Vacant Positions: The Critical Lack of Coverage for Georgia Filmmakers Is Hurting Us and What We Can Do About That

...[We're] hoping to expose local production is through our on-set reports. Each issue, we will send reporters to the sets of Atlanta 's productions. We want to get the hype rolling before the film is done, hopefully building excitement that every production craves. This issue, we take a look at Academy Award winner Ray McKinnon's new project, Randy and the Mob , and prolific music video director Chris Robinson's first foray into features.

Of course, after the film is done, it's also important to celebrate. We'll do this in our "Day for Night" section, which features photo galleries of Atlanta 's biggest film and video events. We'll also give kudos in our "News & Notes" sections. The premiere of The Gospel leads the pack this time around. This movie grossed $8 million on its opening weekend. "Can you make it in Atlanta?" These guys show that you can.

The above are excerpts from Mike Friedman's writeup introducing CinemATL.  Looking back at the sections we had and how much we covered, what we started 7 years ago was ambitious for local filmmakers and writers to do it for no pay all while working day jobs and on our own projects.  In retrospect, the "Flashback/Flashforward" alone was probably a little insane to include as a regular feature.

That ambition paid off though and nowhere is that more evident than in the number of onset reports, event coverage and interviews we were able to do.  Included in that coverage was the Independent Black Film Festival, PinkEye, Mondo Homo, ATL, THE SIGNAL, I AM THE BLUEBIRD, Dailies, Toby Sells, Out on Film, the Atlanta Film Festival, Sundance, Rome International Film Festival, Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, EVIL KEG, Cinefe 8 theater, RANDY AND THE MOB and even the purchase of The Plaza by Jonathan and Gayle Rej in 2006.

Long before some of these films appeared on the festival circuit, we were there. While other outlets reviewed the movies at the local fests and screenings, we (along with Southern Screen Report and Shortend Magazine*) were among the few that attended and covered them in person. Often blogging daily. And I'm incredibly proud that we provided coverage on all of film in Atlanta including the theaters, film collectives and even the tax incentive in its original 2005 configuration.

There are sites like DoobiousArtsATL and Reel Georgia that have risen up since the days CinemATL got started. However, Doobious and ArtsATL's  focus beyond film is much more global than what we had in mind at CinemATL. And ArtsATL's focus on film is primarily reviews. And no one has matched the level of coverage on local productions or festivals and screenings that we, Shortend Magazine and Southern Screen Report collectively produced.

Don't take that as bragging and don't take that as a knock  on either of those sites or the folks behind them. All are vital. All do amazing work  (Doobious's photo coverage of the 2012 Atlanta Film Festival was able to accomplish more in one festival than I did in three years as communications director. And ArtsATL filled the hole created by AJC's changes and shifts in coverage over the last 10 years, far surpassing what AJC was even offering then. Reel Georgia has produced some of the best and more insightful reviews of AJFF and ATLFF films of the last few years).

The largest advantage we had was that we started CinemATL with 17 staff members. Which when no one is getting paid and has day jobs staff size is a major factor. It's now just mostly me, Martin, Diana and a few other folks that have been keeping the site going. As you can see, that drastic reduction has slowed us down and our output isn't as consistent.

This is not easy, can be downright frustrating and at times isn't without expense (our 2006 and 2007 Sundance trips were all self-financed, as well as the times we visited festivals like RIFF and stayed the weekend to cover them; and don't forget equipment like cameras, recorders, etc.). I wouldn't be surprised if you asked any of the folks how much they invested the number will easily creep into the hundreds, if not thousands when you're talking about a site that's been around for at least a few years.

So I respect what Doobious, Reel Georgia and others are doing.

It's going to be indigenous filmmaking and homegrown companies that will be the true measure of what we've built...

We at CinemATL made it our mission to cover everything we possibly could** and to treat an onset with a short filmmaker no different than a feature. We were willing to review and critique local films honestly (an element reflected in Doobious's new Film Slam; a much needed event I'M ECSTATIC to see come up and hope has a long life).

The landscape for film in Atlanta and Georgia has radically changed since 2005. The newest incentives in 2008 have lead to an explosion in big budget films being shot here and the number of filmmakers as well as film groups and collectives has also shot up. As such, we need more than a Doobious, a Burnaway, a CinemATL, or an ArtsATL are collectively doing to match that growth.

Georgia is no small state. When you factor in their locations, schools, festivals, filmmakers and potential, there are at least four major filmmaking centers in Atlanta, Athens, Macon and Savannah. Chances that you've*** gotten even the faintest idea of who might be the next group who has the talent to shoot a film like THE SIGNAL and not ATL based are slim. Knowing who might be the creator of the next Floyd County Productions out of SCAD and Savannah is about on par with that. And who will be the next James Ponsoldt? I doubt you know that too beyond a name here or there.

