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JANUARY /FEBRUARY 2020

CONTRIBUTORS Crystal Villarreal

OZ MAGAZINE

STAFF Publishers:

Tia Powell (Group Publisher) Gary Powell

Editor-in-Chief: Gary Powell

Managing Editor:

Cover Story: Animate Atlanta, p.30 Crystal Villarreal is a reporter and lead digital content producer at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Crystal graduated from the University of Georgia, where she served as a columnist for the student-run newspaper The Red & Black, with degrees in journalism and women’s studies. In her free time, Crystal runs an animation blog and enjoys baking and reading.

Paula wallace Feature Story: From Wakanda to Zamunda to Georgia, p.36

B. Sonenreich

Sales:

Martha Ronske Kris Thimmesch

Creative Director: Michael R. Eilers

Production and Design: Christopher Winley Michael R. Eilers

Social Media Engagement Intern Taylor Ward

Cover Credit: Michael R Eilers

Paula Wallace founded SCAD in Savannah, Georgia in 1978. As president of SCAD, she has led the university’s expansion to locations in Atlanta, Hong Kong and Lacoste, France, as well as eLearning. With more than 100 academic degree programs and 15,000 enrolled students, SCAD is one of the preeminent sources of knowledge in every discipline it teaches and has prepared more than 43,000 alumni for creative professions worldwide.

Shane Dedman Feature Story: Choose Your Reality, p.40 Shane Dedman is a writer, filmmaker, artist and cinephile. Dedman has experience interviewing Oscar and Grammy award winners on the red carpet at various film festivals. In addition to Oz Magazine, Dedman has been published in Wussy Magazine, FloroMancy and more.

Emily L. Foley Feature Story: Governor Kemp Swears In Eighteen Appointees, p.50 Emily L. Foley is a freelance journalist whose articles appear in publications such as Allure, O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, US Weekly and Instyle. com. A multiplatform journalist, Foley can also be seen as a television expert talking all things beauty, fashion and lifestyle on television shows across the country and on Instagram @emilylfoley.

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404.633.1779 For Press Release Submission: socialmedia@ozonline.tv

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Lane Matravers Feature Story: Film Impact Georgia Grants Georgia Filmmakers With Funding, p.52 Lane Matravers is a screen and TV writer and aspiring novelist based in Atlanta. In 2013, she graduated from the University of Tennessee Knoxville with a degree in creative writing and journalism. In 2019, Matravers graduated with her Master’s from University of British Columbia after successfully completing and defending her thesis, a feature-length script about feminism, deceit and rock and roll, all told through the lens of a horror film.

Tracy Page

Oz Magazine is published bi-monthly by Oz Publishing, Inc. 2566 Shallowford Road Suite 104, #302 Atlanta, GA 30345

Photographer: Choose Your Reality, A Cork Popper and The Peach State's Fig

Copyright © 2020 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.

Tracy Bosworth Page has focused on creating memorable images of actors and entertainers for over 13 years. She is an award winning photographer specializing in editorial and commercial portraits and is an Ambassador for Zeiss Camera Lenses, based in Atlanta. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia with her degree in advertising and fine art.

Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.


JANUARY /FEBRUARY 2020

CONTENTS

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OZCETERA

FEATURE STORY

A compilation of recent news and hot projects from and about industry leaders.

Governor Kemp Swears In Eighteen Appointees To Serve on the Georgia Film, Music, and Digital Entertainment Commission

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COVER STORY Animate Atlanta How One Network Sparked An Animation Extravaganza

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FEATURE STORY The Peach State's Fig A Q&A with Melissa Simpson about Film Impact Georgia and funding filmmakers

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FEATURE STORY From Wakanda to Zamunda to Georgia Academy Award Winner, Ruth E. Carter on the craft of costume design

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Oz Scene

Richard Jewell Premier

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WIFTA 2019 DreamHack 2019

FEATURE STORY Rome International Film Festival

Choose Your Reality At Georgia State University’s Creative Media Industries Institute

SCAD Savannah Film Festival

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GPP Holiday Party

FEATURE STORY A Cork Popper Kenny Blank and the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Celebrate 20 Years

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Let Me Give You My Card

January / February 2020

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OzCetera Takashi Doscher ONLY still

Georgia Teen Charli Shapiro practices her craft in New York City

CHARLI SHAPIRO WINS NATIONAL STUDENT EMMY AWARD

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ixteen-year-old, Charli Shapiro, has been driven to make films for as long as she can remember. When she’s not studying at Roswell High School, Shapiro is either taking college courses at Kennesaw State University or honing her skill set in filmmaking. In November 2019, the National Academy of Television Ar ts & Sciences awarded Shapiro with the National Student Emmy award for best director. The reel Shapiro submitted to the academy is a compilation of three films, including Power Aid, Power Up, an initiative to raise funds for Roswell High. “[Winning an Emmy] has always been a dream of mine,” Shapiro tells Oz. “It reassured ever y thing: my hopes and dreams...and my future in [f ilmmaking]. It’s def initely something I want to do for the rest of my life.” “I love being in the hear t of it all,” said S hapiro, p raising At lant a for t he opportunities she has received to shadow camera departments on feature films, like Damien Chazelle’s First Man. Shapiro is currently researching f ilm schools as she prepares to apply for college. Her f ilmmaking ser ves as a conduit for promoting change in her community. Charli Shapiro is daughter of Ilene Alter, producer, and Dave Shapiro, producer/ director, who work together at David Shapiro Enterprises.

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ONLY PURCHASED FOR THEATRICAL RELEASE

he North American and United Kingdom rights to Takashi Doscher’s latest feature film, ONLY, have been acquired by Vertical Entertainment. The feature was produced by Tadmor, with Gabrielle Pickle and Eyal Rimmon, and was co-produced by Craig Miller, executive producer of Craig Miller Productions. ONLY follows Will (Leslie Odum, Jr. of Hamilton) and Eva (Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire) who learn of a mysterious virus that is eradicating every woman in the world.

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Aside from this, Eva is threatened by savages who hunt down the remaining women. The two characters embark on a journey in the wilderness for one last adventure together. The f ilm was writ ten and direc ted by Takashi Doscher, and was shot in Atlanta. The film premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and recently screened at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival. The theatrical release of the film is set to take place in 2020.

SURROUNDED BY HAWKS

he Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena have par tnered with Intel Spor t s to provide fans with stunning immersive media experiences in-arena, on-air via FOX Sports Southeast and through digital and social media channels. The Intel True View platform delivers perspectives that cameras can't capture. An array of 5K HD cameras are installed and mounted throughout the arena, which capture unique views and angles. Once the video is processed, the innovative system produces 360-degree highlights, freeze frames and exceptional views of the action. Some of these views include a player’s perspective, and those are distributed to broadcast, digital and mobile platforms. “We are excited to introduce this amazing innovation and continue enhancing the fan experience for Hawks fans everywhere,” said Andrew Saltzman, chief revenue officer of the

Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena. “Intel True View is the premier viewing technology in all of sports, and we are eager to work with Intel Sports on new and cutting-edge ways to showcase incredible action displayed every game at State Farm Arena.” “Intel Sports is excited to partner with the Atlanta Hawks to enhance the fan experience through innovative immersive media experiences in the state-of-the-art State Farm Arena,” said Howard Right, vice president of business development, Intel Sports/Atlanta Hawks. “The Hawks are a dynamic partner for Intel Sports because they are eager to experiment and push the boundaries of technology to provide new and compelling ways to engage their fans. Atlanta has a vibrant technology community with a loyal fan base that is ready for enhanced digital storytelling that Intel True View enables.”

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OzCetera

DreamHack Atlanta performers and attendees. Photograph courtesy of DreamHack Atlanta

DREAMHACK RETURNS IN STYLE

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aming and lifestyle festival, DreamHack, returned to Atlanta in November. Nearly 36,000 fans and players gathered from 22 countries and almost all 50 states to attend this year’s DreamHack Atlanta. It was the largest DreamHack festival in the Western hemisphere to date. DreamHack made its Atlanta debut two years ago. The first Atlantabased festival brought in nearly 25,000 visitors from a total of 48 states and 25 countries. On December 6, 2019, the festival celebrated its 25th anniversary. It began as a gathering of friends and their computers in a school cafeteria with no online access. The festival has now grown into a beacon of internet culture; a place where gamers can participate and compete with other gamers from around the world. DreamHack Atlanta took place in 450,000 sq. ft. of space at the Georgia World Congress Center. The 24 hour-a-day festival weekend was jam-packed with almost $1.5 million in Esports tournaments, collegiate and high school matches, the world-famous local area network (LAN) party, music concerts, film screenings, a cosplay championship, panels and more.

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January / February 2020


OzCetera Treezy Eats founder and co-owner, Terese Thomas

Tube Owner & Creative Director, Chris Downs (far right) with film & TV panel at Clark University

TREEZY EATS ENERGY BITES

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eremy Thomas is no stranger to working 16-hour-days on set. He has had 15 years of experience working as a production assistant, assistant director, and as facilities operations and asset manager at Tyler Perry Studios. He and wife Terese recently opened Treezy Eats. The mom and pop shop released its new line of Treezy Eats Domestique energy bites. W hile many at hletes have alread y benef ited from the new energy bites at TREEZY EATS pop-up shops around town, the company believes there are still many endurance athletes who can benefit from the extra kick, including those who work on film and television sets.

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TUBE TURNS 20

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ube, an Atlanta-based post production boutique, is celebrating 20 years in the Old Fourth Ward. Since its origins, Tube has nurtured long-term relationships with its client base, including broadcast networks, corporations and film productions in the Atlanta area. “As a boutique post house, we’ve been fortunate to retain clients from Fortune 100 and 500 companies,” said creative director, Chris Downs. “We have thrived by the diversity

of clientele by recruiting the best of up and coming creatives.” Re ce n t l y, D ow n s h a d s p ea k i n g engagements at Clark Atlanta Universit y and the Portfolio Center to speak to the next generation about creativity, design and making their way in the film world. “I’m committed to being active in developing the rise of new, young talent. I am excited for their future and new ideas.”


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GEORGIA STATE CITED FOR INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION

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eorgia State University’s School of Film, Media & Theatre is the largest academic film and media program in the state of Georgia. The departmentHopper's challenges their Cabin from student s by providing college -to - Things career Stranger experiences. Recently, Georgia State University a n d C l ay to n S t a te U n i ve r s i t y s t u d e n t s collaborated with the Canadian Consulate and Canadian institutions, Sheridan College and Seneca College, to create a poignant short film, I Am Here. I Am Here tells the story of a pair of Syrian siblings who were separated by the civil war in their home country. The film follows their journeys after their separation. It covers topics like post-traumatic stress and how these siblings cope with the loss of one another. “Rarely do students get to work on a professional projec t like this while they are in school,” said Dr. Phil Lewis, Georgia State University’s professor of film and the co-executive producer of the short film. “To cross borders and work with four different schools and executive producers from two countries is a unique advantage.”

