Georgia Hollywood Review January 2020

POWERFUL of Film and Television WOMEN

Left to right: Mikki Taylor; Kate Atwood; Terri J. Vaughn; and Deborah Riley Draper.

Georgia Hollywood Review TV’s “A Day In The Life” with Nadia Bilchik premieres on the Thea Network.

Jx Hines : On the cusp of greatness Neal Genys : Funny as Hell


Publisher/Founder/Editor-In-Chief: Miles K. Neiman

Roll, Action, Cut

Managing Editor: Jennifer Thompson

The Georgia entertainment industry is one of the most exciting industries, both economically and culturally, to come to our state in a long while. Our industry fosters inclusiveness, adventure, creativity and opportunity to all. Regardless of age, ethnicity, skin color or socio-economic background, the entertainment industry in Georgia is truly an equal opportunity zone. This fabric is why Georgia Entertainment only has one direction to go. Up. Speaking of opportunity zones, read this issue’s

We are also proud to announce that Georgia Hollywood Review TV is now the premiere Atlanta film industry channel of the Thea Network. Download the Thea App today and check out all of our episodes of A Day In The Life with Nadia Bilchik and our Red Carpet Series. Thea is Atlanta’s premiere channel for local content creators. It’s not only a fresh, entertaining and engaging platform to watch on your device or at home on your Roku or Apple TV, but it’s 100% local Atlanta content. Congratulations to Ozzie Areu and Kim Leadford of the Areu Bros. Studios for having the

Proofreader: Sloane Neiman

Magazine Designer: Brenda J. Oliver

article on Opportunity Zone expert Steve Glickman. Steve’s time in the White House as a Senior Economic Advisor to President Obama has helped Georgia create yet another socially minded component to our economic paradigm. Recently at a GPP (Georgia Production Partnership) meeting entitled “State of the State”, panelist Ryan Millsap, CEO of Blackhall Studios, commented that the Georgia film industry is really just 10 years old. He added that it generally takes 20 years for an industry to truly root. And 30 years to become an institution. Everyone agreed that we are on the right path and that we should all be proud for where we are today. Look for Ryan’s regular column, “Studio Notes” inside this issue. Georgia Hollywood Review will be doing our part to help during the next 10 years to ensure we grow deep, strong, independent roots. Our new in-house publicity agency will ensure our ability to help Georgia talent achieve every opportunity possible. Our mission is to help Georgia actors compete healthily with actors from LA, New York and the UK to get major roles in major films being produced and filmed in Georgia. For more information and to find out if we can represent you as one of our talent or industry clients, e-mail miles@ After all, Georgia is not only a great spot for locations and productions, but a breeding ground for top talent as well. Georgia Filmmakers and Producers like Will Packer have proven that time and again. Packer’s new hit series Ambitions is showing how Georgia actors can hold their ground next to their California counterparts. Packer was recently awarded at the annual WIFTA (Women in Film & Television Association) Gala for his role in supporting women in film over the years. He was elegant and graceful as usual. You can watch interviews of his cast members and script writer from the WIFTA Gala on Georgia Hollywood Review TV under our Red Carpet Series .

foresight and intelligence to acquire such a cutting edge concept. The Thea Network is sure to become one of our city’s strongest media gems. On that note, Thea CEO Kate Atwood is featured in our cover story along with 3 other powerful women of Film and Television. Director and filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper is producing and directing her new project, Coffee Will Make You Black , along with Octavia Spencer and Tate Taylor as producers and Gabrielle Union as the star of her debut feature film. Terri J. Vaughn just finished four Christmas movies and is positioned to be a real leader in Georgia- made, written and directed films in 2020 along with partner Cas Sigers-Beedles. Mikki Taylor, Editor at Large of Essence Magazine , is responsible for countless magazine covers empowering women of color. Mikki’s Rolodex is a veritable who’s who of international entertainment powerhouses and influencers. Her latest project is Season of the Witches being filmed in Savannah and Puerto Rico, with Riley directing. Of course, this issue wouldn’t be complete without a hard nod to Georgia’s music industry. In this issue, we feature soon to be household name, Jx Hines. Hines’ voice is like silk on fire. It has the range of Justin Timberlake, with the rich, sexiness of John Legend’s voice. Read about him and check out his engaging interview on Georgia Hollywood Review TV on Thea. Atlanta’s own Black Scorpion is his music label. We also interviewed the experts at the Georgia Film Commission to find out what makes Georgia esports such a big part of the gaming industry. This is another one of Georgia’s strong economic drivers and promises to be a game changer. Pun intended. We hope you enjoy all that this issue has to offer. In each issue of the magazine and on each episode of Georgia Hollywood Review TV, we will cover the unique tapestry of talent, both above and below the line, that makes the Georgia film, television and music industry vibrant, strong and fascinating.

