Art in the age of social media: i feel ya artists weigh in

December
9
2014

The convergence of our celebrity culture and the proliferation of platforms for visibility have succeeded in putting artists on a pedestal. In an environment where, as the saying goes, ‘content is king’, we’ve come to perceive those who create it as being the ultimate authorities. But is the artist really the authority? And does being called an artist make you one?

These are two of the topics that panelists tackled during a lively conversation surrounding the opening of i feel ya: SCAD + André 3000 Benjamin at Mana Miami. Because of the fields they represent (SCAD founder and president Paula Wallace, art and design education; Grammy-Award winning rapper André 3000 Benjamin, music; painter Jimmy O’Neal, fine art; director Greg Brunkalla, film), the panelists who collaborated on i feel ya serve as a weather balloon, delivering a read on the atmosphere of art and creativity in the age of social media.

Watch the full panel discussion below.

Related: Also catch President Wallace's one-on-on with André 3000 at Design Miami.

After seeing i feel ya and how seamlessly André’s 47 jumpsuits, Jimmy’s mirrored paintings and Greg’s film play together in the fertile soil tilled by Savannah College of Art and Design, one would expect the three to get along well. They did more than that during the panel at Mana Miami. Their dialogue was a living testimony to how art is a common language we can speak when our social, racial and economic backgrounds might threaten to create an impasse or breakdown in communication.

Here are three important areas in which they concur:

1.) Social media is a medium not mandatory
The ability of social media to broadcast an artist’s work doesn’t make it an inevitable part of an artist’s identity. It’s just one, tool, mused André who, along with Jimmy and Greg, refreshingly maintains no major, official social media presence. The artists don’t eschew social media, but feel they’re still able to effectively share their work without it. (For his part, André explained that he feels he already shares enough of himself with the public.) But their absence on the social media landscape doesn’t mean they’re tone deaf to it. As Greg reasoned to chuckles from the audience, “André, you are social and you are media. You’ve already mastered it.” One look at André’s character-conscience messages on his black suits and Jimmy’s selfie inducing reflective paint and you get it: artists can be inspired by social media without being slaves to it, and find ways to connect to their followers without it.

2.) Art's value is in the eye of the beholder
To explain what inspired some of the messages on his jumpsuit, André told several stories. One of the best was about the game he plays with his son, Seven, when they encounter a piece of art. The two take the work in and then ask one another: “Art or fart?” Is this a serious work or a just spectacle created for show? This exercise embodies what Jimmy, André and Greg agreed is the answer to moderator Andrew Bevan’s question: Who decides what art is or what is good art? They overwhelmingly concurred that the viewer is the authority.

3.) Not knowing is an advantage
In this information age it’s easy to assume that the more you know the better off you are. Not true, say André, Jimmy and Greg. A profound example of this mutual truth was when these artists - steeped in their respective disciplines - shared that they believe one doesn’t have to know art to make it or judge its value. To illustrate this, André pointed to his lack of formal training in music, which he says was a benefit not a curse. “Sometimes having a disadvantage causes your mind to focus elsewhere,” he said. Because he didn’t know the rules, André could create his own sound. Likewise, said Greg, if you’re not obsessed with knowing you can actually accomplish a good bit. For this, he held up his friend Jimmy as an example. When Greg discovered during their stay in Miami that Jimmy was oblivious to the public transportation craze Uber, he was simultaneously astounded and heartened. “I love when I find out that I don’t know things,” Greg said, “It just means that I was busy doing something else.”

Clearly their ability to be in touch with the zeitgeist without being overwhelmed by it, and to appropriate the culture for their art without permitting it to manipulate their art, has worked for these masters of their genres. It’s also the reason they were able to bring us i feel ya.

Do you agree with them?

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André 3000 and SCAD open i feel ya in Miami

December
4
2014

Savannah College of Art and Design and André 3000 Benjamin opened the co-produced exhibition i feel ya at Mana Miami this week, letting the public in on their longstanding relationship. The crowds that flocked to the VIP reception represented interests as diverse as the pieces in the installation, from SCAD alumni and students in fields like performance, sequential art and film, to die hard fans of hip-hop. After absorbing the interplay between the army of 47 suits André wore for Outkast’s reunion tour, Greg Brunkalla’s (B.F.A., film and television, 2001) film and Jimmy O’Neal's (B.F.A., illustration, 1989) reflective Rorschach-like paintings, guests left their reactions on an expression wall where André's drawing of his suit stood watch, ripped from the pages of his sketch book.

How could a simple black suit emblazoned with basic white words inspire a film and six paintings? Come visit and you may see.