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Georgia State film students go international with the I Am Here film project

The project took two years, including preproduction and post-production. The first year was devoted to detailed planning for shooting on -location in both Atlanta and Ontario, Canada. “When I asked to join the I Am Here team, I was instantly on board and excited to become a part of Hassan and Hannan’s story,” said Georgia State University’s student producer, Katie Leaman. “Although I Am Here is unique to a Syrian family, the story encapsulates what most refugee families are suffering through:

loss and separation.” The short film won Rome International Film Festival’s Best Student Short award. The film is being submitted to a number of film festivals, including Georgia’s own Atlanta Film Festival. “I hope their story reaches out and inspires those who might want to close borders or their hearts in the current political climate that inspired I Am Here,” said Leaman. “We are so proud of this film and our diverse and talented team who worked so hard to make it happen.”


January / February 2020


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AJFF CELEBRATES 20 YEARS

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tlanta Jewish Film Festival’s milestone 20th anniversar y edition takes place this year from Monday, February 10th through Thursday, February 27th. The festival will feature a diverse collection of exceptional international and independent cinema that continues the festival’s tradition of entertaining audiences and fostering community dialogue. Ta l l y i n g 1 0 0 0 f i l m s sc re e n e d a n d ove r 385,500 total attendees, the annual festival is one of the largest globally. Notable past festival guests include: Judd Hirsch, Jennifer Westfeldt, Rosanna Arquette, Josh Lucas and

many more. In its 20-year history, AJFF has proudly presented 35 world premiers, as well as international features from over 60 countries including, but not limited to, Israel, Algeria and Cambodia. Founded in 2000 by the Atlanta Regional Off ice of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), AJFF established itself as a 501(c)(3) non-profit and independent arts organization in 2014. The festival has since introduced yearround programming, including AJFF Selects, AJFF On Campus, Cinebash, the Icon Award and more.

This year’s festival opens at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. From there, AJFF expands to multiple metro area venues for 18 days. In addition to popular venues such as the UA Tara Cinema, Regal Perimeter Point and the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, AJFF will add two new intown locations in 2020: the Landmark Theatre Midtown Art Cinema and the Plaza Theatre. The full film lineup and official schedule will be announced on Friday, January 10th, and tickets will go on sale beginning Monday, January 27th.

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OzCetera

ON THE RED CARPET: THE SCAD SAVANNAH FILM FESTIVAL By: Shane Dedman

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crowd of over 63,000 cinephiles attended the 22nd annual SCAD Savannah Film Hopper's Cabin from Festival. The eight-day festival is the Stranger Things largest university-run film festival in the world and brings in an abundance of economic growth for both Savannah and the Georgia film industry overall. More films were shown this year than any year previously including 35 narrative films, 15 documentary films and 109 shorts, a total of 159 films. Major industry luminaries made Savannah a stop while on the Oscar festival circuit. President and founder of SCAD, Paula Wallace, presented awards to honored guests including Alan Silvestri (Lifetime Achievement Award in Composing), Olivia Wilde (Rising Star Director Award, Booksmart), Daniel Kaluuya (Spotlight Award) and many more. Intimate discussions with the honored guests were held in the form of panel discussions, workshops and conversations that were led by leading entertainment journalists. Oz Magazine hit the red carpet asking filmmakers how they were enjoying their time

From L to R: Students and film enthusiasts Ginny Geiser, Lillian Heinrich, Stanley Leung, Zion Wade attend SCAD Savannah Film Festival. Photograph courtesy of Ryan Lambert

in Savannah and what it’s like working within Georgia’s burgeoning film industry. “ They rocked ! They were so s t rong across the board. The energy on set was just fantastic,” said Jocelyn Deboer, co-director of the Georgia-lensed feature Greener Grass, in regards to working with a Georgia-sourced crew.

“It’s a wonderful city. I love the vibe and atmosphere of the festival,” actress Valerie Pachner, recipient of the Discovery Award for Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, told Oz. “I’m very happy to be in this place and meet students and soak it up. There’s always that energy in the air when you’re at a university, and I love that.”

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OzCetera

THE DEBATE: TYLER PERRY STUDIOS

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yler Perr y Studios welcomed the fifth democratic presidential debate, co-hosted by The Washington Post and MSNBC. The debate was held in a section of Atlanta that has evolved in the hands of one of the most successful film and television producers in the world, Tyler Perry. The studios are built on land

that was once used by the Confederate Army during the Civil War. For many Democrats, the transformation of this proper t y is emblematic of what their party stands for: social change and fiscal and political progress for minorities. In addition to its unique location, an all-female panel

also moderated the debate. This was the first time during this election cycle that the debate has been solely moderated by women, and the third time ever in the history of the United States. After the debate took place, Tyler Perry announced that he will be offering studio tours to the public in 2020.

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OzCetera University of North Georgia senior Rosie Reeves is enrolled in the introduction to on-set production class at Georgia Film Academy thanks to a new partnership with UNG

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UNG’S CMJ HEARTS GFA

new partnership between Georgia Film Academy (GFA) and University of North Georgia’s (UNG) Department of Communication, Media and Journalism (CMJ) allows UNG students to enroll in classes at the academy. The partnership between the two institutions developed in 2019 when GFA opened its northeast hub in Norcross, Georgia. The Gwinnett County location is about a 35-minute drive from UNG’s Gainesville Campus, where a majority of the university’s CMJ students attend their classes. “If students know they want to begin their career by working on set, the GFA certification is a great compliment to their film and digital media degree,” said Dr. Jeff Marker, professor and department head of CMJ. “If [students] plan their schedules properly, they can finish their Bachelor’s degree and certification program at the same time. That puts them in a very strong position to launch their careers.” Some of the specialized GFA classes include lighting and electric, grip and rigging and introduction to special makeup effects. UNG students now have access to industry-level equipment and can learn from film industry professionals. “Students receive hands-on experience to develop muscle memory by working with the equipment and to become fully trained in a chosen craft,” said Dr. Aaron Levy, director of academics at GFA. The certif ication also benef its students with a built-in networking system. “Having the UNG students mix with students from other institutions expands that network and will lead to job opportunities,” said Dan Kelly, an instructor at GFA who teaches the on-set production course. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, film and television production in Georgia supports more than 92,000 jobs. Currently, partnerships like this are helping to provide a workforce for the growing film industry in Georgia. 20

Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.


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OzCetera This Changes Everything Panel (from L - R): Denise Hendricks, Chairperson, PGA Atlanta Women’s Impact Network (Also, Producer, CNN Headline News) Tom Donahue, Director, “This Changes Everything,” Co-founder/Creative Chaos, Ilan Arboleda, Producer, Lisa Ferrell, GPP Co-President (also Georgia State University's CMII Project Manager) “This Changes Everything,” Managing Partner/Creative Chaos Maria Giese, Producer, “This Changes Everything” (Also a screenwriter/director of other films), Simone Pero, Producer, “This Changes Everything,” President/Co-founder of For Impact Productions, Simone Torres, Multi-Platinum, Grammy Nominated, Engineer/Vocal Producer/Vocalist

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING By: Lane Matravers

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he Plaza Theater hosted a one night-only showing of This Changes Everything, a stirring documentary about gender inequality in the American film industry. The Atlanta Film Society

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s p o n s o re d t h e s c re e n i n g , a n d t h e P ro d u ce r s G u i l d of A m e r i c a ( P G A ) Atlanta Chapter sponsored the panel that followed, “What’s Next for Equity in Georgia’s Film Industry?” This Changes Everything’s director, Tom Donahue takes an illuminating look into how, when and why women have such an infinitesimal piece of the pie when it comes to being seen and heard in the f ilm and television industr y. The f ilm traces the importance of various historical events that have played some key roles in combating misogyny in Hollywood. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited employers from discriminating against employees and potential hires on the basis of sex, race, religion, or nationality. Additionally, in 1979 “The Original Six” brought a class-action lawsuit against studios after witnessing firsthand gender inequality within the Directors Guild of America (DGA). Both historical events are heavily featured in the film. However, it is the documentar y’s interviews with activists like actress Geena Davis and filmmaker Maria Giese that are at the heart of the film. The Geena Davis Institute of Gender Media was founded in 2007 after Davis noticed the stark lack of

female characters in her young daughter’s daily children’s programs. This led Davis to an in-depth investigation into how, and how often, women are portrayed in films and TV shows. Meanwhile, filmmaker Maria Giese found herself researching the number of women directors in the DGA and was disturbed by the lack of representation. “ We have to make sure there’s representation because Hollywood is responsible for at least 80% of the media put out into the world,” stated Giese in This Changes Everything. Dozens of other female industr y professionals offer their insight into what gender inequality in film and TV looks like, and how it affects women of all ages, backgrounds and skill sets. Included in the film are actors, Reese Witherspoon, Chloë Grace Moretz, Tiffany Haddish, Natalie Portman, Rose McGowan, Cate Blanchette, Jessica Chastain and Meryl Streep. As Streep puts it, “Progress will happen when men take a stand,” and director Tom Donahue certainly has made one with This Changes Everything.


      

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January / February 2020


OzCetera Jamarcus Hill

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FILM . . . AND ACTIVISM. . . AT ELEVEN

amarcus Hill, is an actor, appearing in the Netflix series, Hello, Privilege and It’s me, Chelsea. The 11-year old actor and activist was recently elected as community chair for The Stewart Foundation. The Stewart Foundation is a youth leadership program based in Atlanta, Georgia. The program centers on developing excellence in youth programming through health and financial wellness, community service, education and social programs. As community chair, Hill will work with others in the youth cabinet to initiate programs that coach and motivate children in the foundation. Hill is also an advocate for voter registration and civil rights. Last year, Hill started gaining national attention for his efforts when he attended a rally held by Black Voters Matter. According to the Atlanta JournalConstitution, 214 precincts across the state of Georgia have closed since 2012. “I just want people to get out to vote,” said Hill. “It matters. You’re voting for the community and everybody in it. You’re voting for the children. You’re voting for the schools and law enforcement.”

ESTIMOND BECOMES PRESIDENT OF PEOPLE STORE

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eople Store, a full-service talent a g enc y ba se d in At lan t a , ha s promoted Rick Estimond to become president of the agency. CEO/founder Rebecca Shrager started the company 36 years ago, and in that timeframe People Store has grown into one of the Southeast’s top talent agencies. “In the past 10 years, Rick Estimond has proven to have the qualities of a leader,” said Shrager. “He has gained the love and respect of all who know him. I am honored to name him president, knowing that he will help guide People Store with our amazing staff and clients to its full potential.” Previously vice president and head of commercial at People Store, Estimond has been at the agency since 2009. “I am honored and excited to lead People Store as it evolves into a new chapter and new decade. Rebecca has established a remarkable business, built on principles that put our clients first. I believe that’s been the key to the agency’s success and I intend on preserving that legacy as I move into my new role.”