Advertising Design: Sharon Jollay

Photography: Aiva Genys Richie Arpino Aaron Romano

Distribution: TGS Media

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Sales Support: Beth Wroten

Georgia Hollywood Review TV Host: Nadia Bilchik

Videographer: Randy Harris


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

Miles K. Neiman

about the cover

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

Pictured: Mikki Taylor; Kate Atwood; Terri J. Vaughn; and Deborah Riley Draper. Photographer: Aiva Genys, AGpicture Clothes: Provided by Tootsies; Mikki Taylor’s gown by Marco Hall Designs Location: Agency at Phipps Hair: Maria Heckscher Salon, Meredith McMillen and Nabat Kheteb Makeup: Toni Acey, Stacey Gonzalez

Visit our webpage:

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12 local productions Reel Cool Entertainment 14 visionary Lights, Camera, Georgia 16 local landmark Plaza Theatre 17 hair+makeup Lawrence Davis: “I Can Do That” 18 sound studio Third Rail: Fit for The Content Race

20 special effects Crafty Apes: How Did They Do That? 22 local theatre Susan Booth: Alliance Theatre 24 cover story Powerful Women of Film and Television 28 esports The New Game in Town 30 local studio 34 film society Reel Divas Initiative 36 creative director Sara Elizabeth Timmins: Life Out Loud Films 38 organizations NAMIC: Ally on Hand 40 technology OTT and Video Content Distribution 42 education Newton Myvett: The Art Institute of Atlanta 44 filmmaker Ladon Whitmire’s World 46 emmy winners Mitchell Anderson: Death Do Us Part 47 child actor Live from Atlanta, it’s Neal Genys 48 animal actors Is That a Cat or a Film Star? 50 music Jx Hines and Black Scorpion: Up & Coming 52 studio notes Ryan C. Millsap: Entertainment is for All 54 politics+geography Steve Glickman: Opportunity Zones 56 art+film Alex Harris: The Beauty Beneath the Beauty META Studios 32 festivals Atlanta Jewish Film Festival

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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,, 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. and

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.

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

Mary Welch is a veteran writer and editor who has worked for a number of publications, including the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Travelgirl Magazine, and . In her spare time she enjoys traveling with her son, Grady, and tries to fix up her 100-year-old home in Virginia-Highland. Atlanta Woman, Business to Business, Car Business Today

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A Conversation with Dave Di Pietro of Reel Cool Entertainment By Tr ac ey M. Hawk i ns

R eel Cool Entertainment, LLC is an independent, full- service production company in Oxford, Georgia, conveniently located near Atlanta. They focus on providing production support for international films and video production and commercial projects, in addition to creating original programming and online content. Reel Cool Entertainment offers everything necessary to complete a film or video project from concept through production and all the way to the final product. Dave Di Pietro has dedicated over 38 years to the film and video industries. He is an experienced writer, production designer, visual effects specialist, and director. Di Pietro is tremendously excited to be part of the new “Hollywood of the East” here in the Atlanta area. TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND AND HISTORY. HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY IN GENERAL, AND PRODUCTION DESIGN SPECIFICALLY? I started making Super-8 movies while I was still in high school. I knew I

Marketplace. This was a true chore and a real challenge, since Hunger Games had just wrapped and the graffiti from their production was everywhere. It took our crew quite awhile to repaint the buildings. As soon as we finished with our shooting, Hunger Games came back for reshoots and replaced all the graffiti once again! Quite the vicious cycle! WHAT UPCOMING PROJECTS ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT? We have two projects on the fast-track drawing board at the moment. The first is the full-length, feature- film version of Archangel from the Winter’s End Chronicles, as well as The Transhumans , a weekly sci-fi/adventure television series. Both projects will involve some unique and mind-blowing set designs. Anyone interested in what Reel Cool Entertainment can offer should visit their website at:, or, if you are a producer or distributor, please contact Dave Di Pietro directly at: dave@

that these characters live in. It entails looking for existing locals with the flavor you need, or designing interior and exterior sets for places that just don’t exist. You work with the

had always loved movies and wanted to be involved with them. My college years were spent forming Cinema Group 4, a film group, with other filmmaker friends in New Jersey. We produced shorts, features, and even industrials. Eventually I landed a job with Paramount Pictures and worked with them for over 13 years. I also wrote and directed Quad 9 , a pilot for the SyFy Channel. After moving here to Georgia, I formed Reel Cool Entertainment. We are a company that creates exciting IP (intellectual property) for the motion picture, television, and video game markets. Production design is only a small aspect of what I do, but it was born out of necessity, especially for smaller- budget filmmaking. I was heavily influenced by Ken Adam, who designed many of the big James Bond films, as well as Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove . WHAT EXACTLY DOES PRODUCTION DESIGN ENTAIL? HOW DOES THE PROCESS OF PRODUCTION DESIGN WORK? Production design is world building. When you’re handed a script, it’s your job to “see and design” the world

