Taking a Closer Look at Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride: An Exclusive In-Depth Interview with Director and Producer Amy Nicholson

written by Su Mayor


Amy Nicholson is a documentary filmmaker living in New York City. Her first short film, Beauty School, aired on PBS, NYCTV, and the Documentary Channel and her first feature film, Muskrat Lovely, was broadcast on Independent Lens. Amy Nicholson’s documentary Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride is screening on the film festival circuit and has won a Special Jury Prize at its World Premiere at New York’s DOC NYC festival in November 2012 and is the winner of the Outstanding Achievement in Editing award at First Time Film Festival in March 2013. Zipper was an official selection in the Documentary Features category of the 2013 Atlanta Film Festival. I had the pleasure of talking with her during the festival  to get the inside scoop to the continuing economic development problem of Coney Island. Zipper addresses the politics and greed involved in Coney Island’s land zoning and usage through the story of Eddie Miranda, a small-time ride operator of the 38-yearold carnival ride Zipper that operated in the heart of Coney Island’s amusement district until 2007.

What inspired you to profile Coney Island as symbolized by the Zipper ride?

The documentary grew out of a short film about the Zipper that started when I tried to make homage to this ride that I loved. I knew it was leaving Coney Island and that there was a lot behind the move. But when I set out, I did not necessarily set out to tell this big story about Coney Island because most of the story had not been told at that time. It is important to note that at the beginning of my process, everybody thought that Coney Island would be closed within three months; everything was going to happen in the summer of 2007. It was all going to close down and then miraculously reopen as a new Coney Island. However, politics does not work that way nor does land use. And it got very, very messy and it got messier as it went along. So the story kept morphing. We got to the end of what I thought was our shooting and our guys left. We had Zipper’s story and did interviews with the ride operators. We had enough to make a really nice film about the Zipper, the Zipper’s history and its history in Coney Island, along with it leaving Coney Island. I had gathered a lot of background information, but I was not sure what I was dealing with and I was not really confident in telling the story of why it left. So I asked Dick Zigun, who ran the Coney Island museum, “who was the best person to interview.” I wanted to interview at least one politician. Who was the one person who could really explain everything clearly so that the context would be in the film? He sent me to Dominic Recchia. Once I went to Dominic Rechhia, I realized that it was a much, much bigger story. That interview was crazy – good crazy – bad crazy – oh just crazy!

How were you able to convince so many stakeholders to talk candidly about the complex and contentious socio, economic, and political matter of Coney Island’s land development?

There have been other films made about re-zonings. The filmmakers are all brilliant and do great jobs, but somebody is usually after something specific. They want answers about why this travesty was happening. I did not know that it was happening, so I could not be angry about it; I was just sort of sad that the Zipper left and I did not really know the rest of the story. So I went to these interviewees as a layperson. I went to them just as a resident of New York, a tax payer, and a filmmaker, but mostly just someone who wanted to ask questions about what was happening, just to understand and so my approach was very different. I was not set to get anyone, to prove anything, or paint it a certain way. However, I did have a few hard questions to which I got some very interesting answers to, but I had not picked a side.

This was noticeable in the documentary as you provided equal amounts of time and opportunity for each party to tell their story even though you may not have agreed with all of them.

Of course, because that is what is fair. I know that sometimes it is a criticism of documentaries like this one that it ends up being investigative journalism, instead of telling everyone’s story and letting the audience decide. And of course I have a point of view but there is a big difference between a filmmaker having a point of view and trying to prove a point or having an agenda.

The documentary did a good job in presenting the socio-economic and political problem in a multi-layered fashion, but mostly in an objective manner to show the complexity of the issue, but in the end it did appear that the rhetoric was siding with the small business operators of Coney Island. Do you feel that your point of view is to address the problems that the operators are facing and not necessarily side with the other parties, whether or not there is a right or wrong decision?

I think it was overall not so much to fight with parties, as I did not approach it as a fight, I just could not really pick a side. There are things about zoning and why things are done and how things happen that I could not possibly understand nor could any normal person in their life. There are decisions that are so beyond my grasp that is made at the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), at City Hall, and at City Planning, which is why there are colleges teaching this subject matter. However, from my point, if you want to call it siding with the small businesses, it is that I felt that the small businesses were what gave Coney Island its character – though literally, they are all characters, not only the Zipper crew, but all the other guys that are down there. Love them or hate them they are characters, but characters who share a history. I think they made Coney Island what it was. These people were willing to push through the hard times during the 80s and 90s when it was not pretty and it was really rough, but they stuck it out. They provided the heart and soul of Coney Island. But how can they survive in a corporate American business structure?

In the film there was an insert stating that a single multinational corporation leased the land that the City of New York purchased from the developer Joe Sitt. So where do these small business operators go and what do they do?

They cannot afford the new lease rates anymore, which is part of the problem. What happened was that the City executed their plan and one cannot fault the City for it. They did not just walk away. They did not throw their hands up and told Joe Sitt, to keep on holding the C7 zoned property and let it sit vacant for years to come. The City officials could have called his bluff, but in the end he called theirs. However, the fact is, he beat them to the punch, because he had information as he was invited early to the table by the local Councilman. However, if one looks at the bigger picture, if the economic development policy is to have developers do your bidding – literally execute your plans, they cannot be faulted for wanting to profit from the very thing you are promoting. And in the end the City bought the land they needed to execute their plan, even though the plan was compromised and the public was very much against it, but they pushed it through, as they got Councilman Dominic Recchia to agree to it as he got concessions for his district – it was all politics behind the scenes. Technically, it is the City’s Parkland, leased to a for profit company Zamperla, holding the lease for some amount of years, at a certain rate that sub-leases to vendors interested in operating in Parkland. Outside the Parkland acreage concessions allowed for taller buildings, hotel uses, retails of a certain scale, and entertainment uses such as rides, but no big box stores. But the fact that it allows for hotel uses, automatically raises the value of the land making it virtually impossible for a small business operator to carve out a living on a section of the land as they would not be able to afford the astronomical lease rates. Why would any developer put a little amusement park ride on land when it could have a hotel or movie theatre there? By this execution they sort of made it so no little guy could be there ever again as no one would lease to them.