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OzCetera José L. Vázquez and Mike Brown

KODAK AND COFFEE WITH CAMERAS

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spiring Atlanta filmmakers gathered t o l i s t e n t o M i ke B r o w n , f r o m Kodak/Kodak Film Lab Atlanta, ask renowned director of photography, José L. Vázquez, questions about the craft of cinematography. Atlanta Film Society and Kodak/Kodak Film Lab Atlanta join forces to put on Coffee with Cameras once a month at Kodak’s facility, which is located off 2156 Faulkner Road. The event welcomes filmmakers to sit in a room full of cameras and film rolls to learn more about what it takes to master the medium. Vázqu ez wa s b o r n in Cuba an d im migr a te d to N ew Yo r k w here he spent 11 years of his childhood before making his way to South Florida where he eventually introduced 35 mm film to Univision. He recommends that amateur cinematographers start their careers at a

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camera rental shop like he did. “You learn all of the technology you need to learn [there],” said Vázquez to a group of eager filmmakers and film enthusiasts. Vázquez also encourages hands-on experience, specifically opportunities to watch DPs at work. “A DP is actually someone who is translating the vision of the director into a frame,” said Vázquez. Vázq u ez h a s wo r ke d i n b ot h commercial and narrative fields in the film and television industry. He is both a director of photography and camera operator in the International Cinematographers Guild. After spending most of his career in Miami, Vázquez is now based in Atlanta. After the Q&A, attendees were given a full tour of Kodak Film Lab Atlanta. Attendees were shown how film is both processed and scanned in the facility.

“It was interesting to learn that shooting on real film is still a popular, somewhat feasible option,” said Maxwell Bentley, a f irst-time at tendee of Cof fee with Cameras and founder of Bentley Media. “I’ve never even considered [shooting on film], which sounds bizarre coming from someone who went to film school.” “I’ve learned a lot from the amazing people at the Kodak Film Lab from listening to their incredible stories about the industry and previous experience working with film,” said Jonathan Ludena, a frequent attendee of Kodak/Kodak Film Lab Atlanta meetups. “I would definitely recommend anyone who loves film to come by and meet people with the same passion for film.”

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January / February 2020


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Inside Santa’s Fantastical, a Christmas interactive immersion experience

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alt Geer and Sarah Blackman of Fantastica Labs teamed up with Primal Screen to produce Santa’s Fantastical, an indoor exhibit with dazzling projected animat ion, mot ion graphic s, interac t i ve experiences, live performances and more at Perimeter Pointe in Sandy Springs. “We are thrilled to bring a fully re-imagined Santa’s Fantastical back to our hometown of Atlanta this year,” said Walter Geer, CEO of Santa’s Fantastical. “Collaborating with Atlanta-based

IMMERSED IN SANTA Primal Screen to make our ideas a reality is truly special.” “Santa’s Fantastical embraces the essence of t he season t hrou gh ar t , te chno lo g y, nostalgia and a little creative storytelling, all while strengthening our ties to our community,” added Geer. Guests began their journey in immer sive env ironment s that combined projected animation and photo-real graphics. Additionally, the exhibit included LED-lighted trees, interactive auroras and music.

“We see Santa’s Fantastical as an expression of Christmas in many forms, from the wonder of seeing Santa to the sophistication of a magical forest at dusk. This experience offers holiday enchantment for ever yone,” said Fatimah Abdullah, Primal Screen’s executive producer. “ We really love f inding ways to immerse audiences in new worlds and narratives.”

Aztec Warrior Studios' premium sound stage

AZTEC WARRIORS OPEN STUDIO

A

ztec Warrior Studios recently opened a purpose-built stage designed for whisper quiet sound with a powered light grid and production offices. The facility features an extensive list of amenities, including but not limited to: a green room, multiple dressing rooms, post production suites and more. “Driving up, I thought the facility was an antebellum mansion with its columns, 28

Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.

freestanding staircase and chandelier. Then you walk onto its incredible sound stage, [which is] perfect for all types of production,” said senior director, Grant Wainscott. The executive team running Aztec Warrior Studios comes from both the commercial real estate world and the film industry.


January / February 2020


anza g a v a r t ion Ex t a m i n An A d e k r k Spa REAL r o w ILLAR t V e L A N T YS One BY: CR How

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COVER STORY

I

t’s now common knowledge that Atlanta is a hotbed for the film and television industry, but what’s frequently overlooked is that the Peach State is also home to some of your favorite animated shows as well. In 1986, Ted Turner bought MGM, which included the MGM cartoon library with legendary shows, such as Looney Tunes, Merrie Melodies and Popeye. In 1991, Turner purchased animation studio Hanna-Barbera Productions, the company that produced The Jetsons, The Flintstones, Scooby-Doo and more. In 1992, with these classic cartoons in hand, Turner announced its plans to launch Cartoon Network.

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PBS Kids Expansion

“The tax cuts were great, but really it started before all that,” said Doug Grimmett, president and founder of Primal Screen, a prominent Atlanta design studio. “But then this one guy decided he was going to launch his cable channels right here. I’m talking about Ted Turner.” Originally, Primal Screen, who now works with clients like Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, PBS Kids and Boomerang, set up shop outside of Georgia. However, the combination of high-profile clients and an excellent talent pool brought the company to Atlanta, according to Grimmet. “We’re also adjacent to a really great industry,” said Fatimah Abdullah, executive producer of Primal Screen. “So the tech industry is booming and so is live action. We have this convergence between these two budding avenues, and also more content creators are staying here. I think the third wave of animation in Atlanta started with Adult Swim. The start and the trigger for animation forged off again and it started right here.” When Turner launched Cartoon Network, the channel mainly focused on syndicated content because Turner had purchased such a large amount of classic cartoon shows. Eventually, the network began to realize that it could afford to take things a little further. The first original show produced by Cartoon Network was Space Ghost Coast to Coast in 1994, which was formatted like a talk show and previewed clips from many of the classic cartoons that the show aired regularly. It wasn’t until the premiere of What a Cartoon! that the network really started to dive into original programming. What a Cartoon! was meant to be a return to the old days, a time where animators had full-control of the shows they produced; their budgets were unlimited, and their 32

Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990

Behind the scenes with Primal Screen

creativity was allowed free reign. The result was animation gold. At that point, animators created pilots for whatever kind of content they wanted. Those pilots were then aired, and viewers were allowed to vote on their favorites. From What a Cartoon!, audiences were introduced to cultural staples like Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Cow and Chicken and Johnny Bravo. It’s hard to imagine the world of cartoons without these greats. These were the shows that opened up the doors to original programming for the network. “In 1996 Cartoon Network called me, and I participated in a pilot called This Week in Toons,” said Mark McCray, senior manager of programming and operations at Adult Swim. McCray oversees Adult Swim’s on-air promotions and scheduling strategy. He is an awardwinning television writer and has been in the broadcasting industry for over 18 years. Prior to his work at Adult Swim, McCray worked as a television programmer for Cartoon Network, and he was a key member of the team that launched the Boomerang Network. “From there, I worked with Cartoon Network programming, coming up with fun ideas to get the kids to watch our programs,” said McCray. “We would do countdowns of the best 10 Powerpuff Girl episodes ever.” McCray became a cartoon expert in a rather unexpected way. As a kid, he would call up networks to speak to the programming departments about his love for Saturday morning cartoons. Through this early curiosity, he began to learn the ins and outs of television programming as well as everything he needed to become

a cartoon expert. This passion sparked him to go into writing and eventually led to Cartoon Network, which led to Boomerang, which led to Adult Swim. At Adult Swim, McCray decides how to promote certain shows and what shows air when. He also oversees the look and feel for the streaming service and the commercials that are aired between programming. Adult Swim was another catalyst that led to many great shows being produced in Atlanta, but much of it started in-house. “I think that’s one of the things that makes Adult Swim pretty unique is that we do a lot of programming here, but we also have fresh talent that we bring in to do whatever animated projects we need,” said McCray.

Late Night Television Sparks Creativity Adult Swim's original programming created an unfaltering loyalty among its viewers and also led to a need for more animation and production talent throughout the city. Space Ghost Coast to Coast was created specifically for late night adult audiences. The series was created by Mike Lazzo's Ghost Planet Industries, which eventually became Williams Street Studios, the producers and programmers of Adult Swim. On December 21, and December 30, 2000, between 4:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., several new Williams Street series made unannounced premieres. Sealab 2021, Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and The Brak Show were all included in the unannounced premiers. In 2001, Adult Swim officially launched


"

I think the third wave of animation in Atlanta started with Adult Swim. The start and the trigger for animation forged off again and it started right here."

with the show, Home Movies. The cartoon centered on Brendan, an elementary school student with big dreams of becoming a filmmaker. Brendan and his friends Jason and Melissa regularly shot and produced their own home movies, hence the name. Despite the show featuring children as main characters, its adult themes made it the perfect launch point for Adult Swim. The name Adult Swim references a time when children are no longer allowed in the pool. Cartoon Network represents programming designed for an audience of kids aged 7-15 years old, while Adult Swim is focused on teenagers and adults. The network also featured select anime shows, mainly Cowboy Bebop, Inuyasha and Dragon Ball Z, as well as its own original programming. It became increasingly common for Adult Swim to act as a home for reruns of animated series that had been cancelled prematurely, such as Home Movies, Baby Blues, Mission Hill, The Oblongs, The Ripping Friends, Futurama and Family Guy, as well as burn off remaining episodes of said shows that never aired on their original networks as a result of their

Archer Season 9 /making of Archer

premature cancellation. The rise of Adult Swim and Cartoon Network sparked an admiration for animation among a new generation. Adult Swim showed audiences that cartoons didn’t have to be for kids; they can be risky and adventurous and wrought with raunchy humor. “When I was around 14, I discovered Adult Swim, and I was just amazed that they made cartoons for people that weren’t kids,” said Lauren Teasley, studio manager, Awesome Inc. “So, I kind of made it my mission in my mind that I was going to work for Adult Swim, and I was just going to figure out how to do that.” It was Adult Swim that led to the creation and the prominence of several animation studios in Atlanta, particularly Floyd County Productions, the studio that produces the hit FX show Archer. Matt Thompson and Adam Reed both worked at Adult Swim together before branching out and starting their production company 70/30 Productions, which created Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo for Adult Swim. The company’s name came from the plan that Thompson would do 70% of the producing and 30% of the writing, while Reed would do the reverse. 70/30 brought animators to Atlanta to work on these shows and, when the shows were canceled, animators were luckily able to find homes at companies like Awesome Inc. and Radical

Axis, which eventually closed and had its shows absorbed by Awesome Inc. After 70/30 closed its doors, Reed and Thompson began hatching an idea for another show, Archer. They started on that show under a new name, Floyd County Productions. After Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo were canceled, Reed took a vacation to Spain where he came up with the premise for the Archer series. He pitched the show to FX, and in August of 2009 the network commissioned six episodes of the show. Despite the initial premiere being delayed, the show went on to produce 10 seasons, and season 11 was just announced in June of 2019. Cameron Jeffrey, an illustrator at Floyd County Productions, got his start at Floyd County through industry networking as a self-taught animator. “I got my start in comics, and this is my first time working in a studio. I do murals and art shows in Atlanta, and I met people at Floyd County through the Atlanta night life scene.” “I do keyframe animations for that show. We work on different files throughout the week, so based on the scene or needs, the files are always changing,” added Jeffrey. “I’d like to stay at Floyd, but I’d like to design characters or outfits or work on new stuff that’s January / February 2020

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coming down the pipeline.” In addition to Archer, Floyd County Productions also worked on a pilot for a Deadpool series starring Donald Glover. The show didn’t come to fruition, but it opened up more doors for the animation studio. “Marvel liked the art,” said Jeffrey. He went on to talk about where he sees the animation industry going in Atlanta. “There’s Bento Box, Hi-Res, Adult Swim and Cartoon Network. Those studios are making Atlanta a viable option for animation.”

