Oz Magazine May / June 2024

Page 1



Cover Story: "Thirty Years in the Making," p.24

Phillip Rob Bellury began his career many moons ago as a journalist and feature writer for magazines and newspapers. He established The Storyline Group in 1992 and is credited as editor, author, and publisher of thirty-plus books. He also began writing and producing film and television in the 1990s, and in recent years has focused on writing and producing feature film and stage plays. He firmly believes that good stories have the power to educate and influence, especially if they are compelling and entertaining.


Feature Story: " We're Here," p.38

Mukari Rashad is no stranger to the world of entertainment. Getting his start with reality television pioneers Simmons-Shelley Entertainment (Tracey Baker-Simmons & Wanda Shelley) to currently assisting in coordinating a number of Atlanta-based scripted productions, has allowed him to play a major role in the success of the Atlanta film industry and what it has become today. As an Art Institute of Atlanta alumna and member of IATSE Local 161, he continues to push boundaries and shift narratives about the way Production life can exist harmoniously with human life. When he’s not clocked in at the “Olivia Pope & Associates of Film” aka The Production Office, he’s spending time focusing on family, self & health. Applying this versatile & necessary aesthetic to every day life allows him to not only enrich his life, but also inspire the enrichment of others’ lives.


Feature Story: "Homegrown ," p.32

Anni is an Emmy award winning Atlanta-based Producer with a Journalism degree from Georgia State.

A passionate storyteller, her experience includes writing and producing several unscripted TV shows with a focus on home and food. In her downtime, Anni is a ferocious reader, who loves so spend time with friends, foster (and occasionally adopt) dogs, and discover the best local pastries and desserts.

4 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990
Publisher Tia Powell (Group Publisher) Sales Monique McGlockton Stacy Coleman Jayla Liner Creative Director & Production Christopher Winley Contributing Editors Adrena Walton Winston Andrews Cover: Image Courtesy Phillip Rob Bellury
Oz Magazine is published bi-monthly by Oz Publishing, Inc. 2566 Shallowford Road Suite 104, #302 Atlanta, GA 30345 Copyright © 2024 Oz Publishing Incorporated, all rights reserved. Reproductions in whole or in part without express written permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited. This magazine is printed on recyclable paper. ozmagazine.com /ozmagazine /ozmagazine /ozpublishing For Advertising Information: 404.633.1779 For Press Release Submission: tia@ozonline.tv
MAY / JUNE 2024


Feature Story: "Creative Labor Gets A Second Chance," p.44

Carol Badaracco Padgett is an Atlanta-based writer who covers the professional film industry. A FOLIO: Eddie Award-winning editor, writer and copywriter, she is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s broadcast sequence and holds a Master of Arts in communication from Mizzou’s College of Arts & Science. She is also a member of Women in Film and Television Atlanta (WIFTA), and is working on her first screenplay under the guidance of Atlanta film industry mentors and friends. Her poetry of the past was chosen by Chanel for the launch of its Allure fragrance. In her downtime, she loves to watch films and live performances around Atlanta, spend time outdoors with her horse, August, play tennis, and make regular autumn trips across the Atlantic to experience the world and its cultures.


Feature Story: " RE:imagine Brings New Post Production Track to Metro Atlanta and Gwinnett County," p.50

Emma Warner is a film curator and professional living in Atlanta, GA. She is currently Coordinator for the Artist Accelerator program at Sundance Institute and a Programming Fellow at the Athena Film Festival.


OzCetera: A compilation of recent news and hot projects , pgs.8-23

My name is Winston Andrews. I am an Atlanta native, lifelong lover of film, and die-hard Falcons fan. Currently, I am a graduate student in the Accounting program at Georgia State.

May / June 2024 5 5 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.
MAY / JUNE 2024
May / June 2024 7 CONTENTS MAY / JUNE 2024 24 COVER STORY "Thirty Years in the Making" The production journey of film "The Neon Highway" 24 32 38 FEATURE STORY "We're Here" Drag Queens discuss the drag experience 44 FEATURE STORY "Creative Labor Gets A Second Chance" What terms were included after the SAGAFTRA Strikes 50 FEATURE STORY "RE:imagine Brings New Post Production Track to Metro Atlanta and Gwinnett County" RE:imagine launchs new Post Production Track 32 FEATURE STORY "Homegrown" Feel-good, TV show "Homegrown" begins it's fourth season 38 44 50

Casting Call for Superman Film in Macon

Casting directors are looking for extras in an upcoming Warner Bros. Superman film, set to be filmed in the Macon area toward the end of May. The movie was initially titled Superman: Legacy, as a part of James Gunn’s DC Universe reboot. However, Gunn recently simplified the title to Superman.

An updated announcement on auditionsfree.com, referencing centralcasting.com, specifies the need for individuals in Middle Georgia who can portray characters of South Asian or Caucasian descent for specific scenes. South Asians of all ages, including minors, are encouraged to apply, while white actors must be 18 years old or older.

According to the release, “You will be asked to run in the sand with loud sounds going off occasionally

around you, so please be sure you are physically equipped and can work for 12 hours a day for four days straight in Macon, Georgia.To get involved in the movie, individuals are requested to send their name, contact details (including phone number and email), and a recent photo to zoltar@centralcasting.com.

Additionally, candidates have the option to sign up with Central Casting by visiting centralcasting.com/ga/sign-up.

Despite the Superman shoot being limited to just a few days, production teams are expected to spend an extended period in Macon to prepare for filming. Although specific filming locations have not been officially disclosed, insider information suggests that a film crew will establish temporary facilities in the Terminal Station following the Macon-Bibb County Planning

& Zoning Commission's relocation to Macon Mall. These dates align with the shooting schedule outlined in the casting announcement.

Additional reports indicate that filming for the movie is presently underway at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville.

Plot summaries suggest that the film will explore Superman's attempt to reconcile his Kryptonian heritage with his upbringing as Clark Kent in Smallville, Kansas. Immortalized as the embodiment of truth, justice, and the American way, Superman faces the challenge of upholding these ideals in a world where they are often deemed outdated.

The role of the new Superman will be played by David Corenswet.

The movie is set to be released on July 11, 2025.

8 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990 OzCetera

Atlanta’s Bid to Host Sundance

Atlanta is making a push to host the esteemed Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance Institute, the entity overseeing the festival, officially initiated an inquiry this month to scout potential U.S. cities for its future venue. Their existing contract with Utah is slated to end in 2027, casting uncertainty over Park City's longstanding 40-year affiliation with the event.

Following the inquiry, Chris Escobar, the executive director of the Atlanta Film Society, made waves by announcing Atlanta's bid to host the festival. Escobar unveiled the city's ambitions to replace the traditional snowy landscapes of Park City and Salt Lake City, Utah with Atlanta as the potential new backdrop for the prestigious event.

Escobar explained, "we’re in the preliminary step of Sundance’s RFI process before we know if Atlanta is chosen to go on to the RFP process."

Sundance, the undisputed heavyweight of the indie film scene, attracts talent and visitors like a beacon, boasting over 86,000 attendees just last year and injecting a substantial $97 million into Utah's economy. Atlanta, with its thriving film industry and dynamic cultural scene, has the potential to usher in a new era of Sundance.

"We want to ensure that the Festival continues to thrive culturally, operationally, and financially as it has for four decades," added the festival’s director, Eugene Hernandez.

Although a location change is being considered, Sundance still has until October 2024 to make its final decision, and the festivals for 2025 and 2026 are still set to take place in Utah. In the meantime, Atlanta must do its best to present a compelling proposal to the Sundance organizers.

New VFX Studio Opening in Georgia

Grey TeleCalifornia-based VFX Studio, Whiskey Tree, has officially opened a Georgia location.

The office, which commenced operations in January of 2024, is twice as large as the California location and currently in the process of recruiting artists and technicians to fill job openings.

“Georgia is a global hub for the entertainment industry, thanks to incredible support from the state, and a growing infrastructure that can handle some of the largest film and television productions in the world,” said Whiskeytree’s CEO/Founder, Jonathan Harb. “We had to expand to keep up with the demand for our services, and

opening a new location in Georgia that will work directly with productions shooting there was the obvious choice.”