Given this development, what is the current state of Coney Island? Have developers started building hotels or is it still mostly vacant lots?

In Parkland itself, Zamperla has done a very good job of putting their rides in and building a rollercoaster. With the help of the City they will be opening B&B Carousel again this year. So the part in the nine acres that was set aside for amusements has been developed between the City and Zamperla; they have made that happen. The City has taken the Coney Island Development Corporation, housed within the EDC and whatever was left of that money and created a business improvement district, assembling the more prominent peoples, Zamperla, Vourderis Brothers who run Deno’s Wonder Wheel, and some of the bigger restaurants in the area as a coalition of business people who are trying to keep it all going.

Nothing has been built on Joe Sitt’s land apart from a one-storied building on the corner of one of his lots. As far as I know most of the land has not been leased. I think he has leased part of that building to a mall-like candy store for this summer, however a lot of his property is vacant and he has leased it to a carnival rides operator for this summer. But he has tried to do this the past couple of summers; he had a flea market and he had an amusement operator last summer that never really opened. There has been talk of Applebee’s and Johnny Rockets. From what I understand the City also held up a few permits. However the infrastructure is in horrible shape, which was part of what the City promised to do, fix the infrastructure so that the land could be developed. But after Superstorm Sandy all that is up in the air.

How did Sandy really affect the commerce of Coney Island?

It is funny, because I saw an article in the Observer by a writer that I really admire, who wrote about how it is going to be nice because “it all got washed away” and how everybody had to fix everything up and put a new coat of paint on, so it sort of hurried things along. Personally, I love the patina of oil and grease and French fries that has permeated into the ground there.

Obviously, it affected some of the rides operators that were still independent. The Eldorado, an old school, indoor bumper cars operator that still leases from Joe Sitt, had a great sound system; it was totally flooded, which rusted the whole floor, and ruined the cars and the operator is still struggling to get back. So, some of the smaller operators there had to stop, fix some of their motors, and retool, which is a hardship for them.

Given your research and the aftermath of Sandy, would you say that there is an ideal solution for Coney Island?

The problem for me is that the “thing” that I think has been lost, is not tangible. It cannot be measured. You can look at the issue in black and white, as charts and graphs on paper and think about issues like land value, how you organize everyone, and how you protect the people that are there while ushering in a new Coney Island, all the things that the City talked about, which are all wonderful things. However, there is a huge cost to this type of wholesale rezoning that forces wholesale redevelopment. It is not just in Coney Island, but in any neighborhood that goes through this – look at Williamsburg. The intangible cost is a harder thing to talk about. Therefore, it was very important for me to capture the intangible; the spirit of Coney Island. And yes, Coney Island is a bit down and dirty, but that is because it is open to everyone. These intangible, touchy-feely, mushy, hard to talk about things does not get included when discussing a solution for the problem.

However, to her credit, Amanda Burden, who is the director of the New York City Department of City Planning and chair of the City Planning Commission, she understood a lot of these factors; to keep Shoot the Freak, to keep the craziness, and the open environment – she gets it, but where is that voice in the end? Where did that voice go?

Since it is too easy to brush all that craziness aside, I felt like I needed to make a film where at least you could almost smell it, capturing it in a way that is not possible in a conversation or a PowerPoint.

Do you think that Zipper is almost serving as a symbol that encompasses a wider rhetoric beyond Coney Island, representing the current economic debates going on and that have been going on for the number of past years regarding unemployment, the 99% demonstrations and so forth?

Absolutely, I hope that it can be. There are many other examples, especially in New York, like I said where Williamsburg was a really good example, but those examples usually deal with gentrification. I don’t think that you could point to Coney Island and claim gentrification. But on the other end of the spectrum, it is not nostalgia for the past either, because nostalgia is “we don’t want to move forward and we don’t want things to change.” It is not an aversion to change; it is an aversion to corporatization. What ends up happening, like with many neighborhoods in New York and little downtowns across America, is when everything goes to the highest bidder, or when the goal is to squeeze the money out of the land, as much as possible, it sort of drives the conversation, about what will go there and what will happen there. The City can put in as many protections in the zonings as may seem needed, but what still ends up happening is this homogenization of places that used to be very individual – very local with their footprint; their handprint on it. It is another crazy, weird, intangible “thing” that is really hard to talk about. But I think that it is worth looking at it, because one sees that everything is starting to look and be the same, which is a really big issue. It taps into a lot of areas – a litany of corporatizations, chains stores versus local businesses, and yes we can hop onto the 1%, stirring a lot of issues into a big stew.

For me with Coney Island, the reason why I said, “wait a minute, somebody has to write this down and somebody has to make sure that this history is recorded,” was that Coney Island has always been the antithesis of all of that. It was the place one could run away from the gentrification of Manhattan, it was the place where one could be poor and no one would bat an eyelash; it was about promoting, a kind of let it all hang out, do whatever you want anarchy of that carnival culture. When that gets all cleaned up and tidied up, you have taken away what the whole place stands for. That is what we talk about when we say the wiping away of Coney Island’s history, not just we have replaced old rides with new rides. It is just not even stevens in terms of change and historical spirit.