Breaking into An Impossible Industry When asked how he would describe the animation industry in Atlanta, Jamie Galatas, a compositor at Awesome Inc., had only one word to say: booming. “I’m not a producer, so I can’t say that I know about all of the stuff floating around, but from what I do see, there’s more work than artists here right now,” said Galatas. “While I feel badly for those involved in staffing for what has to be a big headache and challenge, I have to believe that this is a good thing for the industry in this town and will only serve to drive it forward.” Galatas grew up in Dunwoody, Georgia, but left to study animation in California. When he returned to Atlanta, he got an internship at 70/30 Productions, helping with the final episodes of Sealab 2021 as well as early pre-production on Frisky Dingo. During the internship, Galatas swept floors and took out the trash. Ultimately, that internship led him to a second with Radical Axis, another former animation company in the city. There, Galatas did composite and animation work on the show Perfect Hair Forever; then he landed the lead compositor role

Floyd County Executive Producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis at a recording session for Archer

for season 3 of the Adult Swim show Squidbillies. When Radical Axis closed its doors, a lot of their production moved to Awesome Inc., and so did Galatas. “I happily made the move,” he said, “where I still am leading Squidbillies composite.” For most animators in Georgia, working for Turner is the dream; it’s the pot of gold at the end of an animation rainbow, but it’s almost impossible to reach the gold unless you know someone, and the same goes for many other animation companies here in Atlanta. “It was really difficult to figure out how to even get a foot in the door at Turner,” said Teasley. “It’s just such a giant company, and everything is online that you’re applying for. It does kind of feel like you’re running up the castle wall because there’s thousands of teenagers also in college who also want that same internship.” Similar to Primal Screen, Awesome Inc. is a multidisciplinary creative studio that works with big name animation companies in Atlanta like Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. They also work with TBS, FX, Nickelodeon and Coca-Cola.

Floyd County Illustrator Jay Li works on the wing of “Crackers” from Archer: Danger Island

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Floyd County Illustrator Latasha Moore uses a photo reference (Eric Warren) to create realistic drawings for Archer

Touting shows like Squidbillies, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell and more, Awesome Inc. is well known among animators. Turner Broadcasting and many of the big names companies here in Atlanta have played an enormous role in helping to shape the animation community into what it is today, but the talent pool here wouldn’t exist without an amazing support system. Savannah College of Art & Design’s Atlanta campus has been churning out fantastic animators since its inception. Georgia State University also has a fantastic digital media program, and you can’t talk about animation without dropping the name ASIFA-South, an organization that helped many young animators to network and find support. “ASIFA-South is a non-profit animation society and the South-US chapter of ASIFA International, is headquartered in Atlanta. The role of ASIFA-South specifically, is to be a community leader and professional


Awesome Inc. Studio

representation of the voice of the animation community in the South,” said Ginger Tontaveetong, executive director of ASIFA-South. The organization hosts year-round activities, workshops and resources such as a monthly mixer and their annual ASIFA animation festival and conference. From roundtable discussions about the industry to panels, ASIFA is determined to connect and collaborate with other organizations like Georgia Production Partnership, Atlanta Film Society, and Women in Film and Television Atlanta. Primal Screen sets the stage for animation work with kids’ media, but they also serve a huge role in cultivating talent and helping to build the animation community in Atlanta. “We like to work directly with the colleges and students here in Atlanta to try and make an impact,” said Abdullah. “Even beyond SCAD Atlanta we work with Georgia State. We just struck up a partnership with them and the Creative Media Industries Institute.” Primal Screen hosts workshops with all the colleges in Atlanta and makes sure that they’re giving back to the animation community in every way possible. “We’re best known for our work on children’s media and branding for our clients like PBS Kids, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney,” said Primal Screen’s Grimmett. “I think one thing that really sets us apart is our deep experience and understanding of the art of childhood development. So, we understand the difference between a fourth grader and a fifth grader, a first grader and a preschooler and what’s appropriate for them to learn.”

Dragon Con festival badge Meta Studios

The Future of Animation Abdullah isn’t an animator, but she has a career in animation and graphic design. The same goes for Teasley of Awesome Inc. and McCray of Adult Swim. While there’s always a need in the industry for artists and illustrators, there are just as many opportunities for other roles: from producers to programmers to writers to visionaries. The industry is filled with roles that don’t necessarily involve the ability to draw.

If you think you’ve arrived, you’re correct. “So many people think that their only option is to be the one creating characters or drawing behind the scenes,” said Teasley. “And it can take people down a path where they may never be the best artist in the room, but they have all these skills they didn’t know to get them in that room in a different way. I think it’s really important to teach kids how many different roles there are. I’m not an artist. I don’t draw. I don’t animate or anything like that. So, for me, it’s been cool to figure out a way to be involved with all these

Fairy Quest cover concept Meta Studios

interesting artists and cool projects.” The same goes for McCray. “I’m not the greatest artist. In my day, if you tried to get a job with an animation company, or even a comic book company, and you didn’t have an artistic skill, no one was going to sit around and wait for you to develop those skills,” said McCray. “But nowadays, it’s completely different. I think that because there’s so much incredible, wonderful, great animation software out there. Anyone can be an animator.” Paul Jenkins, the founder and chief creative officer of Meta Studios, worked as a writer for Marvel for many years before delving into video game design and interactive media. He sees animation intersecting with the gaming industry in Atlanta, and Meta Studios is taking it to another level with their cutting edge work in immersive media, interactive comic strips and more. There’s no shortage of opportunities and talent when it comes to animation in Atlanta. Those who support the industry and the impact it has on storytelling and children’s media can only hope that the industry continues to expand and grow. “If you think you’ve arrived, you’re correct,” said Jenkins about how people who want to thrive in the Atlanta industry need to constantly evolve and propel themselves forward. Badee badee badee . . . that’s all folks!

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Academy Award Winner,

RUTH E. CARTER

on the craft of costume design COSTUME DESIGNER RUTH CARTER HAS OVER 40 FILM CREDITS. THE THREE-TIME ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE RECEIVED THE ACADEMY AWARD FOR BEST COSTUME DESIGN IN 2019 FOR HER WORK ON MARVEL’S BLACK PANTHER. SHE WAS INTERVIEWED BY PAULA WALLACE, FOUNDER/PRESIDENT, SCAD.

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P

aula Wallace: Ruth, it’s always so nice to see you. You have such a cheerful smile and so much to say. I know I’m in good company, and SCAD loves your visits! Let's start by talking about your early career, and your relationship with Spike Lee. You’ve done 14 films with him. Ruth E Carter: Hard to believe. At the beginning we were all young filmmakers, and I always had a dream to [be a costume designer]. I met Spike soon after graduating from college, and he was telling me how to get experience with film. He said, “Go to UCLA. Go to USC. Get on a student project. They use the same film equipment that the big studios use.” So I took his advice. I went to USC and signed-up for a student thesis project and, before long, I was working on a movie set on the weekends. It was the first time I heard “Cut!” PSW: Spike Lee reportedly called you up soon after, and said “Ruth, this is the man of your dreams.” And you replied, "Denzel Washington?" Is that true?? REC: (Laughter). I did get a call one morning, and back then I might've even said, "Billy Dee?" But it was Spike asking me to do his first studio film. That was School Daze. I had gone to Hampton University, so I knew about sororities and pledging, the whole student life thing. That was a great film to start with. PSW: You've dressed a lot of heroes since then. What was the difference between dressing Chadwick Boseman as Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court justice, and as Black Panther? REC: Well, I think that the biggest thing about the two is that they both have a story. Thurgood Marshall is a superhero. He was a Supreme Court justice, and he was one of the first attorneys for the NAACP. Knowing that his greatness and his trajectory would be played out in his costumes was a way for me to look at how we were going to tell his story. He had a certain look as a young man, as a young lawyer. And then, as he got older, he had another look as a Supreme Court justice. So, when we dealt with him as this young man, Chadwick had all the accoutrements

Marvel Studios' Black Panther

of a young man in the 1940s. In Black Panther, we were showing T’Challa in his world, in his environment, as the king of Wakanda and the palace. I had to come up with a story that was regal, a story of a superhero beyond just the Black Panther suit.

going to get a shaver,” a man’s razor. She sent the PA out, and he came back with a razor. She put the blanket on the table, and [razor sound] she shaved one down. Two hours later we had a thinner blanket. But I said, “We have 150 of these.” We ended up shaving all 150….

PSW: I love the story that you told about the capes for the border tribe warriors.

PSW: All 150?

REC: The border tribe wore blankets. They wore Lesotho blankets from South Africa. When Ryan Coogler was asked to direct Black Panther, he felt like he wasn’t comfortable directing a film about Africa having never gone there. So, he went to Africa and he spent some time with the Lesotho people in South Africa, and he saw their beautiful blankets. So when I came on, he asked me to get these blankets for the border tribe and he wanted me to lace them with vibranium. We printed beautiful vibranium symbols on one side of the blanket so they could use them as shields when they were fighting. I imported 150 blankets from South Africa and they were heavy, made with these beautiful colors with beautiful prints all over, and we ended up screen printing them with the vibranium silver, vibranium on one side. Then Marvel saw them during our camera test and said, “You can’t use them.” And I said, “Why?” We’re close to shooting, or maybe we were just around Christmas and supposed to start shooting in January, early January. And they said, “They’re too thick. They just don’t drape like we like them to.” So, one of my assistants, Caroline Errington, said, “I’m

REC: Yes! All 150 of those blankets, and we showed them to Marvel and they approved. We've gone into this new era: it’s not acceptable to be basic. You remember Batman of the 60s? He was just in a leotard! Now, we need $300,000 to make that same costume. PSW: Wow. Great art takes real dedication. Seems like, especially with feature films, it also takes a village. How important is networking? REC: I’ve been very lucky. I haven’t had to network much because Spike keeps calling. PSW: 14 times! REC: That’s right. In between Spike Lee gigs, I’d go back to Los Angeles. So that’s where I actually lived. I worked with Robert Townsend on The Five Heartbeats. I worked with Keenan Ivory Wayans on I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. I cut my teeth bouncing back and forth between filmmakers. It was a great time. We were writing our stories, we were telling our stories, we were independent filmmakers, so we were like a tribe. We were like a troupe, and every time there was a new deal on the table, Spike would say, “We’re January / February 2020

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going to do it again.” And that went on for 15 years. I got an Oscar nomination for Malcolm X and another one for Amistad. People started to get to know me in the industry as a costume designer, and I’d branch out. There are things that people don’t realize that I did. I did the pilot for Seinfeld.

