Oz Magazine November / December 2022

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Cover Story: Creating New Worlds, p.22

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. She's interviewed Oscar, Grammy and reality show participants, the designers who've dressed them, and the hairstylists and makeup artists who make them look their best. 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. Emily resides in Atlanta with her husband and their spectacular young children.

Feature Story: Bringing A Little Character to Georgia, p.30 Feature Story: Changing The Game, p.36

Lisa Ferrell has worked in series and tele-film development for companies such as CBS, Lifetime Television/Hearst Entertainment, NBC and TBS. She has served as Executive Producer for several of Atlanta’s foremost post production, motion capture and VFX facilities.

After starting Lisa Ferrell Productions in 2016, Lisa worked on numerous projects for clients such as J Walter Thompson Inside New York, Hartsfield Jackson Airport and music videos. Currently, Lisa works as a Producer / PM in emerging technology, i.e., Motion Capture, Volumetric Capture, AR / VR for GSU’s Creative Media Industries Institute.


Feature Story: Patrick Avard, p.40

Sydnee is an Atlanta native with a passion for reading and writing. She is a Georgia State Alumni with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and a minor in Film and Media. Her love and appreciation for literature has grown tremendously. Anywhere she goes, you’ll find her with a book in her hand.

Publisher Tia Powell (Group Publisher) Sales Kris Thimmesch Sydnee Mutuku Creative Director Michael R. Eilers Production and Design Christopher Winley Michael R. Eilers Contributing Editors Adrena Walton Winston Andrews Cover: Image Courtesy of Julian Ashby STAFF OZ MAGAZINE Oz Magazine is published bi-monthly by Oz Publishing, Inc. 2566 Shallowford Road Suite 104, #302 Atlanta, GA 30345 Copyright © 2022 Oz Publishing Incorporated, all rights reserved. Reproductions in whole or in part without express written permission of the publisher is strictly prohibited. This magazine is printed on recyclable paper. ozmagazine.com /ozmagazine /ozmagazine /ozpublishing For Advertising Information: 404.633.1779 For Press Release Submission: tia@ozonline.tv 2 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.
November / December 2022 3 CONTENTS NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2022 22 COVER STORY Creating New Worlds: Art Director Julian Ashby 6 22 6 OZCETERA A compilation of recent news and hot projects from and about the Georgia entertainment industry 30 FEATURE STORY Bringing A Little Character to Georgia Animation and its impact on Georgia's Entertainment Industry 40 FEATURE STORY Patrick Avard The key to success is to continue raising the bar 44 BLFF 2022 2022 BronzeLens Film Festival Awards and honorees 36 FEATURE STORY Changing The Game Atlanta's Esports capital of the world 30 36 40 44

DreamHack Returns To Atlanta

After three years of virtual events, DreamHack is returning to Georgia in-person for the first time since the pandemic. The three-day, immersive gaming festival will take place on November 18-20, 2022 at the Georgia World Congress Center and offers the ultimate weekend experience for any fantasy fans who want to enjoy nonstop professional and amateur esports competitions, panels led by popular creators, cosplay championships, live music, and many more activities.

“DreamHack loves Atlanta, and we are thrilled to be back! This pandemic has been so hard for so many — but gaming has always had a special way of bringing communities together both online and in-person," said DreamHack’s VP of Strategy & Growth, Shahin Zarrabi.

A healthy stack of video games are on

deck for this year’s esports competition as well as some high value prize pools.

DreamHack Featuring Fortnite is coming in hot with a $100,000 prize pool for the winners of the three day competition located at the Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) LAN area.

The other BYOC Tournaments offer $35,000 in prize money and includes competitions in Rocket League, Team Fortress 2, League of Legends, and StarCraft 2.

DreamHack Starcraft 2 Masters is offering even more money with a prize pool exceeding $100,000. Although, to compete in this event, participants must qualify in regional competitions or be one of the lucky 63 who successfully register for the early stages of the bracket.

While not quite as high, the prize pool for fighting games is a nice $25,000 and

features Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Guilty Gear Strive, Tekken 7, DNF: Duel, Street Fighter V, and The King of Fighters XV.

This trip to Georgia is part of DreamHack's ten-leg festival tour spanning seven countries in 2022. The first post-pandemic, in-person event took place in Dallas this June, and before they touch down in Atlanta, the gaming lifestyle festival is headed to Rotterdam, Netherlands and Hyderabad, India.

“We always strive to not only create a world where our community comes to life, but also one where everybody can be somebody,” said Zarrabi. “This array of esports competitions will offer that opportunity to all, so we can’t wait to once again share our festival with the people of Atlanta.”

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“It was the shortest shoot I’ve ever been on, and the biggest movie I’ve ever made.”

That’s what director Alan Ungar had to say about his new movie starring Josh Duhamel and Elisha Cuthbert. “Bandit” tells the true story of Gilbert Galvan Jr., a notorious bank robber living in Canada in the 1980’s who pulled off nearly 60 heists. The remaining cast features Mel Gibson as an Ottawa crime lord and Nestor Carbonell as a policeman.

The movie, streaming now on Netflix, is primarily a comedy and leans on the particularly polite nature that Galvan showed while holding a gun to a bank teller. He was not originally from Canada but, “he was basically an honorary Canadian,” joked Ungar. “He adopted the Canadian mentality.”

Ungar originally intended for filming to take place in Vancouver and Ottawa, but strict COVID restrictions in Canada would have complicated production. After some location research, showrun ners were left with a decision between Georgia and Puerto Rico.

In response, Ungar remembers telling them, “I don’t know if any of you guys have ever been to Ottawa, Vancouver, or Toronto, but Puerto Rico will not work. However, I think rural Georgia can double for rural Ontario, and I think Atlanta can double for Vancouver.”

From there, the filmmakers began organizing a rapid-fire, 21day shoot that included 200 scenes across 95 sets, and they would have to explore southern Georgia to find colonial structures that matched the type of Victorian architecture commonly found in Canada.

Valdosta, Tiffton, and Thomasville were exactly what they need ed, and the team got to work on matching the time period details and most importantly, making Georgia look like Canada.

“I don’t think it has ever been done before,” said Ungar about using Georgia as a stand-in for the Great White North. “Usually these civic impersonations go the other way, and I was terrified what Canadians would think if the movie came out, and they could see right through it.”

One producer did suggest that they could change the script to have Galvan’s heists take place in America, but Ungar would not hear it. “I didn’t even give it the time of day. There was no other way to do it.”

This was an especially wise decision, given there is a state like Georgia, which not only has an incredibly strong film industry, but is also well-versed in serving as a stand-in for major cities like New York, Chicago, and Boston.

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Light On Local


recently had its Georgia premiere at the Springs Theater and Taphouse in Sandy Springs.


Jesse and Ryan Ronne and their eight children including Lucas who has severe disabilities that require

care. Jesse and Ryan are incredibly dedicated to Lucas’ well being, and the daily demands and resulting chronic stress takes a physical and emotional toll on the parents and family.

