortunately, school work has been thrown under the bus.”
But through success like this around the area, Button has begun to make his film interest much more than a hobby, and has started to branch out into other areas as well.
“I’m starting to get to the point where I’m picking up independent film contracts. I just filmed something for Chuck ‘Charlyhorse’ Johnson, a local country singer, and I made a music documentary for him,” Button says.
He also does freelance work for WTVI, the Charlotte-area’s PBS station, and will also be helping with this season of the UNC Charlotte sitcom Print Error with its audio and other production needs.
He even co-headlines his own folk/punk band called Dollar Signs.
With all of this success, there is, of course, the college financial drawback.
“Unfortunately, film-making is pretty much the only art form that is really limited by money, and being in college that can be kind of rough,” Button explains.
Him and his partners have a system where they help each other out to balance out the costs of filmmaking with the overwhelming costs of college living.
“Matt Willets acts in a lot of my films, and whenever he writes movies, we’ll shoot his stuff. Joshua Yates shoots almost all of our films so when he needs something, we’ll help him out.” Button explains.
Button also is a personality at the Evening Muse, a music venue in the North Davidson district.
As a host of Find Your Muse Open Mic on Monday nights, he helps display local musicians, poets, comedians and storytellers of the Charlotte community.
“It’s probably the only open mic in town where people are actually there to listen to music of people playing original songs,” Button explains. “It’s a lot of fun and we actually get a lot of high quality performers.”
Button is currently in post-production for his new film, “Product”. The film, through the eyes of a prod hunter named Mason, is set in a universe where cannibalism of the lower class takes over because it seems to stop aging and cure diseases.
He hopes to have the film out in time for the UNC Charlotte Film Club’s annual film festival, happening towards the end of April.
Last Sunday, Button hosted the Filmmakers Showcase at the Evening Muse to help fund this film festival, and just to look back at some great short films from Charlotte’s best filmmakers.
“It’s always cool to bring filmmakers together and have them hangout, and just to listen to what they talk about is usually pretty interesting,” he explained.
“Also, with film, no one really knows what the hell they are doing, so you always stand to learn something from someone else.”
Overall, Button seems to love what he does in the Charlotte area, and hopes to influence other aspiring filmmakers in the area to triumph through the hard parts of it.
“Filmmaking is one of the most difficult things you can do,” he explains. “It’s always worth it [in the end].”