"I also did Black Panther in Georgia and had to rely on Georgia’s local labor pool of artists and artisans to get the job done, and I have found that some of the best creative artists are right here in Georgia!" PSW: You did? That’s quite a range. So what can you tell us about these costumes that we’re going to be seeing in Dolemite and in Coming 2 America? REC: I told everyone while I was making Black Panther, “This is not Coming To America. It’s going to look different.” And then, here I am on Coming 2 America, and I’m telling everyone, "This is not Black Panther!" In Dolemite I want everyone to experience the 70s the way that I knew it. I was born in the 60s so I remember the 70s. I had blue bell-bottom jeans. I had the afro. I wanted it to be remembered in a good way, because we liked those clothes. I wanted people to experience the 70s in a really positive way. I didn’t want the costumes to be the butt of the joke. I wanted them to really be a reminiscence of what I remember seeing myself and thinking it looked great, it looked cool, people are dressed well and looked nice. PSW: Not a caricature; an homage. And when you do these things, they have a huge impact on the creative community you lean on, right? How does the Ruth Carter and Paula Wallace, SCAD President and Founder. 38 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990 Photograph courtesy of SCAD


Selma from Paramount Pictures, Pathe, and Harpo Films

Atlanta creative community, like hairstylists for example, get to work on films like Black Panther? REC: During Black Panther, I remember wonderful ideas from Atlanta hairstylists, especially when we had so many tribes on the Warrior Falls. The Himba women have red clay hairdos, and I was presented with a lot of different styles that they were making in advance to go on the actors who were portraying different tribesmen. One thing is for sure: we come here for the film incentive. We come here for the tax break. We come here to save and stretch our dollar. So, bringing people from LA and paying them for a per diem and housing is counterproductive. I want to say that, because I’ve met so many creative people in Atlanta and seen so many wonderful things that they’re doing. PSW: You've worked on a number of films in Georgia, including Keeping Up with the Joneses, Being Mary Jane and Selma. Do you have any unique memories to share with our Georgia readers? REC: Yes! I also did the Black Panther in Georgia and had to rely on Georgia’s local labor pool of artists and artisans to get the job done and I have found that some of the best creative artists are right here in Georgia! PSW: You've mentioned your delight with meeting creatives in Georgia. Outside of tax incentives, what are some of the creative assets or particular filmmaking strengths you have found that are plentiful or in abundance in the state?

REC: I don’t think there is abundance anywhere because the industry has various needs. I have been lucky enough to come here on various types of projects so I can figure out which roads to go down to address those needs. When I am on a show and it’s contemporary and there is a lot of shopping, I find that the shoppers and assistant designers here know the marketplace; they know where to go to get things. From private collections of vintage clothing to floral feathers, there is no way I would find these resources on my own coming here temporarily from another city. The talent pool of people in Atlanta you are able to extract from is various, and they are able to accommodate all of the needs at a higher level of professionalism. PSW: You do extensive research for each of the films that you’ve worked on and contributed so importantly to. What are some nuggets that you’ve learned from research? REC: Research guides your path. Whenever you feel that you are stumped, you need to go to a place where you can read about something. We can read about how people lived. We can learn about the textures and the colors of a certain era, and it helps guide our path. It helps open up your world. There are things that you

can read about that you may not have even seen in a photograph. Combining your visual research with reading about what’s going on really helps inform what you’re looking at. PSW: The research you put into Black Panther is obvious, but your early films, like School Daze, were also dazzling displays of costume design. The “LOVE/HATE” rings in Do the Right Thing are sublime! How has your focus on research developed over the course of your career? REC: I started in theater where we were doing period pieces and Shakespeare, and because I was a theater major, I learned really easy about looking at costume history and applying it to pulling garments from stock or actually creating garments. I learned from my theater training, and it developed as I went along. I’ve always had a love for research and a drive to pull people right off the page and bring them to life. Looking at the faces and the character details about the clothing is just a passion and a love because not everybody understands the research process, but they will enjoy a good film that has detail and nuances of a period. January / February 2020

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he Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII) is a digital storytelling mecca in the heart of downtown Atlanta. Created as a part of an initiative to fulfill Georgia State University’s strategic planning to foster the growth of the media industry in Georgia’s economy, CMII focuses on the exploration and intersections of creativity, technology and entrepreneurship. CMII is both part of the College of Arts & Sciences and the College of the Arts at GSU. This content creation center brings together film, gaming, music and visual art students as the next generation of storytellers. Oz Magazine took a tour of the institute with project manager and

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president of the Georgia Production Partnership (GPP), Lisa Ferrell, and executive director, Brennen Dicker, through the three floors of the newly renovated 25 Park Place annex, the most foot-trafficked street corner in Atlanta. Unlike a lot of university programming, CMII is bringing the entertainment industry directly to the incubation spaces that students, staff and faculty inhabit to make content. With their artist-in-residence programming, industry leaders have their offices among student workspaces, and they are a big component in the screenings, training workshops and career programs offered. Artists-in-residency include alumni

Chris Bridges, known professionally as Ludacris, a multi-platinum, Grammywinning artist, actor and entrepreneur with a philanthropic heart; alumni Tom Luse, executive producer of The Walking Dead and the first GSU student to submit a film for a graduate thesis; Erik Gordon, a member of 100 Black Men of Atlanta, an organization aimed at improving the quality of life and giving community support to African American youth; and Grammy-winning producer, filmmaker, and musician Dallas Austin, best known for his work with musicians like Madonna, TLC, and Boyz II Men and for producing films Drumline and ATL.


Candice Alger and Pepper the robot

Upon entering CMII, every student and guest has the opportunity to interact with Pepper the robot, the world’s first social humanoid robot able to recognize faces and basic human emotions. Aside from being home to Pepper, the first floor contains the main production studio; a 1,900 sq. ft. speed rail room lined with green screen curtains and portable cyclorama walls. These walls allow the studio to be used for volumetric capturing and visual production. If students aren’t occupying the studio on the first floor, they’re either engrossed in virtual reality gaming in the VR demo lab and VR cave or trying their hands at 3D printing in the Maker’s lab. However, the majority of students gather on the second floor, which is equipped with post production, project and training rooms, as well as audio suites. On this floor, students are encouraged to jump on CMII’s desktop computers furnished with production, game design, sound editing and animation software. Last, but certainly not least, the third floor contains a 1,250 sq. ft. data visualization and digital humanities research lab. Here, students can lounge amongst workstations while training for Esports, editing content or collaborating on content creation near the offices of acclaimed producers, entrepreneurs and recording artists. e There are two degrees offered with CMII: one in media entrepreneurship and the other in game design. “We’re only in our second year and we have 600 majors and 54% of those are women,” said Candice Alger, professor of practice. Alger teaches AR/VR Virtual Production and was one of this year’s finalists for Women in Technology’s (WIT) Woman of the Year in Technology award. Executive director, Brennen Dicker, has his own list of accolades that proves his enduring promise to CMII. Dicker has 20 years of experience in the film industry including serving as general manager of SIM International, chair of the Atlanta Advisory Council for SCAD, executive board member and former chair of the GPP’s government relations

group, chair of the steering committee for the 2018 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival and a member of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. “What we’re trying to do in the end is to bring in industry, students and all the technology and create a culture where people can truly interact with each other in a way that’s substantial and create” explained Dicker. “We are tasked to teach the next generation of storytellers and also become a thought-leader within the industry in the Southeast, and hopefully nationally at some point.”

e In the main production studio, professors of practice, Algers and James Martin went more in-depth with their technology. “This is our virtual production studio. It’s a bit of a Swiss Army knife because we only have one,” Algers revealed. “We pull the screen curtain back, [and] we have a full on stage where we can capture multiple performers [and] lens

virtually.” Algers has worked with the spandex-suit-white-ping-pong-ball optical motion capture system for over 16 years. CMII has gained access to a newer form of technology. The Xsens suit is the most accurate motion capture suit on the market. It does so by using an HD reprocessing feature. According to their website, “the Xsens MVN Animate enables you to mocap anywhere and everywhere, in any situation.” No more ping pong balls within the studio. Xsens can be taken outside. “We also have what’s called volumetric capture. It’s a 32-camera system. We capture performers in full costume. This is bleeding edge. When we decided to bring this technology here it was because we wanted to give our students something that didn’t exist at all the bigger universities in the media labs. This is one of eight systems in the world, and it’s called 4Dviews,” Algers added. 4DViews is based out of France and captures a photo-real 360 holographic representation of performances as a digital asset. These assets can

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then be deployed into game engines, prototypes, etc. CMII has had a number of performances in their space ranging from cosplayers and extras to former NFL receiver, Jerry Rice. “We captured him for the Super Bowl for a program called You Make The Play. That asset was composited in a virtual representation of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. People that visited the NFL Experience during the Super Bowl were able to put on VR headsets, see him in the stadium, and hear what he had to say about the school program that United Way sponsors nationally to teach kids how to cope with bullying,” Algers recalled. CMII also has rapid prototyping software packages through a strategic partnership with Taiwan based company Reallusions. “When I saw it 3-4 years ago, I knew that we needed that here because we could

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James Martin and Candice Alger demonstrate motion capture technology

teach our students animation much faster by getting rapid prototyping material out there. Vertical slicing of content allows them to build it faster. We’re teaching the students how to tell their stories with emerging technologies because we know that if we can do that, they’ll find jobs in any sector. We’re getting updates on this technology before anyone else in the world,” said Algers. Professor Martin teaches advanced VFX and motion capture. “Right now you’re seeing a leap in innovation for things like comprehensive shaders that give a more true-reactive quality to light. You can see it’s getting closer and closer to photo-real and also in-real time, meaning that performance capture can be done

on the stage where you’re capturing the overall facial performance, the voiceover and the motion capture as well. If we plug that into the data that we get out of these suits, or another system like the OptiTrack, then we can get basically the entire performance all at once. Full body and things like wardrobe can be worked out; everything down to the details of the eyes,” said Martin about the technology he used on Suicide Squad over the summer. Rapid prototyping technology can also be used for character generation and can instantly produce character functions like walk cycles and idles by way of puppeteering. Auto- generation and machine learning are what Martin describes as the “heavy lifters”. “Students come to us with their problems, and we figure out what pieces and parts to put together. That’s what’s


360 degrees of FLIR camera technology really attracting community as well, because people are a little hesitant to invest in this type of technology because it’s very expensive, but it’s changing rapidly, so [CMII] really is a think tank. People have come in from other universities to see what we have, and they’re really blown away. We’re bringing in students to disrupt how we do all of this, the pipelines, and how stories are told. We want the stories we tell to be more demonstrative of the culture we represent, so getting these young students involved has been a lot of fun,” Algers told Oz Magazine. Each professor seemed so composed at the helm of a rapidly changing industry. “The people who are teaching this are people who are the foremost leaders in the industry,” said Ferrell. In this industry, textbooks are obsolete because technology is evolving every minute. The question arises: how can academia be taught without a textbook? Martin had the answer: “We have an industry related approach, so our curriculum is designed around industry standard techniques that are in play right now in production. We’re not revisiting antiquated pipelines or regurgitating texts. If you’re innovating at the speed of technology, then you have to be utilizing guidance into the field. Right now, professors of practice, like ourselves, are charged with that in our curriculum.” “There is no single pipeline that works for everything happening today. It’s all experimental, so we do a lot of paid work here, and then we get students involved in those projects so they can get

Brennen Dicker, executive director

real world experience and money. When they get out of here, they actually have something that’s on their reel that’s a real credit,” added Ferrell. Max Thomas teaches game design and approaches teaching in an egalitarian way: “My goal is that they’re more generalists than specialists, but that they’ll be well rounded generalists with a more diverse exposure to the industry and the tools, and that’s one of the best things about being here is that we have so many toys. It’s great working with the students here. We have a really great team.” “That’s what makes it a unique perspective because not only are they getting game lectures on the academic side, but they are also getting professors of practice on the industry side working hand in hand,” Dicker remarked. “James is going out in the summer working on features like Suicide Squad, where he’s bringing students and other professors in to work on these projects. We’re on the creative story side of things instead of the programming and development part of it because coding [will] be something that is done by computers in the future. We want to make sure the students are on the story creating side because that’s where we see the business going, or at least the business we want to be in.”