Currently, there are 16.8 million caregivers in similar situations to the Ronne family, and they often feel alone in their struggle due to lack of community support. The “Unseen” documentary shines a light on these heroes by allowing those who do not deal with these responsibilities to get a sneak peak

behind the curtain.

While we are still decades behind providing the proper support for these families, there is one such organization that offers assistance.

Life House Atlanta (LHA), a Georgiabased non-profit founded in 2018, is one of only three facilities in the entire United States that serves as a home-away-fromhome for children with disabilities. For up to thirty days a year, LHA offers overnight stays for kids with life-limiting illnesses, where they can participate in activities like music, art, swimming, and many more

while their primary caregivers take a well -deserved break.

This type of respite care is incredibly rare as evidenced by the lack of local facilities, but they are incredibly important to the quality of life for families who sacrifice so much for their children. The first step towards increasing the support for these families is raising community awareness through media forms like the “Unseen” documentary, and hopefully, more infrastructure and facilities like LHA are on the way.

OzCetera 8 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990 Airplane Interiors Luxury Jet Cockpit Props Helicopter Props Airport TSA Area Baggage Scanners Walk-ThroughMetal Detectors Control Panels Computers: Old/New Recording Studio News Cameras Studio Cameras Working Servers Elevator Props Exotic Electronics Rigged Phones Playback TV’s Working ATM’s Bank Interior Prop Money Police Props Prison Props Guns & Weapons Subway Trains Hospital ER/OR Medical Props Dr. Office Set High Tech Security Surveillance Gear Security Monitors Magnetic Card Swipes Mission Control Desks NASA Space Props Over 30,000 Props * MANY PRACTICAL PROPS *
new documentary highlighting the time and effort required to care for a child with a disability or complex medical condition
How We are Failing Parent Caregivers & Why It Matters” features
"Unseen" Producers Tom and Amanda Dyer on stage with Aungelique Proctor, FOX 5 Atlanta reporter and emcee of the panel, and a local videographer in the background

Welcome To The Future Of

PC&E, Georgia’s premier provider of film industry equipment, recently appointed a fresh board of directors and new corpo rate officers. These administrative chang es have come at the right time as the film and television industry in Georgia spent $4.4 billion across 412 productions in the 2022 fiscal year, and now, PC&E is primed to support the industry’s high capacity.

The new corporate officers include: Mark Woffard, President & CEO Angela Ham, CFO Garrett Murck, Secretary

The new board of directors features: Debra Shoaf, Board Chair, Chief Financial

Officer at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Jeff Doud, Board Secretary, Founder & Creative Director, Jeff Doud and Associates, Angela Ham, Chief Financial Officer, PC&E, Jerry Pece, First Assistant Director, Directors Guild of America, Beth Talbert, Vice President & General Manager of Operations, Eagle Rock Studios.

“We’ve put together a fantastic Board here at PC&E with great industry expe rience,” said the firm’s new CEO, Mark Wofford. “I’m looking forward to working with them as PC&E continues to serve our industry.”

The previous Board included Debra Castles Smith and Andre Schnabl and was chaired by the founder of PC&E, Doug Smith, who served as CEO until he retired in 2018. Now, this new slate of directors and corporate officers are eager to build on the successes of their predecessors.

“We’re always working to keep the equipment we offer on the cutting edge. In fact, in 2020, PC&E made a major investment in the BoltX, a high-speed, motion-controlled cinebot,” said Wofford. “Also, the demand for PC&E’s three sound stages is increasing, with several booked months in advance.”

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PC&E's five ton load out

Collegiate eSports League In Georgia

Georgia has created a program to combine esports competitions with professional workforce development to help college students get jobs in the digital entertainment world after graduation.

The new initiative, called the Georgia esports League, was founded by the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the Georgia Film Academy, Skillshot Media, and Ghost Gaming, and it is open to every two-year and four-year college or university in Georgia.

The league is the first of its kind to offer gaming competitions alongside a curriculum focused on career development in video games and esports.

“The Georgia Esports League will help attract college students across our state to this growing industry, so we can continue to fill the jobs posted by the many tech and digital media companies relocating to Georgia,” said Asante Bradford, a project manager at the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

The start of this league conveniently coincides with a spike in the activity of esports in Georgia. In May, the Esports Commissioner's Cup took place at Gateway Arena in College Park. In October, the 2022 League of Legends Semifinal came to Atlanta. And in November, the threeday, immersive gaming lifestyle festival

DreamHack returns to Atlanta for the first time post-pandemic.

Additionally, many big tech companies are putting down roots in Georgia. Microsoft is building a 90-acre facility in Grove Park. Meta, previously known as Facebook, is starting a $42 billion expansion of their data center, and Google is expanding their midtown location as well.

Similar to Georgia’s film industry which just saw a record breaking year, the local technology and digital entertainment industries are gearing up for glory.

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The Collegiate Esports Commissioner’s Cup was held in May at the Gateway Center Arena in College Park. (SkillShot Media)

Ahead Of Its Time

I n the summer of 1992, the cast and crew of “I’ll Fly Away” returned to Lorimar Hollywood South, a bare-bones soundstage located just outside of Stone Mountain, Georgia to film their second season.

The NBC series followed racial tensions during the Civil Rights Movement in Georgia and stars Sam Waterson as a district attorney and Regina Taylor as the family housekeeper. Although the show received rave reviews and several awards "including a couple Emmys" it failed to to receive the green light for renewal.

Part of the show’s reality was that it focused primarily on reality rather than fiction, and the authenticity of the storytelling created difficult scenes to watch. Depictions of police brutality, segregation, and other contentious moments from the Civil Rights Movement were a painful but necessary focus of the showrunners.

“‘I’ll Fly Away’ was very much ahead of its time,” explained Lester Dragstedt, the dolly grip for the show. “All of the characters were deeply flawed, much more nuanced and complex (than other shows). It was much more kind of rooted in reality, and it took a while for audiences to understand that newer style of programming.”

The show’s progressive aim was also evident behind-thescenes.

“I have to give credit to the producers in that we did have conversations about the set-up of Lily Harper, and they were open to these conversations with an African American woman and bringing African Americans into the room, actually having conservations with Black people and having them involved in the development, which was groundbreaking in that point of time,” said Regina Taylor.

Led by showrunner David Chase, who is also the “The Sopranos” creator, “I’ll Fly Away” made a point of bringing in people of color to direct roughly 20% of the episodes each season, and that opportunity is how Eric Laneuville wound up winning an Emmy for the episode he directed in season one.

Furthermore, Regina Taylor became the first black woman ever to win a Golden Globe Award for Best Lead Actress, but unfortunately, these accolades were not enough to save the show from cancellation in the spring of 1993.

“There were things that they wanted Black women and Black people doing on TV that ‘I’ll Fly Away’ was slapping in the face. It was too much truth, and they had to let it go,” said Elizabeth Omilami, a recurring actress on the show.

Now, 29 years removed from the series’ cancellation, the same racial injustice and police brutality elements remain prevalent in our society, and as a result, the show is seeing a resurgence on YouTube and social media.

