Revenue for film began to grow here in Georgia as early as 1972. As film began to generate a substantial amount of revenue – former Governor Sonny Purdue – revised the House Bill 610 (originally passed by Governor Roy Barnes) incorporating the revised Entertainment Industry Investment Act that we now have today. After that act was passed, Georgia began to change the game in the world of film. From being one of several top contenders vying for a number one spot outside of California and New York for film, it has outpaced the competition and is leading the way amassing over 5.1 billion in the last fiscal year alone.
Film is big Georgia business but as of 2013, it has become big Atlanta business. In order to step up efforts for film in the City of Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed called upon the expertise of LaRhonda Sutton, Director of the City of Atlanta Office of Entertainment, “to support the city’s rapidly expanding film industry.” This week, one of her dynamic team members, Lorielle Broussard – Marketing & Communications Manager – will share with Reel Focus readers what is going on in film with the City of Atlanta and how this office will help usher in developments in this industry.
Lorielle, it is an honor to have you on Reel Focus blog speaking to readers about the exciting things taking place in film in Atlanta. Tell our readers about how the office was started and what its vision is.
The Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Film & Entertainment was started in July 2013 to provide a one-stop-shop for productions interested in filming in Atlanta. Our office acts as a facilitator for productions to usher them through the city of Atlanta offices that they need to go through in order to make their projects happen. In doing this, it was created to streamline the permitting system for film and TV productions, assist with facilitating employment of local talent, create production-related educational and training opportunities, and work with community leaders to safeguard the interests of residents and businesses affected by film productions.
Georgia has several cities within it, vying to be the film capital within Georgia. Does Atlanta plan to become the premier place for film in Georgia and if so, what initiative is it taking to become as popular for filming as Fayetteville, or Senoia, or Covington.
As of right now, 75 – 80% of filming already happens in the city of Atlanta but part of the vision for this office is for Atlanta to be the cultural, economic and entertainment center of the Southeast, the nation and then the world. I think several of the new developments that are creating connectivity and walkability within the city of Atlanta like the new streetcar, the beltline, redevelopment of the Underground, the new stadium, the National Center for Civil & Human Rights, Buckhead Atlanta, etc. are really making Atlanta the place to film in Georgia. I think one of the major attractions to film in Atlanta is that there are several locations within the city that can look like any other city in the world, which is a huge draw for productions and producers.
As we all know, Georgia is growing rapidly in film. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development website, television, film, music, and gaming and digital media are attracting many to Georgia, generating 5.1 billion dollars in FY 2014. Tell us how much of this can be attributed to the city of Atlanta and how the Atlanta Office of Entertainment plans to become an even more substantial part of Georgia’s earnings in this fiscal year.
I know that we had a hand in the increase in the revenue generated for the city and the state. We do provide all of the permits for every production that films on public property in the City of Atlanta. In FY14, the revenue generated from permitting was at about $494,070.00 and since filming is tripling this year in Georgia, I know that there will be a significant increase in the amount generated from permitting for FY15.
Written by Melisha “Mel” Childs, Senior Blog Contributor
I’m sure most of you have heard of the new hit series on Fox called Empire and you may be familiar with some of its characters – Lucious, Cookie, Jamal, Andre, and Hakeem. But one person you may not be familiar with is Attica Locke. Lucious and Cookie may be the face of the hit series but Attica is one of writers for the series. This week, Reel Focus will explore one of the geniuses behind this phenomenal new series and will focus on how she built an “Empire” of her own.
Attica thank you so much for talking to our Reel Focus readers. We all of course are excited about your recent success with the new show but I want us all to go back down memory lane and get to know Attica Locke. How did your writing career begin?
AL: I have always been writing, even as a child. But somewhere around high school, when I saw Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, something clicked inside me and I wanted to be involved in film. I started writing scripts. I went to film school at Northwestern University in Chicago and then moved to LA as soon as I graduated. I wrote scripts exclusively at that time, but I was only thinking of them in terms of being a path to directing. I was a fellow at the Sundance Institute’s Feature Filmmaker’s Lab and came out of that with a movie deal, which collapsed shortly after. It broke my heart. I was 25 years old. I knew I could write but was not certain at that time that I would ever get my own movie made, or that Hollywood was interested in my kind of black stories. So I became a studio screenwriter. I made a lot of money writing scripts for every major studio. I did it for years, but nothing ever got made. I grew bored and disenchanted and decided to write a book. That was three books ago.
