Building Up Atlanta's Indie Film Scene Part 1: Does Atlanta Have an Indie Film Scene?

I'm assuming you're reading this site because you are either vested in Atlanta's film scene, or you have a passing interest in it. It's also probably safe for me to guess that if you're an Atlanta filmmaker, you'd answer yes to the above question. A few years a go, I too would have answered the same. Now? I'd say that at best, we have half a film scene.

True, we do have a lot of filmmakers. Many turning out new work every few months. And we definitely have one of the larger crew bases in the country.

If having a large filmmaking community was enough, we'd be all good. Yet, a thriving Indie Film Scene is more than about counting bodies and productions. It's not even about producing "better" projects. And it's not even about finding more money (what!?!). It's not even about exhibiting more films locally (WTF!?! FU Charles!).

Those elements each play a part, most definitely. However, having a dynamic film scene, an interesting film scene, is at its heart, all about conversations, continuous growth, new challenges and constant reinvention. It's about being in a place where risks are taken and filmmakers push each other creatively. It's about an environment that fosters the development of new voices and building up an excitement that extends beyond the core film community.

These last two points are key.

Metro Atlanta is a city of 5 million and frankly over the last few years, we--and that we does include where I work, I'm not letting myself or my organization off the hook--haven't done the best job of tapping into that population to create new film fans or find the folks doing interesting work and giving them a supportive infrastructure.

If we can't get beyond our friends, families and co-workers to see our work, what hope do we have in engaging audiences beyond Metro Atlanta? What hope do we have that what we do will be rediscovered 3, 5 or 20 years from now. If we aren't creating spaces that allow filmmakers to experiment and fail, if we aren't offering them useful feedback they can apply to their next projects, why should we expect to see anything new or daring?

So right now, we have half a film scene. We've got a lot of the pieces and the ambition and the talent is here. Question is, how do we bring the elements together to elevate Atlanta's Film Scene to another level?

Before I get to that, we need to let go of a few of the basics:

  1. We must let go of the feature film and a theatrical screening as the holy grails. I'm not suggesting filmmakers stop making features or aiming for theatrical. I'm suggesting we expand how we tell stories and how we present (deliver) those stories. Not every story is meant to be a feature, not every film works best in a theater. And audiences want choices.
  2. We must let go of the idea that shorts are only good as calling cards. They need to be seen as being a part of a filmmaker's entire body of work. And they shouldn't be approached as if they're a culmination of everything a filmmaker has learned either. It's also silly to treat something that some will spend months and even years on as little more than an expensive, time consuming, business card.
  3. We must let go of the idea that we should make better films. Making better films as a goal is much too intangible. We need to be thinking about not only incremental growth, pushing ourselves to take chances in specific areas of our filmmaking. We should also be targeting filmmakers on a individual level. It's not the films we need to invest in, it's the people.
  4. We must let go of the idea that more money is the answer. Money is a tool, it's not a solution.
  5. If we have any fear of failure, we must let that go. If we're going to sit around, waiting for someone else to find the answers first because we don't want to put any skin in the game, we might has well not even participate.

If you have your own ideas about how to build up Atlanta's Indie Film Scene, please post them here. I'd love to hear them. They may even influence where I go with part 2.