Talking about historical spirit, your film incorporates a lot of historical footage…

I tried not to do too much because Ken Burns did that brilliant documentary on Coney Island’s history that one can ever come close to outdo as it is just an amazing film. I tried to use it sparingly and only in places where I was trying to illustrate a point.

Like the interviews and news broadcasts… and also the personal historical footage from the interviewees of the carnies and the flashback footage from the 70s.

The footage came from the very famous DP, Bob Richman, who did the September Issue and Some Kind of Monster and also shot some other great films – he was a big fan of Coney Island and I found out that he had that footage in his basement. If you talk about the heyday of Coney Island, most people talk about post World War II and it was particularly important to me to show what it was like in the 70s. It is very hard to get footage from that era, because it was scary in the 70s; no one went down to Coney Island and nobody talked about it. But, I think in the mind of the guys who have been working there, the 70s was their heyday and it was very important to me to show when they started out there – it was rough and they all kind of hung together – and they survived, learned the business starting by getting coffee for people, running errands, working their way up. And like Eddie said in the interview, it was rough but people came, they still wanted to come.

How long did this project take from start to finish?

From the very, very beginning when I got the idea from reading an article on the subway about the Zipper ride when Eddie found out that he was being thrown out, which was published in The Daily News in October 2006, it has been six years, from start to finish. It took a long time to get the interviews with the city officials.  The City really wanted to sell the project to the public, which made it really hard to find out what the issues were, unless one listened very closely that required following up with inquiries for clarification. Also, Joe Sitt did not want to go on camera until he made a deal with the City, so we had to wait into 2010 and then went back to get some pickup shots as late as the summer in 2010, completing most of our editing in 2011.

Is there anything else that surprised you by any of the information disclosed during the interviews?

One of the things that really surprised me was that Seth Pinsky, who was president of the EDC, made a statement about 2003, that I had listened to many times and then also had to call for further clarification, stating that they had decided in 2003 that the land was already too valuable to support amusements that blew me away. This is why we included the insert about the land valuation in 2003 in the film. Then this fight went on for six-seven years, which goes on to show you when the stakeholders’ timeline began.

However, the land usage issue must have started even earlier, as Joe Sitt started purchasing the land even earlier?

He confirmed that he had made deals, which had not closed yet, for a few parcels of land prior to 2003. However, he did not want to disclose the exact timings of his deals. I could also not get the exact timing of these deals from Dominic Recchia either. I asked them both who bought what when? I was surprised that Recchia even mentioned the coffee that he and Joe Sitt had together. But Joe Sitt did say that he was down there sniffing around during the Giuliani administration. As a speculator and a smart man he was able to see that City was going to want to do something with the land eventually. But I don’t think that he did that in a vacuum; I think he was tipped off.

The overall narrative of the film seems to be divided in three sections: showing the problem, identifying each party’s motive, and then the outcome. Why did you choose to delay showing the connection between Joe Sitt the developer and Dominic Recchia, a New York City Council Member?

We just felt like it was much more impactful to have that information right before you find out about the compromise. We wanted it all to be first in the up and up and we worked very, very hard to paint Dominic Recchia as the man in the middle. And he really was the man in the middle as he did not really agree with the City’s plan all the way up to the bitter end. There was still some question whether he would vote for it, because his friend had bought up all this land that was about to become valueless if the City proceeded in condemning it or whatever they needed to do to get it to Parkland. So, I think he wanted to protect his friend’s interests but he also wanted to do something for his community and I think he was torn. Therefore, we wanted to keep him as much in the middle for as long as possible. Then the compromise comes as no surprise in order highlight the disappointment for the audience when it is revealed that Parkland becomes even smaller and will allow for hotels… But even when the City made the big compromise, Joe Sitt still did not wanted to play ball. There was a lot of tension over that rezoning. When we interviewed Bob Lieber, which was not included in the film, he basically said that Joe Sitt was not returning his calls anymore –  Joe Sitt was playing hardball. The City played hardball, but Joe Sitt played harder, he left them hanging until the very end. The City did not meet his original price but they did raise their offer. He was a tough negotiator and he was not about to walk away from waterfront property that was worth a fortune, making a very good return on his investment, while having the ability to build whatever he wanted on his remaining property. The problem is much, much more complicated from what we could present as a documentary.


Zipper, Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride is playing on the film festival circuit with its next screening at the Montclair Film Festival on Saturday, May 4th at the Bellevue Theatre. We at the Atlanta Film Festival 365 look forward to tracking its route and its quest to inform the public about the continuing development issues of Coney Island and the plight of the small business operator when government and corporatism vies for the same profit centers.

Day 7: New Mavericks leave their mark, the locals takes over the Plaza Theatre

CINformation panels continued yesterday with a SAGIndie Panel, three Producing Panels, and four DEMO panels. DEMO panels included Red/Alexa use and Digital Post-production. Don’t miss live tweet updates from our CINformation panels! Follow us at @atlfilm365 on twitter.

The Annual Screenplay Competition Retreat took place yesterday at an undisclosed location, and allowed screenplay competition finalist a chance to be mentored by writers Jamie Babbit, Karey Dornetto, James Ponsoldt and Autumn Canaday.

Over at 7 Stages, the sold out New Maverick block was a hit with patrons! The lovely ladies of WIFTA (Women in Television and Film Atlanta) held a pre-screening reception that hosted attending filmmakers Francesca Mirabella, Erin Galey, Chloe Dumont & Dehanza Rogers.

Shout out to our awesome local filmmakers for creating tons of excitement at the Plaza last night! Moral Sleaze kicked off the fun; followed by the WonderRoot shorts block. Touch the Puppet Head wrapped up the exciting evening and featured the hometown premiere of Molly Coffee's Magic The Gathering The Musical.

