The 11th annual Macon Film Festival opened July 21 at the Douglass Theatre with “Pretty in Pink,” an appropriate special screening on “throwback Thursday” for a film that has surprised even its co-star, Andrew McCarthy, with its cult following, since being released in 1986.
For more than an hour before the movie, McCarthy answered questions from the audience about the famous clique of young actors known as the “Brat Pack,” which included McCarthy and Molly Ringwald, his co-star in the comedic chronicle of teenage love, angst and petty societal prejudices.
Women who remembered seeing the movie as teenagers 30 years ago beat a path to the stage with their questions for McCarthy — still a heartthrob for some of his fans who relished the chance to see him in person.
McCarthy has appeared in numerous films, including “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “The Joy Luck Club,” has enjoyed success on the small screen and on Broadway, and is known as an accomplished director for popular television shows including “Orange is the New Black” and “Gossip Girl.”
In more recent years, he has worked as an editor-at-large for National Geographic and has written travelogues for The New York Times and for The Wall Street Journal, among other major newspapers and magazines. He documented his travels in “The Longest Way Home,” which was a New York Times best-seller and was tapped as one of the Best Books of 2012 by the Financial Times of London. His legion of adoring former teenage fans can now get their McCarthy fix by following his career as an award-winning travel writer.
BEHIND THE STAGE ADVICE
Terrell Sandefur, the tireless chairman of the Macon Film Commission, introduced the movies and guests at the Douglass and recognized the yearlong planning for the festival by Tabitha Lynne Walker, festival programmer.
The films, which are vetted and juried before they are accepted for screening, included documentaries, narrative features and shorts, music, Southern topics and those that addressed minority populations striving for acceptance and success. The jurors must be selected early in the process; locations have to be found and reserved; hosts for after-parties must be secured and travel arrangements made for the number of visitors coming to town — a herculean task.
Other events related to the film industry have been added during the years to better inform aspiring writers, actors, producers, directors and behind the scenes workers. Cynthia Stillwell, casting director for “Selma” and for “Fried Green Tomatoes,” among many others, shared her tips on landing a coveted role at the Tubman Museum, the venue for all of the workshops.
Jason Lewis, a boom operator who worked on “42” and “Need for Speed,” both filmed in Macon, defined his responsibilities for people who are not interested in being in front of the cameras, but would like the adrenaline rush of being part of the industry.
RUBBING ELBOWS WITH THE STARS
After the Saturday screening of “My Blind Brother” at the Douglass, Charlie Hewson, who considers his role in the movie his favorite “so far,” welcomed questions and bantered on stage with Sandefur, the coordinator for the Q&A, as if he had known him for years.
He did not seem in a hurry to get to the after-party, instead engaging with the audience who had seen a well-crafted comedy and who enthusiastically embraced his role and his visit to the festival. At 6’5” he towered over everyone at the party on Cherry Street, greeting the crowd at the door, posing for photographs and telling anyone who would listen how impressed he was with the festival.
On the periphery of the mob scene, energized by DJ Deck’s raucous music, was Edwin Atkins, a seasoned member of the film industry who moved to Milledgeville, his family’s hometown, almost two years ago after maintaining homes in New York and in Los Angeles for more than 30 years.
As production executive or location manager for memorable movies, including “Rooftops” (1989), “Clear and Present Danger” (1994) and “The Last Film Festival” (2015), his accolades from producers and directors could have enticed him to stay on the West Coast. However, curiosity about his family’s Georgia history, the preservation of the closed Central State Hospital and artistic endeavors have kept him on the road between Milledgeville and Macon.
Atkins’ impressive resume includes acting and teaching credits, which have not gone unnoticed by Sandefur, who is well aware of the benefits of Atkins’ talent to Macon and to the film festival. There will be another opportunity to meet Atkins when one of his latest artistic projects is featured at the Ampersand [&] Guild in September.