Alumni Spotlights

A Change in Focus Leads to Cinematic Success for Scott Poiley, '00

January 16, 2012 by Lisa McMahon, MA'09

It seemed as if Scott Poiley's destiny was to perform. He discovered a love of dancing while in preschool, and by the age of seven he was dancing professionally. In 1996, as a senior at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla., he was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts, the highest scholastic honor available to graduating high school seniors.

But a heart condition, discovered while he was 19 and a student in Niagara University's theatre program, drastically changed his professional aspirations and led him to a career behind the camera.

“The doctor said that I had to stop dancing or it will kill me,” Scott, a Class of 2000 alumnus, explains. “It was hard to give up something I had such passion for and I floundered for a little bit. I contemplated the whole acting thing for a while but I decided to go back to school and stay creative. Instead of being in front of the camera or on the stage, I decided to create the stuff that goes in front of the camera, and finance it, and create projects.”

This past October, Scott debuted his first feature film, Cassadaga, at the Screamfest Horror Film Festival in Hollywood (the launching pad of numerous horror and science fiction films including Paranormal Activity), a project he developed with a business partner he met while in the MFA program at the University of Miami. The two had been working on a romantic comedy, but when they discovered investors were more interested in a horror screenplay they were writing, they turned their attention to completing the supernatural thriller, which tells the chilling tale of a young woman named Lily who seeks solace at the spiritualist community of Cassadaga after the death of her younger sister.

Directed by Anthony DiBlasi (Dread, Midnight Meat Train) and featuring Kelen Coleman (Children of the Corn: Genesis), Kevin Alejandro (True Blood) and Academy Award-winner Louise Fletcher (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), the film made the festival rounds, premiering in the United States, the United Kingdom and in France last fall, and has been receiving positive reviews from audiences and critics alike.

Scott completed his second independent film, Missionary, in November. The film stars Dawn Olivieri (Vampire Diaries), Kip Pardue (Remember the Titans) and Mitch Ryan (One Tree Hill), and is again directed by DiBlasi. He is also working on the financing for a three-picture deal.

Producing films often requires long hours, and 18-hour days can be the norm. But with the encouragement of his family (wife, Mary, and daughters Skyler and Kyra) Scott has been able to do what it takes to complete his work. “None of this would be possible without their support,” Scott says.

Although his current focus is behind the scenes, Scott says that he still loves the idea of performing. “In every film, I have a bit of a cameo. Its not a speaking part, but you'll see me in the background somewhere.”