Actor Paul Schneider returned to his North Carolina roots this weekend for the RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, the town where Schneider attended the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Schneider, who brought his parents and his multi-talented dog Leroy to the festival, was on hand for the RiverRun’s screening of Jane Campion’s Bright Star and to receive its Emerging Master Award.

He spoke about his time at the School of the Arts, where he studied editing and thought about a career in documentary editing, before starting to act in fellow student David Gordon Green’s short films (and later in Gordon Green’s acclaimed George Washington and All The Real Girls, which Schneider co-wrote).

“I’ve been trying really hard to not take the money and work with the really interesting directors.” He added: “I’m really into filmmakers who make Ones or Tens, I don’t want to see a Five.” His credits include Lars and the Real Girl, Christophe Honore’s musical Beloved, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Zhang Yimou’s The Flowers of War.

Schneider talks about how seeing Campion’s The Piano at age 17 in a cinema of his hometown of Asheville, NC first gave him the idea of going to film school. “It really shook me up. It was the first time that I saw a movie that was entertainment and art,” he said. He kept the ticket stub from that screening and showed it to Campion on the set of Bright Star, which he called “my most favourite filmmaking experience” because of the people on set.

Well known to US TV audiences from NBC sitcom Parks & Recreation, he next appears in Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom for HBO.

The festival has rolled out the Southern hospitality (and Southern delicacies like pulled pork, hushpuppies, and legal moonshine) for other guests including Andrea Arnold, Hal Needham, Brady Corbet, Ron Livingston, Andrey Paounov, and Jeff Orlowski.