What is life like for you outside of Hollywood?
I am someone’s mother. So that’s mostly my life outside of Hollywood. Soccer games and play dates. And I read A LOT.
I myself am a book writer and screenwriter and so I’m going to ask this question on behalf of me and other fellow novelist and screenwriters. How did you make the successful transition from a book writer to a screenwriter and what advice can you give to the ladies of Women in Film and Television Atlanta?
As you see above, I was a screenwriter before I was a novelist. I came back to Hollywood because TV has gotten really interesting over the last decade or so. All the stuff I was doing as a feature writer – character dramas, political thrillers, etc. – has all moved to television. It’s hard to live off book money in Los Angeles, so I went to my agents and said I wanted to explore TV. I went in with an idea for my own show, but I also told them I’d like to look at the pilots that were going to series, and I wanted to take meetings. I had never done TV, so I was stepping waaayyyy outside my comfort zone. But I kept saying to myself, almost like a mantra, “I’m willing to be uncomfortable.” When I read the script for Empire, I knew I wanted to be part of it from the first page. It took a lot of meetings, but then I got the job!
My best advice is always to write, write, write, and be willing to stretch yourself. Reach high and stay ambitious. And believe in the power of your own voice.
Finally, the moment we have all been waiting for. Let’s talk – brag about your involvement with Empire. According to IMDB, you have co-produced 11 of the episodes of the first season and have written one: “Our Dancing Days.” I will let you share what you like to about this episode or about the show in general.
I love the show because it’s so fresh, so unprecedented. I’ve never seen these characters on TV before. I’ve never seen a Cookie on TV, though I’ve known them in my real life. I’ve never seen a Jamal on TV before, though I know young men like him in my real life. It’s all a breath of fresh air. And I love the fact that the show lives in a kind of high, low place. We do big soap opera turns and crazy plot twists, but we also deal with social issues like homophobia, mental health, race, and class. My favorite part of the episode I wrote was when Cookie took over the stage and gave the speech to investors in Lucious’s place. It was pure Cookie.
About a week ago, I – as did other WIFTA members and non-members alike – had the opportunity to listen to the zany presentation by Alex Orr. He filled the room with laughter about making it in independent film but his topic was no laughing matter. Despite the humorous comments, Alex was spot on when it came to educating the audience about the ins-and-outs of being an Indie producer. One of the first most memorable statements that he made about being a filmaker in general is:
“You do what you want and you don’t have anyone telling you what to do”
From there, he went on to explain some not so positive sides of producing Indie films but still critical to the role. “An Indie film producer wears many hats and may have to perform most if not all of the jobs that may be delegated to others for big budget films.” As he made this statement, he then pulled up a sample film budget, complete with all the detailed line items from a big budget film. This was followed by his reasoning for why most of these things are NOT NEEDED by and Indie producer.
“Minimal location changes and few scene changes in your film can take costs down tremendously,” said Alex. Many blockbuster films like James Bond films and Fast and Furious films have countless scene changes but these scene changes can drive up costs. Another significant point that Alex made is “if you wait on financing for your film, you will never get it made. Set a date and move forward with what you have.” Many have a tendency to go into analysis paralysis especially when analyzing budgets but going with the flow and not waiting on everything to fall into place is the way to go, according to Alex. “Get friends and family involved in order to keep down the costs of the film but compensate them with things such as providing meals,” Alex pointed out.
As Alex continued down the list, striking out a host of irrelevant line items for Indie producers, he responded to someone’s question about cameras to use. He mentioned the Arie Alexa camera as the one he often uses but he also shocked us when he told us that an Apple iPhone can be used. “With a zoom nearby you can sync the sound while you capture the image and cut it in editing software like iMovie,” explained Alex.