Whiskeytree was founded by Harb back in 2007 to fulfill demand for additional post-production facilities, making Georgia the perfect place for an expansion. With the new operational capacity, many more projects are on the way.

Whiskeytree’s resume includes working with mega streamers like Netflix, Marvel, LucasFilm, and Apple to provide VFX services on projects like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Star Wars: Andor, and The Mandalorian among many others.

Incoming! The 2024 BLACK GIRLS ROCK Awards

Atlanta will host the 2024 edition of the BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Awards.

Throughout its history, BLACK GIRLS ROCK! (BGR) has recognized trailblazers, entertainers, icons, activists, innovators, business leaders, influencers, and emerging talents in the African-American community.

The highly anticipated ceremony will take place live on June 27, 2024, at Atlanta's Fox Theatre.

Alongside the main event are a variety of festivities across

Atlanta, including The BGR! Expo, the annual BGR! Film Festival, the BLACK CLOUD Tech Summit, and the BGFEST concert series.

"Atlanta's vibrant cultural heritage provides the ideal backdrop for our celebration," remarked BGR’s founder, Beverly Bond. "Establishing the BLACK GIRLS ROCK!® Awards and the BLACK GIRLS ROCK!® EXPERIENCE in Atlanta represents a critical juncture for our brand.”

10 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990

Phone Up Studios Commences Atlanta Expansion

Phone Up Studios Inc. has announced plans to expand operations by adding two studios in Atlanta, GA, and Los Angeles, CA.

The new facilities, which are expected to open in 2026, represent a significant achievement for the company, enabling it to enhance its production capacities through the state-of-theart filmmaking technology and resources available in premier locations like Los Angeles and Atlanta.

Phone Up Studios, founded in 2017, launched its film

production division in November of 2023 and is now building expertise in a spectrum of genres, spanning gripping thrillers to touching dramas.

“We are extremely thrilled about the prospects of these two new film studios,” declared Phone Up’s Founder and CEO, Felipe Vasquez. “With these ongoing expansion efforts, we are excited about the endless possibilities that lie ahead and look forward to embarking on this journey!”

May / June 2024 11

Discover Dunwoody Fostering Connections in the Film Industry

As Assembly Atlanta, the latest and most extensive studio campus in the metropolitan area, takes shape, Discover Dunwoody is actively enhancing its ties with the entertainment sector.

“Having more movies, television, and other entertainment produced in this area means that increasing numbers of business and leisure travelers will come to the area, stopping at hotels, and visiting our restaurants,” explained Discover Dunwoody’s Executive Director, Ray Ezelle.

To extend their film industry network, Discover Dunwoody is joining forces with the Georgia Production Partnership (GPP), Women in Film and Television Atlanta (WIFTA), and Georgia Entertainment News.

“Of course, we have worked for many years with the DeKalb Entertainment Commission. We’re in the process of learning more about the entertainment industry and the best way for us to do this is form ties with the industry’s organizations,” added Ezelle. “The opportunities to produce economic development growth and to create jobs—directly and indirectly—that pay well and provide exciting career paths are enormous.”

In regards to WIFTA, Discover Dunwoody will fund 50 memberships.

“There are many women who would like the benefits of WIFTA membership but are held back by the cost. We’re pleased to be able to help 50 women clear that hurdle. This initiative reflects

Discover Dunwoody’s dedication to fostering growth and development within the entertainment sector, contributing to the legacy of WIFTA’s half-century commitment to women professionals in the field,” explained Ezelle.

Discover Dunwoody also recently created a program that recognizes outstanding efforts from Production/ Travel/Procurement associates like February’s honoree, Maria Venessa Reyes, a Venezuelan production coordinator with a masters degree in film and television production.

12 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990

Atlanta Welcomes ‘Traction Park Massacre’ Film Crew

Anew horror movie, ‘Traction Park Massacre,’ is filming just outside Atlanta. Directed and scripted by Adam Dubin (known for his work on 'Murder at the Front Row' and 'A Year and a Half in The Life Of Metallica'), it's a throwback to the slasher flicks of the Eighties, taking cues from beloved classics like ‘Evil Dead,’ ‘Friday the 13th,’ and ‘Saw.’ Nestled within the eerie confines of an abandoned amusement park, the movie thrusts the characters into a harrowing encounter with the

menacing Terror Twins, brought to life by Kai and Bodhi Schulz (recognizable from their roles in 'American Horror Story'). Fueled by a pulse-pounding soundtrack featuring classic metal hits and an Eighties-inspired score courtesy of Alex Skolnick of Testament fame, Traction Park Massacre promises an electrifying fusion of nostalgia and terror.

According to Dubin, “'Traction Park Massacre' is a horror movie with many comedic elements. The story is always moving forward taking our

Dcharacters deeper into the dark hearts of the terror twins, Otto and Emil and their twisted fantasy world.”

Producer Jack Gulick added, “not only is the film crew, camera, grip, electric, special effects, and all the post-production team from Georgia, we also made a huge effort to look to local acting talent before we looked elsewhere, and the result is a cast that is over 95 percent local.”

Accident on Set: Collision while Filming 'The Pickup'

uring filming for The Pickup, an Amazon MGM Studios production starring Eddie Murphy, a car and a truck collided, resulting in injuries to several crew members, two of whom required hospitalization.

According to the studio, the incident occurred during a scene rehearsal in Georgia, and all safety measures were reportedly in place.

None of the lead actors like Murphy, Keke Palmer, or Pete Davison were involved in the accident.

Injuries included minor bumps and bruises to more severe cases like broken bones. Two crew members were transported to the hospital, with one still there as of Tuesday. Fortunately, all are expected to fully recover.

The collision occurred just outside of Atlanta when a truck malfunctioned and struck a car.

“It was a completely freak accident,” stated a bystander. “It wasn’t even a complicated or dangerous stunt.”

This particular scene was being

filmed by a secondary unit, typically tasked with shooting less crucial scenes that do not require the main director or lead actors.

The movie is helmed by Tim Story, known for directing films like Barbershop (2002) and Fantastic Four (2005). Production has been ongoing in Georgia since February 20th. Although there's no confirmed release date yet, the incident is not anticipated to cause any scheduling delays.

14 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990

King' Moving to ATL’s Eagle Rock Studios

The Paramount+ series Tulsa King, starring Sylvestor Stallone, is moving its filming and production to Georgia after filming its debut season in Oklahoma.

The official start date for season two filming is still TBD, although creators have announced that production will take place at Eagle Rock Studios in Norcross, Georgia.

Some believe that the motivation for the location change is related to resistance from Oklahoma government officials concerning the state’s film tax credit. The annual cap for movie and film incentives sits at $30 million while Georgia is one of six states without a tax credit cap

As for the show itself, Stallone plays the main character Dwight "The General" Manfredi, a 75-year-old former New York gangster just out of a 25-year incarceration. Upon release, he's promptly exiled to Tulsa by his ex-boss's son. In this unfamiliar territory, he endeavors to renew his criminal tendencies.

Joining Stallone is Dana Delaney, Garrett Hedlund, Andrea Savage, Martin Starr, Jay Will, Max Casella, Domenick Lombardozzi, Vincent Piazza, and A.C. Peterson.

16 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990

Georgia-Lensed Mea Culpa Streaming Now

Mea Culpa premiered on Netflix this February and quickly claimed the top position on the charts.

The legal thriller centers around Mea, a defense attorney played by Kelly Rowland who finds herself romantically entangled with the defendant in a murder case.

Written and directed by an Atlanta film legend, Tyler Perry, Mea Culpa was

filmed primarily in-and-around Atlanta as Perry, whose entire Medea series filmed in Atlanta, has consistently rooted his filmmaking endeavors in this city.

The metropolitan area is the perfect location to mirror the high-octane lifestyle of an attorney like Mea. From her bustling office to the intimate settings in Zyair's apartment and the dramatic courtroom scenes, the vibrant cityscape of Atlanta

provided the ideal setting.