script, sometimes the writer, the director, and any other crew who can supply the talent and passion necessary to bring these thrilling places to life. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PROJECT/CLIENT SO FAR? Though I did some cool sci-fi and even a small Batman project, I have to say Archangel from the Winter’s End Chronicles was my favorite. This series is set in a steampunk world of London, during the 19th Century. The blending of rich wood next to antique brass, steel, and rivets was a challenge and a dream come true. Who wouldn’t want to create an underground, Victorian secret headquarters? DO YOU HAVE ANY FUNNY STORIES OR ANECDOTES FROM YOUR ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY EXPERIENCES? While shooting Archangel the web series, we converted Pullman Yard in Atlanta into an 1893 London

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Lights, Camera, Georgia How local entrepreneurial and business icon Michael Coles helped turn the Peach State into Hollywood South By Mi cha e l J . Pa l l e r i no

speak with legislators, producers, and community members. We had to show them how much they could benefit economically from the film industry; not only during filming, but from a continuous tourism impact as well.” Part of their presentation included a video montage intro- duction featuring images of such iconic locations as the Sahara Desert, the Grand Canyon, and New York City. At the end of the video, their message is stated for all to see: “All of the scenes were filmed in Georgia”. “This helped constituents envision their own communities as a site for a film,” Coles says. “Once they were convinced, they pressured their legislators.” Included in Cole’s advocacy group were Joel Katz, entertainment practice chair, Greenberg Traurig;

Photo by Aiva Genys

I created a group of 40 board members who were experts in their fields, inf luential in Atlanta, and passionately dedicated to growing the film industry here.

Michael Coles

W hen then Governor Roy Barnes appointed Michael Coles to lead the Georgia Film Commission in 1999, the once thriving industry was in decline. Started in the early ’70s by then Governor Jimmy Carter, the state had become an entertainment breeding ground for icon films like Deliverance, Smokey and the Bandit, Glory, Fried Green Tomatoes, Footloose , and many others. Coles, the serial entrepreneur, philanthropist and co-founder of Great American Cookie, was tasked to right the ship. “So why do producers come to Georgia to film?” he asked himself. What seemed like a relatively easy answer was fraught with chaos. For starters, the Film Commission did not have a board of directors or advisory board, which meant it had no plan. In addition, the Commission was unable to pass a tax incentive bill. Not only was there nobody to get it done, nobody thought they could. And while Georgia had several Oscar winning films under its belt, the state’s film industry was only generating $150-$200 million per year in economic impact. “Why not?” That was the other question Coles asked himself. Why couldn’t Georgia be at the top of every producer’s wish list? After an exhaustive research

initiative, Coles executed a strategy that involved building a diverse and talented board, educating state officials on potential opportunities, and creating incentives to attract new business. “Through my personal network, I created a group of 40 board members who were experts in their fields, influential in Atlanta, and passionately dedicated to growing the film industry here,” says Coles, whose name proudly adorns the Coles College of Business at Kennesaw State University. Focused on educating, promoting, and enacting film incentives, Coles’s team set out to get House Bill 610 passed during the 2001 Georgia Legislative Session. The landmark bill ended up granting tax incentives to production companies filming in Georgia. Like most things Coles touches, he set the film industry’s future into hyper drive. Today, there are as many as 40 active film and TV projects in production throughout the state on any given day. In 2018, the market segment posted an economic impact of $9.5 billion. “I always say passing the film incentive legislation was my biggest business success that nobody knows about,” says Coles, who stepped away from the Commission in 2003. “Ahead of the legislation’s passing, we set out on an intensive, yearlong ground campaign to

Pat Mitchell, president, CNN Productions; Ronnie Gunnerson, senior VP, corporate affairs, Turner Broadcasting; and Joey Reiman, founder, BrightHouse, and many more. “Every person was crucial in the passing of this legislation,” Coles says. These days, Coles spends his time mentoring entrepreneurs and lecturing around the country (he does as many as 75 a year). An author, his latest book — Time to Get Tough: How Cookies, Coffee, and a Crash Led to Success in Business and Life — details how he started a $100-million company with only $8,000 (Great American Cookie), overcame a near-fatal motorcycle accident, ran for U.S. Congress, and set three transcontinental cycling world records. “I learned about risk early,” Coles says. “You’re going to have setbacks at some point. In the final analysis, failure is not about falling down, but staying down. The ability to get back up again and again will set you apart from those who doubt your abilities or say your ideas are unsound. My feeling has always been that these are the same people who don’t understand risk, courage, and the power of doing more than is expected of you.”

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We’re looking at people differently. We’ve got a place where local storytellers have a place to share.