Two PINK PEACH films went head upstairs at the Plaza! PIT STOP and James Franco’s   INTERIOR:LEATHER BAR played to an incredibly receptive crowd.

The Starlight Six Drive-In was chilly, but still saw a crowd with free moonshine from the Dawnsonville Moonshine Distillery, some delicious oven-baked pizza from Your Pie, and of course white hot BBQ from The Optimist!

On Deck for Tonight:

The sold out SCARRED BUT SMARTER DRIVIN N CRYIN  is playing at Plaza, 8:00pm. Join us for the Drivin n Cryin after party at 9:00pm in the Highland Ballroom!

The esteemed Jared Moshé will be in the house for his post civil war Western, DEAD MANS BURDEN at 9:15pm (Plaza Upstairs).

Local Director Danny Madden’s film EUPHONIA will be featured tonight in the Main Theatre at 7:00pm, as well as a packed screening of THE MANSION at 9:30pm.

7 Stages will be featuring our MUSIC VIDEO SHORTS block at 7:15p in the Black Box Theatre.

Day 6 Roundup: ATLFF Sound & Vision weathers the cold, local documentary Breaking Through becomes a festival hit+ more!

The 37th Atlanta Film Festival continued through the cold on Wednesday! CINformation Day 3 primarily focused on Producing. The Developing and Production blocks featured NuvoTV pitch session with NuvoTV VP of Programming Lynette Ramirez, Developing Projects as a Director with With Ashley Reid and Les Ottolenghi of SUBMIT THE DOCUMENTARY, David Andalman of AMERICAN MILKSHAKE, Bruce Mason of CHEZ UPSHAW, and Matt Reynolds of THE GREAT CHICKEN WING HUNT. Don’t miss the encore screenings of SUBMIT THE DOCUMENTARY at 4:30pm (Plaza Theatre) on Saturday and THE GREAT CHICKEN WING HUNT at 6:45pm (7 Stages) on Sunday!

ATLFF Sound & Vision saw an excellent turnout last night at The Goat Farm, with the help of UBER, indieATL, Creative Loafing and Team Luis,  of course! Patrons were entertained by live music from PLS PLS, Tikka, Cute Boots, Shantih Shantih, and co-headliners Gringo Star and Dog Bite.  Our  music video competition  and Sound and Vision experimental block allowed for some great artistic diversity throughout the evening, along with a special installation of Micah Stansell's "The Water & the Blood."  Shout out to Sweet Auburn BBQ, Good Food Truck, Yumbii Food Truck, King of Pops, and Your Pie Pizza for some delicious eats during the event.

Meanwhile at the Plaza… Local Documentary BREAKING THROUGH was a hit! BREAKING THROUGH is a feature length PINK PEACH documentary about two LGBT politicians overcoming life’s tribulations while coming out to their peers.

On deck for tonight:

The locals are taking over the Plaza with MORAL SLEAZE, WONDERROOT LOCAL FILMMAKER NIGHT & TOUCH THE PUPPETHEAD! shorts block. The Plaza is also featuring an excellent PINK PEACH lineup that includes PIT STOP and James Franco’s INTERIOR LEATHER BAR.

Go back in time with a fun filled evening at the Starlight Six Drive-In Theatre! The well- mannered debauchery continues with a party at 6:30pm, and Dawnsonville Moonshine Distillery will be in the house for a moonshine sampling. There will also be a special screening of THUNDER ROAD at 8:30pm. Don’t miss any of the retro fun!

Address for Starlight Six: 2000 Moreland Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30316.

Day 5: We've Reached the Halfway Point

The 37th Atlanta Film Festival has hit the halfway point, and shows no sign of slowing down! Our Screenwriting and Animation CINformation panels continued yesterday at 7 Stages. "Oneliners and Elevator Pitches," "Writing Webisodes," and "Vocal Rehab" proved to be hits among the crowd. The Plaza saw a huge crowd for ICEBERG SLIM: THE PORTRAIT OF A PIMP. ICEBERG’S director, was in the house and also participated in an informative Q&A.

7 Stages hosted BBC America’s BLACK ORPHAN screening, along with Boyd Tinsley’s Atlanta Premiere of FACES IN THE MIRROR. Tinsley’s experimental musical saw fantastic support from audience members. Charles Judson hosted a Q&A after the film ended and Boyd Tinsley along with Atlanta’s own FLAP performed a very special post-screening set.

On Deck for Tonight:

  • Don’t miss featured filmmaker Molly Coffee and the crew of Magic the Gathering in the filmmakers lounge at the Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge.
  • 7 Stages will host our annual Screenplay Competition Reading at 6:15PM
  • Plaza will screen CASTING BY (7:00PM), MOHAMMED TO MAYA (7:15PM), CHEZ UPSHAW (9:30PM) and local documentary BREAKING THROUGH(9:30PM).

Join us at The Goat Farm for our esteemed Sound & Vision block, and also for more well-mannered debauchery. Cousin Dan will be spinning on the 1’s and 2’s, which guarantees nothing but an excellent time. The party starts at 6:00pm, be there or be square.

This just in! We have selected the Xfinity On Demand Encore films. The following films will be playing this Sunday:

• Comedy Shorts • Other World Shorts • Congratulations! • A Band of Rogues • The Great Chicken Wing Hunt • The Mansion • Scarred But Smarter

Also on Sunday….

Don’t miss the first run presentation of the following films:

• The Brass Teapot • Can • Man From the Future • 7 Boxes • Born to Hate...Destined to Love • Where the Trail Ends (FREE)

Ticket information available here.

Day 4: CINformation is off to a roaring start

After a fantastic opening weekend, the 37th Atlanta Film Festival continued with morecinematic excitement!