Tyler Perry Studios built almost every set used for interior shots, providing a controlled environment that facilitated efficient production. Custom-built sets for apartments and offices were meticulously crafted for the film, while exterior shots were predominantly limited to the studio backlot.

May / June 2024 17

The 2024 Black Effect Podcast Festival

APullman Yards in Atlanta once again played host to The 2024 Black Effect Podcast Festival last weekend, serving as a platform to showcase, empower, and magnify Black voices within the podcasting realm.

Marking its second consecutive year, the festival united podcast enthusiasts and leading talents for a day filled with live recordings of the network's most renowned shows.

The festivities kicked off with an exclusive live session of Pour Minds, featuring Lex P and Drea delving into the

intricacies of modern-day dating and the financial dynamics within relationships.

Throughout the event, attendees were treated to live presentations of various podcasts, including Carefully Reckless with Jess Hilarious, Black Tech, Green Money, and Deeply Well with Devi Brown, featuring John Hope Bryant and Dr. Joy Harden-Bradford.

T.I. also joined the festival for a special appearance on The Baller Alert Show, hosted by Ferrari Simmons, Byron Turner, and Octavia March. During the session, T.I. discussed topics such as his first big

purchase post-fame and the key to maintaining a lasting and prosperous marriage.

Festival backers AT&T, Nissan, and State Farm curated engaging family-oriented activities, such as The Trap Nerds Grand Prix Showdown Gaming Tournament.

Also, for the second consecutive year, emerging creators were granted the chance to present their podcast concepts to executives from the Black Effect Network at the Pitch Your Podcast booth.

GPP Announces New Leadership Program

The Georgia Production Partnership (GPP) shared a recent update to their leadership. Following an extensive selection process, the organization is thrilled to present its recently appointed board members. This diverse group of new leaders will bring a wealth of experience and a strong commitment to the film and television industry.

"We are proud to unveil our new board members who will bring fresh perspectives and expertise to GPP," said one of the new Co-Presidents, Shellie Schmals. "We are determined to continue advancing the growth and prosperity of Georgia's film and television industry."

Shellie’s fellow Co-President, Darius Evans, is “honored to work alongside

Shellie and the rest of our esteemed board members to strengthen GPP's position within the industry. Together, we will foster an environment that supports and champions Georgia's film and television community."

Other additions to the board include Alexis Bushell as Vice President, Kristy Clabaugh as Treasurer, and Kimberly Raybon as Secretary.

GPP also is pleased to introduce the following individuals in key leadership roles: Bronwyn Stalcup, who will serve as the Chair of the Membership Committee; Aneesah Bray, appointed as the Chair of Industry and Community Relations; and Nicole Sage, taking on the role of Chair for the Marketing and Communications Committee.

Additionally, GPP has designated Mystie Buice as Chair of the Education Committee, Bari Holmes as Chair of the Events Committee, Alicia Lublin as Chair of the Volunteers Committee, Melissa Goodman as Chair of Internal Governance, and Craig Miller as Chair of Government Relations. Rounding out the roster is LaRonda Sutton and Jeremiah Bennett as Immediate Past-Presidents.

Moving forward, the GPP is in safe hands through the leadership of these outstanding board members. Their combined expertise and passion for film will enable GPP to actively promote and bolster the expansion of Georgia's bustling film industry.

18 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990
May / June 2024 19 WE’RE NOT AN ANIMAL ‘AGENCY’ WE ARE TRAINERS •Character dogs & cats •Horses •Barnyard animals •Wolves •Birds •Reptiles •Exotics Let’s get your project mooovin’ gaanimalactors.com / 818-723-1347 / gaanimalactors@gmail.com Movie trainers, specifically. For over 20 yrs. Brought the best of what we learned in Hollywood back to Y’allywood and left the rest in the desert. CONTACT: atlanta@startupgrind.com ARE YOU AN ENTREPRENEUR, BUSINESS OWNER, OR STARTUP FOUNDER? startupgrind.com We are Startup Grind, the world’s largest community of startups, founders, innovators, and creators. Learn more... Startup Grind Atlanta is currently booking speakers for our upcoming 2024 events. If you are an experienced entrepreneur who wants to tell your story, inspire, and educate the next generation of founders and business owners, then please reach out via email or scan the QR code below to apply.

The Rialto Center’s Year of Revival

One year after its revival as a downtown movie hub, the Rialto Center for the Arts, nestled within Georgia State University, is celebrating a jump to the future through its modernized Digital Cinema Projection (DCP) projector and expanded Stewart cinema screen.

Moreover,the establishment edges closer to fulfilling its fundraising objectives in the realm of cinema while gearing up to welcome back the GSU Student Film Festival, marking its return to the venue after a several year hiatus when it was held off-campus.

During a special ceremony in April of last year, GSU announced upgrades to the screen and projector, marking the culmination of a fruitful fundraising campaign that commenced in 2017.

These upgrades have empowered the Rialto to continue hosting its beloved

year-round live events series and Georgia State University's student music and stage productions, while simultaneously introducing an exciting new dimension to Atlanta's film screenings with an enhanced big-screen experience.

“Installing the digital projector and screen gave the Rialto at least one, and in some cases two or three, new special events per month during the last year,” said Lee Foster, Rialto Center for the Arts executive director. “This technology enabled audiences to enjoy several new releases and special events while enabling our events team to engage with the state’s thriving film and television industry to create elevated film premiere experiences.”

The GSU Student Film Festival will take place at Rialto on May 2, 2024. The event is free and more information can

be found online at the gsu-student-filmfestival website!

Additionally, the Rialto Center is teaming up with various departments at GSU to establish a film series that will be accessible to both students and the general public. The series aims to showcase popular films and is slated for launch in September.

"We greatly appreciate the generous support of individual contributors and GSU’s campaign support,” said Foster. “They enabled Rialto to evolve from ‘Where Atlanta Meets the World on stage to also include ‘on screen’ in the heart of downtown.”

20 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990

South Georgia Film Festival Winners

Local talent shone bright at the South Georgia Film Festival (SGFF), as Guacamole Yesterdays by Hudson Phillips secured the prestigious Best of Fest title, while Patrick Longstreth's The Day That Shook Georgia secured the Best of Georgia title.

In addition to the top honors, various films were acknowledged across different categories. Guacamole Yesterdays was not only awarded the Best of Fest but also secured the title of Best Feature Film.

Matthew Hashiguchi's The Only Doctor claimed the prize for Best Feature Documentary.

Shadow Brother Sunday, directed by Alden Ehrenreich and produced by

Georgia-based studio Vanishing Angle, earned the distinction of Best Narrative Short.

The Documentary Short category was conquered by the Sunflower County Film Academy, in collaboration with Florida State professors Brian Graves and Pablo Correa, with their film An Army Rising Up

In the animation realm, Ryotaro Sawada and Agatha Tiara Christa from the Savannah College of Art & Design triumphed with Goro Goro

Raven Carter, a student at Florida State, garnered recognition for Best Graduate Narrative with her film Whitewashed, while Shannon Morrall, a Georgia native currently attending the

University of Southern California, clinched the title of Best Graduate Documentary with Spear.Spatula.Submarine

The panel of judges consisted of nationally renowned experts and local film industry members, who not only evaluated films but also screened their own projects and hosted panels. Among them were Nicole Kemper from the Georgia Film Academy, screenwriter Marti King Young, set designer Segrio Sanchez Selva, director Dan Mirvish, Nic LaRue from Film Snobbery, Betsy Kaplin from the University of Central Florida, author Heather Hale, as well as past SGFF awardees Kyle Taubken and Costas Karalis.

22 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990 OzCetera

Celebrating the Legacy of Karin Davis

KarinRobertson Davis, 80, left our sight but not our hearts, on April 17, 2024. She was a longtime resident of Atlanta, and a member of The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer where she was a Stephen's Minister.

Karin was born on December 18, 1943, in Baltimore, MD., the only child of James Lee Robertson and Eunice Luther Robertson. Karin had a can-do attitude and was never afraid to accept a challenge. This is how she became the first female caterer in the state of Georgia for The Georgia Film Commission.

Karin was quoted in the industry Yearbook as saying, “I had no idea what I was doing.” but was able to create a successful forty-six-year catering business, Roadshows Catering.