James Amann, director of operations, showed Oz the ropes in the VR Demo Room. “The CMII is giving students and our next generation of storytellers the

ability to develop their stories to multiple platforms. When I say stories, it could be film, audio, training modules, games or even data visualization. The problem is that a lot of our students don’t have access to this gear, so the first purpose for this room is accessibility. Accessibility so that they know it’s out there and they have access to it, but then moving them towards developing to it.” The VR Demo Room contains an HTC Vive, an Oculus Rift, a Playstation VR, Hololenses, Magic Leaps and a VR treadmill. Amann is persistent in pointing out that the VR Demo Room, as well as the entire facility, also is utilized for pitching to clients. “We provide a professional environment for our students to be able to [pitch], so that they aren’t the ones walking into the boardroom spilling stuff all over the place. They can have it all set up here, and [pitch] in a really cool environment. [In the VR Demo Room] people are standing in place doing VR. In the VR Cave, they can wander around, which becomes a compelling use of space for training modules, where maybe you’re doing a training module where an emergency doctor has to move around the room.” Oz also toured CMII’s VR Cave with GSU student, Henry Bernreuter. The VR Cave is completely sound dampened and light controlled. The three-walled immersive projection is straight out of Star Trek, and is even called a “Holodeck.” Rapid Prototyping in the VR Cave is utilized with technologies such as Vizard. “We run experiments in immersive

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design,” he explains. Bernreuter took us through demo launchers of tranquil mountains, beaches, and waterfalls as well as a brain surgery training module and the dojo where Neo first fought Morpheus in The Matrix. Bernreuter is working directly with artist-in-residence Luse to develop an LED nano lumen display to revitalize the Five Points Area downtown. “The first thing I did was build a three quarters model of this building. I figured out all the math for the projections. Then we started working on the software to create it. We’re using commercially available software right now, but we will be writing our own software. The idea would be that it would be a permanent fixture [for] students that wanted to create content on the building,” said Bernreuter. The projection, unlike the screens in New York City’s Times Square, will be energy efficient and capable of displaying anything from ticker tape to an interactive piano. With all the foot traffic on Park Place, there is so much opportunity to explore in this display.

The Maker’s Space was the last stop. Support specialist Elliott Kirkpatrick maintains all of the machines in the space, and when we came in, he was 3D printing octopodes and an 18-inch Eiffel Tower. The Maker’s Space has many plans in the works and is available to all the students, staff and faculty of the CMII student engaging with motion capture technology

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A shot of Cirque du Soleil holding Atlanta auditions at CMII for their next show in 2020

CMII space. Kirkpatrick assured that the space will open to the public in the form of workshops. “This is supposed to be an open space where we provide tools and some knowledge, and then access to everybody so that they can make things happen that maybe somebody alone couldn’t. We don’t do it for them. That’s a big part of the Maker’s Space: we’re going to help you get your hands dirty so that it can be exactly what you want. We do everything from electronics to 3D printing.” “It can be a task. I have the knowledge of how all the equipment works, but I also train the students so they CMII students engaging with motion VR technology

can trouble-shoot almost all of the issues,” Kirkpatrick said when asked what it’s like to maintain all of these machines. The Maker’s Space can be utilized to create anything from movie props and costume pieces to action figures. There are plans to build it out with a VAC former and a paint booth. “This space is still a work in progress, but we’re definitely going to grow [it] into something more special than it already is,” added Kirkpatrick.

The talented and bright students seem to be taking to the multimedia interdisciplinary approach that the CMII space is facilitating. Most CMII students are Pell Grant recipients. “They’re first generation,” Dicker commented. “Their parents didn’t go to college so there are a lot of things that we have to do in preparing them that I think other universities don’t necessarily need to concentrate on nearly as much. It’s getting the soft skills, getting out there, and how to get work, how to conduct yourself in interviews, how to go in that direction. It’s yet another layer.” “Lisa does workshops with the interns to teach them those things, but then it’s really tough for them to get internships because most of them are working,” said Algers. “It gets really complicated. When we are successful, when these students get hired into the industry, they at least double their


family’s income, and they stay here and pay taxes. We’re not exporting them.” CMII’s core missions relate directly to each floor of the institute. Technology is the focus of the first mission, and CMII is bringing in the most advanced and up-to-date software available. They also make strides to fund an ever-evolving industry. They have the programming and professionals in place to train students to find their own pipelines in entertainment and information. Their second mission is to facilitate a space of innovation through the design of their labs, classrooms, and studios, giving students a place to pitch to potential investors. They have created a system to enlist countless success stories. Finally, CMII’s third mission that the institute focuses on is the collaboration of students and industry for the benefit of research and economy in the film and TV, music industry, and game design fronts. “We have a great group of students. The grit that they have and determination has been fantastic,” remarked Dicker. The future of storytelling is in the heart of downtown Atlanta.

Lisa Ferrell and Max Thomas in the Maker's Space

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A CORK POPPER Kenny Blank and the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Celebrate 20 Years BY: B. SONENREICH

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The Jewish experience connects with everything in life.

I

n a time when people are often reticent to speak to one another, a period when everything is so polarized, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (AJFF) opens up their doors for conversation. Atlanta Jewish Committee (AJC) began the film festival in 2000 to advance its mission of building bridges within the community, combatting anti-Semitism, promoting religious tolerance and exploring Jewish issues through cinematic storytelling. “AJC is not an arts organization and had no prior experience doing film festivals, so this was all new to them,” explained Kenny Blank, the executive director of the film festival, who sat down with Oz Magazine to tell us about his journey as the festival comes into its 20th year anniversary. “Part of that learning process and part of the culture of AJC was to bring a lot of volunteers to inform everything they do. They started tapping people who had the industry expertise or a film perspective that AJC didn’t have to help curate and figure out how to produce the festival.” In the formative years of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, Blank was working overnight hours in a newsroom for broadcast television. “I loved what I was doing and it was a time of a lot of major news events, but it was taxing, and exhausting, and not conducive to family life.” Prior to his career in television, Blank completed his Bachelor’s degree at New York University with a focus in film studies and journalism. Blank’s passion for cinema and his career in programming news were foundational to his path at the film festival. Blank’s festival career is directly tethered to his wife, Nancy Blank. “[She] was first invited to volunteer on the film selection committee, and she’s not even a film person,” said Blank, who smiled at the irony of it all. “She said, ‘You know you’re really talking to the wrong person here. I mean my husband’s the film guy, so why don’t you get him involved?’” At that point, a few years had passed since AJC’s first film festival, and the board members began exploring options for a full-time festival director. Without hesitation, Blank assured the AJC that he was available for and interested in the part. “I saw all kinds of possibilities to take it to new places,” Blank told Oz. “They said yes and that’s how I became the festival director.” Fast forward to 2014, after over a decade of explosive growth, increasing fundraising demands and programming opportunities, the AJC had come to the realization that the festival was outgrowing the committee. “What started as an advocacy project really was becoming a full-fledged film festival in its own right,” said Blank. “[AJFF] needed its own staff, its own operating structure, its own governance, its own programming team and so forth.” That year, the festival recognized that it was beneficial for both parties if AJFF stepped out on its own and became an independent 501(c)(3). It continued the incredible advocacy work that AJC does, but it was a chance for the festival to really focus on doing what both parties do best.

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The mission of the festival has not changed; it goes beyond just showing great films. “The mission is probably two-fold,” stated Blank. “One [side] is celebrating great international cinema; bringing films to Atlanta that you cannot see anywhere else. There aren’t a lot of art house cinemas here in Atlanta, so there is a real opportunity with our festival to bring a lot of the top films from Toronto, Berlin, Telluride, Sundance and so forth. All these big international film festivals that have some connection to Jewish life, [we] bring them here for all audiences, not just Jewish audiences, to experience.” Blank recognizes that the Jewish community is not a monolithic one, and he believes the second component of the mission is bringing the entire community together to celebrate Jewish culture collectively. “People engage with their faith and their ethnicity in all different ways. This is a way through film, a very safe space, and a secular movie theatre… [where you can] explore your culture and faith and heritage and history through film.” Since community inclusivity is at the heart of the festival, it should come as no surprise that the evaluation committee that selects the programmed films is comprised of a diverse group of volunteers. “I really want to make sure we have a diversity of films and subjects represented, and we want to have a diverse audience. I think the best way to do that is to invite people from all backgrounds to be part of the process.” Programming a film festival of this size and duration takes six months, from May to November. The committee prescreens about 700-800 film entries. These are a combination of films that are submitted through an open call for entries and ones that Blank and the AJFF team seek out and invite: films that are mined from other international festivals. “We’re looking for those films that have some connection to Jewish life and Israel. Sometimes it’s going on a hunch, sometimes it’s obvious. We try to really broaden the definition of what makes a film Jewish to allow us to bring a lot of different subjects and genres. The Jewish connection may be more indirect, it may be a certain Jewish point of view or a certain Jewish value. There’s something inherent in there, but it may not be something front and center in the film.” 48

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For Blank, along with the rest of the staff and volunteers at AJFF, one of the most important goals of the festival is to encourage an ongoing dialogue long after the film ends, the lights turn on and the theatre empties. “These films deal with very challenging issues, ‘ripped from the headlines’ kinds of topics: challenging, thought-provoking films, films that really warrant conversations, films that you’re going to want to unpack.” Throughout his time at AJFF, Blank appreciates when these circumspectly curated films surprise the audiences. It’s an aspect of the film festival that never gets old. “Movies are kind of like getting your broccoli wrapped in chocolate; you don’t necessarily know the filmmaker’s agenda or if the filmmaker even has an agenda. The messages of these films are wrapped in characters and stories.”

I really want to make sure we have a diversity of films and subjects represented, and we want to have a diverse audience. I think the best way to do that is to invite people from all backgrounds to be part of the process. Despite its size and growing success, the film festival shares similar challenges that other festivals are facing today. “In the past couple of years, you have seen people questioning the sustainability of traditional moviegoing,” said Blank. “Movie theatres are downsizing. This has been a challenge for film festivals [since they] bring out huge crowds all at once.” As a result, AJFF is forced to evolve by booking non-traditional venues where they can provide maximum seating for their members and guests. In addition to the threat of today’s decrease in movie theatres, film festivals all over the world are now having to compete with the uprise of streaming

services. “[We] want to provide a really unique experience for the moviegoer, because so many of these films are immediately accessible at home.” The question that arises when pondering this concern is one Blank and the AJFF team must frequently grapple with: “What’s really going to compel someone to get off their couch, fight traffic, and come out to see these movies,” Blank asked. While the experience of watching a movie on the silver screen remains superior for Blank and the loyal members of AJFF, this preference is dwindling amongst the newer generation of moviegoers who often prioritize watching a movie on their laptop or television over buying a ticket at a theatre. Nevertheless, Blank believes that the magic of cinema lies within the shared experience. “There’s a different energy when seeing the films [in theatres]...it’s a different relationship you’re having with what’s on-screen when you’re having that as a shared experienced with others.” Blank proceeded to list examples of genres worth seeing collectively, from comedies to horror films to dramas. “You’re jumping out of your seat,” exclaimed Blank. “You can feel the emotion in the room.” One of the ways AJFF keeps the magic of cinema alive is by inviting industry experts to screenings. Academics, film critics, filmmakers and more come out to AJFF to introduce films, speak on panels and participate in ancillary programming. For twenty years, AJFF has invited moviegoers to investigate the complex themes that surface in cinema, to question their viewing experience and to become a film student in their own right. “The Jewish experience connects with everything in life,” said Blank. While Atlanta is home to people of many different backgrounds, AJFF is and has always been an inclusive community. There’s a seat in every theatre for anyone who wishes to tap into the wisdom of cinematic storytelling. Blank’s words conjure up memories of a Hebrew saying: “Eizehu chacham? Ha’lomed mi’kol adam.” Who is wise? He who learns from all people.