 

 

 

 

 

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Director Greg Brunkalla to André 3000 Benjamin: 'I feel ya.'

December
1
2014

Director Greg Brunkalla (B.F.A., video/film, 2001) belongs to the triumvirate of artists whose work comprises the Savannah College of Art and Design exhibition, i feel ya (Dec. 3 – 14 at Mana Miami). André 3000 Benjamin’s signature jumpsuits, worn during Outkast’s 20th anniversary reunion tour, anchor the exhibit and inspired Greg’s film, Trumpets. Accentuating both Trumpets and the jumpsuits are Jimmy O’Neal’s (B.F.A., illustration, 1989) oversized mirrored paintings.

To make the film, Greg, his crew, SCAD students and André traveled to a dozen locations in and around Savannah. Here’s Greg on the organic evolution of Trumpets and working with André. Their collaboration and mutual respect illuminate the meaning behind the exhibition’s title, i feel ya.

Thread: This will be your first time exhibiting in Miami during Art Basel. Congratulations. Any thoughts on being able to show your work in this environment?

Greg Brunkalla: I’m all about having an audience for my work, so the more people that get to see this, the happier I’ll be. I’m thankful for the team that made it all happen and hopefully everyone will get a chance to see the finished product.

T: Describe your approach to filmmaking. How did your education at SCAD contribute to it?

GB: To me, SCAD represents what an artist should represent – skill and individuality. While I looked at other film schools, what stood out to me at SCAD was that it felt unique. It has all the right tools and is in an environment and landscape you can’t get anywhere else.

T: You mentioned that you jumped to do this film because it’s atypical. What’s different about it? What attracted you to the i feel ya project?

GB: As if working with André wasn’t enough of a selling point. Initially, the door was wide open to what this film could actually be. André had some thoughts, but he was completely open to anything and everything – that’s attractive to me. Being able to show a film in a gallery environment is not something I get to do often, so that was also a huge incentive. Being able to come back to SCAD and utilize their resources and the students was an incentive as well.

T: How did you come up with Trumpets as a cinematic extension of André's jumpsuits?

GB: André’s statements or thoughts are literally words screen-printed onto jumpsuits. Every night he performed wearing a different jumpsuit displaying a different statement across the chest. So the jumpsuit was the medium for the message. I thought a lot about how to translate that relationship to film. I asked: “How do you put words over picture as a separate element?” That’s when I decided that I wanted to use old fashioned slide projectors to project the messages over images. I also think a lot about my audience and there should be a reason this is in a gallery. The slide projector brings the process into the space as opposed to just screening a film.

T: Watching the jumpsuits in the film versus watching André in them on stage are two different experiences. What do you hope audiences will take away from your contribution to the exhibit?

GB: The film is not supposed to represent anything close to André’s performance. If anything that’s the main difference.

The jumpsuits and their messages are the common thread. I’m hoping that people observe how a message’s meaning can change, or at least feel different, depending on its context.

T: What’s it like collaborating with an artist like André? Do you have any anecdotes from production about matching up artistic visions?

GB: André and I talked several times before the final idea came to be.

The first thing I felt from André was an appreciation and respect for my work and I hope he felt that tenfold from me. He’s known as a musician, but the feeling I get from him is that his creativity is boundless.

Throughout the process I wanted to respect André’s initial vision and approach, while still creating something that felt like it came from me. He was involved throughout the entire process, but ultimately he let me do my thing.

T: What was the mood on the set?

GB: I wish all my sets were like this. The mood was relaxed enough to keep the ideas flowing, and buttoned-up enough to get all of the locations and shots we needed.

T: What did being in the familiar setting of Savannah and in the company of fellow SCAD students and alumni lend to the process?

GB: Savannah has a landscape you just can’t find anywhere else, so we embraced it. Having passionate students and alumni around to make things happen made things even better. Filmmaking is a team sport and there’s nothing better than having people show up that want to be there, and that’s how it felt working with SCAD.

T: Which was your favorite shot to direct?

GB: I think my favorite shot was in front of the forest with the smoke machine. We were trying to use it to create a little atmosphere, but it ended up just looking like a fire was starting, so we embraced it. I liked shooting on the beach too, but those sand gnats totally killed the vibe.

T: Would you recommend that young filmmakers and artists in general take on projects like this to stretch themselves creatively or experiment with various platforms?

GB: It definitely doesn’t hurt. You learn something on every project – something about the process and something about yourself. I’ll never be the same after this one (in a good way).