Film credits: The Longest Yard, Deliverance, Cohen and Tate, Boxing Helena, Buddy Holly Story, Tyler Perry, Swimming Upstream, and worked with Ridley Scott and so many more. Karin did location catering for the film and music industry for many

years. As she traveled the roads for work, Karin wanted the cast and crew on any set to feel the love she put into her food. Her smile and sense of humor drew people to her.

Anyone that has ever worked on a film set knows that the lifestyle can be chaotic; Karin embraced this lifestyle and even on the most chaotic days made everything seem easy.

Karin’s food, presentation, and floral arrangements brightened many movie and commercial sets as well as music venues. She knew that film work took cast and crew away from home extended periods, so Karin made everyone feel valued and special. Her warm smile, caring heart and fabulous meal brought a sense of togetherness. She knew her client’s favorites and would make sure that she provided individuals with their personal dishes which brought an extra special feeling. It wasn’t just about the food it was about the experience and others feeling special.

After many years Karin sold her mobile kitchens and focused on local film work, along with weddings, funerals, and parties. She established her business inside the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta which also presented her with the ability to serve the church’s needs.

Karin prepared the fellowship coffee hour, all the food and flowers for special events, receptions for weddings and funerals at the church. She sometimes prepared receptions for three churches at the same time. This also provided the opportunity to cook and provide meals for Meals on Wheels Atlanta. These meals were unique because they were not frozen, they were home cooked and delivered hot. She always made sure that extra love went into those meals, hoping it would bring joy to the person that received it.

Some of the other churches in Atlanta that Karin served were The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer,

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Peachtree Christian Church, Christ the King and The Cathedral of St. Philip. She was gifted in her ability to create and make each event customized to that client and their budget.

Always wanting everyone and every event to feel unique and special! In addition to her food ministry, Karin was called to be a minister to the trodden and those struggling with addiction. If they didn’t find her, she would find them. She touched and changed lives by sharing her past with others. Her heart was huge. Karin’s smile, laugh, sense of humor, work ethic, and zest for life will live on in her husband Forrest (Frosty), her children Lenny, Rhonda and Suzanne, her grandchildren, great grandchildren, her family, her many friends and film and catering family, and her companion in the last three years of her life Pamela Treasure.

24 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.
May / June 2024 25

t’s an oft-repeated adage that a well-crafted wine improves with age. Maybe the same can be said about a well-crafte`d story. William (Bill) Wages and I wrote the first draft of “The Neon Highway” in 1993, and after several options, multiple revisions, and a lot of heartbreaking nearmisses, the movie finally made it to the big screen recently, premiering in March at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville.

Beau Bridges and Rob Mayes were the featured stars on the red carpet, as well as producer Stratton Leopold, director Bill Wages, and Craig Miller of Craig Miller Productions – all three longtime friends and experienced filmmakers with roots in Georgia. The movie was shot in Columbus, Georgia and included a host of Atlanta area crew and acting talent. The good reviews from attendees at the premiere and the subsequent success of a twelvecity limited release has helped us accept the fact that, by God, we did it! The dream that began more than thirty years ago had finally been realized.

The movie’s storyline follows a singer/songwriter, Wayne, who dreamed of hearing his song

to choose it; life chooses you.” And in Wayne’s case, life had a few surprises that turned everything around for him.

The first draft of “The Neon Highway” was not our first attempt at writing a marketable screenplay. There were several others, but for any number of reasons, they were put on the shelf while Bill and I asked ourselves, “What’s hot right now and marketable to a large audience? And what’s the story that reaches that audience?” The answer to the first question came rather quickly: country music.

In the 1980s, the legendary country music stars like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Dolly Parton were still selling songs and filling up concert halls. But the decade of the eighties also saw a phenomenal Brooks, George Strait, Travis the other “hats”. More than artists happen to be from

research and visits to Nashville, Bill and I learned that country music was by far the number one music genre, nationally and internationally. We both had relationships in that world, so we consulted with a few people who were instrumental in helping us understand both the creative and business sides of country music.

Convinced that we were on the right track, we set about developing the story. Again, the story came quickly, proving my theory that good storytelling is not so much about “making up” a story; rather it’s about “discovering” the story that already exists. In this case, there were several real-life stories from which we drew our inspiration. One of those involved a man I had met years earlier when I volunteered at a Midtown Atlanta homeless center. His name was Wayne, and he wandered in one night and asked if he could play his guitar and sing a few songs. I was amazed at the quality of his songs and his talent as a guitarist and vocalist. A few years later, while visiting Nashville, I bumped into Wayne again at a restaurant and learned he was living in his car while he tried to sell his songs. He was just one among thousands of desperate wannabes who have the talent to write a good song, but after a while, lose hope of ever hearing it on the radio.

After that first draft was written in 1993, Bill and I knew we had a good story, even if the screenplay still needed some work. So, Bill asked the legendary


Hollywood director, Lamont Johnson, to read the screenplay and give us his thoughts and suggestions. Bill had worked with Lamont on previous movie projects and considered him to be his mentor. And to our great surprise, Lamont read the script and liked it enough to suggest he would be interested in directing it. More than that, he asked if he could send it to Johnny Cash, who he had directed years earlier in the movie, “A Gunfight.”

Fast forward a few days, and Lamont called to say that Cash was very interested and wanted to meet with us to go over a few notes. A few weeks

later, Bill and I met with Johnny Cash at a hotel in Buckhead the afternoon before he was to perform at the Roxy Theater that night. As it turned out, Cash not only liked the story, but he said that two of the scenes in the script were moments that he had experienced, prompting him to ask if we were in the country music business. We said no, but Bill explained that much of the business side of country music in many respects was a mirror image of the film industry. Cash’s only other comment was that he thought one of the supporting roles would be ideal for his wife, June. Of course, we readily agreed.

The relationship with Johnny Cash gave us a surge of confidence, and in short order we had our first option agreement. However, several factors got in the way of greenlighting the project. One impediment was a squabble between agents and entertainment attorneys, but the final blow came when Johnny Cash became ill. As quickly as the project seemed alive, it was suddenly dead. Or at least, that was what we thought.

All through the 1990s, Bill and I continued to develop and write screenplays while we paid the bills with our day jobs. But then, in the year 2000,

May / June 2024

we got a call from a potential investor who asked if the country music story was still available. We said yes, but we explained that it needed to be updated to include more recent technologies, including cell phones and other digital applications that were pertinent to the story. And we did that, hoping that once we had a new version, we could finally produce the movie. But again, for a variety of reasons, the potential financing did not materialize, and once again, we thought the project might be dead.

More years of writing screenplays passed, until 2021, when Craig Miller introduced us to group of investors who were already looking at potential movie deals. They were particularly interested in our country music story, and after reading it, they called to say they would back the project. Their reason, first and foremost, was that they liked the story. It didn’t hurt that the team they would be trusting to make the movie included veteran filmmakers with vast experience in Hollywood.

Born and raised in Savannah,

(L to R) Rob Mayes and T.J. Power as Wayne Collins & Lloyd Collins
28 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.
Beau Bridges in 'The Neon Highway.'

Georgia, Stratton Leopold began his longstanding career in filmmaking as an actor, casting director, assistant director, location manager and production manager, working with many of Hollywood’s renowned directors and actors on a host of blockbuster movies. His later credits include producer, co-producer, supervising producer, and executive producer on major feature films, including “Mission impossible 3,” “The Sum of All Fears,” “The General’s Daughter,” “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” “The Rose and the Jackal,” “The Big One,” “Blood In, Blood Out,” “Born Yesterday,” and others. He also served as an executive vice

president at Paramount Studios.

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Bill Wages’ career in film began in the seventies as a director and cameraman, creating documentaries, and commercials. During the 1990s, he worked virtually non-stop as director of photography on more than 30 feature films and television movies. He was nominated for eight prestigious ASC awards and won twice for “Riders of the Purple Sage” and “Buffalo Soldiers.”