Plaza Theatre By El l en Howl e He adds that basically, the theatre is going to be totally redone, “head-to-toe”. They’ll restructure the balcony, splitting it in half, so then they can have three screens to work with. There will be a rooftop patio and an elevator to the top of the building. “We’ll also be adding dressing rooms backstage and some other fun things like a 35MM changeover system – we haven’t been able to have 35MM since 2012, so we’ll be more able to show more rare films!” Escobar says his favorite part of the theatre is the marquee, but what he really loves is that he’s running the oldest theatre in the city. He takes that very seriously. “What’s really fun is that the Plaza opened as a vaudeville cinema. It wasn’t just about the screen, it was also about what’s on stage,” says Escobar. “I love hearing these stories about people who tell me this is where they had their first date. The theatre has a real connection to this community and I really treasure that. What’s really cool is that at least since the 80s the Plaza has always been a place for everyone. Ru Paul worked at the Plaza Theatre, developing his drag act back then and it’s always been a place where people have been able to develop their stories.” In today’s world, where the majority of theatres are playing reboot movies, Escobar says he wants to make his theatre a different kind of space. “We’re looking at people differently. We’ve got a place where local storytellers have a place to share.” Escobar works eight days a week, sometimes, but he doesn’t regret a moment of it. “It’s just exciting, flatter-

Photos by Aiva Genys

1 939 was film’s golden year, with the releases of history-making movies like Gone with the Wind , Wizard of Oz , and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington . But it was also the year Atlanta’s oldest theatre opened its doors and began showing films. “It was the biggest year in movies to date,” says Chris Escobar, the Plaza Theatre’s owner since 2017. “Some of the biggest titles were released and they sold the most tickets in movie history. This was a time that was pre-television and some people went to the movies three or five times a week.” Escobar believes in his theatre and works hard to make sure that films that matter are shown on the screens. He’s also working on preserving the history of his cinema while making improvements to old designs, hoping to draw in more moviegoers. He says that George LeFont took it from a porn theatre and made it into an art theatre and he wants to build even more on that. “I’ve seen the changes with the previous owner and was involved in them. Last October marked my two-year anniversary as the owner,” says Escobar. “Right now, we’re working on changes that will be even more transformational than in previous years. “There are a number of projects that we’re going to do. Once we’re done, it might be almost unrecognizable,” says Escobar excitedly. “We’re going to change concessions and the bar. We’ve basically had a makeshift bar and it served us well as a service bar, but we’re changing it into an art deco bar. We’ll redo the bathrooms that haven’t been redone since 1983, and much more.”

ing, aggravating, and humbling all at once.” He says he hangs in by trying to have spe- cial moments for his family to keep them all refueled. He held his daugh- ter’s 6th birthday at the theatre, and in December 2019 they had a fund- raiser for St. Jude,

Chris Escobar

his wife’s non-profit passion. He says things like this keep him grounded and focused on working harder to keep the theatre going. “I keep going with the excitement and hope of what’s to come. I know that if I just accepted the status quo, then that would be it for me,” says Escobar. “It’s already hard enough to run a movie theatre, period, but we’re operating at a loss, even though we’re earning more dollars than we have in 20 years.” He doesn’t regret it, though. “We’re just rolling with the punches and I am constantly recharged by the amount of incredible support and enthusiasm we get from the people. I just know we’ll be able to get out ahead of it and be fine.”

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“I Can Do That” Lawrence Davis on how and why he became ‘the’ hairstylist to the stars By Mi chae l J . Pa l l e r i no

T here was something about her look that he could not shake. Sitting in his hair salon in Baltimore, Lawrence Davis could not stop flipping through an entertainment magazine featuring Halle Berry on the cover. Was it time for a change? But what? Maybe it was just that he turned 30 and all of those milestone birthday emotions were kicking in. New York was close, but Hollywood was Hollywood. Was that the play? These were all just questions bouncing around in his head. But… “Why not visit LA?” he thought. So, he booked a flight during the long Memorial Day weekend, figuring it would give him some time to check out the LA vibe. He loved it. On July 27, 2001, after selling everything he had, including the salon nobody thought he would leave, Davis set out for Hollywood, landing at LAX with nothing but a suitcase and a large computer screen. “What have I done?” he recalls thinking. Now fast-forward to 2019, where Davis is on set at Screen Gem studios in Atlanta, working on Aretha Franklin’s upcoming biopic, Respect , starring Hollywood heavyweights such as Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker. The period pieces are the ones Davis loves. Respect is the ultimate test for Davis’s unique and creative talents, providing each character with a look respective of the times. In this film, the genres dance from the 50s through the ’70s. For the movie, Davis follows the same blueprint he always does, including a thorough review of the script to capture each specific attribute of the film’s characters. “You have to know the whole story, their story,” Davis says. “How the characters look is a major part of whether the film’s story can be interpreted. Every detail matters. What is the look they are trying to get across in the scene? Did the character just wake up? Everything matters.” The script’s deep dive is just one of the many reasons producers and directors want Davis on set. And they are not alone, he is also on speed dial for Oprah Winfrey, who, when his talents are needed, knows his number. “She calls me personally; I cannot tell you what that means,” Davis says. Winfrey and Davis met in passing several times during her talk show in Chicago, back before that night Tyler Perry called and asked if he would help a relative