“This series, these characters…they inspired people to have empathy and invited people to question their own lives, and how they may participate in this life. It provided a hope for the future, particularly in terms of race relations in this country,” explained Taylor. “I feel very blessed, very fortunate, and very humbled by being a part of a series that is still relevant, especially now. It’s right on time.”

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"I'll Fly Away" scripts from the first season of the series. (Courtesy of Amy McGary)
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Georgia’s film industry skyrocketed in 2008 when lawmakers approved the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act to attract movie and TV productions with favorable tax credits.

In the year prior, the economic impact of the film industry was just $241 million. That number would explode in the following years, and production in the Peach State garnered a staggering $4.4 billion in 2021.

The music industry has taken notice of this economic expansion and are now pushing for lawmakers to pass similar tax incentives for musical producers and performers.

Recently, the Joint Georgia Music Heritage Study Committee began hosting meetings to discuss how they can grow

Georgia’s Music Industry Seeking Tax Incentives

music in the state, specifically through the passage of a tax incentive program.

“We see what has happened with the film business,” said Chuck Leavell, the keyboardist and musical director for The Rolling Stones. “You’re going to attract all manner of performers … if we can put these incentives in place.”

In 2017, the music industry did receive a modest tax incentive package for live and recorded performances, but it will sunset at the end of this year and is nowhere near as beneficial as the one in the film industry.

For this reason, members of the joint committee plan to submit House Bill 1330 to the lawmakers which would lower the local spending threshold to receive tax credits in Georgia. The threshold is

$500,000 and $250,000 for live and recorded performances respectively, and the bill would lower those numbers to $100,000 and $50,000.

Additionally, House Bill 1330 would double the tax deduction percentage of production expenses from 15% to 30%.

Supporters already submitted this bill back in March, but it unfortunately died at the State Senate level. That was only the beginning though, and it will be resubmitted in early 2023.

“Music brings us together. What brings us together also makes money,” said Alex Morrison, Macon-Bibb County’s Director of Planning and Public Spaces. “We hope we can be an example to the rest of the state of how we use music to grow our economy.”

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W hat would you do if your spouse abrubtly disappeared while stopping at a gas station? That is the troubling concept in Netflix’s new thriller Last Seen Alive streaming now.

The film stars Gerald Butler as the husband and “Thor: Love and Thunder” star Jaimie Alexander as the wife, and it only took a blistering eight days to film.

This is an astounding time frame for a feature length film with a 95 minute runtime, and according to Butler and Alexander, most of the scenes were improvised to give the performers a unique challenge.

Last Seen Alive In Savannah

The location of the film’s setting is not specifically mentioned, however, much is known about the real-life filming locations for the production. The opening scene of the movie is a sweeping shot of the beautiful Talmadge Memorial Bridge in Savannah, Georgia, while principal photography and most of the forest/greenery shots also took place in Savannah.

One of the most notable spots in the movie is the gas station where the wife is kidnapped. In real life, the gas station is a Texaco in Rincon, Georgia at 1113 North Columbia Avenue, about 35 minutes outside Savannah.

Another significant location is in Bloomingdale, Georgia where the production team used a police department building to film a few crucial scenes, and finally, the cast and crew took a trip to Wilmington Island in the Savannah Metropolitan Area to shoot the final moments.

This is one of many productions that has leaned on Savannah to film, and the city can expect many more to come.

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Still from Last Seen Alive

Pro-Choice, Faith-Based, And Georgia-Lensed

When “Small Miracles: Her Smart Choice” premiered in 2020, America was about to be struck by COVID-19. Pandemic updates and preparations for the upcoming presidential election between Trump and Biden dominated the news cycle. Abortion was legal, and not many people were concerned about the protection of Roe v. Wade.

Now, in 2022, the landscape has once again changed, and key elements from the film are at the forefront of an intensified debate between pro-choice and pro-life supporters.

The film, set in the 1940’s when the Vatican banned contraception, follows a Christian woman whose life becomes threatened after an unexpected pregnancy. To move forward, she must decide between her faith and her future.

Production for the historical dramatic film took place entirely in Georgia: specifically, in Decatur, Stone Mountain, and Covington as well as the Basilica of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown Atlanta.

The film’s director, Toni Crey, is a Local 161 Script Supervisor and Local 700 Editor with over 20 years of experience in the Georgia film industry. She moved to Atlanta in 1998 to premiere her NYU thesis film, “Rest Stop,” at the Atlanta Film Festival, and since then, she has an impressive list of credits including: 50th Anniversary of Gone With the Wind, Ozark, The Walking Dead, Zombieland, and Tell Me Lies on Hulu.

“I love being beside the camera to advise, which is a huge plus inside the edit room. It helped me become the best director possible and develop my own style of filmmaking, which ultimately one must do to stand out,” explained Crey. “Being a union script supervisor gave me the best seat on set, beside the director, where I got to see and know all. It’s been a fabulous experience, and I have much respect for the work being done in Atlanta.”

Moving forward, Crey plans to continue working on spiritual projects that advocate for underprivileged women’s fight for reproductive rights, and “Small Miracles: Her Smart Choice” is open to fundraising for Stacey Abrams, Georgia Planned Parenthood, and any other agencies that support Roe v. Wade.

18 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment. SINCE 1990 OzCetera Dedicated to providing building materials you may need to get your studio production job done on schedule We have a vast inventory of studio related materials that has been fine tuned over the 10 plus years the entertainment business has been thriving in Georgia. 2300 Main Street Tucker, GA 30084 770-990-7232
Toni Crey

Atlanta-based rapper Svnday has announced the release of his new song, “Slide,” in anticipation of his upcoming album, “Svnday School.” The single is streaming on all major music platforms and has a music video on YouTube.

Born in South Carolina, Svnday would move to Baltimore at a young age before coming to Atlanta. Here, in the Hip Hop capital, he recorded his new album at Castle Hill Studios.

Produced by QuaXar (Darrin Hoggard), the album is the up-and-coming rapper’s first release with the multi–platinum, Grammy-nominated Nappy Roots’ Not Regular music label, and listeners can look forward to hearing the work of an

Svnday School

artist with stylish flow and the creativity to make his own sound.

“‘Slide’ is an expression of what I see every day in the city and on the internet,” explained Svnday. “I wanted it to be the catchiest record I’ve ever done, and that’s what we created with its memorable hooks and captivating bars.”

While growing up in Baltimore’s Morningside Heights, Svnday picked up music as an outlet for the struggles he faced following his father’s incarceration, and he was inspired by legendary artists like Tupac, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Drake, and Wiz Khalifa.

Svnday got his start in Atlanta’s music scene through artists connected to

Quality Control Music, and his nuanced lyrics and stage presence would grant him the opportunity to tour with superstars like Lil Baby and PnB Rock. His ability to engage a crowd with his wild energy is on display whenever he performs, and critics are saying, “Svnday is well on his way to making a name for himself in the music industry.”

So far, he has released three albums, It Was Fun While It Lasted, See You Soon 2, and Cold Summer, and each body of work reflects his commitment to refining his craft. Additionally, he is featured in two songs from the Southern Hip Hop trailblazers Nappy Roots.