Over the years, he worked with every major network, multiple Hollywood studios, and producers as varied as Stephen Spielberg and J.J. Abrams. He also worked with several legendary Hollywood directors, including Lamont

Johnson, Irving Kirschner, and Roland Joffe, each of whom encouraged him to pursue directing as his next career move. Though he had experience directing episodic television, “The Neon Highway” was his first feature film directing role, and by all accounts, a great success.

The lesson from our experience with “The Neon Highway” story is much like the theme of the movie: Write a good song, and don’t give up the dream. In our case, the lesson was to write a good story and keep believing, even when the odds are stacked against you.

There is an old Lakota Indian proverb that goes something like this: “If the horse is dead, dismount.” There

(L to R) Lee Brice, Rob Mayes and Beau Bridges, Chuck Mead Lauren Buglioli on stage
May / June 2024 29
(L to R) T.J. Power and Rob Mayes as Lloyd Collins & Wayne Collins
30 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.

were many times over the past thirty years when we believed that our horse – the story – might in fact be dead. However, one of the great mysteries of life is that a dormant seed that seems to be lifeless only needs a little water and a lot of patience to finally sprout into a flourishing plant, flower, or tree. As it turned out, the story that we thought was dead was only dormant, waiting for a little water (financing) to come to life. To be clear, the business side of independent filmmaking is almost always a dead-end street, but a good story never dies. It may lie dormant for a period, maybe even thirty years, but a well-crafted story is like an ember that only needs to be fanned to become a flame.

How important is a good story, especially if you are an independent filmmaker? When we began casting for lead roles, Beau Bridges read the script and said it was the story that attracted him to the project.

In other words, when you craft your screenplay and think about shooting style and production value, don’t forget that in the end, it’s the story that will carry the day.

32 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.

Season four of Magnolia Network's hit series Homegrown premiered on April 6th, 2024!

The unscripted backyard makeover show has been filming right here in Atlanta since 2020. However, calling it a backyard makeover show fails to do it justice. Homegrown is much more than that and watching even ten minutes of any episode makes the viewer realize that it’s the feelgood, drama-free, slower-moving television content that refreshes the viewer in today’s frantic world.

May / June 2024 33

Hosted by Atlanta farmer Jamila Norman, the show teaches viewers all about becoming a successful backyard farmer, regardless of their level of experience. All that’s needed is the willingness to put in the time to learn and listen. And of course, the right amount of sunshine, ample irrigation, and their infamous mushroom compost.

At the heart of it, Homegrown is a show about connection - to your food source, your family, and your community.

Atlanta based production company Eclipse Creative began developing the concept for a backyard farming TV show, and when they received the greenlight in 2020, it couldn't have come at a better time.

With COVID causing a shift towards investing time in hobbies, slowing down, and getting back in touch with what matters most, people all over the country turned to their own yards, no matter the size, and decided to create a place of happiness, where they could grow their own food, spend time with family, and maybe even add a few sweet animals to keep them company.

Shooting the pilot episode during a pandemic came with its own challenges, especially from a production standpoint. But it was the perfect time, since people were in such a unique mindset about how to approach their food sources, and sometimes lack thereof.

It’s the kind of television people craved during a time of uncertainty. And Magnolia Network, with its intentional and meaningful programming, was the perfect fit for the ethos of the concept.

So was Jamila Norman, local farmer and owner of Patchwork City Farms on the West End of Atlanta. Jamila has a background in environmental engineering, but decided to leave her corporate job and start a small farm on the West End 15 years ago.

Jamila, who genuinely believes in the benefits of this lifestyle, primarily wanted to be able to provide for her three children, but soon realized that there was a larger need for the vegetables and fruit she cultivated.

What started small is now a 1.2 acre farm that helps nourish an entire community and is still expanding. Add a great camera presence to her passion

Season 2 - Jamila with garden
"Themes like “Balance,” “Gather,” and “Nurture” were woven throughout the episodes."

for sustainable agriculture and desire to help others become independent growers, and she became the perfect host for Homegrown.

It was a no-brainer for Executive Producer Jennifer Mador and Showrunner Nicole Chiulli, and after just one meeting, a beautiful partnership between the creative team and the charismatic host was born.

In many ways, the first episode, filmed with a family in the Virginia Highlands neighborhood, laid the framework for the 25 episodes that have

followed. Atlanta Cinematographer David Parker executed the look Eclipse was going for from the very beginning - cinematic, gorgeous, vibrant, and backlit.

While shooting the pilot the creative team realized just how many questions the average person has about farming, and how much knowledge Jamila can share with the families and the viewers.

This became obvious during a pivotal planting scene with homeowner Weng, who learned that, when planted, one clove of garlic grows into a whole

head of garlic. She was absolutely astounded, and it became such a lightbulb moment for everyone on the team. The Executive Producers decided that each episode should include as many takeaways about gardening as possible.

The first theme, “Patience,” was naturally born out of Weng’s desire to teach her children patience through gardening, knowing that nature cannot be rushed and works on its own timeline. So Mador and Chiulli saw the opportunity to elevate a howto-gardening show into something more meaningful by highlighting life takeaways received from this process.

Other themes, like “Balance,” “Gather,” and “Nurture” were woven throughout the following episodes and helped create a bigger picture to gardening, centered around values in life that are universal.

Because farming and gardening can teach so many life lessons to people of all ages and backgrounds, incorporating that theme from beginning to end allows for more intentional and conscious production decisions by the Eclipse team. This is evident through the field trip locations they take each family on, the teaching moments that they include, and the greenery that Jamila is planting.

Homegrown - Season 4 - planting aeroponic tower Homegrown - Season 4 - Leta the shepardess
May / June 2024
4 - Jamila planting seeds with family

Viewers can choose which theme to seek out when they watch on the streaming platforms Max and Discovery+ by browsing the episode titles.

From a sloped backyard and drainage issues, to growing vertically for a small space, to protecting a large garden from deer, Homegrown has covered it all. With creative solutions, there is no space too small or too difficult to grow in.

The families that are chosen to be part of Homegrown come from all parts of Atlanta - from Villa Rica to Dahlonega, from Roswell to Covington, from the suburbs to the city.

Some have a small urban yard where growing vertically is most efficient,

others have over 50 acres that lends itself to an Alpaca farm. It’s families that want their children to learn about where their food comes from, couples that aim to honor their family legacy of farming, or single homeowners who are tired of living in a food desert and want to grow their own produce to share with neighbors and friends.

After defining the show and its themes, the producers cast & produce accordingly.

For example, a family featured in season one is from the Caribbean and loves tea. So Jamila and her team helped them transform their shady backyard into a flourishing garden featuring specialty plants used for tea blends, as well as build a hot house where they can grow rare Caribbean spices & herbs from seed. The episode was appropriately named “Renewal” since Jamila was able to reconnect the family to their Caribbean tea roots.

Through the continuous support of the network, Homegrown has evolved while also staying true to its ethos Starting with season two, Executive Producers decided to change the format by including a follow-up scene in the last act, allowing the backyard farmers to proudly showcase the fruits of their labor sixty days after planting day.

This check-in really drives home the remarkable transformation the yards undergo from jurassic-sized plants, to a basket full of fresh-laid eggs, to the chicks that have grown into full-fledged

Homegrown - Season 4 - Family with Jamila on harvest day Season 4 - Leta harvesting greens Homegrown - Season 4 - Jamila with family

chickens. But it also showcases how much the homeowners have changed as they become more confident and knowledgeable farmers.

Season four has a new collection of amazing stories to tell while Executive Producers also decided to dedicate additional time to the harvesting scene, answering more homeowners’ questions about how to get the most out of their crops. It gives them time to ask Jamila about where to cut the head of broccoli, how to prep their garden beds, and when to start planting seeds.

One of the best new stories is homeowner Leta, who inherited her family farm when her dad passed away. Having never been the “outdoorsy” type, Leta didn’t even know how to start a lawnmower when she applied to be on Homegrown but was determined to pay homage to her dad’s legacy.

So with Jamila’s help, she revived the old barn on the large property and added four sheep to help mow the grass on her 10-acre farm. On top of that, she asked Jamila to set her up with four large garden beds, so she can grow her own crops, especially collard greens, just like her dad used to grow.

