A couple of years ago, two University of North Georgia students tentatively approached Dr. Jeff Marker, head of the Department of Communication, Media and Journalism, with a single objective.
“They pitched the idea of holding a film festival,” Marker said, adding he was skeptical at first. “My resistance at the beginning was that the students would start it and then graduate. Then it would be left on my desk. But they had so much of it planned and presented it so professionally, my answer was obvious.”
The students prevailed and launched UNG’s Skyline Film Festival in 2016. This year it will return to UNG’s Gainesville Campus with some familiar names and faces and one significant difference — a new name.
The newly minted Georgia Film Festival will run from May 18-20 in the Professional and Continuing Education building at 3820 Mundy Mill Road on the Gainesville Campus. Tickets are $30 for day passes, $45 for weekend passes, and $10 for individual screenings. Discounted tickets are available for students.
“The primary mission of the festival is to showcase films made in Georgia and to promote Georgia talent and organizations,” Marker said.
With that in mind, the faculty- and student-organized event will feature a slew of Georgia films, ranging from shorts to feature-length movies.
“It will be a mix of fictional and documentary features and various shorts,” Marker said. “One of the highlights will be the UNG student block of films. It will be the best short films made by students in the past year.”
Film students are not the only ones gaining valuable experience. Elizabeth Foil, a senior majoring in communications with a concentration in public relations from Winder, Georgia, is tasked with lining up sponsors and partnerships and spreading the word about the film festival.
“For me, it’s the perfect way to end my college career,” she said. “I am a PR major with a strong interest in film.”
Foil said the films scheduled to be shown at the festival are under review. Last year, 3,000 films were submitted and 53 were shown.
“This year, the more focused mission has resulted in fewer submissions but overall higher quality of submissions,” Marker said.
Watching films is not the only activity scheduled. Various panel presentations and workshops are on tap during the three-day festival.
For example, Christina Raia will conduct a workshop about crowdfunding, a practice of soliciting small amounts of money from a large number of people online. Raia is a New York City-based writer and director who works for Seed & Spark, an entertainment crowdfunding platform.
“Crowdfunding gives young filmmakers a tangible strategy about how to get a movie made,” Raia said, explaining some filmmakers already have access to money or industry professionals because of their personal connections.
Now, independent filmmakers have a way to have their voice heard through crowdfunding.
“I think internet and social media can help you find the people and turn them into your amplifiers for your content,” she said.
Other events scheduled include the presentation of a grip truck on site; a visual effects workshop by Art David, known for his work on the movies “The Matrix” and “Signs;” and a panel discussion about working with animals on a film set by animal talent company Star K9 LLC.
“The animal wranglers will have a dog and cat but will discuss working with more exotic animals,” Marker said. “And when you work with animals, there are all sorts of unique safety and liability concerns.”
Ultimately, film students will be exposed to new information about the industry and the experience of showing their work in a film festival.
“This will give them the practice of representing their film, networking with people and knowing how to make a successful run,” Marker said.
UNG’s Communication, Media and Journalism department will also benefit. In fall 2015, UNG launched a bachelor’s degree in film and digital media designed to prepare students to work in the film and television industry, which has been growing significantly in Georgia. In fiscal year 2015 alone, Georgia-lensed feature films and television productions generated an economic impact of $6 billion, according to the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office.
“Putting on a film festival helps us as a department to make and strengthen relationships we have with people in the business and in the community,” Marker said. “We’re anxious to show the community what great work our students are doing.”