T: Why do you think cross-platform and trans genre collaborations are especially important for artists to participate in right now?

GB: Honestly, André has the spotlight here and he’s cool enough to share a piece of it. My hat is off to him.

I think the most creative people around are the people that can see things in other people that others can’t.

When we first started talking André said something like, “I wanna be on set so you can teach me how it works.” I’m not sure if he learned anything, but we had a good time.

There are so many platforms out there to show and absorb content, the more we can collaborate, the more we can share, the more we can learn.

T: Describe working in SCAD’s Savannah Film Studios. How do you think it will help prepare current film and television students to be ready to work in the industry?

GB: Okay the first time I walked into that building, I knew we were off to a good start. The facilities there were on par with or better than many professional places I’ve worked in. My advice to students, use it like it’s yours!

T: What other projects do you have in the works?

GB: Besides trying to lock in a feature film, I just finished up a documentary short commissioned by Vimeo about the colorblind cyborg, Neil Harbisson.

T: Name your favorite cross-platform or creative collaboration, be it musical or visual.

GB: Well, I haven’t seen it yet, but I have tickets and couldn’t be more excited. Mica Levi is conducting her score to Under the Skin (directed by Jonathan Glazer) with a live orchestra in January.

Hear more from Greg and André during the panel discussion on Dec. 3 at Mana Miami. We'll post the entire conversation immediately following the event here on the blog.

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Congratulations, graduates! SCAD commencement in pictures.

November
24
2014

Here's to the 413 new alumni from Savannah College of Art and Design who graduated in the university's 35th commencement ceremonies. We agree with Academy Award-winning screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher's characterization of you as individuals and as a class: you are brilliant 'containers of gifts that you will share with the world.' Please keep us posted on all that you do.


 

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Made in the South artisans to watch

November
25
2014

The fifth installment of Garden & Gun’s Made in the South Awards issue is on newsstands. Who better to partner with to honor regional artisans than Savannah College of Art and Design, a clearinghouse of emerging makers? Before they were announced, this year’s Made in the South trophy-takers in the categories of Outdoor, Food, Home, Drink and Style & Design were celebrated at SCAD. Below are a few of our own Made in the South stars who got their start in SCAD classrooms.

Groovebox by Eric Green
Made In: Savannah, GA and San Luis Obispo, CA
Est.: Launching Spring 2015
Price: Dependent on product/size

When SCAD was building its experimental micro-house community, SCADpad, it needed a solution for the community garden and found it in Eric Green’s (M.F.A., design management) Groovebox. The modular planters fulfilled the mandate for a sustainable, adaptable design. The transformer of indoor-outdoor furniture, all pieces in the collection - planters, table, fire pit and stool – come flat-packed for snappy assembly. Eric’s user-centered design approach recently caught the attention of TED Talks organizers who invited him to furnish the outdoor spaces of their annual event in Vancouver, BC.

groovebox-furniture.com

Q’wik 15 by John Gray Parker
Made In: Savannah, GA
Est.: Coming soon
Price: $10,000 for one deck and two hulls

John Gray’s (M.A., industrial design; M.F.A., service design) passion for sailing and certification as a US Sailing Level 1 instructor is reflected in Q’wik 15, a modular catamaran boating system for junior sailors. The ultimate racing boat is easy to learn, but complex enough to build skills. And it’s versatile. Q’wik 15 can transition from high-performance powerboat to sailboat and rowboat, adding value for families making a life-long investment in the sport. A model of Q’wik 15 turned heads at IBEX, even before John Gray built the full-scale prototype with help from SCAD’s marine design students. Q’wik 15 will have the rare distinction of fostering both promising young designers and sailors.

Frannie’s Gluten Free Muffins by Frances Shaw
Made In: Atlanta, GA
Est.: 2010
Price: $6.49 for the 4pk

Non-GMO organic fruits, veggies, eggs and coconut oil are among the ingredients in Frances Shaw’s muffins. But it’s what’s not included that makes her products a staple in the natural foods section of 200 Kroger stores. Frances didn’t partner with certified gluten-free bakery Pure Knead to be hip, she did so out of necessity. Celiac Disease forced Frances to leave SCAD during her senior year, seven credits shy of earning her degree. But she turned a set back into a line of baked goods that are safe for people with most major food allergies. Natasha Sokulski (B.F.A., advertising; B.F.A., graphic design, 2011) designed the packaging and branding.

franniesglutenfree.com

Folk Fibers by Maura Ambrose
Made In: Austin, TX
Est.: 2011
Price: $3,900 for Indiana quilt shown

