‘Canusa Street’ and ‘TikTok Challenged’ Among Official Selections for Nashville Film Festival 2023

September 27, 2023

Projects by Film alumni and students will screen at the acclaimed Nashville Film Festival at the end of this month. The festival, scheduled from September 28 to October 4, 2023, will present over 125 screenings. Among them are Canusa Street, a comedy television pilot written by Zach Morrison ’18 and announced as an official selection at the festival, and Tiktok Challenged, written by Film student Ivan Rome.

Read more about these projects below: 

Canusa Street

Written and directed by  Zach Morrison ’18

Produced by Carver Diserens  ’17

This comedy series is set in a small town absurdly divided by the US/Canada border, and follows a jaded US Border Patrol agent who solves local cases while maintaining a fierce rivalry with her counterpart in the Canadian Mounties: her twin sister. 

The initial idea for the show dates back to Morrison’s time at Columbia. After he wrote the initial draft during quarantine in 2020, the script won the 2021 Catalyst Content Festival (formerly “ITV Fest”) screenwriting competition—a win that helped Morrison and Diserens attract the investment they needed to produce the pilot.

“My time at Columbia Film is a big part of why this project exists,” said Morrison. “Carver and I met in our first year and began working together frequently on our classmates’ projects. Going through the program, I instantly gravitated towards television writing, and courses with [Associate Professor] David Klass [and former faculty members] Frank Pugliese, Evangeline Morphos, and Lawrence Konner had a huge influence on me. 

“I started brainstorming the initial premise that became Canusa Street—which was inspired by a failed pitch I made in a Writers Room workshop course—during Research Arts. The class all decided to write this dark, serialized hour-long drama about the northern border—and instead I pitched a version of that show as a half-hour sitcom. Naturally, it was shot down in the room. But that premise of a quirky comedy in that arena stuck with me, especially as I began working in late night [television]. Fast forward to 2020: Carver and I are roommates in Los Angeles during quarantine, and I read an article about Derby Line, VT; where the international border cuts the town in half. It brought back all the silly ideas I had during my thesis years and I quickly wrote a draft of the pilot. Carver pitched me on writing the lead roles for friends of ours who are real-life twin sisters, and then we were off to the races!”

“Canusa Street was one of the best collaborations I have ever had,” added Diserens, “and the kind of partnership I hoped to find when I went to Columbia.”

Still from 'TikTok Challenged,' written & directed by student Ivan Rome and produced by Yoko Kohmoto '22

TikTok Challenged

Written & directed by Film student Ivan Rome

Produced by Yoko Kohmoto ’22

In this short, Claretha, an elderly woman with Hollywood aspirations, enlists the assistance of her grandson to become popular on TikTok. Daryl didn’t exactly plan on spending the day teaching her how to do the newest TikTok dance. 

The film previously screened in the official selection of the 2023 Atlanta Film Festival, and will also be at the Charlotte Film Festival this coming October. 

Yoko Kohmoto is from Japan and Wisconsin. During her time at Columbia, she produced over 15 short films and music videos. Her projects have been selected for Vimeo Staff Pick and Palm Springs ShortFest, among others. Priorities in her work as a producer-writer are to build community, ensure safety, and uplift marginalized voices. She is most recently a recipient of the Arthur Krim Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Producing and Columbia University’s Campbell Award.

Ivan Rome, who grew up in Columbus, Georgia, is in his fourth year at Columbia, and he is the inaugural recipient of the Bobby Kashif Cox Memorial Scholarship. He also is a former Narrative Programming Fellow at The Gotham and was selected for the SEEN Black Filmmakers Program sponsored by Facebook and The Blackhouse Foundation. He was additionally selected as one of Diverso's inaugural Black Writers in Focus Fellows. He is a storyteller passionate about writing narratives that illuminate the nuanced and multifaceted nature of black culture.

See the full lineup of the 2023 Nashville Film Festival here