Alex ended the night by reminding us about how short an Indie budget should be. “While a big film budget will be generally 44 pages, Indie budget should be somewhere around 4.” He also reminded us that legal fees is one of those things that can be striked from the list of things needed in the budget; however, Indie film producers should make some serious considerations with regard to payroll or this could result in unwanted legal action. The audience digressed into this topic of payroll in film. One important point that was made is that it is important for an Indie producer to decide whether to use a payroll company to pay crew as independent contractors or to pay crews as employees using a 1099. Interchanging the two inadvertently can result in actions taken by the Department of Labor. This can be a really sticky issue as one audience member pointed out from her experience.
We ended the night on a great note. Alex took some questions from individual audience members and the remaining lingering audience members mingled. Those who were leaving also enjoyed a great treat, courtesy of WIFTA, from a place called Vintage Frozen Custard. Mmm. What a night filled with treats indeed – both Alex’s advice on Indie film and the custard.
Tinashe Kajese is no stranger to the world of acting. She is known for many acting roles on television and on stage. Born in Zimbabwe, this sensational lady has been embracing the challenges of stage and screen for several years and she is giving back to her local community by helping others to hone their acting skills. For this Reel Focus blog, we will explore Tinashe’s world, both on and off stage.
Tinashe, for those of our readers who are not familiar with who you are in the world of acting and entertainment, tell us the roles that you have played in film and/or on television.
I would say the majority of my television work has been in the form of National Commercials like McDonalds, Homegoods, Hilshire Farms, Ford, and many variations of banks!! People may have also caught a glimpse of me in the HBO show ENLIGHTENED or on CBS’ Cold Case.
What brought you to Atlanta?
My husband, Keith Arthur Bolden, was offered a professor position in the Theater Department at Spelman College just over a year ago. We have a young son and felt like there were so many exciting things happening in Atlanta not just in our industry but also culturally speaking that we decided to make the move and explore our opportunities in this up and coming market. Having lived in NYC and Los Angeles, I’m almost embarrassed to admit that Atlanta was never on our radar in terms of a career move but we have been so blessed personally and professionally I can’t imagine living anywhere else at this time in our lives.
Tell us what Tinashe’s world is like outside of the limelight.
As I mentioned, I have a 2 year old son, so motherhood is the center part of my life. I am also a certified Interior Architect Designer – I had gone back to school for my Masters so that I could fully explore my passion for design. I mostly do commercial design and some residential remodeling. Having this other outlet of artistic expression is so rewarding and I love the process of reconstructing spaces into functional works of art that can remain long after I leave.
Tell our readers more about your acting classes and what you do to develop talent for stage.
Theater is huge part of my background and career. I do believe that craft and talent is developed through practice and ‘exercising’ that muscle of effortless storytelling. Also, knowing how to adapt your performance for different mediums is so critical if you want to be successful in this business. There are so many classes out there that teach actors how to audition but what happens AFTER you book that role and are expected to recreate what you did 3 months ago on tape for casting? I teach a very specific technique on how to break down scripts and create the most dynamic performance which not only makes you a memorable actor but also a marketable one. Being on set can be extremely nerve racking so I give actors tools that take them from the initial audition, thru the table read and into a successful filming experience. See the link below for details.
What can be expected from you in the future?
I have a couple national commercials running for Haverty’s, a furniture store, and some projects lining up in the near future. I just finished a production of DETROIT ’67 at True Colors Theater Company and am now at the Alliance Theater in BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY alongside Atlanta’s fabulous Crystal Fox (April 15th-May 10th). The fact that I am able to still pursue my love for the theater while having the opportunity to do television and film gives me so much excitement about living here in Atlanta and what the future holds!
There is a lot of film activity taking place in Georgia. From Vampire Diaries, Madea, Anchorman 2 to the latest edition to film and television chronicles – The Originals – Georgia is getting into the game. It’s one thing to be in the game and another thing completely to stay in the game. How does anyone sustain growth in any successful market? Well, one pertinent way is to have useful and timely information and this usually comes from education.
As Georgia continues to film on location, build new production companies and other activities related to film, it can’t forget about training locals to fill positions in the local market. Spelman and Morehouse College is doing its due diligence and helping to create future stars. This week, Reel Focus will explore Spelman and Morehouse’s contribution to film and television by speaking to Keith Arthur Bolden – Assistant Professor in the Department of Drama and Dance at Spelman College – about their theater programs.