Maura Ambrose’s (B.F.A., fibers, 2006) Folk Fibers was born from a love of farming, natural dyes and quilting. Her live-off-the-land philosophy and skilled hands turn weeds like goldenrod and worn out scraps into stunning quilts that will be around long after we’re gone. Color drives Maura’s approach to her new works of art. It also might be the spark that flamed the interest of Martha Stewart and John Mayer, who tapped her to stitch the cover art for 'XO'. If your work could draw the world to wherever you were, wouldn’t you also choose to live in your own personal paradise?

folkfibers.com
 

Service Brewing Co. and Meredith Sutton
Made In: Savannah, GA
Est.: 2014
Price: $8.99 for the 6pk


Meredith Sutton (B.F.A., metals and jewelry, 2003) didn’t know her gift of a home brewing kit to Kevin Ryan would pack such inspiration. Three years later and her office is the tasting room she designed for Service Brewing Co., a veteran owned craft brewery. Meredith presides over the creative branding for the brewery started by Kevin and Master Brewer Dan Sartin, both Army veterans. Her artistic vision is reflected in the bottles and labels, which also bear the mark of house illustrator and Army vet Katherine Sandoz (M.F.A., illustration, 1997; MF.A., painting, 2005). Meredith quite literally also creates buzz by keeping the brewery bees, whose honey fuels the fermentation process and adds local flavor to Service Brewing Cos.’s small batch brews.

servicebrewing.com
meredithannesutton.com

Heidi Elnora
Made In: Birmingham, AL
Est.: 2006
Price: $2,200 and up

Heidi Baker (B.F.A., fashion, 2002) launched her bridal atelier with her signature Build-A-Bride collection, which included one simple silhouette and a dozen different trims. The permutations and combinations that brides could create were endless and so, it seems, are the customers who knock on Heidi’s door in search of a work of art to wear on their big day. Today she has three different dress collections, which can be found in more than 30 boutiques nationwide. But Heidi is most proud that every one of the trims she has designed is handmade in her home state. Previously a contestant on Project Runway, Heidi returns to television in Spring 2015 on the TLC show inspired her customizable gowns, Bride by Design.

heidielnora.com

Morgan Rhea by Morgan Richards
Made In: Charleston, W. VA
Est.: 2014
Price: $2,500

The “Silently Speaking Gratitude" collection by Morgan Richards (B.F.A., accessory design, 2014) is inspired by loved ones who have influenced her life. Morgan inscribes personal stories into hand-made leather goods to create one-of-a kind, heirloom-quality pieces. As if the gesture of painstakingly etching one’s gratitude into bags and accessories crafted of Buffalo hide wasn’t enough, consider the attention these tokens of affection have garnered. Her Ronald Briefcase won the Best Student Made category of the Independent Handbag Designer Awards and was featured in InStyle Magazine. Morgan and those she commemorates won’t be forgotten anytime soon.

Morganrhea.com

Do you know a SCAD student or alumnus who should be on this list? Please include your suggestions in the comments below.

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The creative pursuits of André 3000 Benjamin

November
21
2014

It was one of the most anticipated musical acts in years: the Outkast 20th anniversary reunion. And it’s not over…quite yet. The 47 jumpsuits, donned on stage during the tour by the Grammy Award-winning duo’s André 3000, are getting a second life when they go on display in the exhibition i feel ya: SCAD + André 3000 Benjamin (Dec. 3 – 14 at Mana Miami).

Just like the messages they bear, the suits have multiple meanings. They’re emblematic of André's identity as a hip-hop icon and well-rounded artist. Through them, the experimental film Trumpets, by Greg Brunkalla (B.F.A, video/film, 2001), and paintings by Jimmy O’Neal (B.F.A, illustration, 1989), Savannah College of Art and Design will dissect the power and rising prominence of artistic collaboration and creative careers.

His lyrics are packed with meaning. Here, in an interview with SCAD’s founder and president Paula Wallace, André previews the project with SCAD and let’s us in on the meaning behind his latest creative pursuit.

 

Follow the blog to hear the continuation of the conversation with André 3000 Benjamin, President Wallace, Greg Brunkalla, Jimmy O'Neal and Andrew Bevan from Miami. After it closes in Miami, the i feel ya exhibition will open at the SCAD Museum of Art in summer 2015. What's your favorite artistic collaboration?
 
 
 
 
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Getting down to business at Savannah Film Festival

October
30
2014

Don’t let the 90 screenings at Savannah Film Festival fool you. Savannah College of Art and Design’s week-long celebration of film is about more than art. It’s about the transactions and preparation that make it possible for us to experience the art. It’s about business: the elephant in most festival venues this week. Or if you’re film student Yang Xiao (M.F.A., film and television student), it’s the spaceship.

