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POWERFUL of Film and Television MEN
From left to right: Wayne Overstreet, Ryan Millsap, Chris Ledoux and Drew Sawyer
Adventure with Adam Kenny the Actor
Genevieve the Producer
LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER
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As I leave Los Angeles for our Georgia Hollywood Review TV 2020 Oscar coverage, featured on our Thea Network Red Carpet series, I ponder the duality of Hollywood. On one hand, Hollywood represents an illusion, creating things and characters that do not exist in real life. Yet beneath the surface, these characters do exist. In fact, they often exist in ourselves; in our hopes and fears and aspirations, and in others we may have known or met throughout our lifetime. For me though, the best part of
It is in this spirit that we are proud to bring you the Georgia Hollywood Review magazine and TV channel. We tell the stories of the Georgia film and entertainment industry. The stories of the people, places, and things that make this industry great. It is our goal to help grow the industry and provide a catalyst for communication, infrastructure and connections between Georgia and Los Angeles, New York, and Europe, that continue to make us proud to work in this vibrant and diverse industry in
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the film and entertainment industry today is that it represents awareness, inclusion, empowerment, and telling the stories that interweave the fabric of our lives; hence inspiring us to be the best versions of ourselves and often validating our purpose on this planet. I truly can’t think of a more powerful medium of art.
Georgia and beyond. We invite you to join us on our journey. Come to our bi-monthly networking events. Ask us how you can support the industry. And ask us how we can help you get to where you want to go. After all, if you can dream it, you can create it. And if you can create it, you can make it real.
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Contributing Writers Carol Badaracco Padgett Joanna Brooks Connor Judson Garrett Echo Montgomery Garrett Tracey Hawkins Julie Herron Carson Jessica Holthaus Badour Ellen Howle Autumn Murray Michael J. Pallerino Mary Welch
about the cover Pictured: Wayne Overstreet, Ryan Millsap, Chris Ledoux and Drew Sawyer
The Georgia Hollywood Review is published every other month by Georgia Hollywood Review, LLC. Reproductions in whole or in part, without expressed written permission of the publisher, are strictly prohibited. The Georgia Hollywood Review is not responsible for the content or claims of any advertising or editorial in this publication. All information is believed to be accurate but is not warranted. Copyright 2020. Send inquiries to 227 Sandy Springs Place, Suite D-288, Sandy Springs, GA 30328. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Visit our webpage: www.GeorgiaHollywoodReview.com
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12 education Film & Television Programs at UGA 14 organization Georgia Production Partnership
22 public relations gurus Melissa Sanders & Mitch Leff: GEPRA 24 production talk Chris Ledoux 26 filmmakers Chishaunda Lee Perez & Jason Perez 28 theatre Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company 30 actors
16 real estate Pinewood Forest 18 kids on film Uriah Love 20 writers Jamey Giddens
Kendrick Cross Karen Ceesay 34 makeup Syretta Bell 36 indie film Armida Lopez
38 set decoration Beauchamp Fontaine 40 technology in film PC&E Acquires “Bolt X” Cinebot 42 local studio Daniel Minchew 44 music The Journey of Composer VLEEV 46 mentor Former NFL Player Frank Murphy 48 cover story Men of Film 52 adventure Action Hero Adam Asher 54 travel Corporate Travel Management
56 performing arts Shellie Schmals: Burlesque 58 emmy winners Genevieve Ledoux
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Photo by Kevin Garrett
Joanna Brooks has been an industry writer and producer in Atlanta since completing her M.F.A. in Film & Television in 2013. She has worked at corporate, broadcast, and digital production companies, and has been in Development at Crazy Legs Productions since 2016. In addition to contributing to the Georgia Hollywood Review , Joanna scripts choose-you-own-adventure games and her own feature screenplays.
Connor Judson Garrett , 2017 Edward Readicker-Henderson Travel Classics Award recipient, honed his craft as an advertising copywriter in Los Angeles. He is the author of two poetry books, Become The Fool and Life in Lyrics; a novel, Falling Up in The City of Angels; and a co- authored mind-body self-help book, The Longevity Game. His writing has appeared in Private Clubs Magazine, South Magazine, Hook & Barrel, Georgia Hollywood Review and ads for major brands such as Texas Pete, Green Mountain Gringo, and Ziprecruiter.
Echo Montgomery Garrett has written for more than 100 media outlets, including Delta Sky, Parade, ABC.com, AARP, The Atlanta Journal- Constitution, and Business Week . She’s the author of 20 books, including multi-award winning My Orange Duffel Bag: A Journey to Radical Change. Up next: a book called Unsung about growing up around Nashville’s Music Row with parents in the industry.
Tracey M. Hawkins has been a contributing editor and writer for various print publications, such as The Thirty-A Review, American Contemporary Art, and Frontier Airlines magazines; as well as award-winning websites, galleries, novelists, private artistic institutions, and individual artists. She has an extensive background in the fine arts, having served as a collegiate Professor of Art History, as well as a collections consultant, curator, and artists’ representative. traceymhawkins.com and skrybes.com
Julie Herron Carson , an Atlanta native, has over 30 years of public relations and feature writing expertise. Her specialties include media relations, newsletters, website writing, and cause-related marketing, as well as feature writing for The Thirty-A Review magazine and Atlanta ShowGuide . Julie is a graduate of the University of Georgia and lives in northeast Atlanta with her husband and teenage son.