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Atlanta-based rapper Svnday

$180M Production Campus Underway In Georgia

Y et another film studio is joining the Hollywood of the South after BlueStar Studios announced plans for a 53-acre film and TV production center in Forest Park, GA, with purpose-built stages available in the Atlanta metropolitan area starting Summer 2023. Offering more than 600,000 square feet of production and office space, the campus will include 18 stages ranging from 5,000 square feet to more than 40,000 square feet.

The historic 108,000 square foot Fort Gillem headquarters building serves as the centerpiece of the campus. Productions will have access to two intersecting 100GB

fiber lines for supporting all technical needs, including cloud services and virtual production. BlueStar Studios is currently under construction and development will continue in phases through 2024, with an expected total investment of $180M.

“BlueStar Studios offers production teams, studios, and top-of-the-line stages equipped with the latest tech in a beautiful, historic campus conveniently located 10 minutes away from the Atlanta airport. It’s an exceptional space designed with creativity in mind, and our infrastructure provides the ultimate in bandwidth and redundancy,” said Rich Goldberg, CEO

and Founder of BlueStar Studios.

Additionally, there are 45,000 square feet of former motor pool, wood-working, and metal-working buildings for mill and wardrobe. Amenities include a nature trail, on-site cafe, dog run, and more, and the campus retains much of its original 1940s era architecture, providing an abundance of practical shooting locations, as well as sound stages for traditional or virtual production. Offices are also available for lease to companies looking for a production-friendly home base in Georgia.

Developed to be an inviting place for storytellers, BlueStar Studios will

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support the surrounding community through employment and educational opportunities. The company is currently exploring partnerships with local universities and high schools, with the goal of becoming a premier destination for learning next generation filmmaking techniques and training students in the cinematic arts.

“Fort Gillem has long been a significant presence in our community, so we’re thrilled to see such a transformational development through this substantial investment in a technology-forward way. BlueStar Studios preserves the charm and

history of the surrounding area while also bringing new production capabilities and boosting our local economy,” said Forest Park Mayor Angelyne Butler. “We look forward to welcoming productions and their highly-skilled professionals to Forest Park and sharing all our city has to offer.”

The BlueStar Studios campus at Fort Gillem includes six historic buildings that are being repurposed to ensure preservation of the former Army base's architectural legacy and contribute to the project’s sustainability by reducing resource and energy consumption. Working through an environmental review

process with the Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the project team has ensured compliance with applicable standards and that key building features will be maintained. Final design elements include rehabilitated steel windows and brick walls, restored painted signage, and new windows and doors created based on archival photographs and original drawings.

Atlanta-based Gala Media Capital, a division of Peachtree Group, originated the financing for the construction of phase one of the studio development.

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Bluestar Studios XR Stage


22 Oz Magazine - film. tv. entertainment.

British-born art director Julian Ashby started his career as an interior designer in the early ‘80s after studying design at the former Berkshire College of Art and Design in Maidenhead, England. While he enjoyed his work, a recession hit and jobs became scarce, so when Ashby saw an ad for a one-year film course, his interest was piqued, and he decided to jump into new possibilities and take the course. The rest, as they say, is history. After completing the course, Ashby got a placement as an art department assistant on the 1994 made-for-TV film MacGuyver:

Lost Treasure of Atlantis, and for his firstever paying job was baptized by fire alongside some art department greats. For the project, he worked with production designer Tim Hutchinson—who got his start on the film Dr. Zhivago—and Tony Reading, who can claim 2001: The Space Odyssey as one of his first projects.

“When I look back, I learned so much on that particular job,” shares Ashby. “We were basically making Raiders of the Lost Ark on half the budget and with half the time, and we were building some incredible sets like an underwater volcano.

And it was a very small art department, and I was working with people who had these incredible film backgrounds, so I was continually learning from those greats.” Specifically, Ashby says Hutchinson taught him how to be calm in a crisis, while Reading taught him that as an artist in film, the images you create need to tell the story and you should never rely on written side notes to convey your message. Ashby laughs, “No one reads the notes, so you can’t rely on them!”

Cover Story November / December 2022 23

After his initial job, Ashby went on to work on another two films with the team from MacGuyver and continued to hone his craft as he joined projects such as Sleepy Hollow, Troy, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, World War Z, Beauty and the Beast, and many Marvel films including Thor: The Dark World, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Doctor Strange, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: End Game, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. His work on Sleepy Hollow, Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, Beauty and the Beast, and Endgame all earned him Art Directors Guild

nominations, which he won for Sleepy Hollow, Guardians, and Endgame. When you bring up this honor with Ashby (or any accolades about his work, really) he will admit that it is lovely to receive the recognition, but then quickly downplay it and change the subject in what one later would learn is his typical modest fashion.

“What I will say is, similar to Black Panther winning Oscars, when these contemporary action movies get the recognition they deserve, it’s great to see, because a lot of work goes into them, and it’s wonderful when that is acknowledged,” he says.

Despite the decades of experience and awards Ashby has under his belt, he rejects the word ‘mentor,’ when it’s suggested that he may be passing on pearls of wisdom to younger crew members who are working alongside him now, just as he learned from others at the beginning of his career. “I just feel like I’m still learning,” he humbly shares. However, his coworkers would disagree. Set designer Noah McCormick was quick to reveal some such knowledge he gleaned from Ashby: “[He] taught me about shadow gaps, and it’s insanely cool how you can change something from looking

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flat to looking dynamic and real.” Shadow gaps, of course, refer to the practice of placing a tiny gap where two surfaces meet, so that when you stand back and look at the final product, the shadows create an illusion of greater realism. A bit of wisdom Ashby has gleaned along the way, and he, himself, will admit to happily sharing with others, is the practice of blowing up drafts to scale before a build. “Even if something looks good on a page or screen, it can be hard to judge the scale, and then when it comes to life, it just isn’t right,” he says. “So if you try three different sizes, small, medium, and

large, one is bound to be exactly right.”

And while you might not picture members of an art department carefully taping together sheets of paper and affixing them on the wall like a puzzle to see a to-scale version of a set element, then now you know a little more about behind-thescenes production.

As a creative, Ashby draws inspiration from the world around him, always taking a mental note of his environment and observing everything, from nature to the buildings he passes.

He also possesses an active imagination and the innate ability to think creatively

about any situation, which has helped him find continuous success in his industry. “A production designer once told me that he likes working with me because no matter what he asks for, I always give him a little something extra and make it better,” says Ashby. “I now have experience under my belt and have seen and learned from the work of many talented people, but beyond that learned skill, you also have to be willing to push yourself and not just accept the first solution.” You also don’t have to talk to Ashby for long about his work to see that he is also fueled creatively by his projects themselves,

Dr. Strange - Chamber of Relics
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as well as working collaboratively with fellow artists to bring worlds to life. He gets excited talking about the process and about how it’s often the intricate details that take a set from looking like a concept to an imitation of real life. “Initially, during the pre-production period, I’m working with the Production Designer and Illustrators to research and design each element of the set, and then get the construction drawings complete and have the Production Designer, the directors, and producers all happy with it,” he says. That initial conception and development period is a very exciting part of the job for Ashby, but then taking those approved drawings to the carpenters and seeing things get built and actually come to life is an especially thrilling time for him. As

the teams of carpenters and detailers - like plaster makers and sculptors - work to bring the initial drawings to life, Ashby oversees the process to ensure each component is perfect. “There are a certain amount of decisions you have to make as you go,” he explains. “Sometimes you don’t have time to think of finishes and those final minute details on the front lines, so you make those final calls at the point of building, and I love that. It’s a wonderful period of my job.”

