MILLEDGEVILLE — By next April, the community could have its first major film festival.
Downtown tourism, development and Georgia College representatives met Tuesday to hear producer Jeremiah Bennett’s movie weekend pitch.
Along with director partner B.J. Golnick, Bennett serves as associate producer for TLC’s “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” reality series. They’ve spent off days working on other independent ventures through Glass Door Entertainment including a 48 Hour Film Project short and two music videos shot in Milledgeville.
Milledgeville life has both guys hooked. The film festival idea is a way to give back to the area as a non-profit.
“Being around and seeing the charm of the town made us say there needs to be something more here,” Bennett said. “We said let’s create something to bring the arts and the community around local films and bring films from other places so that Milledgeville could have the opportunity.”
The Milledgeville Film Festival will start small with a three-day weekend schedule.
A Friday night gala running into a full-length feature film screening will kick off the festival.
Next, Bennett suggested Saturday morning workshops to provide an educational experience for film buffs. Throughout the festival’s second day, two-hour short film programs would showcase more than 30 shorts seven to 25 minutes long.
Bigger features would run that night as well. Sunday evening is reserved for the awards portion.
In an effort to use Milledgeville heritage, audience and locally-made awards reward grassroots productions. Attendees could view a city documentary showcasing the community also.
Providing the film segment a Milledgeville home might work wonders for the city.
“There are so many people that would like to see films here but they have to drive to Atlanta,” Bennett said. “It’s something that can grow and put you even more on the map.”
Johnny Grant, Community Engagement and Economic Development director for Georgia College, said the town and university would benefit from the inaugural event.
“I think we have some beautiful venues here. There are some places, if they were more widely known, there would be more chances for film industry people to be down here. This is a stream of income that could potentially be very lucrative for Milledgeville,” Grant said.
Multiple Georgia cities such as Atlanta, Rome, Savannah and Macon run established film festivals.
Positioning the Milledgeville event in April leaves the city as one of the final “local festivals” before the international Cannes Film Festival in May. These festivals are essential to a filmmaker’s livelihood.
“Filmmakers spend thousands of dollars making their films, so they have a huge vested interest in people seeing their film. If it’s not screened somewhere, their film dies,” Bennett said Tuesday.
Glassdoor Entertainment utilizes Georgia College student talent in all its local productions. After the first festival board meeting, the university seemed the likely event host.
“I think it would be interesting for the university,” Grant said. “I think a lot of the students would be very interested in the process of how films are made, how you judge them and getting into the business.”
Bennett said screening and gala locations are the main expense. Showing films in one location seating 200 to 300 people is ideal for the first year.
Georgia College Campus Life Director Tom Miles said Russell Auditorium fits the film venue bill and Magnolia Ballroom would be the perfect gala host.
Scheduling the festival around spring semester activities might be difficult, but Miles is committed to making it happen.
Bennett wants a student budget-friendly film festival. Creating a well run, affordable event where guests could “rub elbows with filmmakers” is the goal.
Gathering local sponsors, partners and volunteers will make or break the Milledgeville Film Festival.
“We can’t do it alone. We need everyone in the community to come along for this to work,” the Glassdoor Entertainment producer said.
Miles sees the event as a volunteer and learning opportunity for GC’s engaged student base.
Young fans of the arts should relish the festival concept along with local leaders lauding the economic impact.
“This is very important to us as far as students being able to have fun but also learn from the process,” Miles said. “Another beautiful aspect of this is the exposure. Others may come because they are seeing what Milledgeville has to offer. It may entice other industries to come here.”
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