Jessica Holthaus Badour From veteran communications specialist to preeminent food safety professional, Jessica Holthaus Badour has built a successful and diversified career developing compelling means of sharing information while engaging the public on essential issues. She is currently working full- time for the Georgia Department of Agriculture while freelancing in her spare time. www.linkedin. com/in/jessicaholthausbadour
Autumn Murray has written for various print and online publications including The Plunge, Divine Lifestyle, and Simply Amazing Living . Authority Magazine and Thrive Global declared her a “Social Media Impact Hero” for her “Choose Love” campaign to promote acceptance and diversity. She is working on a book about her life and overcoming abuse while inspiring others to Choose Love in all situations. email@example.com
Michael J. Pallerino is an award-winning writer who has written for a number of national B2C and B2B publications. When he is not lost in his writing, music and binge watching, Michael can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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EDUCATION Innovative Film & Television Programs at Grady College Elevate Students at UGA By Tr ac ey M. Hawk i ns
competition regularly receives more than 1,500 entries annually. Unlike most college-level competition entries, Vereen’s script is not simply about her campus roommates’ escapades. Informed by her honors-level coursework in American history and related topics, this serial historical fantasy takes place in 1685 Colonial Rhode Island and boasts an unexpected depth. The central character grapples with the atrocities committed by the colonists, wards off attacks from lurking supernatural forces, and confronts his own insecurities about his identity as a mixed-race individual. Aspiring EMST majors additionally benefit from their natural connection with distinguished EMST alumni, including: • Bonnie Arnold , Co-President of Feature Animation, DreamWorks Animation • Lee Thomas , Deputy Commissioner, Georgia Film Office, Georgia Department of Economic Development • David Kramer , Co-President, United Talent Agency • Brent Fletcher , television writer; current projects include serving as a writer for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on ABC • Kalie Watch , Creative Marketing, Netflix Original Film • Eric C. Baker , Show Design Director, Universal Creative, Universal Studios In addition to the undergraduate EMST program, UGA offers a first-of-its-kind Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree program that features a unique partnership between Grady College, the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, Pinewood Forest (the new Fayetteville community adjacent to Pinewood Atlanta Studios), and the Georgia Film Academy. Destined to make waves in the entertainment industry, these graduate students take classes on-campus in Athens during their first year, then produce projects in a major studio setting next to Pinewood Studios Atlanta during the second year of the program. Charles N. Davis, Dean of Grady College, pledges, “As Georgia continues to grow as a world leader in film and TV production, UGA will help to meet our state’s critical need for world-class writers, directors, producers, cinematographers, editors and other key personnel for years to come.”
University of Geogia students Lorenzo Cooper and Lucia Vereen
EMST Assistant Professor and filmmaker Booker T. Mattison
Photo by Sarah E. Freeman
A mong the many film and television programs found on college and university campuses throughout the state of Georgia, the in- novative curriculum of Grady College at the
EMST Assistant Professor Dr. Kate Fortmueller
University of Georgia in Athens places their pro- gram on the highest tier. UGA offers its students, both undergraduate and graduate, a rich and diverse ecosystem full of impressive resources. In addition to the admirable reputation UGA has earned, nationally and interna- tionally, as an educational leader in the fields of mass communications, science, business, law, agriculture, finance, music, and the fine arts, Grady College is home to the Peabody Awards program, the oldest award for excellence in electronic media. Grady College offers two degree programs, which contribute uniquely to the success of film and television production in Georgia and beyond. One is an innovative undergraduate degree program in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies (EMST). This particular degree develops not only above-the-line creative talent for the film and television industry, but it also produces governmental and academic innovators and leaders who work in, develop policy for, and study media-entertainment industries nationally and globally. UGA’s program beautifully melds applied production skills with the academic study of media and media history. Dr. Jay Hamilton, Head of the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies and Director of the New Media Institute, explains, “Our students gain professional-level skills and experience, but they also gain valuable tools for understanding media-
Photos courtesy University of Georgia
entertainment industries, and for conceiving what stories are worth telling and how best to tell them.” Athens, Georgia, has been a hotbed for creative talent and the entertainment industries for decades; EMST students undeniably benefit from their immersion in this environment. In addition to Athens’ cool factor, however, EMST students also share in the vibrant energy uniquely found here on the campus of Georgia’s flagship major research institution. Students learn from world- renowned faculty who are national and international leaders and experts in their respective fields, and EMST students study with these distinguished professors not only within EMST but also throughout the various university departments ranging from agriculture to history. This significantly deepens the reservoir of knowledge with which EMST students can enrich their own creative work. Despite being a comparatively small and selective program, EMST students’ successes in national collegiate competitions speak volumes about the effectiveness, brilliance, and uniqueness of the program in contrast to other institutions. For example, in 2019 EMST student Lucia Vereen won First Place, Original Television Series Pilot, in the Festival of Media Arts organized by the Broadcast Education Association. This national collegiate
Department of Entertainment and Media Studies, Grady College: www.grady.uga.edu/academics/emst UGA MFA in Film, Television and Digital Media: www.mfafilm.uga.edu
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Be in the Know with Georgia Production Partnership Monthly Meetings By Autumn Mur r ay
Media Industries Institute (CMII). Ferrell recounts a filming experience in Barnesville, GA and how it helps the local economy: “When HBO executives were scouting out locations to film their series Sharp Objects , they were looking for pig farms as the plot of the series centers around a pig farm. They came across the city of Barnesville, GA and fell in love with the pig farm there as well as the quaint little city; so much so that HBO moved the majority of series production to the area.” The filming of Sharp Objects Barnesville, GA is a perfect example of how an entire community can benefit from the production of a film or television show in their area. The film crew purchased items from local businesses, paid local business to rent their locations for filming, paid locals to participate as extras in the filming, and even paid a local young muralist to paint additional murals around town that are still there today. This also helps drive tourists to the area to take selfies and tour all of the Sharp Objects filming locations, which will continue to have a lasting
The monthly membership meetings are designed to engage members through networking and educational activities that benefit both its members and the state of Georgia.