Keith, welcome to our blog. Tell us in general, about Spelman and Morehouse Theater programs and what it provides to students.
The Drama and Dance program at Spelman College provides students with a real world theatre experience in a liberal arts setting. A lot of people don’t know this but Morehouse doesn’t have a drama program (they do have a wonderful film and emerging media program). So the young men at Morehouse actually earn their acting chops at Spelman College. We are giving our young people a taste of everything that the art has to offer from front of house to technical aspects to actually acting in full productions. My focus since being here has been to prepare our students for graduate school if they want a future in the arts. We prepare them exceptionally well for further study as well as real world application.
How did you get involved in theater and eventually begin teaching theater?
I was a freshman at Fresno State University as a journalism major. They had just recruited a young professor – Thomas Whit Ellis – to establish a black theatre program. His first production was George C. Wolfe’s, The Colored Museum. Thomas had to recruit folks for this production and he’d come to University 101 classes to do this. I auditioned and I was hooked after being cast. I had no idea what theatre was or how to achieve it. Ironically I wrote a play about the birth of Christ when I was 8 years old and I did that never having seen a play. So I guess it’s always been there, but it was never nurtured. Theatre/acting has given my life purpose. The only reason I was a journalism major was to be a film critic because I never thought that I could actually be onscreen doing what I know I loved…little did I know.
Are Spelman and Morehouse preparing students for opportunities in the local market along with opportunities in places like California and New York?
I think that we give our students some tools to make a choice about what direction they want to go in the field. But they should always know that the training never stops. Just like a doctor or lawyer, there is always studying and training to be had. Even I still get coaching some times. Some of our favorite artists still receive coaching and they should know that. I am still a working actor and have work consistently since relocating here to Atlanta. I have lived in New York and Los Angeles and I am very aware of the temperament and landscape of each market and how rapidly it changes, specifically with emerging new media.
A lot of film and television shows are being shot on location here in Georgia as you know and there are a few schools around town that have had the opportunity to have their campus as a backdrop for production. Tell us what would be great features for Spelman and Morehouse, making it a great location for filming.
We have several locations that are excellent of course for classroom scenes, but we also have apartment style dormitories, cafeterias, executive meeting rooms, labs, theatres, parking structures and lots, stadiums, gyms and workout facilities, the list goes on and on. Anyone can film almost any type of scene here at Spelman or throughout the entire Atlanta University Center.
Season five of “Downton Abbey” had the melodrama of a telenovela with no character being untouched by conflict and troubles.
But Julian Fellowes heaped the heartache on the Crawley middle sister, Lady Edith.
At the beginning of the season, Lady Edith had taken back her daughter Marigold and hid her away with tenant farmer and adoptive couple the Drewes.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, should have been the tagline for this scheme. Lady Edith planned on checking in on Marigold as much as possible. But Mrs. Drewe, unaware of Marigold’s true identity, made the Crawley sister miserable with each visit. At one point, she denied Lady Edith seeing Marigold during one stopover. By midway through the season, Mrs. Drewe banned Lady Edith from seeing the little girl altogether.
Add the confirmed death of Mr. Gregson, Edith’s lover and Marigold’s father, and what an emotional rollercoaster ride for the character and the actress who plays her.
That would be Laura Carmichael and at the second annual “Downton Abbey” themed weekend at the Sea Island Resort this past January, she shared how she navigated playing so many scenes with such a heightened sense of emotions.
“Really when you’ve got a day which is a lot of your big storyline (days), those are kind of easier. You’re in it,” she explains. “They tend to schedule them together if they can. So they’ll put all of your big scenes in one day which can kind of help the concentration.”
“It’s a performance. So much of what happens to Edith is that she has to show that she’s fine even when she’s not. So it’s my job to always keep it in my mind and be on top of that.”
You can watch Carmichael discuss it in this video snippet of a panel discussion she appeared on during the weekend event alongside Kevin Doyle (Mr. Moseley) and Raquel Cassidy (Baxter) moderated by Jessica Fellowes, niece of Julian and “Downton Abbey” book author.
