Story by STELL SIMONTON
In late August, crowds will gather outside the Earl Smith Strand Theatre in anticipation of the Marietta International Film Festival. The 1935 movie house sets the stage for a rich mix of films. It’s the fifth year for the event, which receives more than 350 submissions annually.
“You get to see some amazing films from around the world that you [likely] wouldn’t get a chance to see [otherwise],” says Richard Tavernaro, festival founder.
The Marietta International Film Festival has shown 178 films from 43 different countries since 2014.
About 30 films are planned for selection this year in more than 20 categories for long features, documentaries, and U.S and foreign short films.
The 2018 festival takes place on Aug. 25-26 from 10 a.m.-11 p.m.
Movie titles include Shia LaBeouf’s short documentary “#TakeMeAnywhere,” which chronicles the actor and his two artist companions’ responders to meet them and take them wherever they wanted to go.
Another film,“Ultra Low,” is a feature story of fictional filmmakers who are discouraged by their lack of Hollywood success until they sign on actress Lauren Holly, who offers unexpected wisdom.
A Q&A will be held with some of the filmmakers throughout the festival. In addition, seven panelists will judge each film for an awards ceremony that closes out the festival.
In 2016, “film racing,” a competitions for short films made in limited time periods, became a part of the festival. The shorts are made in 24 hours, 72 hours and 100 hours.
The top 24 Hour Film Race shorts will be screened at the festival and receive awards.
“The best part of this is handing the award to someone and seeing the look on their face,” Tavernaro says.
His goal is for the Marietta film festival is to rival the Atlanta Film Festival, which draws numerous Hollywood actors representing thousands of submissions.
A man of many talents, Tavernaro is a 20-year Army veteran with a doctorate in psychology. He was a child therapist in his own practice, and worked as a counselor for North Cobb and Wheeler High Schools.
Acting lessons from veteran actor and Emmy award winner Gregory Alan Williams inspired Tavernaro to write, produce and direct films, and ultimately start the Marietta International Film Festival.
“I was submitting my own films to other festivals,” he says.
Tavernaro met a movie soulmate in Robert Kelly about 10 years ago at a networking event. They became fast friends. Kelly serves on the film festival’s board, and Tavernaro eventually partnered with Kelly in his film company Long Shot Productions Ltd.
Long Shot has released several films, including “Slaw,” a 2017 horror flick featuring Williams that centers on two foodies, as well as a six-minute short drama titled “Voices,” which won a 2016 Award of Merit in the Best Shorts Competition in La Jolla, Calif.
Tavernaro and Kelly’s true long shot is a yet-to-be-made movie written by Kelly and based on criminal cases from his work as a lawyer.
“I represented a lot of ‘working girls,’ ” says Kelly, 82, of his clients from the 1970s and their court trials.
Kelly wrote a movie script that he says is based on highlights of his murder case files. He and Tavernaro are working to produce the film that they figure will cost about $15 million.
In the meantime, there are still films to screen for the upcoming festival. Tavernaro enjoys providing a forum that advances the work of other filmmakers.
“It’s about bringing others along,” he says. “I like doing things to help other people get ahead.”
Marietta International Film Festival. Aug. 25-26. Earl Smith Strand Theatre, 117 N. Park Square Marietta. 404-973-2280. marietta-film-festival.org
On the third Wednesday of each month, Robert Tavernaro presents Indie Film Night at the Earl Smith Strand Theatre. The evening provides a showcase for Southeastern filmmakers. Three short Georgia films were screened in June: “Jawffice,” “The Bounty Hunter,” and “My Eyes Looking Back.” The best films from the Marietta International Film Festival’s previous film-racing competitions are also presented.
During the film festival, short films are usually screened first on both days, followed by longer films. Two Q&A sessions with filmmakers are held for morning and afternoon screenings. However, the 24 Hour Film Race shorts are shown during the evening of day two, before the closing awards ceremony.
If you’re a filmmaker or aspiring to be one, feature film submissions can be scripted or improvisational and must have running time of 50 minutes or more.
For more movie festival fun, the annual Atlanta Horror Film Festival returns to Synchronicity Theatre in Midtown Atlanta, Oct. 25-27. 1545 Peachtree St. N.E. atlantahorrorfilmfest.com
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