Photo by PhotoGodz By Anthony J. Lewis
T he Georgia Production Partnership’s monthly membership meetings are the place to be for companies and individuals active in Georgia’s film, television, and digital media industry. The monthly membership meetings are designed to engage members through networking and educational activities that benefit both its members and the state of Georgia. The Georgia Production Partnership (GPP) originally started as the Atlanta Production Partnership and was founded by a small group of filmmakers in the late ‘90s. The group has been instrumental in the grass roots organization of the production community and the development of key legislative incentives; such as the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act, which provides a 20 percent tax credit for companies that spend $500,000 or more on production and post-production in Georgia. Georgia grants an additional 10 percent tax credit if the finished project includes a state provided promotional logo. GPP’s main goal is to engage the community in protecting the Georgia production tax incentive. As a
result of the interest and tax incentive benefits, there are currently 50 production studios in Georgia and more than 92,000 jobs have been created. The group has expanded its focus beyond metro Atlanta to become the leading industry group concerned with strengthening and preserving the viability of motion picture, television, commercial, and music production in the State of Georgia. GPP now consists of a vast network of business owners, production and post- production department heads, union business agents, government representatives, freelance crew members, actors, stuntmen, catering companies, real estate agents, and musicians. Literally anyone that is involved in the industry is a welcome member. GPP’s board does not have an executive director and is filled by volunteers. All of the board members, committee chairs, and committee members happily volunteer their time in addition to working their full- time jobs as they know the importance and benefits that production in Georgia has on the industry and on the local economy. Lisa Ferrell, Co-President of GPP, is a Producer/ Project Manager for Georgia State University’s Creative
impact on the local economy of Barnesville, GA for years to come. Who knew that a pig farm could have such a lasting impact on an entire community? If you are a member of the Georgia entertainment industry and are interested in continuing the economic and job growth that this industry is bringing to the State of Georgia, you should consider becoming a GPP member. As a member, you enjoy significant discounts from fellow GPP network , and discuss various business issues and production challenges with industry leaders during the monthly meetings and at their annual social events. GPP meets on the first Tuesday of each month from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm at the USA Plaza Theatre in Virginia Highlands. Membership cost starts at $25 for students, $50 for individuals, $150 for Associate, and $300 for corporate.
For more detailed membership information and to find out more about the Georgia Production Partnership, visit their website, Facebook page, and Twitter accounts.
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Pinewood Forest near Pinewood Atlanta Studios promises to be a creative hub like no other The Making of a Media Mecca
By Ca ro l Bada r acco Padge t t development lead; Lew Oliver, town urbanist; Keith Summerour, architect and designer, who’s credited with creating the property’s one-of-a-kind swimming pool; and multiple development partners such as Pace Lynch, Capstone Communities, Spotlight Theaters, Ross Hotel Partners, and five residential home builders. With its first phase now open and future phases in the works, Pinewood Forest is proving to be what Parker calls “a magnet for creativity.” The “create” aspect of the live-work-create commu- nity refers to its unique homeowner demographic of film industry professionals and those allied with the profession. “Pinewood Forest was built from the ground up to be a brand-new kind of town,” says Parker, “stimulating creativity and designed around keeping residents’ wellness top of mind.” The development offers a combination of eco- conscious single and multi-family homes in a variety of floor plans and sizes. “Every home is heated and cooled using the earth (geothermal), and built with the highest quality materials,” Parker notes. “They are designed and built with a more urban feel, to share amenities like walkable trails, parks, art strolls, and the Mediterranean- style resort pool.” Other types of dwellings planned for the development include micro homes (small, portable dwellings), garden-like canopy homes in the trees, condos, and a boutique hotel. In addition, the project’s town urbanist, Oliver, is working with a team of architects to create what Parker describes as “a walkable European-styled village” throughout the development.