The period pieces are the ones Davis loves. Respect is the ultimate test for Davis’s unique and creative talents, providing each character with a look respective of the times.

with her hair. He had no idea it was Oprah. He admits to buying a new brush for the occasion. “I was shocked,” he recalls. “I told her that the brush I was using would only be for her.” That is saying something, since the list of stars Davis has worked on over the years is a who’s who of Hollywood dignitaries, including Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Preston, Carey Mulligan, Christina Applegate, Rosemarie Dewitt, Rose Byrne, Linda Cardelini, Laura Dern, Leslie Mann, Mary J. Blige, Vera Farmiga, and Tyra Banks, with whom he won one of his two Emmy awards while working on her TV show (the other was for the NBC’s live broadcast of Hairspray Live! ). Now, let’s rewind to that young man at the arrival gate in LAX. While admittedly not knowing where or what he was going to do, things worked out. He ended up meeting Berry’s then-stylist Neeko Abriol, who gave Davis a shot in his salon. He eventually landed at E! Entertainment Television, where he worked as contractor for nine years. His next goal was to become a union hairstylist. He did. Next was The Tyra Show ,

Two-time Emmy Award Winner Lawrence Davis

Photo courtesy Derek Blanks

and then that Time magazine photo shoot with Denzel Washington that was bumped off the cover for the Tonya Harding scandal. And the stories roll on… “It all started with a simple thought: ‘I can do that,’” Davis recalls staring at that Halle Berry magazine cover. “Then I look back at all of the people I’ve met, all of the things I’ve done. I get to work on things that help tell stories about people and places that have made such a difference.” But that brush, Davis says, is still for Oprah only.

@hairbylawrencedavis |

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State-of-The-Art, Boutique Studio Fit for The Content Race By Connor Judson Ga r re t t

G eorgia has emerged as one of the top filming locations in the world, and Atlanta ranks next to New York City and Los Angeles for TV and film output. As the content race heats up, cutting edge sound stages and production services continue to spawn throughout the state to meet the demands of the major corporations and Hollywood studios. Companies like Disney and Marvel are constantly planning where they will shoot their next films and the state is determined to remain at the forefront of those conversations. Facilities like Third Rail Studios ensure that Georgia has the firepower to match the long-established players in the industry. Third Rail is a 270,000-square-foot space on the site of the former General Motors Assembly Plant in Doraville. The media complex earned the distinction of becoming the first Wired Certified film studio in North America upon review of the property’s world-class technological infrastructure and adoption of emerging technologies. “Third Rail Studios possesses the amenities to support small productions to blockbusters,” says Third Rail Studios Director of Marketing Mayra Garcia. “We have sound stages, ample support space, and boutique offices equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including high-speed data transfer.” The property is “future-proofed” with the most up- to-date telecommunications equipment, ample capacity, and optimized digital connectivity, which positions the studio to vie for the large-scale productions that help these spaces thrive. Additionally, Third Rail boasts sound stages totaling 60,000 square feet, with 41 feet clear to the steel; 27,500 square feet of fully-equipped, loft-style production suites; drive through lane with direct access to studios; 70,000 square feet of mill / flex space; up to 30 gigabits of studio-provisioned, synchronous bandwidth; as well as sound rated below NC-25, according to WiredScored. Despite its relative youth, Third Rail has been a part of number of major productions like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Rampage , co-starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Malin Akerman, because of its ability to accommodate virtually any need the directors, producers, and crews had. “What distinguishes Third Rail from some of the other large-scale studio facilities is that we operate more like a boutique studio by offering personalized customer service for each production,” says Garcia. “We work to make the facility feel like a second home for the cast

Third Rail Studios president Dan Rosenfelt

and crew, so everyone can be fully immersed in their work. The fact that we have stages, offices, and mill space all under one roof adds convenience and ease of use for anything produced here. We even recently added a dog park, so the crews and our workers have some added balance.” In the content arms race, studios and production companies have to do whatever it takes to give themselves an advantage over the competition. The video-streaming market is worth billions of dollars, with companies like Netflix and Disney pushing for an edge. As Third Rail Studios president Dan Rosenfelt once explained, there simply aren’t enough sound stages in the world to keep up with Netflix’s desire for original content, let alone everyone else. To put into perspective how competitively positioned Georgia is, there are roughly 100 sound stages across the state; and nearly 100,000 workers who have moved to Georgia to work in the booming entertainment industry, along with more than 90 companies; since 2008. Few studios boast the full range of amenities Third Rail has, which allows the company to enjoy the abundance and overflow of the industry. Outside of Tyler Perry and Areu Bros. Studios, the majority of studios do not produce their own original content. Instead, they rent to production companies that stay for several months and leave like an extended stay at a massive Air BnB. Third Rail usually has multiple productions Georgia to work in the booming entertainment industry, along with more than 90 companies; since 2008. There are roughly 100 sound stages across the state; and nearly 100,000 workers who have moved to