So what does a man aspire to when his work has already taken him to the serene shores of Malta to create the fictional streets of Troy, to a sound stage in England where he and his team created

the Tree of the Dead and a huge forest for the Headless Horseman to come to life in Sleepy Hollow, to bringing to life the Sanctum Santorum for Doctor Strange right here in Atlanta? A classic western film. “After doing so many big budget films with explosions and debris, it might be fun to do a little romcom,” laughs Ashby. “But my dream job at this point would be a Western. It’s a genre I’ve never done, and I’d love to spend time somewhere like Utah under the stars with horses around, creating a Western town.”

But while he may dream of working out West, the South has had a call of its own on Ashby. It was the film The Fifth Wave that first brought him to Georgia to work in 2015. Since then, he has left to work on other projects, but for the past

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Ashby's daughters, Lexi (L) and Lylah (R), steal the scene on set of Infinity War, Trilith Studios Troy - Main square set build in Malta Dr. Strange 2 NYC backlot build
November / December 2022 27 Cover Story

seven years, he’s had more jobs in the Atlanta area than anywhere else in the world (thanks, in large part, to his work on Marvel films). Currently, Ashby is back at Trilith Studios working on a Russo Brothers project from Netflix and AGBO Productions called The Electric State, starring Millie Bobby Brown, Chris Pratt, Stanley Tucci and Michelle Yeoh. He’s been in pre-production since June, and the film is set to wrap after the beginning of 2023. This time around, Ashby has also relocated his family here. “My wife Rebekah and I have two girls, and we’re quite lucky in the fact that Rebekah is an artist, so she can work anywhere,” shares Ashby. “The girls were born in Los Angeles and have traveled all over the country since they were little. We loved being able to expose them to different cultures, foods, and people.” Now in their early teens, Ashby’s daughters have settled into Atlanta life, utilize remote education for online schooling, and the family will now call Georgia homebase. “My family loves it here,” says Ashby. “They love the food and the diversity and the BeltLine and all the parades. Often with this job you are basically homeless, hopping from job to job, so it will be good to have them settled in, and while they may come see me for long weekends if I were to get work elsewhere, they will stay put in Atlanta and just come for visits.” And just like that, the Hollywood of the South gets to call another industry heavyweight its own.

"Sometimes you don’t have time to think of finishes and those final minute details on the front lines, so you make those final calls at the point of building, and I love that. It’s a wonderful period of my job.” - Julian Ashby
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Dr. Strange 2 - NYC back lot buildSleepy Hollow Deja-Vu -Time Displacement Chamber November / December 2022 29
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Archer imagess courtesy of Floyd County Productions


Georgia’s film industry is consistently celebrated for its successful international reach. However, it is no secret that, outside of local independent filmmakers, the state does not actually create or greenlight its own original content -- unlike Georgia’s lesser-discussed animation industry. As quiet as it’s kept, there is a surprising amount of original content and animation being done locally in studios, including Awesome Incorporated, Bento Box, Floyd County, Primal Screen and School of Humans, to name a few,

premiering on a national stage. Atlanta also has other studios doing work for video games (Hi-Rez Studios/Alacrity Arthouse) and commercial work/ motion graphics (Primal Screen, DVI Group, etc.) as other options to keep them in production during off-seasons.

“Atlanta has become a hub for this type of work,” said Asante Bradford, Senior Industry Engagement Manager with the Economic Development Georgia Center of Innovation. Bradford has helped to secure the expansion of several creative businesses looking

to locate in Georgia and says several similar deals are in discussions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports that Georgia is home to the nation’s fifth largest population of animators and multimedia artists.

The state is number two in the nation for production tax incentives, and according to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the state is home to more than 30,000 working professionals in the entertainment industry alone.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, animation jobs (specifically special effects artists and animators) are expected to grow 16% from 2020 to 2030. With developing technology, animation now encompasses gaming, VFX, anime, and traditional linear animation. This expansion opens new storytelling avenues and growing job opportunities. Adult animation is also an area that is growing in the U.S. Animation jobs also tend to pay very well, averaging $72,400 nationwide according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau’s numbers for Georgia are a bit lower, though, hovering in the mid-$50,000s.

Atlanta enjoys a prominent position in the animation industry due, in part, to its incredible history in animation, according to Jeremy SpeedSchwartz, the founding Director of the Museum of Animation. He argues that it is difficult to say that Atlanta had an animation industry or community prior to the establishment of the Turner networks.

“One could look at, like, CNN as a way of saying, here’s a 24-hour News Channel that relies very heavily on graphics and animated graphics and the need for that to be kind of foundational to what they're doing,” Speed-Schwartz stated. “But when Turner purchased the MGM library and ended up with all these cartoons and then purchased Hanna-Barbera and ends up with this even larger cartoon library and is forming kind-of a television network and basing that in Atlanta, that really sets up Atlanta as having a history of animation, forcibly shoved into it to a certain degree.”

For years, most of Georgia’s animation business came from Turner Broadcasting’s animation giants, Cartoon Network and its late-night, adult-oriented programming block Adult Swim. Although the state’s animation industry has grown and evolved, it can still be traced back to Turner or Williams Street.

“The reason that I’m here is Adult Swim,” Matt Thompson, executive producer of FX’s Archer and co-founder

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of Floyd County Productions (FCP) has said in previous discussions. Before Archer, Thompson and his business partner, Adam Reed, ran 70/30 Productions, which produced Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo for Adult Swim. FCP is a multiple Emmy® awardwinning animation studio located in Atlanta. Founded in 2009 by writers and executive producers Adam Reed and Matt Thompson, FCP has grown from a crew of eight artists into a family of nearly 200 creatives. It is a fullservice animation studio that strives to create the highest quality in animation and digital entertainment. They are currently working on their original action-spy comedy Archer (returning for its 13th season) as well as pilots for more adult animated comedies. Adding just one show to production could easily create 50 new positions.

Awesome Inc., founded in 2006, can also trace its roots back to Williams Street with their first two shows, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and Squidbillies

“I had a partner when Awesome started. He was a creative director at Turner Classic Movies, and in 2013, he went on to do other things. We were mostly doing promos and packaging

at that time,” said Ashley Kohler, Awesome Inc. Founder/Owner. “And in 2011 Awesome started doing their first series, Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”

“The show originated out of Williams Street,” Kohler continued. “The creators were from Adult Swim, obviously, and it had another studio first, Radical Axis, but we then took over the production from them and that was our first foray into series production, on those two shows. We spent almost 10 years working on Squidbillies, which was amazing. We worked for 10 years on Squidbillies, from 2011 to 2021, which was a long run, and it even had a longer history from before us, but we spent a lot of years working on that show. Working on those two shows led to us working on other productions for Adult Swim. We worked on Birdgirl, Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell… “

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Ashley Kohler

From those early days to today, Kohler’s studio continues to inject its distinctive character into the local and international animation space. As they state on their website:

“We are Awesome Incorporated. And we are distinctly badass. We are inclusive and inquisitive, diverse and deft, and always, unapologetically, Awesome."