L ive. Work. Play. These three words represent a mix of ideals that Atlantans readily embraced in the early 2000s as mixed-use construction projects popped up all around the metro area. Why is mixed-use living such a big draw? Simply put, people gravitate toward it because they don’t want to spend all their time commuting to and from work and back and forth from the nearest retail stores. They want to spend more time at home with their families. They want their offices or co- working spaces close to home. And they want restaurants, bars, theaters, community amenities, and green spaces within walking or biking distance. Since the film industry took hold of Georgia and the city of Atlanta around 2008, mixed-use projects have continued to spring up—many of them cut from nearly the same basic mold. But now, nearly 12 years later, the still-growing film industry has prompted urban planners and visionaries to put a new spin on the popular mixed- use concept. At one development in particular, Pinewood Forest, the typical mixed-use “live-work-play” formula or mixed-use has morphed into “live-work-create”. Pinewood Forest is different because it’s adjacent to Pinewood Atlanta Studios, the renowned full-service film complex that rests on 700 acres south of the city in Fayetteville, Ga. The latest development brainchild of the visionaries and owners of Pinewood Studios, Pinewood Forest is the nation’s first-ever “live-work-create” community. The players in the concept and development of Pinewood Forest include Atlantan Dan Cathy, described as “chief visionary”; Rob Parker, president and
Currently open in Phase I, the Piedmont Wellness Center of Pinewood Forest illustrates the development visionaries’ commitment to residents’ need for healthy lifestyles. “The wellness center features world-class customized exercise and nutrition programs that include Les Mills’s The Trip, a cycle class performed in front of a movie screen that shows exotic animated locations,” Parker says. Other amenities include a soon to be open town center that will include retail and bespoke restaurants like Pancake Social and Hop City BarleyGarden. By 2021, more restaurants and shops will join the lineup, accompanied by a luxury movie theater with eight screens and a rooftop exhibition area. Parker notes, “We see this as an ideal gathering place for creative and film world premieres.” Another draw of Pinewood Forest, given its residents’ involvement in the film industry, is its close proximity to Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport. “The idea of clustering creatives that are related to the film industry just minutes from the busiest airport in the world creates the opportunity for Pinewood Forest to be a global gathering spot for inspired content creators,” Parker shares. As it grows, the creative development will continue to attract the highest profile moviemakers and industry players. Parker, who happens to live in the development with his wife, notes, “We are thrilled to have creatives in an array of studio disciplines living in our midst—from writers and directors to stunt people, craft service, and even fitness trainers to the stars.”
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Palmer Co-Star, Wynn Everett, Calls Pinewood Forest “Home“ W hile the high-profile film industry residents of Pinewood Forest are kept largely confidential by the community’s management team, one actor came forward to share what it’s like to live there. Atlanta native and Auburn graduate Wynn Everett, currently filming Palmer in New Orleans with Justin Timberlake, spoke with Georgia Hollywood Review about her acting career and her home in the Pinewood Forest creative community. GHR: DID YOU EVER ENVISION THAT YOU’D BE ABLE TO PUT YOUR ACTING BACKGROUND AND THEATER DEGREE TO PROFESSIONAL USE IN YOUR HOME STATE, LET ALONE YOUR HOME CITY? Everett: Never! It is truly incredible. I speak to so many young people today and always tell them, “If I was graduating from high school today and wanted to pursue a life in the arts, I would never leave Georgia.” There are so many wonderful things happening here and so many opportunities to live a balanced, creative life--to be able to afford a home (difficult for artists in NY and LA), to enjoy a slower pace, to not be inundated by the business, day in and day out, but to also pursue theatre, film, and television on your own terms. GHR: OF ALL THE PLACES YOU COULD LIVE IN ATLANTA, HOW DID YOU PICK PINEWOOD FOREST? Everett: When my husband, Michael, and I made the decision to move back to Atlanta we wanted to live closer to family… when we learned of Pinewood Forest it was just open land, not even one house. However, we fell in love with the vision and the people behind it and knew that this was where we x
Actor Wynn Everett Photo by Braden Moran Photography
Photos courtesy of Pinewood Forest
wanted to raise our girls and settle down. Having lived in New York and Los Angeles we were looking for creativity, walkability, and community, all of which Pinewood Forest is creating (without the traffic of the north side of Atlanta.). This helps me a great deal as I travel north for auditions and work at various studios. GHR: TELL US ABOUT YOUR WORK ON PALMER IN NEW ORLEANS, STARRING JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, AS WELL AS SOME OF YOUR OTHER WORK. Everett: I’ve been having a wonderful experience on Palmer . I play Lucille, the wife of Palmer’s best friend. Some other work I’ve done includes HBO’s The Newsroom , Charlie Wilson’s War , ABC’s Agent Carter, Modern Family , and Grey’s Anatomy , NBC’s This Is Us , Netflix’s Heartstrings , and Netflix’s Slutty Teenage Bounty Hunters , due out this year. GHR: LASTLY, WHO DO YOU CALL “NEIGHBOR” AT PINEWOOD FOREST? Everett: Many residents are artists and creatives, musicians, furniture makers, teachers, pilots, doctors. We want our family to live around a diverse group of individuals and families. That is one of the reasons we left Los Angeles. Part of the unique advantage of living in Pinewood Forest and watching it grow is seeing the different vocations of the creative individuals that are drawn here.
