Audrey Kupferman Releases Civil War Film Starring UAlbany Students

Ms. Kupferberg, Lecturer in the Art Department and Director of the Film Studies Minor, has produced a new film called Thirst: A Civil War Story

Kupferberg, a UAlbany alumna who is also the film’s assistant director, was not the only UAlbany representative on the set; the movie stars current film studies minor Derek H. Mellina and alumnus John Mac Schnurr. UAlbany student Nick Brigadier is also in the film as “2nd Confederate”. Nancy Powhida, a sculpture student in UAlbany’s MA in Art program, designed and built one of the central props of the movie, a 19th century well, out of insulation board. Marisa Mazart, pictured above on the right, was a student crew member. In all, 14 UAlbany students were involved in the project.

Thirst: A Civil War Story tells of a young Union volunteer from New York State who runs from a skirmish in the days following the bloody 1863 battle of Gettysburg. Exhausted and out of water, he comes across a well that, unknown to him, is guarded by Confederate soldiers who may (or may not) be deserters, too. He is rescued from becoming a victim to his thirst by a fellow New Yorker who, along with a now-dead compatriot, deserted their unit after Gettysburg. Desperate from thirst and without any other sources of water nearby, the two “skedaddlers” concoct a dangerous and deadly plan to seize the well from its Confederates captors. In the process of overcoming their fears and carrying out that plan, they learn that sometimes courage is not a choice but a necessity – even a duty – and that the source of it is unknowable to the end.


The film is inspired by a story by Stephen Crane, the author of The Red Badge of Courage, and echoes that famous novel as well. Its production coincides with the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War in which New York contributed more troops and suffered more casualties than any other state in the embattled Union.

Thirst is due out in 2013.


You previously worked with [writer/director] John McCarty on a film called Confinement. What made you want to collaborate with him again?

Audrey Kupferberg: Well, John’s an old friend, and he’s someone whose talents I’m familiar with. What I like about John is his intelligence, and the fact that he sets out (on a project) with serious intentions—so I know he’ll get the job done. In addition, not only did I enjoy working with him on Confinement, but I noted John’s ability to mentor the young people on the crew. His on-site guidance was helpful in a way that classroom studies cannot match.

How did you become involved with Thirst?

AK: John called me and said, ‘You want to do it again?’ I told him I was looking forward to it. It was that simple.

How familiar are you with the Civil War? Did you feel that a special knowledge of this period in American history was essential to your participation?

AK: The look for the Civil War was very important to the creation of Thirst. We were seeking an accurate look. And I’ve always been drawn to early photographs of soldiers and campsites of the Civil War. I find them to be haunting.

The storyline of Thirst is representative of the Civil War, but it actually shows the frustration and desperation of any war. But we were concerned about accuracy while developing the production, and are grateful for the help of the Civil War historians with whom we were in touch.

When putting together Confinement, you recruited a number of your University at Albany film students to work crew. Did you consider using the same students on Thirst? How did you come to select the group that worked on Thirst?

AK: I considered using some of the same students, and a number of them were very eager to work crew for Thirst. However, schedules didn’t mesh and those students are now out in the world working adult jobs. So it was good to give younger folks an opportunity to learn how to make a film.

What about the actors? The two leads were students at UAlbany. How long have you known them? Why were they suited to their roles?

AK: I’ve known Derek (Mellina) for several years and trust that his thoughtful and dedicated approach to a project would come through with his work on Thirst. I also feel he has just the right look for his character. I didn’t meet John (Mac Schnurr) until our first run-though, but I liked what I saw right away. He had a real feel for the role.

You are so used to being around these cast and crew members on the UAlbany campus. What is it like to work with them in such a different setting?

AK: On both Confinement and Thirst, I had the great good fortune of working with students who were a pleasure to be with. It was a pleasure getting to know them on the shoot. Without exception, I discovered everyone in the cast and crew was hard-working. They were cheerful in times of temporary distress, and were willing to put the extra effort into the job.

I might add that it’s a shame that teachers don’t get more opportunities such as this.

For more information:

Clip from the film:

About Audrey Kupferberg:

Art Department: