Macon boasts the ‘friendliest’ film festival


Macon boasts the ‘friendliest’ film festival

Macon Film Festival

July 21-24. Various locations in downtown Macon. $150 all-access VIP pass; $50 opening-night screening and party pass; $75 festival screening pass; $25 day pass; $10 block pass (admission to one film or block of films).

Bragg Jam Music and Arts Festival

July 29-30. $75 patron party pass includes Concert Crawl; $30 Concert Crawl. Various locations in downtown Macon.

Pining for a film festival getaway with pretense left on the cutting room floor? Organizers of the Macon Film Festival call their big-screen bash “the friendliest.”

According to festival spokesperson Terrell Sandefur, visiting filmmakers bestowed the moniker upon the annual event, which first flickered in 2005. Today, the fest staff runs with the rep, and they’ll do so again July 21-24.

“That’s something we take a lot of pride in,” Sandefur said, “and something we have to maintain every year, too. And that’s the reason we get so many filmmakers who come, because they’ve heard about it from other filmmakers who have come in the past.”

The festival itself, a conglomeration of film screenings, workshops and special appearances staged 85 miles south of Atlanta in downtown Macon, appeals not only to cinema aficionados, but to actual film creators themselves. Sandefur said the fest puts a sharp focus on being filmmakercentric, right down to special filmmaker badges that allow attendees to spot the artists.

“That’s in an attempt for our pass holders to meet and talk to the filmmakers, and know who they are,” Sandefur said. “It’s all about giving that Southern hospitality, thanking them for making the trip and coming to Macon, and encouraging them to come back and do a project here.”

All about the movies

If you make a movie-watching vacation out of attending the festival, and you might walk away with a numb rump at the end of the weekend. The 2016 edition has 61 films in competition, will screen five spotlight films and will hold four special screenings.

Each film in competition will have two screenings, making it easier for guests to get more movie for their buck. Official categories include narrative features, narrative shorts, student shorts, documentaries and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The Southern documentary and music categories reflect Macon’s rich music history. The former includes “Hotel Clermont,” a look at the residents who once bunked at the infamous, now-defunct Clermont Hotel in Atlanta.

This year’s spotlight films, each screened once during the festival, include independent movies that have made marks on other festival audiences throughout the year. This gives attendees a chance to get an in-the-know viewing of these movies before their national release. Such a film is the documentary “Contemporary Color,” which pairs some of the country’s top color guard groups alongside performances by David Byrne, Nelly Furtado and others.

Back to the Brat Pack

The festival’s special screenings typically involve celebrity guests. Last year, actor-director Burt Reynolds engaged in question-and-answer sessions tied to his films “Deliverance” and “Sharky’s Machine.”

One of this year’s special screenings goes decidedly 1980s, with an angst-filled Brat Pack pout to boot. At 7:15 p.m. July 21 at the Douglass Theatre (355 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Macon), co-star Andrew McCarthy will help kick off the festival with a 30th anniversary screening of “Pretty in Pink,” a film written and produced by the late John Hughes that also featured Molly Ringwald, John Cryer and Annie Potts. Event organizers said this one has been generating buzz thanks to the current adoration of ’80s nostalgia.

Beginning at 6 p.m., before the film rolls, McCarthy will participate in a Q&A session. Don’t be surprised to hear behind-the-scenes tidbits like the fact McCarthy wears a wig at the end of the movie because he had shaved his head for a New York play when the filmmakers called him back for more.

Go to the head of the class

Those itching to dive into filmmaking may opt to get their creative feet wet by working on a smaller project. In cooperation with the Sundance Institute, a nonprofit that strives to bolster indie filmmaking, the Macon Film Festival will hold a short film master class featuring director James Ponsoldt.

Early in his career, Ponsoldt honed his directing chops with a trio of narrative short films. From noon to 4 p.m. on opening day, attendees can gather inside Theatre Macon (438 Cherry St., Macon) to listen as Ponsoldt shares tips and tricks.

Ponsoldt knows the value of a Georgia location. The Athens native shot the 2013 film “The Spectacular Now” in his hometown. The feature, which helped launch the career of star Miles Teller (“Whiplash,” “Fantastic Four”), will screen as one of the fest’s spotlight films.

Hurray for Y’allywood

“With (filmmaking in) Georgia being a $6.1 billion industry,” the fest’s Sandefur said, “people are very motivated and interested in how to get involved with it.”

This inspired Sandefur to curate a special workshop he dubbed Billion Dollar Baby: Georgia Film Industry. Running 1-2 p.m. July 22 at the Tubman African American Museum (310 Cherry St., Macon), it will give an extreme close-up on the current state of Georgia filmmaking.

Presented by the Macon Film Commission, the workshop not only will encourage the visiting filmmakers to consider shooting in Georgia, but will give attendees the opportunity to learn about the Georgia film industry and how to get involved.

Sandefur, who will moderate the discussion, put together a panel of seven professionals, including Jeffrey Stepakoff, executive director of the Georgia Film Academy, and Alison Fibben, who serves as project manager for the Georgia Film Office.

And that’s not all

The film fest is partnering with the 17th annual Bragg Jam Music and Arts Festival (, set for the following weekend in downtown Macon. Bragg Jam was created as a tribute to Brax and Tate Bragg, a pair of deceased Macon musicians.

The two festivals are offering the FestieBesties package, a $175 combo ticket that includes one all-access pass to the Macon Film Festival, one VIP pass to Bragg Jam and a souvenir T-shirt from each festival.

The Bragg Jam festivities will begin 7-10 p.m. July 29 with a patron party for VIPs at Emerson Ballroom (543 Plum St., Macon).

More entertainment will roll out at 10 a.m. July 30 with a free arts and kids festival at Cherry Street Plaza in front of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame (301 Cherry St., Macon). A fleet of food trucks will provide the grub, or visitors can peruse nearby restaurants.

Starting at 2 p.m., the ticketed music portion of Bragg Jam will feature more than 80 bands on 20 stages located throughout downtown Macon. Americana musician Shakey Graves will headline, and Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, Josh Thompson, Larkin Poe and a slew of others are on the bill. The music will run until 1:30 a.m.

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