If you’re suffering from “Downton Abbey” withdrawal, here’s a fix. Visit Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Downton Abbey” store to stock up on t-shirts, mugs and other swag.
Written by Melisha “Mel” Childs, Senior Blog Contributor
Over a century ago, a tragic case gripped the state of Georgia and still seems to haunt its history. This was the case of Mary Phagan and Frank Leo, both of which were subjected to horrible deaths. Mary was a young lady believed to be raped and murdered by Leo Frank and he was a young man who was believed by some to be wrongly accused but brought to justice by brutal lynch mobs of the south not just for the crime itself but due to Antisemitism. I discovered the facts of this case some time ago while perusing channels on my television. What interested me the most is where the events connected to the case took place – Marietta, Georgia – which is near my home. Curious, I took a trip to the Marietta History Museum and found a little more information about the case. My inquisitiveness then led me even further to two incredible men from two different worlds who have also taken interest in the case and have made it a part of their life’s work.
Ben Loeterman is a director for the film The People vs. Leo Frank and owner of Ben Loeterman Productions, Inc. – an independent documentary film production company based in Boston, Massachusetts. His production company’s programs have aired on the PBS’s Frontline and American Experience and both BBC and Discovery Channel. Prominent works include The War That Made America, Golden Gate Bridge, The Long Road to War, and Inside the Terror Network.
Dr. Matthew Bernstein is a distinguished Emory University professor in the Film and Media Studies department who has written a book entitled Screening a Lynching – The Leo Frank case on Film and Television. Dr. Bernstein’s research and teaching is focused on the history of Hollywood. He also serves on the National Film Preservation Board, advising the Librarian of Congress on matters of film preservation and has received numerous awards including the 2008 IMAGE (Independent Media Artists of Georgia, Etc.) Award; the 2006 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Award; and the 2013 Emory University Faculty Creativity and the Arts Award . This week’s Reel Focus blog is something that I call a “genre mashup” in which I combine the works of two individuals who have the same interest in this case but have portrayed it in their respective genres.
MC: Ben, I am a Georgia film enthusiast so I have to ask this question. As a director you know all too well that some films are shot on location where the story is set and some are shot elsewhere and made to look like the setting. Aside from the event actually taking place in Georgia, what influenced your decision to film on location here in Georgia?
BL: Accents. First and foremost, I wanted the film to sound right, and that meant deciding up front to film in Georgia. It’s a big leap of faith in documentaries to include acting—recreations have become more familiar, but full-frontal naked faces—and then voices coming out of them—are still a rarity. So there’s a responsibility one feels to get the details right: the accents, the heat, the gestures. There is a long list of intangibles, from the obvious to the nuanced that you get from shooting on location. It was the first smart decision we took.
MC: Dr. Bernstein, in your book Screening a Lynching you draw conclusions based on two theatrical films and two television treatments of this case. Let’s pretend that The People vs. Leo Frank had been included in this list. Give a brief critique of how this film maker “researched and understood the case and why the production took the course that it did?”
MB: If there is ever a revised edition, I would insist on a new chapter on Ben’s excellent documentary (Ben, I’d be calling you for extensive interviews and access to your papers, if they are available). All the moving image treatments of the case are shaped not just by the filmmakers’ vision, but by the constraints placed upon them. But what struck me is how well researched each version was.
Ben’s is no different in this regard, but The People v. Leo Frank, in just 75 minutes, provides the most accurate and rounded treatment of the case to date. Aside from Ben’s considerable gifts as a visual storyteller, the film benefits immensely from the input of Steve Oney, author of And the Dead Shall Rise, a superb, novelistic account of the case that Steve painstakingly researched. One of the key figures Steve brought forward for our attention was the attorney William Smith, who defended black defendant/witness for the prosecution Jim Conley and ultimately became convinced of Leo Frank’s innocence, to the extent that he was still obsessing about it on his deathbed. In addition, Ben’s film is innovative in its use of documentary form—what he calls “dramatized documentary.” He got some excellent performances from the lead actors portraying Leo Frank and Jim Conley in the re-enactment scenes, but he also chose to have the film narrated by the William Smith character. I’m not sure I’ve seen that done before.