Our reputation has been built out of our contagious enthusiasm for all things animated, our curiosity for learning, and our determination to deliver.

We’re woman-owned and led, Atlanta-based, and exceptionally proud of both.

Kohler has had a front row seat on the rise of the animation industry in Atlanta and credits it to a number of things.

“The rise of the Atlanta market has a lot to do with the tax credit, obviously, but so much has changed in the last 15 years because of technology. We’ve seen digital media, social media come into play. But when we started, we were putting everything to tape and we only had one aspect ratio to deal with, and we were sending things out. We had to put things to tape and make CDs for everyone, and we had very, very long render times and very little access to things like FTP uploads.”

Georgia offers Interactive Entertainment companies a tax incentive, provided through the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act. This legislation provides for an up to 30 percent transferable tax credit for film, television, television commercials, and interactive entertainment productions in Georgia.

The amount of the credit is based on the qualified expenditures incurred by the production company in Georgia. The credit may be used by the production company against Georgia income tax, Georgia employer withholding taxes, or sold to a third party to be claimed by the purchaser as a credit against the purchaser’s Georgia income tax liability.

The training and education provided by Georgia’s colleges and universities also are essential to attracting companies and growing the state’s entertainment industries. As part of the professional recruitment process, Bradford will often arrange meetings between prospective companies and state schools to ensure that a good working relationship is established early in the process. “That relationship is crucial to pretty much

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every company I’ve been bringing in,” he says. “Companies want to have a relationship with colleges.”

ASIFA-South, the Southeastern U.S. Chapter of ASIFA’s (Association Internationale du Film d’Animation) international animation network is also instrumental in attracting and training talent for the local industry. According to Marisa Ginger Tontaveetong, ASIFASouth President, the organization’s aim is to better the industry through communication and collaboration.

Most recently, ASIFA-South, a 501c3 nonprofit headquartered in Atlanta, accepted ASIFA International's offer to be the main communication hub from the International to other US chapters. ASIFA was founded in 1960 in Annecy, France as an association of individual animation artists. Today, ASIFA can be described as an international network

of numerous local ASIFA Chapters, which have developed their own local identities and special activities.

Students benefit from these studios’ and organizations’ relationships with their colleges.

Georgia State University’s Creative Media Industries Institute works with industry partners such as Primal Screen, School of Humans/Trioscope, and the Georgia Film Academy to ensure that their students have industry experience and portfolio projects prior to graduation. Bento Box is currently working with Georgia Tech students to develop interactive apps, and Floyd County Productions works with SCAD to make sure its courses include instruction in emerging animation technologies. These partnerships help ensure that students graduate with directly applicable

experience and in-demand skills, while teaching students about employment options in Georgia.

“I am excited to see where the future of animation in Georgia is going,” said Speed-Schwartz. “There are real opportunities, and very few places have the infrastructure necessary to make an industry like that thrive like we do in Atlanta. I doubt even that your other animation hubs, you know, Los Angeles, Vancouver, New York have the same opportunity that Atlanta does in that kind of regard. The kind of high technology concerns, the base of talent. The production that's already been driven here and the room for growth. Not just room, but incentives for growth that are here. I think there are very few other places in the country that have that necessary combination.“

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We’ve long known that Atlanta’s culture – from hip-hop, to movies, to fashion –dominates on a global scale, and most everyone is clamoring to share in what that influence brings, whether it be its economic impact or visibility. The realm of e-gaming is no different. When it comes to the creative sectors, the gaming industry is the largest industry by far, according to Asante Bradford, industry engagement manager at the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD).

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Video games in Georgia have generated $37.5 million in taxes at the state and local levels and another $60.8 million in taxes for the federal government. As global esports growth has exploded, Georgia has become a winner, and Atlanta is being called the nation’s esports capital by some enthusiasts, including the GDEcD. According to the GDEcD, digital entertainment is a $550 million industry in the state, responsible for more than 12,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“A lot of people don’t know that digital entertainment–video gaming more specifically–makes more money than the film industry,” said Bradford. Bradford and his team at GDEcD have been working hard to cultivate Georgia’s digital entertainment industry since passage of the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act of 2008.

“I think even if you combine film and music together, gaming still makes more than that. When one of these AAA game titles comes out, they are making a billion dollars in a couple of days,” said Bradford. “You know, I think Top Gun Maverick made a billion this year, which was amazing. You get one movie every few years that makes a billion, but that's common in the gaming industry.”

Though entertainment tax credits were introduced in Georgia in 2005, the 2008 update made them easier to understand for investors and businesses alike. Now, it’s a straightforward calculation: qualifying projects with an investment of at least $500,000 receive a 20 percent tax credit, plus another 10 percent if their project includes a promotional Georgia logo.

It’s a simple program,and it’s proven to be quite effective. For video game development alone, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) estimates that the industry added $102.7 million to Georgia’s economy in 2012. The ESA also reports a job growth rate of 17 percent from 2009 to 2012, adding roughly 110 full-time positions with an average salary of nearly $88,000.

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“In 2005, there were only eight video game studios in Georgia, including my own,” said Andrew Greenberg, President of the Georgia Game Developers Association (GGDA). “And now, we have more than 160. Georgia currently ranks in the top 10 in the gaming world. The existence of great talent, some visionary leaders, and the tax credits are direct factors leading to that explosive growth. Atlanta also has the most ethnically diverse game development community in the world,” Greenberg continued, “and we have a home for developers who may not find one elsewhere.”

The state’s growing roster of gaming companies is just as diverse as the players and developers. In addition to entertainment-focused video games like first-person shooters, sports games, and massive multiplayer online role-playing games, Georgia is at the forefront of several gaming subsets, including gaming for health, exergaming, and serious gaming.

Speaking of great talent, Georgia is growing and promoting its own in the gaming industry. The state currently has 12 college and university video game programs. The gaming industry requires a steady flow of highly-skilled, highlyqualified talent, and in the early days of the industry, Georgia was seeing a lot of its talent leaving for opportunities elsewhere. Extending the entertainment credits to digital media was one way to combat this growing problem, according to Bradford, while also attracting new companies to the state.

“A big part of it was, ‘How can we keep this talent here?’” he said. “Talent is always [at] the top of the list for these guys–just

knowing that they have a pipeline of workers. If they’re going to move here, they want to make sure that they have that pipeline.”

There are currently more than 2,000 students in Georgia colleges and universities studying game-related degree paths thanks, in part, to higher education programs created to train the next industry leaders. In 2020, the Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII) at Georgia State University began offering two new bachelor’s degree programs designed to prepare students for careers in the growing fields of game design and development. The new degree programs, a Bachelor of Arts in game design and a Bachelor of Science in game development, were created through a collaboration between CMII and regional game development industry partners, including the Georgia Film Academy.

