Film festival encourages work, networking of filmmakers

pramati@macon.comFebruary 13, 2013 

Since it began in 2006, the Macon Film Festival has evolved beyond just being an avenue for screening the work of filmmakers like Michael Dunaway.

Dunaway said the festival allows newer filmmakers like himself to network with veteran filmmakers such as Steve Rash, who has decades of experience to pass along to younger writers and directors looking to make it big.

“Just as a filmmaker, this is the best small film festival I’ve been to,” said Dunaway, a Mount de Sales graduate who works as the editor of the film section for Paste, a digital magazine in Atlanta. “The sense of community it creates, it allows filmmakers to interact with each other. They do a good job of getting big-name people to come in and do workshops. The (festival’s) benefits far exceed its size.”

Dunaway will screen his documentary, “The Man Who Ate New Orleans,” during the festival. He was a producer, director, co-writer and co-editor of the film, which centers on a New York minister who relocated to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and later set a goal of eating at least one meal in every restaurant in the city. Dunaway said the film, which explores New Orleans’ culture, was shown on the New Orleans PBS station, and he hopes to have it shown on other PBS stations.

Terrell Sandefur, chairman of the festival’s marketing committee, said organizers have learned a lot since the festival launched.

“We’ve just honed our skills for the most part,” he said. “We know how to market it, promote it and network with filmmakers. Filmmakers now know who we are.”

Sandefur said the festival has evolved from primarily Georgia-based talent to also incorporate international films. This year’s festival received 200 submissions, with 87 to be shown between Thursday and Sunday. In addition to the U.S., films at this year’s festival come from the United Kingdom, Spain, the Philippines, France, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Italy, Argentina, Austria and Japan.

Over the past few years, the festival has added free workshops that are open to the public. While previous workshops -- featuring the festival’s special guests -- have focused on acting and filmmaking, the festival has added workshops with veteran casting director Cynthia Stillwell and special effects makeup artist Roy Wooley, whose work has been seen on the SyFy Channel’s reality competition “Face Off.”

Rash, whose first movie, “The Buddy Holly Story,” was nominated for four Oscars in 1979 and won for Best Score, will host a question-and-answer session after a special screening of the movie Thursday night at Cox Capitol Theatre downtown.

Rash said he wants to impart to younger filmmakers how hard a career in Hollywood is.

“My first film got three nominations and one win, and I thought, ‘I can do this,’ ’’ Rash said. “Forty years later, I found that it was way hard. I’m doing a workshop to urge people not to try this, because the odds of making it are astronomical. I appreciate the drive these kids have to make movies. ... (To be a filmmaker), you have to be out there shooting already.”

Rash first learned of the festival last summer, when he was working on a documentary about the 1970 Byron Pops Festival. The Macon Film Commission helped him organize test audiences and invited him to this year’s film festival as a guest.

Other guests include actress Crystal Chappell, an Emmy award winner for her work on “Guiding Light” and “As The World Turns.” She’ll be hosting a special screening of her web series “The Grove” on Friday night.

Actress Mink Stole, a veteran of the movies of director John Waters, will host a special screening of “Hairspray” on Saturday, while on Sunday, the festival will close with a showing of the Academy Award-nominated “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”

But the heart of the festival remains the independent movies that the filmmakers have submitted. Dunaway said he’s excited to show his movie locally.

“That’s most obviously a thrill to show your first film in your hometown,” he said. “Having your friends and family there, it’s going to be a special moment.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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