MC: This question is for both of you. In both of your mediums – Ben, yours being film and Dr. Bernstein, yours being non-fiction books – tell our readers what you are trying to convey and why books and films on this topic and ones similar to this are so critical to be told to mass audiences.
BL: In film, we’re trying most to convey a visceral, emotional, intimate telling of the story. Books can be better at portraying the power of facts, but nothing conveys emotion to a mass audience like film. And it’s critical to tell these kinds of stories to a mass audience for two reasons: 1) their underpinnings are universal and, 2) stories like this have a way of being bound to the places they happen. I was so stunned as a West Coast, reform Jew that I had never heard of the story of Leo Frank growing up. And that so many people in my present hometown of Boston have never heard the story. That seems criminal to me, and the critical reason to tell them in a big way to big audiences.
MB: As a Long Island, New York reform Jew, I too had never heard of the Leo Frank case until I came to Atlanta in 1989. And I agree with Ben—the moving image still has a power and immediacy that supersedes any other form. Look at the heated attacks that greeted Alma DuVarney’s Selma, over the depiction of LBJ. People are criticizing the film, wrongheadedly in my opinion, because of the medium’s power to communicate the history of the Civil Rights Movement at this juncture. Actually documentarians like Ben and historians like myself have a great deal in common. Ben presents the history of the case; I present the history of the screen versions of the case. Historians and filmmakers like Ben and I both undertake research and construct a narrative interpretation of what happened in the past. Books do have the latitude to provide more historical context, but then, Ben’s film expertly provides a good deal of it through the talking head historians (Dan Carter, Melissa Faye Green, Nell Irvin Painter) who comment on the case.
MC: Fun question for both of you. If the two of you had to work together on a film based on a true story and Ben, you of course being the director and Dr. Bernstein you serving as a consultant on set – helping the director and crew develop the storyline as realistically and creatively as possible – what would that film be?
BL: The film I’m sorriest not to receive funding for is another criminal justice tale about Clarence Darrow, known as the ‘lawyer for the damned.’ The 1910 bombing of the Los Angeles Times (in my home town) put Darrow at the center of a large social drama then gripping the nation: the titanic struggle between labor and management as personified in the struggle between Times publisher Harrison Gray Otis and the labor movement led by Samuel Gompers. With such protean issues at stake, Darrow cracks under pressure and decides that, to achieve the greater good, he is willing to bend the means and attempts to bribe two jurors in the LA Times bombing case.
So much of the story turns not on the facts, but on Darrow’s internal state of mind in reaction to the facts, that it becomes a Rashomon story. And why it would be so critical to have people like Matthew to speculate on the egos, emotions and states of mind that propelled the major players in the case… MB: The film I’d like to see produced is a biopic or documentary about the subject of my first book, a major Hollywood “independent” producer from the 1930s through the 1960s. He made films at the time of David O. Selznick and Samuel Goldwyn. He’s forgotten now, but he made some major Hollywood classics from the 1920s through the 1960s: Greta Garbo in Queen Christina, John Ford’s Stagecoach, Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent, Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street, the original invasion of the Body Snatchers , and the 1963 Liz Taylor-Dick Burton Cleopatra. He understood the power of film to influence people, was president of the Academy during World War II, but also shot his wife Joan Bennett’s lover in a parking lot in Beverly Hills in the early 1950s and served a jail sentence. Just a fascinating man full of contradictions. I would need Ben’s expertise on how to handle the story, how to frame it, what to leave out and what to leave in, but I do think we begin in that parking lot and then flashback to his privileged childhood . . . . .
It’s that time of the year again when stars are born and dreams are turned into reality. I’m referring to movie-making magic at its finest brought to you by one of the best film festivals in the world: Atlanta Film Festival. Ok, I am being a little braggadocios but I’m excited about this film festival and here to get you equally excited about it is Cameron McAllister, Marketing Director for the Atlanta Film Festival.
Thank you Cameron for joining us on the Reel Focus blog. Tell our readers what makes the Atlanta Film Festival a distinctive film festival compared to some really great ones taking place across the nation and worldwide.