“Our mission at CMII is to educate, train, and prepare students to become the next generation of digital storytellers through emerging technology, and gaming is a key area for us to focus on,” said Brennen Dicker, director of the Institute.

“With more than 160 companies in Georgia, the gaming industry is poised for significant growth both regionally and nationally over the next decade,” Dicker said. “The skills students acquire with coding, animation, and immersive world creation will serve them well, not only in the gaming industry but for additional careers in emerging technologies in entertainment.”

The B.A. in game design focuses on preparing students for work in animation, TV, film production, virtual special effects, and graphic design. One of the new courses

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features a partnership between CMII, the Georgia Film Academy, and Skillshot, an esports company that organizes amateur and professional video game competitions.

The international gaming community has already begun to recognize the city’s leadership, as evidenced by the choice of Atlanta as the U.S. home of DreamHack, the world’s largest digital festival. Following the inaugural U.S. festival in 2017, DreamHack has set dates for the 2022 event, which will draw gamers from all over the world from November 18 –20 at Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center. DreamHack hosts a series of events around the world and attracts over 300,000 gaming and esports enthusiasts annually.

“We produced the concerts, all of the entertainment for the first DreamHack held in Georgia,” said Mel “Mel-Man” Breeden. Breeden, CEO of Radar Live / Big Cat Records, announced co-ownership of Atlanta Premier Esports–a professional esports organization in Atlanta that combines ATL culture with esports, gaming, and Hip-Hop music–with Chase Peterson, founder of Atlanta Premier, in February of 2022. Breeden is well-known for launching successful artists including Gucci Mane, Eminem, Foreign Jade, Pretty Ricky Love & Hip Hop’s Rasheeda, and Gospel Grammy winner Canton Jones.

He also sits on the board of advisors for the Atlanta Esports Alliance, a private division of the Atlanta Sports Council. “You can’t call yourself an Atlanta organization without embracing the culture the South provides: the larger art, music, film, and business community,” said Breeden. “This is a marriage between

esports and the music industry, and my focus is to make Atlanta Premier an esports organization the city of Atlanta can truly be proud of.”

“The first concert I did for DreamHack, I had Waka Flocka and I got a crazy photo of him in the middle of the crowd performance. It's dope. He’s a friend of mine, you know, of course, coming from the music world, right? But he's into gaming, so really, it was a natural for him [to perform]. Once that [DreamHack] was here in Atlanta, we had like 30 to 40,000 people. Wow. The first one. And that really opened my eyes to really say, ‘Okay, what's going on in this gaming world?’,” added Breeden.

Waka Flocka, who has been a staple of the Hip-Hop scene since 2009, performed on the main stage at the inaugural DreamHack Atlanta on July 21, 2017 at the Georgia World Congress Center. This collaboration is a direct example of the power of two of Georgia’s greatest cultural exports: Hip-Hop and gaming.

So, how do we keep this momentum going? It’s all about collaboration! According to Bradford, we are already seeing major partnerships within the tech industry here with the support of incubators, co-working spaces, mentorship programs, and capital investment. As new technologies such as esports and Virtual Reality grow, having our existing industry set up innovation centers and hubs will only help grow the digital entertainment industry.

As Bem Joiner, culture curator and co-founder of the creative consultancy brand AiE, would say, “Atlanta Influences Everything,” and that includes the very lucrative gaming industry. However, it can

and should do more.

“We need for the public sector-–meaning the City Council, Mayor’s Office–to buy-in and promote these industries on a consistent basis–not just when they are talking about the economics of that industry to that industry. We need for them to present that same energy for esports that they have for other parts of our creative community. That’s how you get public buy-in and have more than just the folks in the gaming industry excited about it.”

“I’m very excited about the future. I think we’re really starting to train and educate high-schoolers,” said Bradford. “A lot of them now, who wouldn’t have been looking at majoring in this before, are now looking at it as an opportunity, and better yet their parents are finally understanding that … their kids can actually make money doing this.”

“That kind of tells us that people are starting to understand the world of the esports community and the influence,” Breeden added. ”And I say this every now and then, but remember, there are more people who cannot play traditional sports that play video games. Everybody can't jump, everybody can't run a mile, you know, everybody can't tackle. But guess what? Many of them CAN play video games and so it is way more of us than it is of them.”

“Georgia, at least in my mind, [is] going where nobody has been yet,” Bradford stated. “And now gaming and film and TV are coming together. We’ve been waiting on this moment.”

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F ew people can say they have been the leading music producer in the World of Cheer. With over 75 World Championships, a catalog of thousands of tracks, and a history of working with artists like T-Pain, Lil’ Jon, Missy Elliott, Akon, and Bonecrusher. Level 77 Music pioneering producer Patrick Avard built his reputation by bringing a new generation of cutting-edge production music, sync licensing, and original scoring into the cheer industry. Growing up in Thomasville, Georgia, Patrick has always been a creative person at heart.

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My love of music began in my early childhood. I remember going on road trips with my family, singing songs while flipping through the radio,” says Patrick. “In high school, I participated in a group called ‘The Thomasville Music and Drama Troupe’ directed by Fred Allen. I learned to sight read and sing harmonies. Looking back, I would say this is where it all started,” he shares.

In high school, the cheer coach introduced Patrick to the cheerleading world. This is where his passion for the competitive sport started to blossom. In college, Avard became a competitive cheerleader and joined the 1999 NCA National Championship Team for Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. He started coaching for an all-star team, and he began editing cheer music. At the time, there were no producers for cheer music, so the coaches were responsible for making music themselves.

“One day, a teammate and friend of mine told me there are these computer programs that you can use to edit music,” Patrick says. “I bought the computer programs and began to teach myself to produce music. I was fascinated by the process and got to be pretty good at it. I was working three jobs then, and it dawned on me that I could make a career out of producing music if I focused all my attention on it,” he recalls.

As Patrick perfected his craft in music production, he caught the attention of others in the cheer industry. Before he knew it, cheerleading teams lined up asking him for custom mix tracks for their routines. Avard’s energetic and unique mixes rapidly gained popularity in the community. His cheer mixes became so widely successful that in 2004 Avard developed and branded himself CheerMusicPro.

CheerMusicPro changed the course of music production in the cheer community ever since. For 20 years, CMP’s fast-paced tracks and competitive sound have been used by over 191 teams, and 72 were crowned world champions. Patrick’s recognizable sound has pushed

the limits of cheer music as its own genre and has received national recognition from listeners globally. Avard’s art has been heard across platforms like Spotify, YouTube, and Netflix. With CheerMusicPro on the rise, they created their own production company in 2011, New Level Music, which is comprised of highly experienced producers creating custom mixes.

“I put my heart and soul into being the best I could be as a music producer and entrepreneur,” Avard shares. “I always dreamed of being part of the mainstream music industry, but I just wasn’t sure how it would happen. Only in the last four or five years did the path become clearer. I’ve been on a long, steady road. I definitely didn’t have immediate success, but I stayed the course and worked my way through until doors started to open,” says Patrick. “I believe you should never stop learning and growing both in life and in your career.”