More than a stunning place to live that’s buzzing with creativity, Parker says that Pinewood Forest is helping to instill a remarkable culture to the area around Pinewood Studios. In three additional phases, the total number of residents is expected to grow to nearly 4,000 and the community’s town center will ultimately house a dozen food concepts and 90,000 square feet of retail. A second hotel will be added, as well as an additional office building/co-working space. In the walkable paths around the Pinewood Forest development, public art installations and murals will provide a dazzling backdrop for high-profile film indus- try events. The development is also catering to the educational needs of residents’ children, Parker reports, with an innovative on-premise academic institution that will send off its first high school graduate this year. College students will also benefit from the special city and culture of the community, with the University of Georgia in Athens, in collaboration with the Georgia Film Academy, selecting students from its Master of Fine Arts in Film program to live and work at Pinewood Atlanta Studios and Pinewood Forest in fall 2020. During their time living in the community, the graduate students will work in groups to produce a short film trailer or pilot. Amid all the buzz surrounding the Pinewood Forest live-work-create community today, Parker says there’s much more to come. “As Georgia and Atlanta continue to grow as a media mecca, we believe this town will be at the center of the discussion on how to build a place where people love to live,” he closes.
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KIDS ON FILM
Don’t Wait to be Great By Ton i Lub l i n
I was around 10 years old, and my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wanted to step up. I found out I have a passion for cooking,” Love shares. She continues to make all meals and Reed thankfully has been in remission for the last two years. Love’s culinary style has been nurtured in part by watching the YouTube channel Tasty, which highlights… you guessed it… all things tasty. “I don’t cook traditional Southern. My food is influenced by Mexican or Southwestern with a twist.” Some of her favorite recipes that will be included in her cookbook will be a savory lamb dish, a family recipe for juicy steak, plus a garlic butter and potatoes dish that is to die for. Save room for dessert, featuring her winning No Bake Cheesecake. For mom Tierra Reed, this is all very natural for Uriah. A former teacher in academia, Reed has home schooled her daughter. In addition, Love has a good team behind her, with an acting coach, manager, agent, publicist, attorney, and a seasoning liaison. Leaving no stone unturned, Love also manages her five social media platforms with some help from her mom: Instagram: @uriah.love Twitter: @uriahelove Facebook: @uriahelove Tumblr: @uriahelove. Every Wednesday a new YouTube video is published for her fans on her channel #onwednesdayswewatchuriah. “Instagram is my strongest platform,” says Love. Her audience is comprised mostly of tweens between 9 to 14 years old, known as the Generation Z’ers. Her content is focused on her life journey in entertainment and shared on her various platforms. Gen Z is a distinctly different type of consumer than millennials; they grew up online, eschew email and are slowly bringing the demise of Facebook in favor of Instagram and YouTube. For a talented rising star in the entertainment business in Atlanta, Georgia there is no stopping Uriah Love. Beyond the acting, dancing, singing, and cooking she plans to use all her platforms to grow her brand. “I would like to use my platforms to eventually create a nonprofit called Don’t Wait to Be Great that helps kids become whatever they want to be. The nonprofit would pay for whatever training or lessons that goes towards their dreams. I also want to open my own restaurant, and to become a creative director and work in cinematography.” Spoken by a true entrepreneur, Uriah Love.
I would like to use my platforms to eventually create a nonprofit called Don’t Wait to Be Great that helps kids become whatever they want to be.
taught me that you don’t have to wait to follow your dreams,” Love says. Love recently added Chef to her accomplishments by becoming the winner of The Food Network’s Chopped Junior Champion in Season 9. A lot goes on beyond what you see on camera. With thousands of young applicants competing to be in the competition that season, Love made it through the numerous culinary challenges placed before her. “I really loved the experience of competing on the Food Network, from the beginning to end I enjoyed the journey,” she says. Winning Chopped Junior is simply one of the latest accomplishments in this very busy girl’s life. She is now taking her love of cooking to the next level by launching her own line of seasonings simply called ULoveSeasoning. Her first blend of spices combines the diversity of New Orleans Cajun with the earthiness of down and dirty in your face flavors of the Southwest. The offering debuted on November 27, 2019 and sold out in 12 hours. It is the first of what will eventually be a complete line of spice combinations to choose for any dietary preference. As Love puts it, “Sprinkle some love. It’s the only seasoning you need.” This particular blend also reflects Love’s personality. She describes it as “Spicy, sweet, and tangy in edible form.” In addition, a cookbook highlighting her favorite recipes will soon be available. “I learned to cook when
Photo by My Studio Kids