Yang participated in one of the many intimate meetings between students and industry that transpire during Savannah Film Festival. He shared pictures of the spaceship set he built for his thesis movie, TROY, with the co-founder and director of the SXSW Festival Louis Black and Austin media mogul Robert Walker.

Yang’s bold gesture wasn’t uninvited. It was an opportune illustration of what Robert and Louis, who helped established SXSW as of one of the world’s most successful platforms for music and film, were there to discuss: entrepreneurship. Robert, Louis and other heavyweights in the business came to SCAD to tell these emerging filmmakers not how to get a job, but how to make their own. To them, the spaceship represents the kind of hustle, savvy and radical ambition it takes to make it big in the film business today.

SXSW co-founder Louis Black with SCAD film students Tristan Aronovich and Amanda Maya.

A huddle with a founder of SXSW

The striking thing about what Louis did by turning SXSW - a small music festival started by a few friends - into a multi-media juggernaut generating $300 million in revenue for Austin, Texas, is that there were more barriers to success back when it was getting started. There was no crowdfunding, no Facebook, no smart phones. They solved their problems of having zero money and zero patrons with innovative solutions that are instructive for film students. Even though it’s easier for this generation to make their own empires, and maybe even inevitable given how technology has revolutionized filmmaking, aspiring directors, writers and producers can still learn from the old fashioned practices that turned Austin into the little film empire that could.

Lesson: Ingenuity first, money second
Chief among the lessons from the case study of Austin’s rise in the film industry is that, as Louis and Robert tell it, money makes it easier, but having no money makes you hustle. In their experience, low cash flow ultimately stimulates a more successful outcome because you have to maximize your resources.

When you’re starting out and you don’t have money and you want to make things happen, you learn lessons that stick with you your whole life.
-Louis Black

Robert agreed, “I’m not knocking cash, it’s good. But it’s easy to cover up mistakes or to just be lazy and pay someone to do what you should be doing yourself. It kind of zaps your creative abilities sometimes if you’re not careful,” he said.

Because the pair has had plenty of experience improvising, Robert and Louis still let their ideas, not the financing, direct how they approach a project. For example, when they were in need of a larger workspace recently instead of plunking down a bunch of cash they set their sights on a 50-thousand square foot building that the Texas National Guard was preparing to abandon. By working their relationships, they snagged the gem of the property for a whopping ten dollars in monthly rent.

Louis summed up his stories about building SXSW by telling students, “My one skillset is that I know how to visualize.”

Clearly vision doesn’t obviate the need for money, but as these lessons from Austin demonstrate, money is not to be pursued at the expense of it. 

Vinca and Steven at the panel "How Films Recoup."

Show Me the Money

The title of entertainment lawyer Vinca Jarrett’s book and web series, Show Me the F$#!KING Money, would seem to fly in the face of this lesson of vision before money. But actually, according to Vinca, vision and planning are essential to making the money part possible.

Vinca and her business partner, manager-producer Steven Adams, have made it their mission to teach how movies get financed. They produce the web series because the film business has the highest attrition rate of investors, and their goal is to turn that around by creating Warren Buffetts of the film industry: educated investors who understand where they’re putting their money and how movies get made.

In addition to investors, they target rising filmmakers who are looking to break into the business, like the SCAD students who shot five episodes of their educational series at the university’s studio during Savannah Film Festival.

Vinca and Steven had seen enough of their young clients commit career-ending mistakes while making movies, like bankrupting their parents, which could have been avoided if sound business practices had been in place from the start. Here are two of their best practices.

Lesson: Document your partnership
One of the biggest mistakes when starting out, says Vinca, is to rely solely on spoken agreements. You may share a creative vision with your team, but these individuals are still business partners, and you need to formally define that relationship, roles and responsibilities in writing. An absolutely essential first step is to put a deal memo in place, no matter how simple.

“Go away and write the ten things you want to accomplish with each other,” Vinca instructs, and then write the things you’re each going to do to accomplish those things.” An attorney can put your intentions into a deal memo so the partnership has rules to abide by. Then, of course, you must actually play by these rules.

It may seem obvious, but even before this step, Steven and Vinca are quick to point out that filmmakers – just like any other smart person in business- must know or investigate who they’re entering into a business relationship with. The wrong team member can sour a potential movie deal because of a bad reputation or track record. So do your homework.