I see this as a critical time for filmmaking in Atlanta and Georgia.

It's spectacular that more films are being shot here. However, it's going to be indigenous filmmaking and homegrown companies that will be the true measure of what we've built.  What will strengthen and foster that are more ongoing conversations, introspection and dialogue about what we do and where we're going. We all have to be cheerleaders as well as critics.  We need to better bridge the gaps between the various sub-communities, including overcoming the self-segregation that exists. We need to encourage those who have the talent and skill that they can make it, but that they can make it here.  We need to continue expanding the definition of community and to make sure it's not only active, but forward thinking and pushes people to reach beyond their grasp. In this digital age we all need to have a clearer idea of who in Macon is making great shorts and who has popped up as a major screenwriting talent out of UGA.

I'm by no means trying to insinuate that what CinemATL did was perfect or that it's the lone solution. Not by a long shot.

Yet, I can only get so excited by yet another article in the AJC about Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson coming back to town when I'm just as hungry for news about what's going on locally. For the Atlanta Film Festival I have a sheet to keep track of films locally made and with local ties. Not just the films that have been submitted, it also includes films that have been shot or even rumored to exist--oh phantom productions, in what state of completion art thou. Oh what I wouldn't give to have one article on a local film in production pop up in my Google Alerts for  every one or two that does for a big budget production.

What can we do and gain if we increase local coverage?

  1. Help further forge our own identity - Ask what kind of films outside of  Zombie pics we make in Atlanta or Georgia one can't really answer. That's not a bad thing.
  2. Writers are our future filmmakers - From Truffaut to Bogdanavich, writing about film ALOT is still one of the best training grounds and a way for up and comers to become known.
  3. Writers are our current and future leaders of the film community - Going back to Doobious, it's fascinating to see how those group of kids have become some of the most active filmmakers in the city. Working on dozens of projects each year and producing their own events.  It's something also reflected in what Burnaway does. Martin our editor was co-founder of the Atlanta Screenwriters Group that's now in decade two of existence.
  4. The health of an arts community is measured in how honest their conversations are - This doesn't mean tearing films a part, but it means being able to have pointed discussions about what is and isn't working both on and offset, treating each others work with respect, and not being afraid to tell the truth.
  5. Identify the up and coming filmmakers of note
  6. Encourage filmmakers to challenge themselves
  7. Encourage filmmakers to start more businesses and companies here 
  8. Give filmmakers insights into what kind of businesses and companies they can start and that exist
  9. Help filmmakers better understand who is in the community, how big it is, and what the trends are
  10. Help put local filmmaking in a national and global context
  11. Highlight local concerns and opportunities
  12. Be an information resource

So how do we do this?

  1. If you want to cover films (not just review them, but do on set reports and interviews, please don't hesitate to contact us or post on Facebook page
  2. Be on the lookout for a recruitment drive and meet and greet from CinemATL in Athens and Macon
  3. Sister sites like Doobious are always looking for strong, -->committed<-- writers reach out to them
  4. Support sister sites like Doobious, Reel Georgia, Burnaway and ArtsATL and keep them in the loop, but also keep yourself in the loop
  5. BUT, actually read these sites before you send them stuff they can't use, aren't interested in and don't cover
  6. If you already cover film in Georgia make sure you let us know so we can follow you from time to time. if we like what we read we might even highlight you
  7. If you've complained about the lack of local coverage stop and turn that talk into action
  8. Demand more

Local Film and Event Coverage++


*It's no longer available, but founder and editor of Shortend Magazine Noralil Ryan Fores set a very high bar of what's possible in 2009. At that year's ATLFF she gave a less than favorable review of the film KINGS OF THE EVENING. The director  wasn't happy and what resulted was an interview in which Noralil gave him a chance to defend and discuss his film while not backing down from her criticisms.  I wish the audio for that was still available. It was an example of how to be respectful, offer readers and followers more than just the cursory write-up and review, and push the conversation.

**Covering DANCE OF THE DEAD was both fun and incredibly challenging because they were shooting at night almost the entire shoot. I'm shocked Dan Slemons  and I didn't crash on the way back from Rome driving at four in the morning. We also each had to be somewhere by 7am on a weekday. Yet, to get to see Gregg Bishop and crew at work--including seeing how the stunt training I covered with the actors weeks before come to life onset--I'd do it all gain.

***Global you. GLOBAL. Meaning yes you may personally know who these people are, but as a community at large we don't.

++I didn't include sites that weren't clear about their mission and coverage. There are lots of sites that are a combination of production and coverage and I feel that becomes confusing. A few sites I came across  featured mostly reviews of mainstream film and notable indies, but no coverage of local films or local events and I excluded those. There are other sites I'm completely skipping and that's not intentional. If you think a site is missing contact us so we can add it and to ensure we have it listed.