Photo by Aiva Genys

occurring at once, employing a couple hundred workers, but it certainly has the functionalities to accommodate the types of television series that turn into long-term commitments for studios. Often times, TV series will pay in advance for their space to be held even when they are not in the middle of filming. Third Rail produced the eight-part Netflix series Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings , based on her discography. The anthology is set to premier November 22, 2019. If the show strikes a chord with country music fans, Netflix will likely want to continue to work with the boutique studio. “We also have one of the most interactive and well- rounded film internship programs in the state,” says Garcia. “Interns are immersed in the physical production studio learning about day-to-day operations, attending networking events, and connecting onsite with executives and production crews. In the end, they’re given the opportunity to produce their own short films.”

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How Did They Do That? Visual effects gurus helping change the face of Georgia’s entertainment landscape By Mi cha e l J . Pa l l e r i no

Photo by Aiva Genys

We really love it here. There is a real buzz in the air. The workforce is genuine and the people who work on the films and TV shows here are really excited about being a part of it.

Chris LeDoux

C hris LeDoux is moving in 100 different directions. On this day, the visual effects expert is fighting with the cellphone reception near his suburban Atlanta home. Juggling a barrage of text messages, calls, and a magazine interview, it is hard to believe that one of Hollywood’s premiere digital wizards is getting humbled by, of all things, technology. Making the proper adjustments, something he is known to do, he jumps in his car and heads to the Crafty Apes southern-based headquarters. The Academy Award-nominated visual effects and production services company, lauded for its work in such critically acclaimed films as La La Land, 12 Years a Slave, Hidden Figures, and Captain America: Civil War ; among scores of others; also has offices in Los Angeles and New York. Founded in 2011 by Chris, his brother Tim, and Jason Sanford, the company’s executive producer, Crafty Apes is a boutique studio specializing in 2D compositing — which unlike CGI (computer-generated imagery) — incorporates images from multiple sources and combines them into a single scene. Since opening its Atlanta location, Crafty Apes has been able to step right into the mix of the state’s growing entertainment community and make a name for itself.

“We really love it here,” Chris says. “There is a real buzz in the air. The workforce is genuine and the people who work on the films and TV shows here are really excited about being a part of it. The same goes for the people in the community. You get that sense from them that, ‘Hey, we are making movies here.’” Chris and Jason opened the Atlanta office in 2014. Over the past five years, Crafty Apes South has grown to include 70-plus employees working from a 6,500-square-foot facility in west Atlanta. This team includes Chris’s two other brothers: Mark, senior VFX supervisor; and David, director of IT. Tim runs the Los Angeles operation. To make it a family affair, Chris’s wife, Genevieve, is an Emmy winning producer who works on projects with Disney, Warner Brothers, and Amazon. “I love the whole creative aspect of this,” Chris says. “It’s a lot of work, and we put in a ton of hours to do what we do. There are times when it can be very challenging, where it tests your problem-solving skills.” Chris recalls a conversation he had with director Steve McQueen about a climactic scene in the Academy Award-winning movie 12 Years a Slave . In the pivotal sequence, slave owner Edwin Epps, played by Michael Fassbender, forces fellow slaves to inflict punishment on one another for leaving the plantation to find soap. From the beginning, McQueen and his team wanted the scene to appear as if it were a single shot.

“Everyone told him it could not be done; it was impossible,” Chris says. “Someone on his team called us, this little company, and asked if we were interested. So, we threw up a Hail Mary and went for it.” While Chris cannot tell you how and what they did to fulfill McQueen’s vision, the scene; viewed as if it was indeed one, continuous shot is a critical part of the movie, which is based on an 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup, a free black man who was sold into slavery. “My brother Tim and I cracked the code. We hacked our way into making the impossible possible.” In the same timeframe, the Crafty Apes team also worked on La La Land and Hidden Figures, pulling off a trifecta of visual effect tapestry that helped raise the company to another level. “No day is ever the same,” Chris says. “This is a dream come true. And because I am hyper focused and always moving, I not only get to run the company every day, but I still get to work with all these amazing people. I still get to play with the software and scratch that itch.” And at a time when Georgia’s film community continues to grow, the Crafty Apes team remains one phone call away from turning one director’s impossible vision into Hollywood gold.

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We have no business being anything short of radically inclusive, in the stories we tell, the artists we hire, and the audience we welcome.