Her siblings came in for the big reveal and were flabbergasted by the transformation, the effort Leta poured into the property, and the fact that she is now a shepherdess, with her four new ladies named appropriately after the members of Destiny’s Child.

The final episode of season four

features the biggest garden yet - a beautiful 50-acre property in the North Georgia mountains, where Florida transplants Tina and Jay want to go all out. With the help of Jamila and her team, they planted 500 seedlings in a meticulously planned out grid, built a stunning greenhouse with vintage windows, and added five alpacas to their farm, creating a serene and beautiful space to share with family and friends.

It’s this heartfelt, authentic motivation that made viewers fall in love with Homegrown from day one, and the reason they keep coming back for more. The hardworking, talented, all-Atlanta crew that produces Homegrown every week has become a tight knit group as they bond over the challenges that come with filming an outdoor show in Georgia - the heat in the summer, the cold in the winter, the occasional thunder and lightning, countless bugs, surprise rain, the pungent smell of fresh compost and fish fertilizer, and even a few allergic reactions to ant bites.

Yes, gardening is sun, soil, and water - but there is so much more to learn about growing, and that includes growing from the experience of filming a gardening show.

By the end of four seasons, the homeowners aren't the only ones with gardens of their own - even the crew has started reaping their own harvests. Just as the viewers feel connected to Jamila and the homeowners who so bravely went on this journey, the entire crew is

now connected and bonded over that magic that is transforming people’s lives, one backyard at a time.



Downey’s Dream Cars


George to the Rescue


Growing Floret

Magnolia Network


Magnolia Network

Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones


Homegrown - Season 3 - Jamila and family looking at heirloom tomatoes
38 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.

E’RE HERE follows renowned drag queens Jaida Essence Hall, Sasha Velour, Priyanka, , and Latrice Royale, as they continue the show’s mission of spreading love and connection through the art of drag across small-town America. In season 4, the queens work with participants in Murfreesboro, Tennessee and Tulsa, Oklahoma, as well as in surrounding towns, and take an in-depth, immersive look at recent antiLGBTQ+ legislation, and the effect it has had on the community.

May / June 2024 39

Mukari Rashad had a chance to sit down with the cast and co-creators more intimately. When asked about the decision to find a new cast for season 4, Steve Warren, EP/Co-Creator, stated, “this season, it was important for us to have four new perspectives. We had three seasons of Bob, Shangela & Eureka, who really gave it their all! Then we realized, given the current political climate, we needed to expand the universe and expand the We’re Here family to be able to tell more stories. stories. Not only do we get to tell the stories of the kids that we profile, but we really tell the stories of these four,

perspectives, and we love them all equally. They’re all our favorite child!” “When selecting the queens, we chose somebody who knows the difference between a person who’s not willing to have a conversation and someone who is willing to have a difficult conversation. I think in these four, I mean, they’re such superpowers. I mean, I'm also nervous around them all the time because not only am I such big fans of their artistry, but their genuine humanity is just epic proportions,” says Johnnie Ingram, EP/ Co-Creator. Showrunner Peter LoGreco notes, “There’s a format shift where we’re going more deeply into the story of the communities. That was a choice we

made, based not only on the fact that we thought that’s something we never had the opportunity to explore before by only being in a place for 1 week and only doing one drag show, but also because of the current political climate. It is so much more complicated because it takes time to develop relationships.”

The cast spoke about their experiences with the show and its impact it had on them.

Latrice Royale shares, “when this show came out, I was already like, yes, you know, because it’s so necessary. I love Bob, Shangela and Eureka, but I was hoping it was going to be me [everyone laughs] but everything has a place and time, you know what I mean? Supportive fans follow the show. It’s so powerful and necessary, and now that I’m a part of it, I just feel like the Cinderella slipper has been put on. Like it is such a glass slipper fit for me! It’s a continuation of what I do. I love being in the trenches

40 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.
Moderater Jose Useche



because I’m not scared. I will fight for mine, drag saved my life! I don’t know where I would be without it, so I have to defend it at all costs. And if that means putting myself on the front lines and in these people’s faces to get answers and to dispel the misinformation that they’re spreading, then so be it.”

Sasha Velour responds, “It was like reconnecting to the roots in some ways because I do come from a small town in Illinois, and I got the hell out of there, but it is essential that those spaces are safe for people like us. I remembered what power just one person could have in showing you that a queer adult can have a good life, a beautiful life, and can have joy and happiness; and that is what drag creates.

The perspective that it gives, the knowledge about how to move in the world and navigating the people that you will meet shows you that at the end of the day, everybody needs love, respect, and everybody should be able to do what they want to do and live their lives as long as they’re not hurting people. I think it’s incredible! That’s why I’m glad to be a part of the show because now, it’s that same energy while watching and trying to figure myself and the world around me from doing Drag Race, I now have that knowledge and I get to be a part of this and pass that on to other people to help change their lives. It still feels so surreal!

Jaida Essence Hall states.

Sasha Velour chimes in, “you might

think being a host of a show is about talking and telling stories but so much of it is about listening and really setting the stage without using your words. Always to allow other people to share their story on their own terms, in their own words.”

Jaida Essence Hall articulates, “it’s like this, you don’t always have the right answers and you might not be the most sensitive person to the issues that everybody in the world faces. But watching the show, it would give me the sense of like “Oh my God, there’s things about the community that I didn't even know!” And not even in a performance way, but for my drag, it taught me a sensibility about understanding the people in my community, the people that

for, the people that I’m fighting for and understanding that when I’m doing my work, I’m doing that work for them. I got that knowledge from watching seasons 1, 2 and 3 of We’re Here.” Priyanka says, “I was working with somebody who I didn’t know a lot about their community and I was nervous to ask questions and then I had to be like, “OK, hey, do I have space to just ask you any question about your community, and it might come across a little offensive…” and they were willing to receive it and was like, “oh my gosh, yes, and I will tell you if it’s offensive.” We only know our communities as well as we know our communities and staying curious about it, in a respectful way and not getting defensive, in a sense of, if you

Johnnie Ingram Peter LoGreco Stephen Warren
“ I never want anyone to feel like they’re being judged based on the culture, or rituals, or anything like that.” LATRICE ROYALE

get something wrong, be open to hearing why. It’s hard to control yourself because the last thing you want to do is offend somebody, but it’s not about you. If you’re messed up, it’s about making the person who you’re asking, feel comfortable. It’s tough, it’s really hard though.”

The experience of being on the show has resonated with the cast, in learning valuable lessons at the end of the day. “I'm from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and there, it’s like you do the drag you do and you’re still who you are. There’s so many people in the world that you don’t know their lifestyles, how they live, the things that affect them, or the things that bother them, and watching the show opened my eyes to this. It shows that you don’t have to necessarily be a part of the show or be queer for the show to change your life,” Jaida Essence Hall utters.

Latrice Royale chimes in, “just like with everything, when you approach, you have to be open and respectful for meeting people where they are and for who they are. I never want anyone to feel like they’re being judged based on the culture, or rituals, or anything like that. You know what I mean? I’m there to get an understanding and gain knowledge as well, so that I can continue spreading it around with facts, you know what I mean?

And I’m getting rid of the

stigmas that are going around. So, with everything, you just have to have an open mind and heart, be able to receive it and shift your train of thought, whether or not you have feelings or emotions about it.”

“I knew what drag did for me personally but doing this show was a good perspective and understanding what it does for other people. I was like, I like my audience and I want them to feel the escape at my shows; and that’s kind of where it sat for a very long long time, and then when we start going to these small towns, it made me realize how much more people need help, off the stage. That’s why my approach to drag has changed like, OK, how can I actually have better conversations with people and be more present and more curious in these communities while figuring out what more needs,” says Priyanka.

In the afternoon, the cast and creators hosted a panel discussion at the SCAD Theater, during SCAD TVFest. The packed audience of excited fans erupted in cheer and were in awe of the new cast for season four. Moderated by Jose Useche, Senior Communications Associate at GLAAD, the panel had real conversations on how bringing awareness and “new perspectives” to the show was such “an eye opening experience.” The audience were moved by clips of the upcoming season to highlight what their fans would have in store from the queens as they venture out into the small towns. Some guest audience members included two of the show's participants during season 4. The panel ended with a fun competition on the cast teaching audience members to “strut” on the stage.