Patrick now focuses on building his independent production music company, Level 77 Music. Founded by Avard in 2016, Level 77 is a Georgia-based production company that brings innovation and creativity to the ever-changing music industry.

“I realized that people in the cheer world were starting to catch on and duplicate some of the mixing techniques I was using,” says Patrick. “So, I responded by creating more original content. I brought in writers and producers and produced my first album. We finished that album and continued creating more original content. We’ve produced many great songs over the years, and at one point, I realized we weren’t utilizing them enough. We would use them once in a mix, and then they just sat on the shelf. So, we decided to start building a catalog,” he recalls.

With the help of experienced artists, Level 77 Music has built a diverse catalog for platforms like TBS, ESPN, Fox Sports, Hulu, and Paramount+. Avard has awardwinning custom music on Netflix’s Cheer, America’s Got Talent, and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Patrick doesn’t produce as much music as he used to: however, his most recent song, “Be Mine,” which wasfeatured on the production music library’s album G.I.R.L. just won the top honor for the Pop Track of the Year at The Production Music Association’s 7th Annual Mark Awards.

“We released Playlist Pop in August, and I’m very proud of it. It’s meant to

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sound like mainstream pop and have a very commercial sound, hence the album title,” recalls Patrick. “It crosses over to many usages and verticals, both the vocal and instrumental parts. It’s a ten-song album featuring composer Caleb Tillman’s talent and three additional songwriters. We all collaborated on the concepts, the sound of each song, and the message we wanted the project to carry,” he shares. “I think the results speak for themselves and show the strength of Level 77 Music which is our vocal music.”

Being an entrepreneur isn’t always straightforward. Patrick has had his share of challenges that he’s dealt with, one of the most recent being the Covid19 pandemic. In 2020, people had to put their jobs on hold due to the pandemic. Like other businesses, Level 77 Music experienced one of its most significant hardships during the Covid lockdown. “We were coming off the best year we’d ever had in 2019, and then all at once, the world stopped and shut down,” recalls Patrick. “We set up payment plans with all our clients who were also challenged by the pandemic, and we had no new business coming in. I know many businesses were hit even harder than mine, so I feel very fortunate, to be honest. At the moment, I wasn’t sure what to do or how long the lockdown would

last, so I focused all my energy trying to plan and find ways to reduce costs while still taking care of my employees,” he shares. “Fortunately, I had enough reserves built up in the company that we could survive the uncertainty and continue to grow the business the following year. It was the most stressful thing I’ve had to go through as a business owner.”

With 2023 just around the corner, Patrick is fueled with new inspirations and goals for Level 77 Music. The independent production music company launched a top-tier film scoring division, Sonic Score. The new division features award-winning composers Mark Kueffner and Luke Truan, both with experience that spans across film and television.

A 25-year industry veteran, Kueffner has written music for shows like The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Fatal Attraction, Fear Factor, American Greed, and Homicide Hunter. Kueffner believes that Sonic Score could reverse the trend where Georgiabased productions go to the West Coast for scoring. Kueffner’s track “Pathos to Praise” was nominated for 168 Film Festival’s Best Original Score Category. The 168 Film Festival is coming to Atlanta November 4-5, 2022, at Trilith Studios Town Stage in Fayetteville, GA.

Truan is well known for cinematic scores, soundtracks, and arrangements in Swipe Club, No Words, Just Love that Man, Chic Nu Legacy, and the series The Hidden Truth, Shark Week, and Sydney Harbor Force. Announced in October, Truan’s track “Phagocytosis” has been nominated for the 2022 Hollywood Music In Media Awards™ (HMMA) in the Documentary category.

Sonic Score aims to provide scoring for film, television, documentaries, games, and other entertainment projects. Patrick plans to take advantage of Georgia’s film and television boom and the state’s tax incentive program, which offers credits of up to 30 percent for work produced in Georgia.

“We’re starting to get some amazing opportunities. Our music has been used in films and is being pitched for bigger projects. I expect our library to double in size over the next couple of years. We are currently pursuing acquisitions, strategic partnerships, and publisher relationships to help us reach that goal. When you turn on Netflix or click through Spotify playlists, you will find Level 77 music,” says Patrick.

Left - Jason Rudd, Claude Ismael, Patrick Avard, Jitze de Raaff - CTM Entertainment
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Over the course of six days, the 2022 BronzeLens Film Festival screened 124 unique films. From those, ten were selected by the judges to win BronzeLens Awards in the following categories: Feature, Documentary, Short, Short Documentary, Dance Video, Student, Web Series, Music Video, Reel South, Best of Festival, Best Actress, and Best Actor. Directed by Marchelle Thurman and Casey Nelson, “Black White and the Greys” took home the most hardware, winning both Best Feature and Best of Festival Awards.

Additionally, the festival granted special awards to James Anderson who won the BronzeLens Chairman’s Award and WarnerMedia SVP Enterprise Inclusion for Marketing and Communications, while the BronzeLens Founder’s Award went to White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement, Keisha Lance Bottoms.

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Pictured (L to R): James Anderson, Chairman’s Award Recipient; Mosiah Moonsammy; Casey Nelson; Marchelle Thurman; Keisha Lance Bottoms, Founder’s Award recipient; Chelsea Hicks; Ashley Wilkerson; Jahmil Eady; and Roderick Lawrence


“It is

• Best DocumentaryIncarceration Nation Directed by Dean Gibson • Best Documentary Short“Art Chooses Us” Directed by Tomas Kamphuis • Reel South - “Fannie” Directed by Christine Swanson • Best Dance Video - “Like Water” Directed by Mthuthuzeli November • Best Music - “Dollar 2 The Rich” Directed by Lewis T. Powell • Best Student Film - The Bond Directed by Jahmil Eady • Best Web Series“Last Bodega in Brooklyn” Directed by Mosiah Moonsammy and Jared Glenn • Best ActressAunjanue Ellis in “Fannie” • Best Actor - Roderick Lawrence in “Silent Partner” • The remaining winners include: Best Short - “Contraban” Directed by Chelsea Hicks BronzeLens is a qualifying festival for short films at the Academy Awards, so “Contraban” is now eligible for consideration.
intentionally sought to provide our attendees with the opportunity to engage and be inspired by not only what was taking place during the festival, but to also experience a segment of Atlanta’s creative community,” said Kathleen Bertrand, the BronzeLens Founder and Executive Director.
important to us that we continue to provide an opportunity for world-class independent filmmakers to showcase their work.”
Marchelle Thurmond and Casey Nelson with BronzeLens Founding Artistic Director, Deidre McDonald (center) Chelsea Hicks Kathleen Bertrand, Founder & Executive Producer of BronzeLens and Keisha Lance Bottoms, Founder’s Award recipient Shandra McDonald, Presenter; Marchelle Thurman and Casey Nelson Jahmil Eady W. Imara Canady, Chairman of BronzeLens Board of Directors and James Anderson, Chairman’s Award Recipient Charity Jordan, Actress and Roderick LawrenceMosiah Moonsammy
November / December 2022 45
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