T welve-year-old Uriah Love has a repertoire most adults can’t match. She started acting at age 7, and by 9 had been in commercials (both film and print). An accomplished dancer, she’s featured in music videos for R&B artists XSO and Kimani. She is also an ATL’s Kid Hottest Rising Star and Cheyenne Achievement Awards recipient. Her latest addition to her resume? She loves to cook; and she is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with among chefs of all ages. The protégé lives with her mother, Tierra Reed, in Atlanta where they have been engaged in the expanding entertainment business. “My mom is my hero. She
Some of her additional channels include: Kid CEO: @uloveentertainment | @hotttheatre | @atlaconnect | #onwednesdayswewatchuriah | #u! | squadlinktr.ee/uriah.love
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Mr. Do-it-all Why Jamey Giddens’s Hollywood is just getting started By Mi chae l J . Pa l l e r i no
F ootball is the way out. That is what they tell young black boys in east Texas. Growing up in the small rural town of De Kalb, Jamey Giddens never got the message. While other kids dreamt of playing football at the University of Texas or with the Dallas Cowboys, Giddens escaped through reading and TV. While most were inspired by the likes of Cowboys stars Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, he aspired to mimic the glamorous liaisons he watched on Knots Landing or read in Hollywood Wives . Raised by his maternal grandparents, Giddens’s love of the soap opera mentality came honestly. They loved the genre and so did he. “Since I had little interest in football and was a gay kid who loved soaps, trashy novels, and fashion magazines, life wasn’t always easy. I managed to escape through television and novels by Jackie Collins, the late E. Lynn Harris, Terry McMillan, and Dominick Dunne.” Giddens is half joking when he refers to himself as a small-town misfit. But if you dig a little deeper into his backstory, you will see that the life he created for himself was born from the influences he sought out. It was always about crafting a life on his terms. That’s all Giddens wanted—still does. As an acclaimed writer and producer, whose most recent show, Ambitions , met with critical acclaim on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, Giddens is doing what he always wanted to do, even if it took a little while to get there. Before working with mega producer Will Packer and Lionsgate TV on Ambitions , Giddens worked as a newspaper reporter in Texas and spent a decade doing communications and PR for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta. Before that, he was a publicist for the Department of the Army. From there, he helped NAACP Award-winning actress Victoria Rowell (The Young and the Restless, Diagnosis Murder) create the pitch for her long-running Urban Movie Channel (UMC) soap opera spoof, The Rich and The Ruthless . Giddens co-wrote the first season with Rowell and served as a creative consultant on Season 2, before leveraging his soap opera knowledge, and popularity as a blogger and podcaster for DaytimeConfidential.com into scripted TV opportunities. His big break was Ambitions , the steamy, Atlanta-set multigenerational family saga centered on a woman who, having recently relocated to revitalize her marriage, finds herself squaring off against some of the most powerful and deceitful players in the city. The show, starring Robin
Givens (Riverdale, Lucifer) , Brian White (Stomp the Yard, Family Stone) and Kendrick Cross (Richard Jewell, Last Call) , recently wrapped its first season on OWN and is looking for a new home for Season 2. “ Ambitions is among a precious few series that zeroes in on affluent black people who didn’t obtain their fortunes and/or power bases from sports or entertainment. I believe this resonates with our fans.” For Giddens, it is the kind of character-driven story that drives—and challenges—his creative fever. Because it was produced for an ad-supported cable outlet, it was important for the writers to find ways to return after the commercials. “We spent a lot of time thinking up plot twists, act breaks, and watercooler moments. If your audience doesn’t care about the characters, they won’t care about the plot. The best soap operas, or stories in general, are character driven. Robin and Brian’s characters both went to Harvard Law. They aren’t drug dealers. They aren’t downtrodden or scratching out life in the projects. I feel like I’ve seen those particular explorations of black life a thousand times on TV and in movies. We’re more than our tragedies.” In the hunt to find another outlet for Ambitions , Giddens will keep doing what he does, including loving every minute of the pace. “Our time here is finite, but our stories have the potential to live on for generations, if not forever. A lot of people think working in the entertainment industry is a fairy tale of endless red carpets and hob-knobbing
Our time here is finite, but our stories have the potential to live on for generations, if not forever.
Photo by Kris10 Photography
with the rich and fabulous. While those are nice fringe benefits, the last few years have taught me how incredibly hard the filmmaking community in Georgia works to tell our stories.”
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PUBLIC RELATIONS GURUS
METAGEPRA, you say How an alliance of PR professionals is helping change Georgia’s entertainment landscape By Mi chae l J . Pa l l e r i no
M elissa Sanders and Mitch Leff recall walking away from the initial gathering of the Georgia Entertainment PR Alliance (GEPRA) with a bit of a sense of awe. The group, which included senior level public relations professionals with backgrounds in film, television, music, digital entertainment, and gaming, convened on an invitation from Sanders and Leff to explore the possibility of creating a PR dream team committed to spreading the gospel of Georgia’s $9.5 billion entertainment industry. TV. Film. Music. Digital. Gaming.