The Atlanta Film Festival is a cultural institution for the city. We are one of America’s oldest film festivals and only two-dozen other US festivals are Academy-Award qualifying. But I think our biggest asset is the experience we offer. First of all, Atlanta in the spring is a beautiful place. We bring in filmmakers from across the globe and show them the best of what our city and our industry has to offer. We don’t want to put on airs, but be real with people and showcase the character that this city possesses. Not just for filmmakers, but for our members and patrons, we offer year-round programming through film screenings, educational opportunities, parties, and partnerships with local businesses, artists and organizations that share our goal of enriching Atlanta.
Can you name some famous film professionals who got their start right here with the Atlanta Film Festival?
Spike Lee, Robert Rodriguez, Ray McKninnon, James Ponsoldt, David Gordon Green all showed their first works at our festival and have gone on to be paramounts in the directing community.
With all the growth in film taking place statewide, have you seen an enormous amount of growth with the Atlanta film industry as a result?
Absolutely! It’s not just the big Hollywood productions that are aplenty, Georgia’s indie film scene is booming too. One sign of that is that we have 12 Georgia-tied features and 17 Georgia-tied shorts. We’ve never had that high a number of local films in our program and we are so excited about every single one.
As the industry grows here, what does AFF have in store for expansion?
Just as Atlanta grows in the industry, we’ve seen growth for our festival too. It isn’t just the number of local films that are submitted, it is also the local interest. People get excited when they encounter film productions on their street or in their neighborhood. That fuels a desire to get involved, and what better place to do so than the Atlanta Film Festival? We are almost 40-years-old (next year!) and I can’t think of a better time to celebrate a big birthday than with the film boom happening right as it is. We’ve reached out to studios and they’ve reached out to us… we can’t reveal our plans just yet… but I can assure you that they are exciting!
Why should people come out to this year’s film festival and what is in store for the general public?
Off the top of my head, there are a few reasons that people should come out… 1. Because they love Atlanta. 2. Because they love movies. 3. Because they love BOTH! Seriously, there are a myriad of great films, television programs, events, parties, movie stars, musical performances and other great things people can expect from this year, but our goal is to use all of these things to enrich our community and give our city a valuable resource. Not to mention, there are nearly 30 productions with Georgia ties in our lineup this year, so you will be supporting the local industry as well!
Written by Melisha “Mel” Childs, Senior Blog Contributor
Susan B. Anthony…Elizabeth Cady Stanton…Olympe de Gouges…Michelle Paradise?
Yes you read the list of names correctly. Michelle Paradise is a part of this legacy of strong women too listed above and reasonably so. Just as these other women broke down barriers and created opportunity for women that followed them, Michelle is doing something very similar for women entering Hollywood. Everyone in this industry knows that this is a difficult industry to break into whether you are a man or a woman but it’s always great to know that there are women who are paving a way for other women to follow. In celebration of Women’s History month, I invited actor and writer Michelle Paradise to Reel Focus blog to tell us more about a topic that will never get stale on Women in Film and Television Atlanta’s site: women successfully making it in Hollywood.
M.C: Thank you Michelle for accepting my invitation. I first would like to begin by allowing you to tell everyone about your more popular roles that you have played either as an actor or writer in Hollywood. Ie. What would people know you for?
MP: I’m probably best known for the series Exes & Ohs, which ran for two seasons on Logo in the U.S. and on Showcase/SuperChannel in Canada (it’s now available via iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix). It was based on a short film that I wrote and acted in, and I also wrote and acted in all the episodes of the series itself. It was an amazing project to be part of, and the fact that I got to wear so many hats – writing, acting, and producing – was a great experience all the way around. I’m currently writing on The Originals, which airs on the CW and it is one of the network’s biggest hits, so some folks might know me from that. Of course, if you look at my face and feel a sudden compulsion to brush with Crest toothpaste then it could also be that you recognize me from my commercial work (I’ve done dozens of commercials as an actor).
MC: Tell us more about Michelle Paradise – the “outside of Hollywood limelight” woman? What do you do to “normalize” your life off set?