CINformation ImageThe CINformation series kicked off at 7 Stages with screenwriting and animation. ASIFA-Atlanta presented the animation portion of the panel. There was an awesome turnout for both; Top panels included Crafting Well-Rounded Characters, Working with Producers and Directors featuring Between Us director and Slamdance founder, Dan Mirvish, Screenwriting for Animation, and Sci-Fly demo with Joey Shanks. If you miss any of the awesome CINformation panels, don’t fret! 365wired host Camden will be live tweeting highlights from 7 Stages. Follow us at @atlfilm365 to stay updated.

7 Stages also featured the Animation and Experimental block. There were 12 experimental films and 13 animated films. 7 of those animated films participated in our Shorts competition.

The Plaza saw tons of excitement last night at the premiere of TUTTI GIU. The film’s director, Niccoló Castelli, and the Swiss consulate were both in attendance. Castelli also participated in an insightful Q&A after the film. The Atlanta premiere of WOLF screened upstairs at the Plaza, with director Ya’Ke Smith in attendance.

Don’t forget Happy Hour is from 5:00pm-6:00pm at the Highland Ballroom. All passholders are encouraged to come out and enjoy some well-mannered debauchery.

On Deck Tonight at Plaza:

  • The Precocious & Brief Life of Sabina Rivas (7:00), acclaimed director Luis Mandoki in attendance with Q&A to follow. Perfect for cinephiles!
  • Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp (7:15PM) with director Jorge Hinojosa
  • Sundance favorite American Milkshake with  directors David Andelman and Mariko Munro scheduled to attend

On deck tonight at 7 Stages :

  • BBC America Presents: Orphan Black (7:00)
  • Boyd Tinsley's Faces in the Mirror (9:00) with a live performance from Boyd
  • Tinsley to follow

Eat, Drink, & B-Indie is tonight at Manuel’s Tavern. The party starts at 7:30!

And Tomorrow…

The Goat Farm Arts Center presents: ATLFF Sound and Vision! 6 Bands. 10 dollars. Priceless memories. Get your music on!

ATLFF Opening Weekend Wrap-Up

What a weekend! ATLFF13_DOOBIOUS_3.15.13_WEB-8200The 37th Atlanta Film Festival kicked off this weekend, debuting a brand new look and feel at the newly re-modeled Plaza Theatre.  Beginning with THIS IS ATLANTA documentary shorts block, featuring local films CHANGE IN THE GAME, THE GIRL WITH THE TUBA, GUIDESTONES, OUT OF STONE, SPEAKEASY SUPPER-CLUB, and WHEN THE ZOMBIES COME, festival guests were treated to a proper introduction to the city we love so much.

Continuing with the southern theme of the night, Jeff Nichols' MUD was the showcased attraction of the evening. Oscar winning director Ray McKinnon, who appears in the film, joined us for the screening. McKinnon gave a brief introduction of the film and with that the 2013 Atlanta Film Festival was off to a fantastic start.

The opening night festivities continued with a party at Paris on Ponce where attendees were treated to homemade pecan pralines (made fresh on the spot by Epting Events, official sponsor of ATLFF), Frozen Pints beer ice cream, Sugar Moon Bake Shop cupcakes, and a moonshine sampling from Dawnsonville Moonshine Distillery.

Not to be outdone, Saturday provided even more incredible memories with our  Saturday Morning Animation program at 7 Stages. Kids of all ages filled the Black Box to enjoy a program created just for them and they were offered the opportunity to meet the filmmakers in attendance. Over at the Plaza Theatre, LA SOURCE and THE SUICIDE KID headed up our lineup, followed by a great turnout for Ben Popik's EXQUISITE CORPSE PROJECT, which is sure to become one of the most talked about films of the festival.

Ray McKinnon made a second appearance on Saturday night, this time bringing the entire cast of his new show RECTIFY . The special sneak preview of the Georgia-lensed project was well received and is scheduled to premiere on the Sundance Channel on Monday, April 22 at 9:00PM.  Additional events for the evening included SXSW favorites WHITE REINDEER, GOOD OL' FREDA,  and a crowd-pleasing live performance from IFC's THE WHITEST KIDS YOU KNOW. The night wrapped with a party at the Venetian Room and the premiere of NuvoTV's STANDUP & DELIVER, featuring co-host Julissa Bermudez and comedian Chaunte Wayans.

On Sunday the momentum was in full swing with the world premiere of Matt Reynold's GREAT CHICKEN WING HUNT and a St. Paddy's Day wing party at the The Highland Ballroom Lounge. Later in the evening, the locals proved why Atlanta is Hollywood South with an exceptional turnout for Georgia films A BAND OF ROGUES and CONGRATULATIONS!, both of which will receive encore screenings on Sunday, March 24.  Over at 7 Stages, Vampire Diaries star Joseph Morgan, debuted his short film REVELATION, starring Perisa White. The film running a little over 9 minutes, was part of the OTHER WORLDS block, which also featured ADVANTAGEOUS, SCI-FLY, SOL, THE OTHER SIDE, GAME, RECORD/PLAY, and THE DARK. If you missed this amazing block be sure to catch the encore this Sunday.

The weekend fittingly came to a close with a LOST IN THE LETTERS reading, in support of our 2013 CINformation Seminar Series, and a kick-back at Young Blood Boutique & MINT Gallery.  And with that opening weekend at the 2013 Atlanta Film Festival was in the books!

On deck for Day 4: Screenwriting and Animation workshops at 7 Stages during the day followed by the ANIMATION SHORT BLOCK (6:45PM),  CONCUSSION (7:00PM),  I USED TO BE DARKER (9:15PM) and the EXPERIMENTAL SHORT BLOCK (9:30PM). At The Plaza,  festival circuit favorites BETWEEN US (7:00PM), A SECRET WORLD (7:15PM), TUTTI GIU (9:15PM) and WOLF (9:30PM) will provide the perfect start for an amazing festival week.

Tickets are on sale online and at the Plaza Theatre &  7 Stages box office. Be sure to check our Facebook & Twitter for continuous updates and photos.

Delve Into the Ups and Downs of the Online Era with The Suicide Kid: An Exclusive Interview with Director Marcus Sullivan

Delve Into the Ups and Downs of the Online Era with The Suicide Kid: An Exclusive Interview with Director Marcus Sullivan


written by Sarah Cossart, ATLFF Marketing Associate

The Suicide Kid uses an innovative narrative structure that explores the difficulties of growing up in an era when an online presence is crucial. Through video blogging and the ruse of a school film project, the viewer is guided through cringe-worthy social encounters, awkward flirting, drunken confessions, and the overall struggles that represent the first year of college of many students. The Suicide Kid depicts an honesty not often seen in films concerned with the ever present and highly influential world of social media. Here at the Atlanta Film Festival we had the privilege to talk with the filmmaker Marcus Sullivan about his film, which has been selected to be screened in the 2013 Narrative Feature category.

How did this project come about and what inspired the story? It was a concept we had been working on for several years, since my 11th grade, so that would have been around 2008 and it has existed in various forms since then. The idea came about when I was watching a video blogger. I was watching several of his videos in a row and I noticed that it sort of formed a narrative. The next logical leap being a whole feature film consisting of those videos. Once we had that as a form, the plot came more out of our own experience with school and how we’ve seen our friends and peers act on the internet and how we’ve seen the YouTube culture act and react over the years as we’ve been working on it.

The format is really unique, almost in a “mockumentary” style.  Can you elaborate on your approach for the film? It was one of those things where we got the form first and then we worked backwards. The narrative later in the timeline, where the leading character Timothy is a famous video blogger and a viral video sensation, came faster than the part beforehand to what leads him to become a viral video star. He is the guy who gets really popular and then through his own means squanders that opportunity, both on YouTube stuff and in real life.

It’s funny you mention the “mockumentary” thing because it’s been difficult trying to explain the concept to some people because it does sort of fall into “mockumentary” or found footage style, but not exactly at the same time. We were aware of a lot of found footage movies that were coming out, which increased as we took years to make the movie. So we had to balance how much of the film consisted as video blogs of the stuff of him in his room alone talking to the camera and how much consisted of him taking the camera out and doing more traditional found footage or faux-documentary style stuff, because too much in either direction would have spoiled the concept. Too much of him just sitting in his room talking would be monotonous and awkward, whereas too much time out on the street filming people and himself, would have felt more like a generic found footage movie. So the key was to balance the elements so that we had something unique.

You guys definitely succeeded in that. You mentioned the plot divide pre-suicide attempt and post-suicide attempt; this affected the narrative in an interesting way, could you talk a little more about that? Alternating between the two time frames was decided when we knew we wanted to go forward with the project because we had two stories, neither of which we felt were interesting enough on their own to carry a movie.  We had the story of a blogger who is popular and then ruins his popularity and we had the story of the sad awkward kid in school who has a bad year that leads into a filmed suicide attempt. These frames in isolation felt too generic until we mashed them together, jumping back and forth and juxtaposing them against each other. Once we made that decision they both sort of clicked and fed off one another.

The first year of college is notoriously hard, how did you decide on portraying that? The funny thing about that is because we came up with the concept in high school for the longest time it was going to take place in high school. Even when we were in university planning the movie, we were going to go back to my high school and shooting it there. During this time, I was going through my first year in film school with my friends, making observations on how competitive I felt about certain things - how important it felt for me to establish my group of friends right away, but also to establish myself as, you know, cool amongst that group. This struck me as sort of the same thing that Timothy was trying to do on the internet in his post-suicide attempt personality where he is not only trying to be popular on the internet but trying to find his own voice. So, I thought that ultimately those two elements would play off each other nicely. We also felt that high school was a topic that was a lot more explored than university. I feel like I’ve seen a lot of high school narratives and high school shows. I hadn’t seen as much of university narratives and I wasn’t aware of anything that accurately depicted how I was feeling during my freshman year. Apart from that, we weren’t high school kids anymore and it felt cheap to try to reflect this angle. We wanted the movie to be as realistic as possible; to be as genuine as possible. By the time we got around to shooting the version you’ve seen, we were in our 3rd year in university, so it just felt disingenuous to set it in high school. It was a thematic and a practical choice.

I noticed that many of the people that are cast in the film are also involved in other ways. Are they friends or actors or hired crew? The project started with just me and Dean Tardioli, who played Timothy, in high school. We met Adrian Murray, who played Jordan in the movie.  We told him the idea and explained all the work we had done up to that point and he was intrigued and hopped on board the team. He edited and co-wrote the outline. It was all very collaborative. At the end of the movie we credited ourselves as a film by the three of us, because we felt that at any given time we did the other’s principal job. All three of us were acting, all three of us contributed to the story, edited together, and directed in different senses. So it was very much a collaborative project, especially as there was no formal script. There was sort of a detailed outline as to where each video should go, but it was a collaborative discussion between us as actors and writers in the scene, as to what exactly should transpire in terms of dialogue, and the beats of it. It felt because the main three of us working on everything, that we should credit us together. Molly who played Chloe, we knew from high school and we had always intended on her playing Chloe.

We shot half of the movie in Ottawa, Canada and half in Toronto, Canada. There is about a four or five hour drive difference. Adrian, the editor, and I lived in Toronto, which is where most of the university scenes took place. Dean and Molly both lived in Ottawa. So for certain combinations of actors to get together we had to travel back and forth, repeatedly. The majority of the budget was actually  not spent on anything filmic, but was on the transportation, back and forth.

You mentioned that there wasn’t a formal script, so all of Timothy’s monologues were also not scripted? How those worked, we would have an outline as to where each video needed to go from a plot perspective, so we certainly knew what had to happen in order to advance the story. Having discussed that back and forth between myself and Dean, he would go and give it a dry run and inevitably maybe twenty-five percent of that first attempt would be workable and then we would expand on that and find something that worked, or a joke that worked. Often he would say a word by accident or he would stumble on something he was trying to say, not deliberately but I thought it was funny the way he screwed it up so I would ask him to repeat it. A strength I think he had was that he managed to screw up the exact same way several times afterwards, which I was thankful of. By the end of shooting a video, which would take anywhere from half an hour to two hours, the majority of it would be not scripted, but we knew almost every single word of what he would be saying by rehearsing it over and over again. So by the end of it we had a pretty good idea of what he was going to say when I pressed record.

So it made it really natural? Right, and we really enjoyed working like that and being able to have that very close experience; it was just him and I in a room as our working process. We’re all kind of disappointed in a way that the movie is over and we won’t get to work exactly like that again.

How long did it take to film? In terms of the actual production when we started shooting to when we wrapped, it went from August 2011 until March 2012. We shot mostly on weekends. I would go back from Toronto to Ottawa to shoot the film with Dean and then I would bring the footage back up to Adrian in Toronto and we’d look at it together and decide if we needed to change things. This was done from a practical standpoint as we were all going through school, but we also wanted to have the passage of time throughout the film to make sense of the jumbled chronological narrative. This way you knew that if you see future Timothy in the winter and past Timothy in the fall, you sort of have your bearings a little bit. We also thought it would add a sense of movement because we were worried that if everything looked the same all the time too, that it would become visually stagnant, especially as a video blog movie during which the majority of the film is the same person talking at you. So any kind of visual diversity we could build into the film, we wanted to do. Filming over the course of a year was therefore both a practical necessity and a visual continuity, as well.

Would you ever do another film with this format? I would never say never of course, but so much of the movie is about the form itself and we commented so much on the form throughout the film that I think I’ve said everything I could about that format. To use it again would be to use it only for its aesthetics. I don’t think there is another story that I can think of that would necessitate the style as much as The Suicide Kid did. Because we’ve been really hypersensitive to found footage movies in the four or five years that we’ve been working on the film, something that bug us about found footage films is when it is it is used simply as a style and often doesn’t even make sense. So we went to great lengths to make sure that everything in the movie was not only thematically consistent, but also consistent in the sense that very little that happened is not something that Timothy would have either shot himself or edited himself. I am not sure we could do that with a different story so I think I’ve had my last hoorah in found footage.

On your film’s website the movie is described as “a tragic comedy about a generation growing up online” how do you think growing up online has affected storytelling and maybe more specifically filmmaking? One thing that we didn’t feel was being represented in movies was our experience with the internet. It felt like it was being used as window dressing to prove that a movie was hip. But it didn’t feel like Facebook or YouTube was being used in a way that actually spoke to current reality. The Social Network was announced and had its whole run was seen as the definitive “Internet movie” and that we wouldn’t have a place after it. The thing with that film and it sort of felt like most films was that they were made by adults in their 50s about kids our age and that they weren’t on the inside or coming from our perspective. It was more of an observation from the outside. So something that we tried to do with The Suicide Kid was to reflect our reality of how we used these technologies from our own point of view, without treating it as a novelty. In some movies it’s like “look kids, we know what YouTube is and we know what Skype is.” Whereas for us, it’s just a part of our lives in the same way telephones and TVs is a part of life. It’s not something that you remark on, you just use it casually. This was what we tried to reflect in the movie.

To answer the other part of your question, there is an incredible paradoxical narcissism that comes with the technology we have now from Facebook to YouTube and Twitter. But at the same time there is this backlash against narcissism saying, “I don’t want all my information out there, I want to be protected and I don’t want Facebook selling my photos, I want all that to belong to me,” but at the same time “I want you to know everything that I’m doing and I want you to see pictures of what I ate today” so there is a double standard that we were noticing with how social media was being used. To me it always felt like I didn’t mind if somebody was using Facebook in moderation, but I also didn’t understand why those same people would then be upset when Facebook privacy violation scares would go around when people were deliberately uploading their own information and their own face and their own story into the internet, only to then go around and claim that it’s not fair use. So the movie was also an attempt to address that as well.

Was there a single moment or experience when you decided you wanted to be a filmmaker? Yes! I was in 7th grade and I was in a science class in which a project consisted of making a video about energy conservation. It was just sort of a throw away way for the cameras we had kicking around the school to get used. I went full force on this PSA and it was the first time I had held a camera or done anything like that. I was really enamored with iMovie and the fact that I could layer the Harry Potter theme song over anything I wanted. When I went back to my dad and told him how excited I was about doing the project, I wasn’t thinking “oh I want to be a filmmaker now,” I was just thinking “I’m having fun doing this project at school” and my dad picked up on something and realized that it might be in everyone’s interest to foster that burgeoning love of cinema. So, he went and bought me camera and from then on it was the only option.

Well, The Suicide Kid was awesome and thank you so much for talking with me today! We are all really, really thrilled to be a part of the Atlanta Film Festival and you guys have been really great. We’re a very small movie and a very small group, so to get into a festival the size of Atlanta has been a real dream come true.

The Suicide Kid screens on March 16 at 12:00PM at the Plaza Theatre as part of the 2013 Atlanta Film Festival taking place March 15 - March 24. Visit www.atlantafilmfestival.com for information regarding tickets and screening dates.