Photo courtesy Greg Mooney

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WHAT PROJECTS YOU ARE CURRENTLY WORKING ON AT THE ALLIANCE AND CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT SOME OF THE FUTURE PROJECTS? “Our next major new work is a gorgeous and wholly original musical called MAYBE HAPPY ENDING , about a pair of “helperbots” who are grappling with their obsolesce. It’s a futuristic piece that asks the big questions about love and mortality. And we have a full slate of musical and non-musical works in development that will start hatching in the 2020-2021 season that range in scale from deeply intimate to a piece of a larger scale than we’ve ever taken on before.” WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR FAVORITE ASPECTS OF YOUR JOB AS JENNINGS HERTZ ARTISTIC DIRECTOR AT THE ALLIANCE? “It’s a rare day that I don’t learn something. Whether it’s research I’m doing for a show I’m directing, a new aesthetic being practiced by a new collaborator at the theatre, or a conversation with a board member who works in a field I know nothing about -- I get to learn. Every day.” CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF DIVERSITY AND REPRESENTATION IN THE THEATRICAL WORLD? “This is an art form born from the simple premise that we must study our humanity to be better humans. It was never intended to just study some of humanity, nor to be attended by just some of the people. We have no business being anything short of radically inclusive, in the stories we tell, the artists we hire, and the audience we welcome.” WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE SIGNIFICANCE GEORGIA’S FILM INDUSTRY AND THE POSITIVE IMPACT IT IS HAVING ON GEORGIA? “The most critical thing the film industry in the state has done for theatre is make it possible for artists to live sustaining lives doing what they love. Actors can have children with the confidence that they’ll have the means to support them. Craftspeople know that there are deep and wide opportunities for them to ply the trades they’ve worked a lifetime developing, and that they’ll be valued for that work. It’s turned us into an arts center that supports artists.”

Susan Booth

F ounded in 1968, Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre is the national and leading producing theater in the Southeast, reaching more than 165,000 patrons annually. The Alliance delivers powerful programming that challenges adult and youth audiences to think critically and care deeply. Under Susan V. Booth’s leadership, the Alliance Theatre received the Regional Theatre Tony Award in recognition of sustained excellence in programming, education, and community engagement. Booth has degrees from Denison and Northwestern universities and was a fellow of the National Critics Institute and the Kemper Foundation. She has held teaching positions at Northwestern, DePaul, and Emory. Before joining the Alliance, she directed at several prominent theatres across the United States, including Goodman, La Jolla Playhouse, New York Stage and Film, and many others. She collaborated on local and regional productions and directed world premieres by award- winning writers, including Pearl Cleage, Janece Shaffer, National Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey, Stephen King, John Mellencamp, and Kristian Bush. Booth also served on the board of directors for the Theatre Communications Group, which has informed her current role. “The Theatre Communications Group took on a national listening project that created a platform

for hundreds of individual theatre artists from all over the country and from a variety of practices to weigh in on their current quality of life. We wanted to hear about the relationship between arts organizations and individual artists. Based on those learnings, we replicated the process here and ended up creating the Reiser Atlanta Artists Lab to provide more professional development opportunities within the Alliance for our community’s theatre artists.” Booth kindly took time out of her hectic schedule to sit down with us and talk about her career and her role as Jennings Hertz Artistic Director at the Alliance Theatre. WHAT IS THE PROCESS OF SELECTION/DETERMINATION FOR THE PLAYS AND MUSICALS AT THE ALLIANCE? “We look at, listen to, and hear about hundreds of projects each season on the way to determining the 10 or so we’ll produce. We read submitted scripts, go to developmental readings of works in progress, meet with artists who have just the germ of an idea — and then we hold those possibilities against a couple of litmus tests: Is this talking about something that Atlanta is talking about? And is it speaking with a voice of welcome? Is there room in this narrative for people of all stripes? Is this a voice that has been overlooked or underserved? It’s a year-round process of curation.”

For more details on the lineup for the Alliance Theatre, to become members, and/or to purchase event tickets, please visit their website:

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From top, left to right: Terri J. Vaughn; Deborah Riley Draper; Kate Atwood. Bottom: Mikki Taylor.

Photo by Aiva Genys

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Star Turn Powerful women in TV and film are commanding the spotlight in Georgia. By Echo Mont gome r y Ga r re t t