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GOVERNOR KEMP SWEARS IN 18 APPOINTEES TO SERVE ON THE GEORGIA FILM, MUSIC, & DIGITAL ENTERTAINMENT COMMISSION By: Emily L. Foley

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eorgia Governor Brian Kemp swore in 18 appointees from various facets of the entertainment industry to be a part of his new Georgia Film, Music, and Digital Entertainment Commission. The move is not unprecedented; previous Georgia Governor Nathan Deal had a similar commission. The appointment of this commission is a move that fortunately implies Kemp does in fact want to protect and foster the booming industry. All individuals, from educators to lawyers to union representatives, are already actively involved in advocating for and representing the industry in various agencies and organizations throughout both the state and country. At press time, the commission had not yet met, so members were not certain how Kemp plans to utilize their expertise, but those Oz spoke to have grand goals for how they aim to help keep the industry thriving and growing in the Peach State. Craig Miller, the owner of Craig Miller Productions, is one of the newly appointed members of the commission, and also served as the chair of Deal’s iteration. “Governor Deal’s commission usually met about once a quarter, and we served at the governor’s pleasure. We monitored what was going on in the film industry during those meetings, and were proponents of the continued growth and development of the industry.

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That commission didn’t really have any problems to solve,” said Miller. Miller plans to use his role to help push the industry into what he considers the final stage of full sustainability. “First we needed the legislature to create a tax incentive,” he began. “Then after the incentive was in place, we needed infrastructure; there were only one or two soundstages in Atlanta in 2008, and now there are more than 20 studios and multiple soundstages across the state of Georgia. After infrastructure is education, to get Georgians to work and get everyone up to speed to be able to handle the volume of work coming in, and then after education you need content creators. We are right at that stage now. We need Georgians wanting to tell their stories. We need investors to make financial commitments to making the stories of Georgia writers and Georgia directors and Georgia producers. That is what will create an industry that is fully sustainable and provide work for Georgians for years to come.” Dan Rosenfelt, president of Third Rail Studios, also sees cultivating creatives as an important step for the industry. Rosenfelt moved his family to Georgia from Los Angeles three years ago to work at Third Rail. “In LA, I just did my job,” he explained. “I didn’t have to advocate for my industry, but here, it’s a

different thing. Any time you have a tax incentive that is the driver of production, and a place that is relatively new to the industry, there is a lot of education that is needed, not only with the public, but with lawmakers, to really show them what it looks like on the ground making TV shows and movies.” Rosenfelt is passionate about being an advocate for the industry, and has actively done so since he moved to the state. His role on the commission only furthers his ability to do so, and he hopes to create a clear picture of just how broadly the industry impacts Georgia. “It goes far beyond just the number of jobs and how much [production] spends directly in the state annually,” he stated. “It’s staggering just how many people this industry touches in Georgia. There are ways it spreads out that you can’t entirely measure. Cast, crew, and production members spending money at outside businesses, giving time and money to non-profits; it’s untrackable how much money is spread around town to businesses that would never in a million years think that the film industry would connect with them.” He is also acutely aware of how legislation could affect the industry, and hopes he can make sure all sides of the picture are seen by policy makers, so they know the broad scale ramifications of laws they propose. “The studios are absolutely beholden to their


talent: actors, directors and creatives, and most of those people, if given their ‘druthers,’ want to film in California, so they don’t need much excuse to put their screws to the studio,” he explained.

" We need Georgians wanting to tell their stories. We need investors to make financial commitments to making the stories of Georgia writers and Georgia directors and Georgia producers. That is what will create an industry that is fully sustainable and provide work for Georgians for years to come. " Pinewood Atlanta Studios president and commission appointee Frank Patterson has served governors in Georgia and Florida and is excited to do so again with Kemp. “I want to help our state recognize all the value of this industry way beyond that which has already been publicized,” said Patterson. “We don’t hear much talk about new jobs created by this industry. Federal data shows that while [the film industry] represents about .5% of all jobs in Georgia, we also represent 5.5% of new jobs in Georgia! We are an industry that can create enormous innovation and education and splinter industry. We have some of the best educational institutions in the world right here in Georgia, and we’re perfectly primed and positioned to create what this industry needs to spur innovation at a level that isn’t even being talked about.” Patterson, a professor in Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts, is understandably focused on the educational aspect of his role on the commission and aims to educate Kemp and other policy makers not just on how important blue collar skills and

laborers are to the film industry, but also the economic impact the film industry in turn has upon those individual industries. “People focus on the creatives, but the directors and producers and special effects are just small parts of the industry,” he said. “It’s an amazingly diverse eco-system of skills, from landscape artists and riggers to grips and electricians, and when it’s successful, history has shown that it creates great growth in all those other industries.” And what about the music side of things? A clearly more established side of the entertainment industry in Georgia, our state has fostered noted musicians for many decades from James Brown, Little Richard and the Allman Brothers all the way to Jermaine Dupri and the groups R.E.M. and Sugarland. However, the industry still stands to benefit from tax incentives and the attentive eye of the state’s political leaders. Appointee Mala Sharma has more than 20 years of experience in the music and entertainment industry, and currently serves as the GM of audio postproduction company Wabi Sabi Sound, Inc. She also helped found the non-profit music advocacy coalition Georgia Music Partners (GMP), and is a noted advocate for the music industry. “Georgia’s music industry has provided the soundtrack for the world for many decades,” she shared. “We educate and grow the music industry in every county in this state, but more often than not, those musicians end up leaving. Georgia is taking film production from California, while Nashville, Austin, LA and New York are taking our musical talent.” Sharma hopes to shine a light on that fact, and wants to see the state’s music incentive become as viable as its filming incentive, so Georgia can keep musicians here, working in the state. “The strength of the hip-hop industry is already here. The Atlanta Symphony orchestra has more than 26 Grammys; we have the talent, we just need some investment from outside companies,” said Sharma. “We’re not starting at zero with the music industry, so the growth would likely be exponential.” Sharma also believes that just as the commission sees members of these different branches of the entertainment industry working together, that is how the industry as a whole should work. “It shouldn’t be

separate silos,” she said. “We should look at the big picture. We have incredible film and TV growth, and we’ve got digital entertainment growth, so we can have all three components! Instead of looking to Silicon Valley and Nashville and Hollywood, [Georgia] could be all three!” It’s obvious that the 18 members were well thought out, and have the vast industry experience to be dynamic counsel for the governor and perhaps most importantly, truly have the industry’s best interest at heart. If their individual visions become reality, our state and its filming industry will truly become, and remain, an epicenter of creativity for decades to come. The 18 members of the commission are:

MICHAEL AKINS, business agent, IATSE Local 479 (labor union) CHRIS ALBRECHT, partner, Double A Productions DANIEL DAWSON, country music singer/songwriter Representative CARL GILLIARD, House District 162 CARDELLIA HUNTER, Co-director of operations and productions for the Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment STRATTON LEOPOLD, executive producer and owner, Leopold’s Ice Cream Senator DAVID LUCAS CRAIG MILLER, executive producer, Craig Miller Productions Senator JEFF MULLIS JOHN NEEL, JR., CEO, The Sandford Company, Inc. FRANK PATTERSON, president of Pinewood Atlanta Studios KEITH PERISSI, director of Joel A. Katz Music & Entertainment Business Program at Kennesaw State University JOHN RAULET, VP of Raulet Property Partners Representative BERT REEVES, House District 34 Representative TERRY ROGERS, House District 10 DANIEL ROSENFELT, president of Third Rail Studios MALA SHARMA, GM, Wabi Sabi Sound, Inc. STEPHEN WEIZENECKER, entertainment lawyer, Barnes & Thornburg January / February 2020

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By: L a n e M at r av e r s

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elissa Simpson is the co-founder of Film Impact Georgia (FIG), a nonprofit organization that awards grants to new Georgia filmmakers. Alongside Molly Coffee, Simpson created FIG as a way to both promote and give back to the film community here in Georgia. Created in January 2019, Film Impact Georgia is working to shape and bring together filmmakers in Georgia. Oz recently sat down with Simpson to discuss FIG’s colorful past and bright future. 52

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Molly Coffee and I are both Georgia born and bred, and it was really important to us to help creators that are based here, because that’s really when our industry will be more fully fleshed out: when we have actual creators based here, creating content here.”

For those who don’t know Film Impact Georgia, how would you describe it? Melissa Simpson: We started Film Impact Georgia as a way to support the independent community in the state of Georgia. The success of the production industry that has come into town has not necessarily translated to success in the indie community. This community is being priced out of locations, crews are turning in their paperwork and walking onto union shows, so there’s less of a work force, and there’s more scarcity of certain resources. That’s kind of what made us start FIG. We wanted to fill in those gaps and open doors for people that wouldn’t get the opportunity otherwise. The first thing that we started with was our $5,000 filmmaker grant, that was the first program that was really important to us and that we wanted to start with, because there’s not a lot of return on investment for short films and that’s really where artists cut their teeth. They learn who they are and where they make their mistakes, so we wanted to give people an opportunity to make things. The only strings that we had attached to it are: 1) The films have to be made in Georgia; 2) They have to write an inclusion statement, basically how they’ll be thoughtful both on and off screen, as far as diversity goes; and 3) Their film had to be made by the end of 2020. Our goal is to never make money off our filmmakers so applying is free. We want to break down barriers of entry. What is your mission statement? MS: Promoting growth where our roots

are planted. Molly and I are both Georgia born and bred, and it was really important to us to help creators that are based here, because that’s really when our industry will be more fully fleshed out: when we have actual creators based here, creating content here. This is our home, and we wanted to do what we could to help those that live here. Our official mission statement is: “We dedicate ourselves to empowering individuals in the film and television industry by nurturing community leaders, advocating for the underrepresented and inspiring change both locally and throughout the state. We leverage our leadership, commitment, and influence towards reducing the imbalances that exist today in an industry that is capable of altering the human condition.” That’s us in a nutshell. Of course, throughout the year we’ve grown and changed. We’re doing things that we would have never expected, and we’ve grown in ways that we had never expected, but we’re very excited with how supportive the community has been. Can you tell me about the grant FIG is providing? MS: It’s $5,000. We hope to do two of these a year as long as we can find funding for it. If we continue to raise enough money, we’d like to offer more. But right now our baseline is two $5,000 grants a year. With that, the winner not only gets a $5,000 check written to them, they also get a mentor to walk them through the process. With our first winner, Inés Michelena, Molly and I just

sat down with her at dinner and were like, “What do you need?” Inés was very confident on production. She had assembled a great crew that all knew what they were doing, but the place where she felt she would need the most help was with distribution and film festival strategy. So the mentors we ended up hooking her up with were Charles Judson and Cameron McCallister. Charles has worked for a ton of festivals and Cameron is the associate director at the Atlanta Film Festival. As soon as [Inés] is in picture lock, they’re going to sit down with her and help her craft her festival strategy and pick the festivals that will be best for her. We’re also incredibly grateful to one of our advisory council members, Lynn Hylden. She is a producer and manager at POPfilms. She opened her art department storage at POPfilms and let [the crew] borrow anything they wanted for their set dressing free of charge. We’re trying to find other ways to make that $5,000 go further. When Inés is done and starts working out her festival strategy, we’re going to try and get her as many festival waivers as possible and try to give her the best boost we can. January / February 2020