MP: I’m not sure how to answer that, actually. My life is incredibly normal. I go to an office every day – but in my case, the office just happens to be a large room where the writers for our show gather to talk about the stories for the season or the particular episode we’re working on. It’s a normal workday with fairly typical hours and then I go home to my family, spend time with my daughter before she goes to bed, that sort of thing. The only time that we, as writers, go to set is when the episode we’ve written is being filmed. The Originals shoots near Atlanta, so we fly out there for our episode and help oversee the process of prep and shooting. On our show, we’ll typically write or co-write 3-4 episodes per season; other than those times, we’re in the Los Angeles office working with the other writers.
MC: What was it like for you to break the glass ceiling in Hollywood and make your mark?
MP: I’ve certainly had an unusual career path (not many people get their short film turned into a television series!) but I don’t feel I’ve broken any glass ceilings along the way. The fact that I’m a woman working in this business at all is thanks to the many talented and determined women that came before me. Writers like Frances Marion and Anita Loos, directors like Dorothy Arzner, comedians like Lucille Ball. They all paved the way many years ago but there are still plenty of women who are paving the way today… Kathryn Bigelow, Laverne Cox, Shonda Rhimes, and my own boss Julie Plec, just to name a few. The fact that these women have proven so successful makes it that much easier for those of us coming after them.
MC: What advice do you have for aspiring actors/writers? What advice do you have for career changers who are thinking about quitting their current jobs and getting into Hollywood?
MP: The best advice I can give is to hone your craft before leaving your current job. Acting and writing are both skills that must be learned (and the best actors and writers never stop learning, even after they’re doing it professionally). Take classes, attend workshops, study great performances and/or great scripts. If you want to be an actor, audition for local theater productions, student films, or indie films; take a scene study class or an improv class. Don’t rush to get an agent. Get the training you need so that when you do get an agent or an audition for a big project, you’re ready. If you want to be a writer, write. There are great books on screenwriting that can help you along the way (just do a google search and you’ll find them). Start watching films or television shows with a critical eye. Find a writing class, get involved in a writers’ group. Ask friends to read your work who will give you honest – if hard to hear – feedback. And again, don’t rush to get an agent. You might only get one shot at having them read your material so make sure your material is ready to be seen. Lastly, you’ll need to decide if you want to stay in the Atlanta area or move to Los Angeles or New York. As an actor, there are so many productions shooting in and around Atlanta that a trained actor can probably work fairly steadily – but keep in mind that the larger roles are almost always cast out of L.A. or N.Y. Whether or not to move is a question of balancing career goals with lifestyle choices, and only you will know what’s right for you. As a writer, it depends on whether you’re interested in film, theater, or television. For film or theater, it doesn’t matter as much where you live; for television, there are a handful of writers’ rooms in New York but the vast majority of them are in Los Angeles. It’s also worth noting that acting and writing are both highly competitive industries. The harsh reality is that most actors and writers in Hollywood are out of work at any given time, so if you want to change careers – and possibly make a move – I’d strongly suggest having a solid job opportunity before doing so.
Written by Melisha “Mel” Childs, Senior Blog Contributor
On February 22, 2015, the 87th Annual Academy Awards aired on WSB-TV in Atlanta. In support of film professionals who were nominated and awarded on this special night, Women in Film and Television Atlanta hosted an Oscar Party at Studio No. 7 in downtown Atlanta. It was truly a night to remember and this is what I remembered. . .
. . .many were engaged in conversation and enjoying the ambiance. . .
. . .the red carpet show on TV kept some of us entertained. . .
. . .while the actual awards ceremony kept the rest of us occupied as winners were announced at the Oscars. . .
. . .let’s not forget about those Oscar trivia games that kept us guessing during commercial breaks. . .
. . .and when games weren’t being played, we were moving and grooving to the talented musical crew. . .
. . .still others were simply satisfied with looking good for the evening and indeed there were a lot of well-dressed, good-looking men and women at the event.
Attendees, did you get to see your WIFTA Red Carpet photos? If not check them out here in this gallery.
Did you miss out on all the fun we had? Click here to see the video and make sure to join us next year. . .
Event photos by Mel.
Red Carpet photos courtesy of Red Carpet Express.
Video courtesy of Angela Wingers of WingersMedia.com.