Fans at this week’s Macon Film Festival will get to see native son Jack McBrayer, but they may not see him when his hit movie “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” is screened Saturday night.
McBrayer will be in town all day Saturday to greet fans and answer questions about his acting career. But he’s a little squeamish at the prospect of watching some of the racier scenes in the movie with people he used to attend church with.
“I might have to excuse myself during the screening,” McBrayer said with a nervous chuckle. “I’m hoping they publish that this is a Rated-R movie.”
McBrayer, the Emmy-nominated star of the NBC sitcom “30 Rock,” is one of the major guests highlighting the fifth annual festival, which kicks off Thursday in downtown Macon. This is the first time he is attending any film festival.
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The opening event at Cox Capitol Theatre celebrates the life and career of two-time Oscar winner Melvyn Douglas with his granddaughter, actress Illeana Douglas, who has appeared in movies such as “Cape Fear,” “Goodfellas” and “To Die For” and was Emmy-nominated for her guest role on the HBO TV series “Six Feet Under.”
Douglas will be here to screen her Web-based series “Easy To Assemble” on Thursday night and conduct acting workshops Friday and Saturday at Mercer University.
She also will be on hand as the festival renames the “Best In Show” award in honor of her grandfather, as well as for the screening of Melvyn Douglas’ movie, “The Candidate.” It will be shown on a rare 35mm print on loan from Warner Brothers.
Terrell Sandefur, one of the festival’s organizers, said attracting such talent and a broad variety of movies is a sign of how the film festival — known as MaGa — has grown during the past few years.
“I was very optimistic (when it first started), so seeing it grow is not a surprise,” he said. “What is a surprise is how quickly it has grown.”
The festival’s events will be spread over three venues — the Capitol Theatre, the Douglass Theatre and the Macon Marriott City Center, which will be screening several festival entries in one of its ballrooms. Sandefur said the partnership with the Marriott hotel, where some of the festival’s guests will stay, is another first.
The festival has grown so large, he said, that organizers had to turn away volunteers.
Sandefur said the quality of movies being screened are as good as the festival has had. He cited the documentary “An American Opera: The Greatest Pet Rescue Ever!” as one of the sleeper hits being shown, while “That Evening Sun,” the festival’s closing film Sunday night, has been getting positive buzz wherever it’s been shown.
“That Evening Sun” features a top-notch cast including Hal Holbrook, Dixie Carter, Ray McKinnon and Walton Goggins. Macon native Carrie Preston, who was one of the featured stars at last year’s festival, also stars in the movie. Sandefur said it’s unlikely Preston will attend this year because she’s filming the HBO series “True Blood.” Preston did, however, hold an acting workshop for the festival a few months ago.
The workshops, which were made possible by a grant from the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, are the latest addition to the festival and a sign of its growth. In addition to Douglas’ workshop, there will be sessions by filmmakers Dominik Rausch, Tom McPhee, Michael Buchanan, Jason Winn, R.J. Fried and Steve Balderson, whose movie “Stuck!” was shot in Macon and features several area residents in the film.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done a workshop at the festival itself,” Sandefur said. “It’s a sign that we’ve really grown tremendously. This year, we have over 70 filmmakers coming in. That puts a seal on the festival, because big festivals have filmmaking workshops.”
One of MaGa’s goals has always been to show off Middle Georgia to filmmakers across the country, hoping to persuade them to shoot movies here, Sandefur said. “Stuck!”, which will be screened Friday night, is the first fruit of that labor.
“The screening of ‘Stuck!’ will be big,” said Sandefur, who also has a role in the film. “That’s our first real success story. We’re always trying to attract filmmakers to Macon.”
Sandefur said word of mouth about the festival has reached throughout the film community. When he was in Los Angeles for a screening of “Stuck!” Sandefur said, people asked him if he knew about the festival.
Richmond Riedel, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker, heard about MaGa from director Stephen Eckelberry, who attended last year’s event with his wife, Karen Black. Riedel will be showing his movie “Target Practice” on Friday night at the Douglass Theatre.
“(Eckelberry) had wonderful things to say about the festival,” said Riedel, who has shown his movie at 15 other festivals across the country. “I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about it.”
Riedel said film festivals are a good place not only to network with other filmmakers but also to interact with audiences and get a feel for how they respond to the movies. Unlike McBrayer, Riedel said he relishes sitting with the audience to watch “Target Practice.”
“The joy for a filmmaker is watching the crowd react,” he said. “So far, it’s been great. At this point, I don’t watch the film so much as I watch the audience and see their reaction.”
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.