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Making the Connection

Home from Los Angeles, Virginia Newcomb loves the creative, collaborative spirit she’s found in the South.

For Virginia Newcomb the essence of her work today is creative collaboration, making a connection with a community through the telling of stories.

“I got into this work because it’s a collaborative art. We need each other and we’re all trying to tell these stories and help each other tells stories. I feel Sidewalk is a really good representation of that and specifically why so many people are coming back to the South to make movies because the community here is so strong and we were out to help each other,” Newcomb says.

“I didn’t realize until I left L.A. how much community meant to me and how much I needed it. Los Angeles is great and I learned a lot, but it can become a very isolating place.”

Alabaster native Virginia Newcomb is an actress, producer, and independent filmmaker. Her most notable roles include Peacock (2010) with Cillian Murphy & Ellen Page, Reparation (2015) with Marc Menchaca, and The Officeopposite B.J. Novack. Much of Newcomb’s latest work has been back home in Alabama, with lead roles in the A24 film, The Death of Dick Long (2019) by Daniel Scheinert (premiered at Sundance in 2019), Whitney Hamilton’s queer civil war epic, Union, as well as, producing on the Lynn Shelton comedy feature, Sword of Trust (2019).

Those last two films will be at Sidewalk this month, along with a short film, The Cherry, in which she performs. The short film about a daughter and her dying father was written and directed by Stacey Davis. Photographer Liesa Cole was the cinematographer.

“I went to L.A. to become an actor and I studied acting and that became my specialty. But in being a part of the Hollywood culture, I realized that I don’t want to be a specialist. I want to be a filmmaker. I want to be a creator and collaborator, so I actually had to kind of take the reins on that and started producing more of my own content,” she says.

Newcomb established herself in Los Angeles with award-winning roles in film and stage. Then in 2015, Newcomb took the show back on the road. Her first project as producer and co-creator, Three Fingers, filmed in her birth state of TN. The film, in which Newcomb also stars, premiered at the Sidewalk Film Festival where it received the Kathryn Tucker Windham Storytelling Award and went on to play over 15 festivals accruing multiple jury prizes. This began her collaboration with the abundance of emerging talent that resides in the southeast. She is developing two Southern Gothic projects that follow other young women who escape the institutions that bind them. Her work seeks to share bold, evocative stories in risk-taking projects that portray women honestly, particularly in nontraditional Southern narrative.

Newcomb left Alabama when she was 20, when Sidewalk had barely begun. “I realize how much of an impact Sidewalk has had, not only on the state but the film community in the Southeast as a whole, especially over the last 10 years. What it’s done for the amplification of artists here is pretty significant.”

Newcomb’s early years were spent in Memphis. She moved to Alabaster when she 10. Quite shy and introverted, Newcomb broke out of her shell by singing in a choir and then getting involved in theatre. She received a drama scholarship to Jacksonville State University. Her mentor, Susan McCain (who plays her mother in the film The Cherry) helped her get a scholarship to the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Los Angeles. “She’s a really fantastic teacher and a big part of why I started taking it seriously because she believed in me.”

Newcomb has performed in numerous award-winning plays on the west coast while 2014 saw Newcomb’s Broadway debut in Jay Scheib’s live cinema production of Chekhov’s Platonov, or The Disinherited.

Here in Birmingham, where Newcomb now lives, the arts continue on the upswing. “I feel like it grows exponentially every year, bringing attention to the dynamic creative culture we have here. We’re going to do some really amazing stuff over the next five years or so. We have an infrastructure here now that I think people are going to capitalize on. It’ll be fun to see what comes out of it.”

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