Name a sector and Georgia continues to be a destination for companies—small and large—to carve a path of their own in the entertainment landscape. What Sanders and Leff, founders of Tadpole Communications and Leff & Associates, respectively, saw was an opportunity to help smaller companies generate awareness, make connections, and showcase their work. That first meeting in 2017, which consisted of 25 participants, was structured as a brainstorming session. It ended up solidifying everything Sanders and Leff had envisioned. The group walked away with a name, logo, website, and a messaging and branding strategy. “We’re seeing new companies come to Georgia every month, so our role will become key to their ability to be successful,” Leff says. “The entertainment industry is such a force in this state.” Today, GEPRA serves as a critical resource by providing PR and marketing support services for municipalities, companies, artists, and associations working in the state’s diverse entertainment industries. Some of its clients include the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau, Definition 6, the DeKalb Entertainment Commission, Crafty Apes, Moonshine Post-Production, MomoCon, and DreamHack, to name a few. DreamHack Atlanta is the ultimate global gaming lifestyle festival, a multi-faceted three-day esports event featuring Bring Your Own Computer (BYOC) Local Area Network (LAN) esports tournaments, cosplay, live music, an expo area, and much more. This year, the gaming fete will make its return to the Georgia World Congress Center to award more than $1 million in prizes. In the background, GEPRA has been working closely with the area’s major esports groups to promote
Andrew Greenberg, DeKalb Entertainment Commission and Mitch Leff
Photos courtesey Mitch Leff
has worked closely with organizers to help market the Expo’s collaborative, supportive infrastructure to stimulate growth. “The DEC team was ahead of the curve in Georgia in creating a department that recognized the importance and economic potential not just of film and TV production, but also music and digital entertainment,” Leff says. “There are many local cities and counties that are recognizing that the industry offers their residents great opportunities. We have the expertise to quickly connect them with the key contacts in entertainment in Georgia. Businesses budget for the staff, facilities, and equipment to get their endeavors off the ground, but they often forget to put a line item in their budgets for marketing. We are proud of the work we are doing to help them.” As the success stories continue to mount, Sanders and Leff reflect on their initial conversation that asked: “What if?” Sanders says, “We saw this as an opportunity to join forces with other PR colleagues and together offer something unique. We’re all seasoned pros who are passionate about the work we do and the clients we get to work with. Now we get to be a part of helping this industry grow in our state, too.”
Sanders and the DreamHack team
the festival. Its collaboration and promotional efforts with the Atlanta Reign, Skillshot Media, Hi-Rez Studios, Turner Sports’ ELeague, Hawks Talon GC, and the new Atlanta Esports Alliance stand as a shining example of the substantive work GEPRA is doing in the community. “I love that we touch all areas of entertainment, but I think most recently we’ve had a substantial impact in esports,” Sanders says. “It has allowed us to take our footprint outside of Georgia. I think we have really made successful strides educating communities, connecting with partners, and collaborating on the power and potential of esports and digital entertainment.” An interactive, up-close and personal experience, the Entertainment Expo, presented by DeKalb Entertainment Commission (DEC), highlights the abundant resources and information available within DeKalb County and Georgia for companies, organizations, professionals, and residents looking to establish a presence in film, TV, music, and digital entertainment. Attendees get access to tangible resources and connections that can help enhance an entertainment portfolio. The GEPRA team
For more information on GEPRA, visit www.gepra.net.
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Visual Effects By Chr i s LeDoux
If film crews were ‘80s TV show characters, VFX artists would be MacGyver. T he trouble is, you think you have time.” - Buddha (It’s from the Internet, so maybe Mickey Mantle, Joan of Arc, or a 19th Century Irish Sous Chef might have said it. The who is not terribly important.) When I spotted this the other day, I paused for a moment and nodded to consider the seemingly endless Gmail task list that perpetually hover like an anvil over my head. Then I reminded myself that Miles had asked me to write an article for this issue of GHR, and I was nearly out of time. This is supposed to be an article about my only verified area of expertise outside of Seahawks football history: Visual Effects, or VFX for short. What could I possibly communicate in 700 words about VFX? I’m pretty sure I use 700 words just to order a number one at Wendys. I think I’ve already used up 200 words. Then again, Miles asked. I’m interpreting this request with a wide net. I’ll write as if this was a series of columns on VFX with each one a brick to stack upon the others. The mention of VFX conjures up images of giant screens made of green/blue, of dinosaurs, spaceships, explosions, lasers, and worlds that only exist at that brief moment between dreams and the alarm. It is all those things among numerous others. Like other film crew departments, the role of VFX is to create a seamless illusion that appears as a photographic reality. Ok, that’s how I see it. Ever since Marty McFly’s DeLorean disappeared into blazing skid-marks at the Twin Pines Mall that’s how I’ve thought of it. VFX is there to help realize a vision and NOT to be the vision itself. The brush cannot supersede the painting that it helps to create. If someone emerges from a theater and their opinion is “The effects were great” and offer little to no commentary on the final picture, then we have lost the plot. As a department, we exist as a tool in the filmmaker’s arsenal, largely to create what cannot be captured, or captured easily, in camera. Beyond that we solve problems in post-production that no one knew even existed until the crews have wrapped. Creative problem solving is where VFX artists truly shine.