Lesson: Know your rights
In addition to formalizing your partnership, Vinca and Steven say it’s absolutely critical for filmmakers to secure the rights to the movie they’re making. A lawyer can help you understand the rights you need to secure. You can navigate some of this process on your own - like obtaining a copyright – and then hire a lawyer to do the rest.

Recently her former intern brought her a TV concept and Vinca gave her this advice: Make sure the rights are in the public domain. If they’re not, do a deal with the executive who’s interested in your concept so they can’t steal the idea. Then document the full extent of your idea so that you can copyright it. Even if you do this part by yourself, it’s wise to know when to bring in an attorney to make sure you have a sound foundation of ownership before moving forward with your project.
From left to right, producers David Paterson, Susan Cartsonis, Jane Goldenring and, far right, Alison Owen.

Producing: Tricks of the Trade

The next lessons come from some of the very people who consult Vinca and Steven’s series: movie producers. 

The festival’s annual coffee talk series kicked off with an installment that answered a very common question: What do producers do? The answer - provided by a panel of award-winning producers of films like What Women Want, Bridge to Terabithea, The Giver and Hocus Pocus – was that producers are really the ultimate entrepreneurs.

From inception to distribution a producer’s single focus is working all the factors behind the screen to get the movie made, which requires a ton of improvisation, ingenuity and grit, as any start-up would.

So what can we learn from them? A couple recurring themes emerged that clearly are factors in their success and trademarks of smart entrepreneurship.

Lesson: Be tough and take authority
The perception that the producer is responsible for everything behind the scenes and the director responsible for everything on the screen is generally accurate, shared The Giver’s executive producer Alison Owen. But on a movie, as in business, things don’t always remain this tidy. The panelists agreed that in the cases where the lines of authority blur, it behooves the producer to be tough and to preserve those boundaries in order to maintain their responsibility to investors and to the overall quality of the film. This principle for success is in the vein of ‘if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.’ And it’s certain these producers would say, so too will your film fail if you don’t create the parameters within which the film can be made and stick to them.

It’s good for film students in particular to practice toughness and authority while they’re still in film school, even if the context in which they make their films doesn’t mirror a real world set. Case in point, Headlong Entertainment producer Susan Cartsonis noted that in most film schools the director maintains the purse strings and the producer’s authority is often eclipsed by that power imbalance. So practice sticking to your guns while you're still in film school, especially if you're an aspiring producer.

Lesson: Wear many hats
Precisely because filmmakers must have a keen sense of authority over their project in order to guide its success, it serves them to borrow another tenant that good entrepreneurs and good producers follow, which is to do everything. Or, at the very least, know a little bit about all of the areas you’ll be managing on your project, even the technical ones.

Bridge to Terabithia producer David Paterson uses the example of how he learned to build sets when he was starting out as an actor, which not only gave him invaluable insights for his movies but, in the case of smaller films, he didn’t have to depend on someone else in this area in order to get the film made.

In other words, a lack of knowledge can make or break your project. So don’t allow a lack of interest on your part to isolate you from learning certain technical aspects of filmmaking. Bringing it back to finances, especially when it comes to the money, all the producers agreed that the line producer should not be the only one who knows their way around a budget.

Finally, in addition to knowing how to do multiple things on a set, a page out of a successful producer’s playbook is to have multiple projects going at one time in order to beat the odds against a project getting made.

The democratization of film, whereby first-time filmmakers are able to leverage social networks and advances in technology to fund and shoot films that can rival those by big studios, means that more films will get made. But it also means there will be more competition. Hopefully these lessons from some of the sharpest business minds at Savannah Film Festival will help your project come out on top.

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Savannah Film Festival: 5 benefits to future filmmakers

October
26
2014
Tags: Academic

I’m fortunate enough to be working at the 2014 Savannah Film Festival (Oct. 25-Nov. 1). I started with the festival in 2012 as an intern and moderator during my first year in graduate school at Savannah College of Art and Design. In 2013, I interned again under the festival’s director of operations. My festival experiences were so valuable that my thesis topic was, Beyond the Film: A Local History and Analysis of the Savannah Film Festival. Previously, I worked in film and television in New York and LA.
‘Film fest,’ as it’s affectionately known around SCAD, is one of the most relevant festivals for up and coming filmmakers and, really, anyone who’s exploring a career in entertainment.

Here’s why:

1. Access to industry players

Helping Stan Lee backstage, meeting Tribeca shorts programmer Sharon Badal, talking BBQ with Zach Gilford, debating the value of essay films with academic Timothy Corrigan, and swapping Jennifer Lopez stories with THR’s Stephen Galloway. I’ve had some surreal encounters at 'film fest' because the special guests and panelists are so accessible. All of these experiences helped me to immerse myself in the industry in a condensed amount of time, while building relationships in the business.
Norman Reedus returns to the red carpet at Trustees Theater.