42 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.
From left to right — Priyanka, Jaida Essence Hall, Sasha Velour, Latrice Royale

Creative Labor Gets a Second Act

44 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.

Two-hundred-and-sixty-six days is about the amount of time it takes to get a bun out of the oven. Ironically, it’s also what it took to get bilateral agreements hammered out during 2023’s Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) strikes combined, at 148 days and 118 days, respectively. Both groups, as the whole world knows, stood up against their employers in widely publicized strikes that, for a total of 38 weeks, pretty much shut down production within the film and television industry.

May / June 2024 45

As the days wore on and guild members worked together toward an equitable resolution, Netflix, Hulu, Prime, Paramount+, Disney+, Apple TV and a host of other streaming outlets pumped out the programming to keep consumers occupied. Some streaming content was new and waiting in the wings, other content and old cult favorites were taken down from the shelf, dusted off and put back into the viewing mix.

Still, consumers wanted more. And most importantly – writers, actors, other entertainers and their families needed more.

Leading into spring 2024, with new contracts born, here’s what “more” looks like on the SAG-AFTRA front, according to several Atlanta-based members, negotiators and a seasoned talent agent.

Act 2

To the second-term SAG-AFTRA Atlanta local president, actor Eric Goins (Cobra Kai, Stargirl, The Righteous Gemstones and others), negotiations for a new contract agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and

Television Producers (AMPTP) were squarely a success.

“We broke the bargaining pattern and secured 11% increases in the first year on our minimums, which is really meaningful in terms of the minimum compensation our folks get when they go to work each day,” Goins notes. “Through this historic negotiation, we were able to make first-of-its-kind comprehensive improvement in various categories – from principal performers to stunt performers, dancers, background actors and multiple categories of performers, impacting a large segment of our membership.”

Goins adds that important inroads were made in the area of performer compensation through the creation of the new High Budget Subscription Video-on-Demand (HB SVOD) streaming bonus. “This negotiation did the heavy lifting of introducing and creating this new third rail of compensation, in addition to initial compensation and existing residual payments,” he notes.

Since the streaming bonus is subject to bargaining, Goins believes this new stream of revenue will be a substantial area of growth in future negotiations by securing improved success metrics that

increase payments and include more members.

For actor, union activist and negotiator Mike Pniewski (Hightown, Reptile, American Made and others), overall increases in performers’ pay surpassed what he expected was possible in the recent historic strike’s negotiations.

“I never thought we’d get over a billion dollars in pay increases,” he states.

Increased revenue towards actors’ pension and health care plans was another win in Pniewski’s mind – one that’s incredibly important for working actors.

Although there’s more work to be done, as there is at the close of any business negotiation that affects a broad swath of people, Pniewski believes, “Part of joining a union is coming together and supporting each other, and making it better for everybody. The contract has been ratified and let’s get back to work and go forward. There will be another negotiation in 2026.”

Actor Karen Ceesay (Suncoast, Stranger Things, The Walking Dead and others), elected to the Atlanta local SAG-AFTRA board last year during the strike, lends this perspective to the recent

Electric Owl Studios
46 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.
Eric and Family with SAG-AFTRA NED Duncan Crabtree Ireland
“If you don’t like it, don’t just complain on social media – get in the trenches and make it better for the next time. Challenge your local board, serve on a committee, be a part of the solution or ‘Shut. Up.”
By:Karen Ceesay

contract negotiations: the contract between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP is always a work in progress.

“This contract is way better than our previous contract,” she states. “You can’t get everything you want every time.” As an example, she adds that personally she was hoping for more in the realm of residuals from the recent historic negotiations.

And still, for any actor who would show displeasure at any facet of the new contract agreement, Ceesay reminds, “[It] needs to be directed to the people who put us in this position, the AMPTP, not our leaders.”

The proper way to address the need for further changes? As Ceesay urges, “If you don’t like it, don’t just complain on social media – get in the trenches and make it better for the next time. Challenge your local board, serve on a committee, be a part of the solution or ‘Shut. Up.’”

From the vantage point of talent agent Jason Lockhart, head of TV and film and president of Atlanta Models and Talent (AMT), he’s pleased with the real-life reverberation of the new contract agreements on some of his clients.

“One young actress saw her deal

[on a series] quadruple – it went up four times what it was before the strike,” Lockhart says. “Imagine your agent calling to say your deal was this, but now it’s four times that amount.”

The increase, Lockhart emphasizes, made the difference between this actress working through a fairly low salary over the course of seven episodes, to now hopefully being able to pay all her bills for the rest of the year, just from this one role.”

“We hope to have many stories like this, especially across the southeast market,” he adds.

The plot thickens, mostly in positive ways

What about the new contract’s developments surrounding the seriously concerning and widely publicized topic of artificial intelligence (AI)?

“We obtained informed consent and control when AI is engaged. But we need legislators to get

involved and put protections in place, not just for actors, but for the general public,” Goins says of SAG-AFTRA and its members.

He adds, “AI is changing rapidly, though, and we’ll be ready to react and get contract protections in place to further protect our members.”

Karen Ceesay

One component of the new contract that gets a unanimous hell yes from all sources is the guidelines put in place around self-taping auditions -- where actors videotape themselves reading from a script and send it to casting agents to be considered for a role. Whereas auditions were once always live, self-taping became especially commonplace during the pandemic, along with auditions conducted through Zoom.

While self-taping had its conveniences for busy actors and casting agents working all over the country and the world, it was a double-edged sword for actors.

“I’ve been working on engaging members, casting directors and talent agents in Atlanta to educate them on the new contract provisions surrounding self-taping,” Goins confirms. “The selftape provisions are a major achievement in our negotiations, protecting our members from self-tape protocols where a lot of the financial and resource burden was falling on our members.”

hours or less to prepare and 10-14 pages to cover,” Pniewski describes. “And many busy actors were having to prepare more than one audition simultaneously.”

Making the situation even more difficult – and unjust, most would agree -- even though an actor would prepare and self-tape an audition covering 10-14 pages, for instance, a casting director would get the tape and watch less than one minute.

Going into the negotiations for a new contract, self-tape protocols were kicking actors’ asses in two ways in particular, according to Pniewski. First was the number of script pages an actor was being asked to prepare, and second was the turnaround time.

“Back in the day, people went into offices and scheduled actors for auditions, and they had to give you enough material to perform in your scheduled casting time, and you had enough notice to prepare,” he notes.

“But what started to happen was you’d get audition requests with 24

Pniewski laid out the big wins that recent negotiations scored for actors in the area of self-taping, saying, “There are huge improvements in the initial audition process. We now have to be given 48 hours and no more than eight pages [of a script]. And it can’t bleed into the weekend unless there’s a dire circumstance, like an actor gets sick and has to fall out of a project.”

He adds, “These changes to selftaping auditions enable actors to do the best work they can.”

State and regional issues take their first steps

How does the new SAG-AFTRA/ AMPTP contract shake out in regards to geographic disparities across the

Jason Lockhart

country – where actors in Los Angeles and New York might get paid more for roles than actors would in Georgia when productions come down South to film?

It turns out that the issue wasn’t LA and NY versus Georgia, in particular, but instead it was LA and NYC versus everyplace else.

As Ceesay frames it, “Prior to the strike we felt like we were being taken advantage of and treated with a substantial amount of disrespect in comparison to our fellow members in NY and LA. Now, we realize that we are not alone – so many other smaller markets deal with this same issue and both Fran (Drescher) and Duncan (Crabtree-Ireland) have shown a great deal of support in our cause.”

Even though actors in many markets outside of LA and NY are affected by geographic discrepancies in compensation – and the issue is not yet resolved – the big win for SAG-AFTRA members is that the AMPTP is now publicly aware of the issue.

“We did get agreement to have a meeting with the AMPTP to discuss this issue with casting and to create a way forward,” Pniewski says. “Some of this was due to the vast amount of productions coming to Georgia, and the attempt to hire local actors for less money than they’d pay an actor flown in from NY or LA.”

