Got to Atlanta on Thursday afternoon, and immediately felt at home… or, at least felt like I was in a place very similar to Texas. Maybe not Austin, but definitely akin to Houston or Dallas in the size, scope, and warmth of the community. Never been to Georgia outside of airport layovers, so was happy to break through. And, happy that the 31st Atlanta Film Festival is the reason. After getting caught up on some work at the hotel, I walked around Midtown Atlanta to take it all in. I skipped the Opening Night Film, Lauren Lazin’s Last Days of Left Eye, because I’ve seen it (we had the U.S. Premiere at SXSW last month). The Opening Night Party that followed, though, was a fun time at a restaurant called The Strip in Atlantic Station, which is this apparently newer shopping development in Midtown Atlanta (similar to the Grove in Hollywood).
Left Eye was a perfect opener for the festival, since the deceased subject of the documentary was an ATL native. Reportedly, a good deal of the local sports and music community came out to support the film (I heard Big Boi and India.Arie were among the musicians in attendance). Folks were just starting to arrive to Atlanta and get comfortable. Here’s how my first 24 hours went down:
(At the Opening Night Party, are Atlanta Film Festival staffers Paula Martinez, Dan Krovich, and Gabe Wardell. One thing that I learned almost immediately, is that there is a real festival love triangle at Atlanta, since much of the staff or senior volunteers come from either the Maryland Film Festival or Birmingham’s Sidewalk Moving Picture Festival. Small world, as usual.)
(Friday morning, the Georgia Film & TV Office took a group of festival guests on a tour of hot Atlanta film facilities. And, they did this with the help of the “Furbus,” which is apparently infamous in this town. The bus is basically a party truck often rented for sorority parties and such. Take a look inside…)
(Inside the Furbus, which is – obviously – lined with faux fur. I decided I’m going to make a sequel to ‘Shortbus,’ using this is as the only location.)
(On one of our tour stops, here’s the IFP’s Amy Dotson with ‘August the First’ director Lanre Olabisi. Amy, like myself, is on a panel and a jury. Lanre is enjoying a nice festival circuit with his feature, which premiered at SXSW this year.)
(We checked out the cameras at this one place, including this monster 35mm one that was apparently only a couple months old. One of the guides described it as “basically a computer that pulls film.” I only know two things about this piece of equipment: 1. It was recently used to film the next Tyler Perry movie, and 2. It costs more than your house.)
(One of the hot tickets at the festival on Friday night, was the regional premiere of the documentary ‘Darius Goes West.’ Made by Georgia filmmakers, the doc has managed a hugely successful run of regional festivals this year, including several audience awards. Admittedly, it’s hard not to be won over when Darius himself, pictured here on the left with director Logan Smalley, makes an appearance for Q&A’s. The doc is a touching road movie about a Georgia teen suffering from Muscular Dystrophy, and his attempt to reach L.A. in order to fulfill a dream.)
My Friday night ended well, at the official festival party. I wound up chatting a lot with Murder Party director Jeremy Saulnier, and then we ran into filmmaker Andrew Bujalski, and all got into a lengthy discussion about Police Academy movies, Friday the 13th movies, and reality TV. It’s a film festival, yknow, so a little something for everyone.