2. On-trend panels, master classes and coffee talks

Both academic and practical knowledge of the film industry are important. The festival offers both by pairing professionals with professors. One of the best ways to gather insights about the movie business is to attend the panels, master classes and coffee talks, many of which are geared toward breaking in. Where else could you listen to Bruce Dern discuss how Hitchcock and Nicholson influence his work (Bruce does a mean impression of both, by the way), while picking up tips for financing your short? The stories and advice from industry professionals and professors are invaluable.

3. The movies

The festival gives audiences exclusive access to new movies and the opportunity to hear from the talent behind them. This year is no different. Whiplash, 5 to 7, Horns, and Glen Campbell's I'll Be Me are among 90 films that are ready to roll. In addition to adding more documentaries, the festival also has one of the coolest shorts programs around. A supernatural shorts category and a focus on short films from Ireland are new for 2014. For future filmmakers, exposure to this range of films is a great way to study the craft, get ideas and learn from some of the best writers and directors.

4. The atmosphere

The Savannah Film Festival has a unique vibe and a truly supportive atmosphere. It has an incomprable mix of art school edge, Hollywood style and old southern charm that sets it apart from any other fesival that I’ve been to. And the setting is unbeatable. Screenings, panels and receptions all take place in the country’s largest Historic Landmark District and SCAD’s beautifully restored buildings (Savannah Film Studios being the latest addition). I’d take the red carpet on Broughton Street over any other, any day.

5. A catalyst

The festival can change your career trajectory. I came to SCAD to pursue a graduate degree (with hopes to continue to a Ph.D.), however, working for the Savannah Film Festival as an intern ignited my passion for turning film festivals into a career path. By making the festival an annual event on my calender, I acquired the contacts, knowledge and skills I needed to land my dream job. There are countless stories of students and aspiring filmmakers who have also landed internships, jobs and discovered a whole new world because of the Savannah Film Festival.

What will your story be?

Rachelle Murphy (M.A., cinema studies, 2013) is the executive director of the Green Mountain Film Festival in Montpelier, Vermont. Her television credits include A&E Biography, WWE’s Monday Night Raw, and Discovery Channel’s Auction Kings.

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Savannah Film Festival rewind: honoree portraits of 2013

October
10
2014

In the midst of the count down to Savannah Film Festival 2014 (Oct. 25 - Nov. 1), a batch of Adam Kuehl’s distinctive portraits of Savannah College of Art and Design's honorees went up in Jen Library. From where the portraits hang in Jen’s study rooms, it’s hard to decipher who is ogling whom. Do the students glance up between chapters to study the faces of the film icons whose paths they want to trace? Or do the filmmakers stare at the students with motionless expression, wishing to trade places with the young creatives poised to make their own mark on the world?

Here's Adam's 2013 portraits, emblems of a week’s worth of the best and latest in film. Just like the festival, the portraits keep getting better. Styling by Amy Zurcher.

Portrait of actress Abigail Bresslin by photographer Adam Kuehl.

"Amy had the clever idea to fill the space from floor to ceiling with Domestic Construction rugs. Abigail was a fan."

Portrait of Alec Baldwin by photographer Adam Kuehl.

 "Alec Baldwin has been to the festival several times, so he knew exactly what to do with Christian Dunbar's (M.F.A., furniture design, 2013) lamp."

Portrait of Alexander Payne by photographer Adam Kuehl.

"Alexander Payne, recipient of the Achievement in Cinema Award, in the newly renovated lobby of Trustees Theater."

Portait of Bruce Dern by photographer Adam Kuehl.

Bruce Dern, a 2006 Savannah Film Festival honoree.

Portait of Candice Accola by photographer Adam Kuehl.

"A candid moment of Candice Accola rocking a pair of earrings by Aimee Petkus (B.F.A., jewelry, 2013) and leather top by Brooke Atwood (M.A., fashion, 2010).

Portrait of Jeremy Irons by photographer Adam Kuehl.

Jeremy Irons, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, sits comfortably in front of a painting ("Untitled") by JenMarie Zeleznak (M.F.A., painting, 2011). His intensity matched the scene Amy created perfectly. The wood wall is actually a small stage that we flipped on its side."

Portrait of Julian Sands by photographer Adam Kuehl.

