In the News

Film Festival Earns Praises

ALBANY " Dreamers are congregating in Colquitt this weekend " dreamers in the shape of hopeful actors, screenwriters and movie producers.

People representing the film industry from all parts of the country are attending the first JOKARA-Micheaux Family Film/Video Festival through Sunday in Colquitt.

The festival, which began Thursday, started as a vision of one dreamer, festival Director Ralph Wilcox, who was designated in 2003 by Miller County and Colquitt officials as the Southwest Georgia film

"I am so excited that I can hardly stand it," said Joy Jinks, a founder of the Georgia folk-life play, Swamp Gravy, arts council member and a mover and shaker in Colquitt. Jinks was one of the first city leaders to help make Wilcox's dream come true.

"I cannot believe that it's been three years. It's been
one miracle after another," Jinks said. "Just the fact that he found a little town that would listen to his dream is one miracle."

The three-year process leading up to this weekend's festival began in July 2003 when Wilcox was pushing for the establishment of a film commission in Southwest Georgia. Wilcox, a movie producer and film director, was at his wit's end after trying unsuccessfully to convince Southwest Georgia county and tourism officials of the benefits of film production to the region.

Shortly after being named film commissioner for Southwest Georgia, Wilcox began planning for the construction of a 22,000-square-foot movie sound stage in Miller County and for the region's first film festival.

The sound stage will be officially unveiled at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and dedicated to Jinks, Karen Kimbrel, a co-founder of Swamp Gravy and Wilcox supporter, and Wilcox " hence the name JOKARA (Joy, Karen and Ralph).

While the festival weekend opened Thursday with storytelling and musical entertainment and video film screenings, it also opened with few registrants, which festival officials said they expected.

Among Thursday's early arrivals was actor and producer Doug Reiser of New York City, who brought four scripts with him to the festival to pitch, two as possibilities for being filmed in Southwest Georgia. The screenplays were written by his friend, Robert Monticello, also of New York City.

"This town reminds me of 'Back to the Future,'" said Reiser, who was amused at Colquitt's town square. "I think it's very charming."

Reiser, who has attended the Sundance Film Festival, American Film Institute Film Festival and worked at Tribecca Film Festival, wants to familiarize himself with Southwest Georgia, its residents and the infrastructure Wilcox is building for filmmakers.

"There's a good vibe here, a good cultural vibe," Reiser said.

Carter Lord, of Lakeland, Fla., has been in movie making for 30 years, he said. His company, Ocean Entertainment Group, has produced "Lithium Springs," a family feature film, which he plans to distribute on the Internet. Lord said he hoped to meet some new people and adopt some new ideas at the festival.

Today's events kick off with an official opening ceremony at 9 a.m. at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center in Colquitt that will precede tours by movie makers and film industry personnel of select cities and locations in Southwest Georgia, including Albany.

Premiere and feature films, documentaries and short films will be screened between noon and 5 p.m. at Cotton Hall Theatre in Colquitt.

Saturday will feature more film screenings, as well as workshops for screenwriters, filmmakers, film production technicians, actors, producers and directors.

Among the celebrities scheduled to attend the weekend festivities are: recording artist Faye Raye of Atlanta; actress Hattie Winston, who portrays Margaret on the television series "Becker"; award-winning composer Harold Wheeler; actor Glynn Turman, who portrays Mayor Clarence Royce on HBO's "The Wire"; and Ted Baehr, founder of MOVIEGUIDE and Christian Film and Television.

For more information regarding the festival schedule, call the Southwest Georgia Film Commission Office at (229) 758-8833.