He adds, “While we couldn’t contractually mandate a solution [at this stage of the negotiations], we did get them to agree to a meeting. I’ll be part of it when it happens, Eric too, but we don’t know the date yet.”

The film industry blooms

Like all things that spring up following a winter of hibernation, the film industry is steadily coming back to life.

“This February (2024) we’ve had our biggest month since November of 2022,” Lockhart says of his team’s work at AMT. “The industry is coming back and I think we’ll continue to see more and more movement over the next 2-3 months.”

For Pniewski, Ceesay and Goins, springtime is further enlivening the labor movement.

“Over this past year, the unions really helped each other out,” Pniewski says of both the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. “This has been a unifying movement for the industry and for labor in general. Corporate profits are so out of hand and the wage gap is so wide – this was a seminal moment for our industry.”

Ceesay adds, “I would challenge people to take part in the fight.”

Goins agrees, remembers

history and looks forward.

His father, now retired, shared a dream with the second-term Atlanta local SAG-AFTRA president when he was growing up.

“He was a plumber and worked hard to create his own business. And he was incredibly successful as a commercial plumbing contractor,” Goins shares.

“He said, ‘Work hard and you’ll succeed.’ But I started to lose hope in that promise,” the actor and union activist admits. “Last year I started to have hope in that process again, during the labor movement.”

Monica Hightown The Good Wife
May / June 2024 49
Mike Pniewski
50 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.

If you’re a young aspiring media and entertainment professional, chances are you’re familiar with RE:imagine. The organization has been a stalwart in Atlanta’s film community since 2014. Over the past ten years, they’ve reached more than 5,000 youth and created more than 500 digital assets, like music videos, documentaries, and podcasts. From the beginning, their mission has been to “bring together youth from different backgrounds and provide them with an opportunity to learn from each other through the art of storytelling.”

In recent years, their focus has expanded to include the development of practical skills and workforce placement. When participants graduate from their programs, RE:imagine wants them to be ready to start working in the entertainment and media industries.

To that end, RE:imagine recently launched their Post Production Track with two inaugural cohorts, one based in Metro Atlanta and the other in nearby Gwinnett County. This program is a new offering in their existing Apprenticeship Tracks.

The apprentices range in age from 18-24, making them members of Generation Z (a.k.a. “Gen-Z”). RE:imagine sees Gen-Z as the future of the filmmaking industry. Many of their programs seek to address the unique challenges that young people attempting to find work in the industry face today, including a lack of resources and formal training opportunities.

RE:imagine declares that they’re “Equipping Gen-Z Representative Storytellers.” They do so through three main pillars of support: exposure, training, and placement. All three of these elements come together in their Post Production Track. The apprentices enrolled in the program have access to networking opportunities and site

visits, receive practical training in Adobe Premiere Pro, and enter RE:imagine’s workforce development pipeline.

"Our Post Production initiatives at RE:imagine nurture talent and empower our local creative community to excel in the industry. We're dedicated to equipping emerging filmmakers and storytellers with the necessary resources and support to refine their skills and make their mark on the world stage," Julie Foster-Straw, RE:imagine’s Executive Director, told Oz Magazine.

This initiative adds to their roster of existing programs, including their No Comment Film Fellowship, a documentary intensive for students ages 16-19, and their EMERGE Apprenticeship, which helps participants construct their portfolios and gain practical work experience.

“I love the idea of being able to give them training, hands on opportunities, and connect them with employers so that… if [the apprentices] are starting out or just taking off with it, they're able to get their foot in the door,” Desiree Velez, Assistant Producer Apprentice at RE:imagine, stated. Velez, who helps coordinate the Post Production Track, sees a lot of potential in the program and the cohorts of apprentices. Velez moved to Atlanta last fall and was immediately

impressed with RE:imagine’s slate of programs.

“I came across RE:imagine and I really liked their mission statement of helping develop youth to be able to get into the creative industries. I really feel like that's important, ‘cause I don't feel like I had that when I was growing up,” Velez said.

Over the course of ten weeks, apprentices in the Post Production Track learn Adobe Premiere Pro with the goal of becoming certified through the Adobe Premiere Certification test. Certification is important, as it’s an immediate indicator that you have a baseline proficiency in a specific set of skills that are needed for post production workers.

For many people who are interested in this line of work, the costs of the Adobe Premiere Pro software and taking the certification test can be prohibitive. With this program, RE:imagine is working to take down some of those barriers by covering the cost of both the software and the certification.

Throughout the program, the cohorts work with teaching artists to build their skills and prepare for the certification test. Christopher White, an Editor for Turner Classic Movies, is working with the Metro Atlanta cohort, while Paras Chaudhari, a Creative

May / June 2024 51

Producer and Director, is working with the Gwinnett County cohort. Both teaching artists bring technical skills and industry knowledge to the apprentices.

The Post Production Track’s goals are simple: upon completing the program, the apprentices should be qualified for gainful employment in the industry. Additionally, they should feel empowered to pursue their own creative projects, something that the RE:imagine staff actively encourages throughout the program.

“A lot of them have, already, projects that they are working on. I think that… with the networking, I think that that's gonna be something that's gonna be able to really help them. I'm excited to see where they're at when it comes to those work opportunities… I told a lot of them that I think that they're gonna surprise themselves with how well that they're able to take off with this,” Velez explained.

This perspective illustrates the unique approach that RE:imagine brings

to their Apprenticeship Programs. Rather than encouraging their apprentices to solely use the practical skills that they develop in these programs to find paid, for-hire work, they also embolden the apprentices to pursue their own creative projects. This is part of their founding principle of supporting and empowering storytellers.

Velez sees these programs as a crucial part of Atlanta’s media and entertainment ecosystems. “I'm really excited personally for people in Atlanta

52 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.
Metro Atlanta
Gwinnett Metro Atlanta

to learn more about this, whether it's students that want to apply and be a part of the program [or] people who want to maybe have any resources or anything that they're interested in helping with RE:imagine,” she added.

She emphasizes that the young people living in and nearby Atlanta have a lot to offer the industry, and that it’s a great place to begin working as a media or entertainment professional. “I think it's such a creative place to be,” she stated.

RE:imagine also sees that the areas surrounding Metro Atlanta are full of potential. They consider their support for emerging talent in Gwinnett County to be just as important as their work in Metro Atlanta. Gwinnett County is already home to studios, production facilities, and more. By tapping into the up-andcoming Gen-Z creatives in Gwinnett, RE:imagine is engaging with a previously underestimated and underserved area.

The Post Production Track takes place largely online, though the apprentices in both cohorts have already completed site visits to kick off the program. The Metro Atlanta cohort visited Uppercut, a creative boutique post-production company with offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. The Gwinnett County cohort visited the Georgia Latino Film Alliance Headquarters. Both groups had the opportunity to tour the facilities, learn what different workers do on a day-today basis, and meet their teaching artists in person.

Bringing the cohorts together and giving them the opportunity to meet working film professionals in person is a central component of the program. The RE:imagine team understands how crucial networking opportunities are for people looking to start working in the entertainment and media industries. They want to help facilitate relationships within the cohorts themselves and between the cohorts and current working professionals across the industry.

“We really want them to be able to talk amongst [each other] more, because… that could be your peer in the industry down the line,” Velez said. The importance placed on industry connections can be a barrier to folks without existing connections. Velez added, “Starting out without connections

or without this kind of… opportunity, I feel can be a lot harder.”

Looking forward, Velez says that RE:imagine is considering other new Apprenticeship Tracks, focusing on topics ranging from podcasting to lighting. She emphasizes that these initiatives are a cross-team effort within the organization. Their Education department, for example, handles outreach to local schools.

For now, however, the focus is on the Post Production Track. At the end of the ten weeks, the apprentices will take their Certification test. The RE:imagine team

is then hoping to come together with the apprentices to mark the end of the program.

“They are wanting to do… a big celebration. Kind of like a hurrah at the end,” Velez said. “That will be really exciting for them to just be able to celebrate.”

May / June 2024 53 May / June 2022
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.