Julian Sands in front of “Star Chamber” by Summer Wheat (M.F.A., painting, 2005).

Portrait of Natalie Dormer by photographer Adam Kuehl.

Natalie Dormer, recipient of the Discovery Award.

Portrait of Norman Reedus by photographer Adam Kuehl.

Norman Reedus in front of wallpaper designed by Joanne Duran (B.F.A., interior design, 1999).

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To help save the endangered, SCAD alumni unite at Elephant Parade in Hong Kong

August
11
2014
Tags: Events

Illegal ivory poaching and vast deforestation has plunged the population of Asian elephants to dangerous lows. Roughly 50,000 of their kind are left in the world, according to several international conservation reports. The outlook on their long-term survival is grim, with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature placing them on the endangered Red List and some predicting the species will be extinct in the wild as soon as 2050.

But several conservationists and artists are responding to these bleak statistics with hope during the Elephant Parade exhibition. The traveling art gallery is raising awareness by featuring galleries of life-sized baby elephant replicas designed by an array of artists. The parade is currently in Hong Kong and features the work of SCAD alumni Kevin Lee Jr. (B.F.A., sound design, 2013), Michael-Birch Pierce (M.F.A., fibers, 2012) and April Rivers (B.F.A., fibers, 2011).

Their artwork, along with several other contributions, are featured at the Pacific Place shopping center in Central Hong Kong, the Cityplaza complex near Tai Koo Station and Citygate Outlets on the northernmost part of Lantau Island near the Hong Kong International Airport. The exhibition ends on Tuesday, Sept. 9.

Twenty percent of the Elephant Parade's net profit — along with 100 percent of money earned from auctioning off handpicked statues — goes to the Asian Elephant Foundation, according to the event organizers. The nonprofit foundation's board members, in turn, distributes the funding to projects that aim to stave off extinction. Some past projects include funding nature reserves where the elephants can live unthreatened, as well as educational programs taught worldwide.

Each elephant statue took on the artists' different styles. Lee used strips of colorful LED lights, Pierce turned to his admiration for "the tacky and gaudy," while Rivers left the statue in its natural white state, enhancing it with fibers and bones while "retaining something pure."

When Pierce set off to create his elephant replica he said he wanted to create something that harkened back to a time when Eastern culture revered elephants, dressing them with beautiful ornaments.

    (The East) adorned elephants with crazy gold fabrics, big metal headdresses. They were regal and reverend. They were precious.

Pierce searched for materials in the markets of Sham Shui Po. Despite what he called a "sensory overload of overstimulation," he managed to focus long enough to find what he needed in stores filled to the brim with beads and crystals.

As a self-professed animal lover and conservationist, Pierce is happy to know that his artwork's wide exposure to bustling Hong Kong will help tell the story about the potential extinction of Asian elephants. Art is sometimes the only digestible way for people to see an environmental crisis through the blur of their busy lives, he added.

"It's not always easy trying to convince someone to change their minds when they have no intention of changing their minds in the first place," he said. "I think that creating these elephants in this way is a really great way to draw attention to the problem. Everyone can connect to art."

For Rivers, the experience in Hong Kong was "eye opening."

"It was extremely inspiring," she said. "It's amazing to just be in Sham Shui Po. To take in the smells, the colors, the sounds and the textures."

Rivers worked closely with Lee in a shared studio and was nearby Peirce's workspace. The whirlwind trip, along with a tight deadline, made "war buddies" out of the three, she said. Having their different paths converge in Hong Kong — Lee from California, Pierce from Virginia and Rivers from Texas — turned colleagues into friends.

"The three of us got very close," she said. "We all brought different strengths. Kevin had a very mechanical brain, which complimented my love of girly things like fibers and soft materials. Peirce brought the glitter and glam. It was a good mix and we learned a lot from each other. I miss them."

Her new friendships speak to the collaborative nature SCAD fosters, Rivers added.

People often choose to go to the college near their hometown because it's close by, but sometimes they end up staying in one place. On the other hand, SCAD is such a hodgepodge of people. It has campuses everywhere. There's no way you could get these kinds of experiences anywhere else.

Taking part in Elephant Parade also allowed the alumni to pass on some experience to SCAD Hong Kong students who helped workshop the statues. Pierce said he especially enjoyed letting the students have "free range" on a large portion of his replica.

"Working with the students at Hong Kong was great," he said. "I think that it's very important to show that there’s actually a career to be had after graduation, using the skills they're learning at SCAD. I was worried I would have to work with 19-year-old kids who didn't necessarily have the experience they needed for this kind of project. But these students are driven. They're talented."

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