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How did FIG come to fruition? MS: Molly Coffee and I both had a bit of a rough 2018. As Molly likes to say, she tried to direct a feature film that she wrote and failed very publicly. It essentially was the perfect storm of issues that a lot of independent creators come across; there were issues with funding, with locations, with weather. There was actually a point where all of the sets were underwater right before they were going to roll camera. Everything that could have gone wrong did. At the end of Fall 2018, both Molly and I were crushed. We spent a lot of time talking about what was wrong in our community and how there weren’t enough support systems for independent filmmakers. Eventually we got to a point where we said, “We could continue to complain about it or we could try to make something happen.” And so it was the end of January/beginning of February 2019 when we were like, “Ok, let’s start a nonprofit.” It’s been a brilliant, amazing experience thus far for two people that knew absolutely nothing about starting a nonprofit. Thankfully, we started reaching out immediately to the people in the community that we’ve worked with, that we know, and we got a lot of people in the same room to have more of a planning meeting. We pitched our idea to them and they all met us with great enthusiasm, so we were like, “Okay we’re not crazy, then we’ll do this!” A lot of those people became board members for our advisory council. We’ve had a lot of help along the way, figuring out how to manage this thing that kind of started to grow on its own as soon as it was created. What were some challenges you and Molly faced when starting this nonprofit? MS: Getting a nonprofit off the ground is a huge challenge. You not only have to register as a business within the state and city, you also have to apply to the IRS to get your tax exemption 501(c)(3) status. That came with a lot of paperwork and thankfully one of our advisory council members, Nancy Prager, is an incredible local entertainment lawyer who helped us through the process of filing our

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paperwork with the IRS. That was in itself a challenge: building our board, finding people that had the time and enthusiasm to put into the organization. We’re completely based off of the donations and sponsorships that we get. Molly and I put in some of the start-up costs out of our own pockets. That’s definitely been a struggle: trying to find money to give to others. (laughs) What were your first steps in legitimizing FIG and getting word out about the grant? MS: Our first thing was the launch event. That’s how we were hoping to kind of spread the word. We had the support of the MET, which is where Molly’s studio, Zombie Cat Productions, is located. They allowed us to use their penthouse there for our launch, which was incredible. We had over 300 people in attendance. We really want our community to start reaching out to each other and help lift each other as a whole, so that was a huge event. We raised a chunk of our money that night for our first grant. What do you hope to accomplish in the future for FIG? MS: 2020 will bring hopefully two more filmmaker grants. We also have a development lab in the works. We want to start a pilot program for future development labs, so we’re starting small to make sure that it’s doable, and then we’ll replicate on a larger scale. We have decided to do a horror development lab. Basically we want to take filmmakers through the state of Georgia; directors, producers and writers; and then put them in a cabin in the woods in the middle of October with several mentors to really develop their films. It’s something that no one else is doing. That in itself is really exciting. It’ll probably be five filmmakers tops in this first year, and then in 2020 we’ll hopefully do a larger development lab, where we’re bringing in even more filmmakers and mentors to work with [the participants]. The state of Georgia doesn’t have any sort of standing development lab or program like that. It’s the only tax incentive state that does not have a program funded by the tax

incentive that funnels back into local creators. Our long-term goal is we would really love for some of these programs to be funded directly by the tax incentive. Where do you see FIG 5-10 years from now, ideally? MS: I would love for us to be able to purchase actual equipment that filmmakers could rent out for next to nothing. Someday I would love to see a WeWork space for filmmakers, where people can screen things, they can work together. There are tons of educational programs that I would love to create. Right now, what we want to do is very large. Molly and I have had to reign ourselves in and focus on some very specific tasks because we want to start off with a solid foundation so that way we can build on it. As long as we continue to get the funding, there’s so much that we want to be able to do. What advice do you have for aspiring applicants and/or new filmmakers? MS: That’s always a hard one because every person is different. I was lucky enough to go to film school, and that’s where I met a lot of people that I’ve created with. I had the opportunities to make short films and make mistakes, but not everyone gets that opportunity, nor is that right for everyone. Make things where you can, work together on projects and get as much experience as you can. Making a short film, just the process start-to-finish of making that film, will give you more experience than several semesters of film school could. There’s nothing quite like practical experience. If you’re having a hard time finding a project to work on, there’s the 48 Hour Film Festival that happens every year. I did it when I first started in film school and what we made was absolute garbage but I learned so much, and those were mistakes that I will never make again! Ask for help when you need it. Give people your time because that’s how you build up your community, and that’s how you build your connections, your network and your filmmaking tribe.


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Richard Jewell Premiere To a standing ovation in a moment that was both magical and majestic, Clint Eastwood took his bows for his latest movie, Richard Jewell, at it’s premiere in Atlanta at the Rialto Center for the Arts. The Georgia-lensed movie starred Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, Paul Walter Hauser and Sam Rockwell, all of whom attended the premiere. Also in attendance were Richard Jewell’s mother, Bobi Jewell, and Jewell’s hero lawyer, Watson Bryant, and Bryant’s wife, Nadya Light. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston introduced and welcomed the filmmakers, stars, consultants and heroes. 56

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IMAGES 1. Clint Eastwood being interviewed 2. From L to R: Sam Rockwell, Watson Bryant, Bobi Jewell and Kathy Bates 3. Kathy Bates 4. Michael K. Williams 5. Deja Dee on red carpet 6. David Shae and mom, Marylou Moretti

7. Paul Walter Hauser and Jon Hamm 8. Garon Grigsby as Bryant Gumbel 9. Mike Pniewski with wife, Jaye 10. Richard and Kecia Treveiler 11. Josh Henry 12. Richard Treveiler who played FBI agent, Patrick Williams

13. Andrea Laing 14. Billy Slaughter on red carpet 15. From L to R: Nadya Light, Watson Bryant, Clint Eastwood, Bobi Jewell, Paul Walter Hauser and Jon Hamm * Photography courtesy of Jay Lenard

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WIFTA GALA 2019 The annual Women In Film and Television Atlanta (WIFTA) gala is the organization’s primary fundraising vehicle. The gala has and continues to be incredibly successful raising funds to maintain the organization’s educational and information programs, workshops and events for WIFTA members and the Atlanta community. The gala honored Kandi Burruss (Women of Creative Excellence Award), Martha Henderson (Empowered Woman Award), Camille Russell Love (Legacy Woman Award) and Will Packer (Gallantry Award). IMAGES 1. Will Packer, Heather Hayslett, Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker attend the 2019 WIFTA Gala 2. Erica Page and Brely Evans

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3. Camille Russell Love, executive director of the Office of Cultural Affairs 4. Terri J. Vaughn 5. LaRonda Sutton

6. Will Packer with his sons 7. Kendrick Cross 8. Gocha Hawkins


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DreamHack 2019 The gaming and lifestyle festival, DreamHack, returned to Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center. The 24 hour-a-day festival weekend consisted of $1.5 million in esports tournaments, collegiate and high school matches, the world-famous local area network (LAN) party, music concerts, film screenings, a cosplay championship, panels and more.

IMAGES 1. Live musical performance at DreamHack Atlanta 2. Commentators at DreamHack Atlanta 3. DreamHack Atlanta attendees celebrate

4. DreamHack Atlanta performers 5. Excited participants of DreamHack Atlanta 6 - 7 Georgia State University Smite team remains undefeated at the DreamHack Atlanta tournament

* Photography courtesy of DreamHack Atlanta and Brayden Henrichsen

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Rome International Film Festival The Rome International Film Festival entered its 16th year of inviting loyal supporters, sponsors and guests to the annual film festival. After five days of screening independent films, 11 filmmakers are now proud owners of the Rome International Film Festival Sylvia Award. IMAGES 1. Abby Sartain, DIT, and Donovan Stanley, producer, of I Am Here at Rome International Film Festival 2. Rome Mayor Collins presents Eric Haney with Veterans Award. Photograph courtesy of RIFF 3. RIFF guest star, Max Martini.

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4. Special guest, Danielle Deadwyler, at the Rome International Film Festival 5. Filmmakers toast at Rome International Film Festival 6. Dr. Phil Lewis and Donovan Stanley produced I Am Here and won Best Student Short at the Rome International Film Festival

7. Sgt Will Gardner Film Q & A panel. (From L-R): Dianna Edwards, Eric Haney, Michael Hagerty and Max Martini * Photography courtesy of RIFF & Dr. Phil Lewis


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SCAD Savannah Film Festival SCAD hosted the 22nd annual Savannah Film Festival. Talent, students, filmmakers and industry professionals gathered to participate in the largest university-run film festival in the world. Paula Wallace, president and founder of SCAD, presented awards to guests including Alan Silverstri (Lifetime Achievement Award in Composing), Olivia Wilde (Rising Star Director Award, Booksmart) and Daniel Kaluuya (Spotlight Award) among others. IMAGES 1. Olivia Wilde, director of Booksmart and recipient of the Rising Star Director Award 2. Alan Cumming, actor, musician and special guest 3. Aldis Hodge, star of Clemency and recipient of the Discovery Award

4. Elizabeth Moss, star of Her Smell and recipient of the Spotlight Award, and Scott Feinberg, journalist for The Hollywood Reporter 5. Dawn Luebbe & Jocelyn DeBoer, directors, writers and stars of Georgia-lensed film, Greener Grass

6. Daniel Kaluuya, star of Get Out and recipient of the Spotlight Award * Photography courtesy of Ryan Lambert

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GPP Holiday Party Georgia Production Partnership hosted their annual holiday party at the Armour Event Center. Both members and non-members gathered to mix, mingle and play at the casino themed event.

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IMAGES 1. Casino Blackjack Table 2. Co-Presidents Aneesah Bray, Patricia Taylor & Lisa Ferrell 3. Mitch Leff & Barry Stoltze 4. Jason Lockhart (Atlanta Models & Talent), Pierce Lackey (Producer) 5. Joe Howell (Stage Ten Media), Sheena Wiley (Georgia Box Office)

6. Tammi and Michael Tanaka 7. Christy Hill & Bethany Singleton (Houghton Talent) 8. Cassie Lowe 9. Patricia Taylor 10. GPP Board Members: Clark Cofer, Lisa Ferrell, Michael Jackson & Aneesah Bray 11. Clyde Cauthen (Atlanta Movie Tours)

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Oz Magazine is about people - the many fascinating people who make Atlanta a major player in the visual communication industry - and the cre...

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Oz Magazine is about people - the many fascinating people who make Atlanta a major player in the visual communication industry - and the cre...

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