Phil Blattenberger’s big screen dreams start at UNCG

Posted on February 17, 2023

Phil Blattenberger
Photo credit: Kevin Putnam

Phil Blattenberger ‘11 B.A. ‘14 B.A. was hoping to become an adjunct Anthropology professor at UNC Greensboro (UNCG) in 2016, but when his plans were postponed a semester, the plot changed.

Armed with two Bachelor of Arts degrees in History and Anthropology from UNCG, a Master’s of Cultural Anthropology from UNC Charlotte, and absolutely no filmmaking experience, Blattenberger set his sights on making a movie set during the Vietnam War.

Multiple Perspectives

Blattenberger’s interest in the Vietnam War started even before he earned his first B.A. in History from UNCG in 2011. A visit to the War Remnants Museum in Saigaon gave him a different perspective.

“It made a black and white world of good guys versus bad guys infinitely more complicated,” Blattenberger says. “It all goes hand in hand with anthropology, which is a discipline that involves extracting yourself from the shoes that you’re in and placing yourself in a different pair of shoes and trying to understand a world from multiple perspectives.”

“Point Man,” Blattenberger’s debut film, was released in 2019 and won Best Film at the Sydney Indie Film Festival. 

“It was some of the stuff I did at UNCG in terms of studying framing and how to observe human behavior and all these things that are foundational to anthropology that really set me up very unintentionally for a career in film,” says Blattenberger.

Capturing human behavior 

In his latest movie “Condor’s Nest,” fictional American war veteran Will Spaulding goes on the hunt for a Nazi colonel who killed his crew after a plane crash in World War II.  

“This was a chance to take something that was historically based – something that actually happened – and use that as a baseline, but then take some liberties,” says Blattenberger. “There were thousands of Nazis that fled Germany after the fall of the Third Reich and set up shop in South America to escape prosecution for war crimes.”

Blattenberger during his trip to Peru with UNCG in 2013.
Photo courtesy of Donna Nash

Part of the film was shot in Peru which Blattenger visited in 2013 while studying anthropology at UNCG. Archaeology Professor Donna Nash led a fieldwork trip to the country that piqued Blattenberger’s interest.

“I invited Phil to come to Peru because he always asked thoughtful questions,” Nash says. “He was always one of those people who probed things.”

For her, his foray into filmmaking isn’t necessarily a surprise. 

“Anthropology is a fantastic major to prepare you for many different types of jobs,” says Nash. “Films capture human behavior, what people do, how they interact with each other, how they respond to certain situations. That’s very much what anthropologists study.”

Recognizable faces

“Condor’s Nest” had a limited theatrical release in January through Paramount Pictures and is now available on-demand. It is also Blattenberger’s first film featuring actors with credits in major movies and television series. 

Actor Arnold Vosloo takes on the role of the sadistic Nazi colonel and is no stranger to playing bad guys on screen. Vosloo is likely best-known for his portrayal of Imhotep in the blockbuster “Mummy” franchise. 

Other recognizable faces include Michael Ironside from the original “Top Gun,” Jorge Garcia, from the TV series “Lost,” Academy Award nominee Bruce Davison, and Jackson Rathbone from the “Twilight” series.

“I grew up watching ‘The Mummy.’ So it was really, really cool working with Arnold Vosloo.

Phil Blattenberger

Spotlight on Greensboro

Not only did Phil’s story begin in North Carolina, but the movie does as well. The opening plane crash scene that starts the main character’s revenge quest wasn’t filmed in France but in eastern North Carolina. Blattenberger’s team even reconstructed an entire B-17 bomber.

The Julian Price House in Greensboro’s Fisher Park serves as the titular Condor’s Nest, while Havana Phil’s on Battleground Avenue doubled as a bar in the movie. 

So while his screenplays take viewers around the globe, there will always be a little piece of Greensboro: “It’s been a wild ride, but in a lot of ways, it really did start at UNCG.”

Story by Avery Craine Powell, University Communications
Production photos courtesy of Kevin Putnam
Film publicity photos courtesy of Saban Films


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