C hange doesn’t happen without people willing to take a stand, and numbers tell the story. Women — particularly women of color — continue to be underrepresented on both sides of the camera. Across 1,223 directors over 11 years, only 4.3 percent were female, 5.2 percent were Black or African American, and 3.1 percent were Asian or Asian-American, according to the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s 2018 report. The Initiative’s Founding Director and the study’s author Professor Stacy S. Smith’s deep dive — examining 48,757 characters in 1,100 top films from 2007 to 2017 — revealed little progress toward inclusion with regard to females, underrepresented racial/ ethnic groups, the LGBT community and individuals with disabilities. In 2017’s 100 top films fewer than a third had a female in a leading or co-leading role, and only four of the 33 females in these roles were from an underrepresented racial/ethnic group. Industry women in Atlanta are determined to change those numbers. Meet some of those taking a starring role in the movement to bring more jobs to female creatives and talent. Live Out Loud: Terri J. Vaughn When Terri J. Vaughn, actress, director, producer and co-owner of Nina Holiday Entertainment, considers the word “power” in context of her career, she doesn’t hesitate. “Power is the freedom to be yourself, freedom to live out loud, freedom to have a voice and not have to try and fit into anyone’s box or perception of who they think you should be,” says Vaughn, who launched her production company Nina Holiday Entertainment, with writer/ director/producer Cas Sigers-Beedles more than a decade ago. “Power means you are a force to be reckoned with.” Atlanta, she says, can be cliquish much like Los Angeles. “I am creating and part of a group that works outside of the ecosystem,” says the independent filmmaker, who has been creating content for more than 20 years. “We’ve been operating under the radar out of Atlanta for 10 years — acting, producing and directing, and carving out that niche without being part of the system with Tyler.” A year ago, a conversation between Vaughn and Sigers-Beedles sparked action. “We were discussing all the movies we’d produced and created, and the number of times peers and mentors said, ‘I didn’t know you’ve produced 16 movies,’” recalls Vaughn. “We know a lot of other producers and directors here, who don’t get recognition.” The duo talked about assembling the

That’s the big shift that’s opening up doors. “We are money makers. We impact culture and society. We always have but now we know it. More women are using their voice and not waiting for approval. We are moving forward, because we know nobody can express a genuine voice like we can ourselves.” As evidence, she points to what has happened in her own career in the past year: “I’ve directed five movies in the last 12 months. My confidence level is different than it was two years ago. I feel like I’m doing a disservice if I don’t boldly walk in the room knowing that I have a gift that is supposed to be shared with the world. “I’m loving the time we’re in. Ignore us if you want to, but you are going to hear us.” Deborah Riley Draper thrives on bringing untold stories to the screen. Her debut documentary Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution landed her on Variety Magazine ’s 2016 Top Documakers to Watch List and her second, Olympic Pride, American Prejudice , was a 2017 nominee for the NAACP Image Awards Outstanding Documentary Film and qualified for the 2017 Oscars. The Savannah-born filmmaker, director, and writer traded in her role as a high-flying ad agency executive after her mother’s death. “I had two a-ha moments prior to my mother’s passing,” she says. “One was when I told my boss at the agency that I had an idea for a commercial script, and he said, ‘Absolutely not’. The second was when I saw Diane Martel behind the camera as a director on a commercial campaign.” Draper based her second act in Atlanta. “Transitioning to telling the documentary and narrative stories that I wanted to tell was a natural progression. I wanted to use my own voice, and I understood the importance of capturing someone’s attention and emotion; that is relevant to both advertising and film.” Although she’d taken drama classes at the public library as a child, a few seminars and a class on filmmaking at NYU, Draper’s formal education was in the English department of Florida State. “I picked up a camera and just started telling people, ‘I’m a filmmaker’,” says Draper, a member of the advocacy collaborative Reel Divas and the Atlanta Chapter lead for Film Fatales, the global organization elevating female directors. She’s particularly proud of Olympic Pride, American Prejudice . “The story was unknown for 80 years. I spent four years on two continents heavily researching the story Creative Leadership: Deborah Riley Draper

women of color, who are making an impact behind the camera and in front of it, for a Vanity Fair -style cover to bring attention to this group of Atlanta-based creatives and talent. They shared the idea with Ty Johnston-Chavis, a producer and founder of the annual Atlanta Pitch Summit. Reel Divas, which has 20 members, was born. The photograph of the women of color — all working producers, directors, writers and actors — was picked up by Deadline and many other media outlets. “If we are not part of the big picture, we may miss out on opportunities,” says Vaughn. “This group gives us a platform to highlight each other as content creators and make our own footprint. We see each other, and say, ‘I applaud you, sister, even if the industry doesn’t recognize you.’” The goal of Reel Divas is ultimately to generate more jobs for Atlanta women of color creatives. “Most of the time productions bring in their own team,” says Vaughn. “Atlanta has a reputation as being a great place to film, but production companies typically won’t hire from the talent pool here. The norm is to ignore women and women of color. We are invisible people. That is changing, but it is still an issue.” Vaughn disputes the industry’s claim that movies featuring African American talent don’t do well. “That lie has been the excuse they’ve been leaning on a long time,” she says. “Now you can see that content featuring people of color does sell. Economically we hold so much power.” each other, and say, ‘I applaud you, sister, even if the industry doesn’t recognize you.’ This group gives us a platform to highlight each other as content creators and make our own footprint. We see

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