Which takes me back to time. Time is important because it is a parameter. It defines the edges of the sandbox we are allowed to play in. The older I get, the more I become convinced that creativity loves constraints. It is within these confines that innovation is born. Back when I was first directing music videos, I dreamed of situations where I could create anything I wanted with no parameters of any sort. I learned though that if a treatment request basically stated: “Do anything you want”, my mind would blank, and then revert to an endless list of cliché presets that probably read like the first answer of a Google search. When the label had a laundry list of ‘musts’ for the video however, I would sigh in annoyance but then my mind would start to wander, create, excite, and solve. Deadlines in VFX are a never-ending stressor that looms large above all projects. If deadlines are not met, I’ve been told that post supervisors are taken by a Cthulhu like creature to a hellish realm known as reality television. While I’ve never seen this place, the trepidation in their eyes at the mere mention of it has kept me from missing a deadline for their sake. I’ve worked on a couple of projects for myself and friends that had no deadlines. Those projects are still ongoing, with the longest now standing at only 14 years since we filmed it. Advances in technology have made some parts of VFX more efficient than in previous eras. Much of this gain is in repetitive tasks that can be performed much
faster than before as well as natural progress in computing power. None of this, however, has saved a moment of time in the VFX realm as the appetite for what is possible has increased exponentially since the birth of VFX. The deadlines have also become shorter and more extreme. Come to think of it, and counter to the opening quote, we never have time in VFX. This ultimately causes us to innovate. If film crews were ‘80s TV show characters, VFX artists would be MacGyver. While MacGyver spent little time at a computer and certainly averaged more than 2,700 steps a day, he was a supreme innovator known for shining brightest when given impossible parameters. Problem solving under seemingly impossible conditions is where we get most excited and earn our best stripes. You need to fill a football stadium with 60,000 fans, but you have 26 extras? We can solve that. You like the performances from two different actors in different takes, but it needs to play as one? Give us a call. You need Atlanta to look like NYC? Sure. Your spouse is angry because you’ve been on location for the last 3 months? I’ll buy you a drink. All in all, we can be a powerful brush in the filmmaker’s toolkit. Just give us a little time. But not too much.
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Double Shot Filmmaking duo Chrishaunda Lee Perez and Jason Perez on why two voices really are better than one By Mi chae l J . Pa l l e r i no
S it down with Jason and Chrishaunda Lee Perez and you do not get much of that “two people finishing each other’s sentences” routine. But it happens. And when it does, it’s glorious. The trickier part is trying to get the husband and wife filmmaking team in the same room at the same time focused on the same topic. In this case, it is to discuss why having two strongly independent, highly successful entertainment creators can be the best medicine in such an immensely demanding and competitive industry. Jason, beginning his third decade in the TV, video, and film businesses, has worked on projects like Inside Man, Transamerica, 25th Hour, and the recent Academy Award winning BlacKkKlansman , directed by Spike Lee. Jason was nominated for a Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award for his work as an assistant director to Lee, with whom he has forged a close working relationship with over the years. Chrishaunda, a writer, producer, and orator, is best known for her work as co-writer and co- producer of the short film The Forever Tree , and the book Share The Dream: Building Noah’s Ark One Prayer at a Time. She started as a fashion publicist before moving in front of the camera on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004, and later on Entertainment Tonight in 2005. Her most recent book, an Oprah Winfrey-endorsed novel, We Come as Girls, We Leave as Women, delves into how high school senior girls overcome personal challenges as they head toward graduation. SO, IS THERE A SECRET—THAT MAGIC TRICK, IF YOU WILL—IN DEALING WITH SO MUCH CREATIVE TALENT UNDER ONE ROOF? Jason: “Is it challenging to separate that you are working with your spouse? Yes. When we do, I try to treat her as I treat any other person on set or in the writing room. But I probably go a little harder on her because I know her capabilities and I expect more.” Chrishaunda: “We’re both creative people, so it eventually turned into something that just is. We both have strong elements that serve the business really well. Jason understands how the set is supposed to go: the timing
Chrishaunda Lee Perez and Jason Perez
Chrishaunda has been able to help open my mind and help me look at how to deal with the words on the paper, the emotions of character.
of scheduling, how to pull the team together [etc.]. I am able to come in and help him in the writing space.” The two currently are working together on a proof of concept piece that Chrishaunda wrote, in which Jason will serve as director for the full. Chrishanda: “With all of his connections, Jason can pull in who is needed to get the job done. He took my words and turned him into something very multi-dimensional. It was great.” For her part, Chrishaunda is returning the favor in the first full-length piece that Jason wrote, helping critique and manage the flow of the story. Jason: “She has helped me a lot. I am used to dealing with things from behind the camera. Chrishaunda has been able to help open my mind and help me look at how to deal with the words on the paper, the emotions of character. In my 20- plus years doing this, it is something new—something that will open more doors.” The two projects are not only proof positive of how two distinctly successful professionals can continue to learn from each other, but that they are willing to do so. The key factor—the one aspect paramount to all else— is respect. Jason: “You have to respect each other and what they bring to the table. As challenging as it may be at times, you have to separate egos. What happens at home, stays at home, and vice-versa.” Chrishaunda: “That is spot on. Whether you are married or not, you have to respect what somebody else does. Jason is one of my biggest critics, and I say that with all the love in the world. He wants me to do well. He will give me my due, but the bar is very high.”
Photo by Drexina Nelson Photography
As the conversation veers toward the end, it is no surprise that the Perezes’ simultaneously finish each other sentence. After the pause, they regroup and head to the next thought. Teamwork at its best.
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