Get Inducted into The Institute: An Exclusive Interview with Spencer McCall

TheInstitute written by Jasmine Akakpo, ATLFF365 Marketing Associate

In 2008, more than 10,000 San Franciscans physically stepped into “The Games of Nonchalance,” an alternate reality game world that opened the door to an unforgettable urban exploration for its players. The Institute, directed by Spencer McCall, illustrates the original experiences from the perspective of players immersed in an enigmatic world of hidden messages concealed in graffiti, posters, and art to create a social expedition of realistic imagery. The 2013 Slamdance Official Selection, now in documentary competition consideration at the 2013 Atlanta Film Festival, grants the audience indirect access to “play” the game alongside its players and view the real world in an unconventional way. Although the game concluded in 2011, The Institute allows everyone the opportunity to be inducted and never experience life the same. Here at the Atlanta Film Festival, we were granted the opportunity to interview Spencer McCall and get the inside scoop on all things pertaining to the Games of Nonchalance.

I know that you just got back from Slamdance! We are so excited to have the opportunity to interview you! How was Slamdance?

 It was good. It was a lot of fun. It was very exhausting though. I work during the week, a 9-5  job. I took a week off to go up to Park City and I thought it was going to be a vacation. I was up at 6 in the morning and I was getting back to the condo we rented at 11 at night.  It was a full day of just a million things to do, interviews, screenings and talking to people. But it was a lot of fun. We had a blast and so many amazing things came from it. We are really, really excited about Atlanta now!

We have had so many people in the office screen your film. Your film was one of our “gossip” films” in the office.  We are all curious what you consider the genre of your film to be?

Good question. I don’t want to be too defining. I would still call it a documentary. I don’t even want to say that it lies or that it misconstrues the truth, but what it does is it gets you to realize that a movie is a movie. Whether it is a documentary, reality show, or found footage movie; it is not something that you can take at face value. It’s a representation. It’s a subjective art form and you should question what you're watching all the time. So I guess for me, I really wanted people to question what they were watching and have fun with it. I like to think of the movie as a puzzle that you somehow have to solve.

How did you hear about the Jejune Institute?

Yeah. It’s kind of a long story. I graduated from SF [sic] State School and was out trying to find a job and do video work. I ended up working for a company that did dog cloning and did that for a couple of years. They went out of business and I went back to where I started. I didn’t have a job again. No one can afford to clone their dogs (laughing). At the time in San Francisco there were these rumors and whispers  “You have to go to 580 California. I can’t tell you what’s there but you have to go experience it for yourself. It cost nothing and you won’t regret it.” I went and was definitely spooked out. I thought it was a satellite office for Scientology. It was too weird so I dismissed it. A little while later a good friend of mine Gordo (who’s in the movie and leads the street protest) referred me for video work that they needed for an installation project. At that point I got to meet the makers of the Jejune Institute, Jeff and Uriah. It was a really brief meeting but they told me that they would pay me a small amount of money to do the videos pieces but I would get some good exposure. They told me that the videos are going to be very need to know and they weren’t going to tell me how it’s going to be used or what they are for.  I did that for a little bit and they would send me weird archive footage from different contestant sources. Eventually I kept making a few videos for them, some promotion, some for the game itself. When the game ended and the company started to shut down, they gave me a hard drive of 600 hours of player footage that participants shot along with more archive footage. At the time I was still unemployed so I emailed Jeff and asked if I could do something with all this footage now that the game was over. He said, “Knock yourself out.” That’s basically it in a nutshell.

So you started making the film in 2011 after the game was finished?

Yeah. I started in late Fall 2011 and finished Summer 2012

There is so much street art in the film, was the use of art inspired by artist Jeff Hull?

What’s really cool about this project is that it did have some investment, which is still a little bit of a mystery to me. I think some of it came from Jeff, some from other private investors, but the budget was limited. So a lot of the art that was used in the film came from volunteers all throughout the Bay area and around the country. People who started to become familiar with the project or people that were friends of Jeff would contribute to making the maps and other things.

So was Jeff an active role in creating the film?

 Yeah. It is kind of funny because when I started it Jeff was probably my first interview and I didn’t end up seeing him again until the film was done. That was about 9 months later. So it was a while. Luckily, Jeff liked the movie..even though maybe... I could have been a lot worse to him.  Ultimately he really liked the movie and that was really good. That was really lucky for me.

From all the different individuals you interviewed, what percentage of people actually considered the Jejune Institute to be more than just a game?

That’s interesting. The first act, which is the induction center 10,000 people go through, there were subsequent acts later on which led to the final seminar at the end. By the time it got down to the seminar there was only 50-100 people out of that 10,000. I only ended up interviewing people that went through the entire process, with an exception to Organelle, who got hurt, bailed out and became paranoid after the experience. Organelle was the only one that experienced the game that intense that allowed us to interview him. We had to develop a three-month relationship with him to gain his trust to sit down and interview. There was a number of others that considered the game to be reality, probably more than I would know because they were super freaked out and didn’t want to speak. I am aware of three other people. The voicemails of one of the woman is used in the film. She would call from blocked numbers.

Wow! Do you feel like games like the Jejune Institute will start to catch on around the country? Have they?

They have. It is really cool. I wouldn’t say the Jejune Institute was the first necessarily. There has been a whole lot of alternate reality games and urban exploration movements. A lot of them are marketing something, like a movie, a video game or sometimes a product. You’ll see this all the time. What was really fascinating to me was that this wasn’t marketing anything. I think initially they had the idea of somehow finding a way of monetizing it but eventually  they just  gave up because they didn’t have an obligation to do anything with the investment necessarily. So they just wanted to give a gift to the world. I know that I wouldn’t have gone into 580 if I were going to be asked for money. That was the thing that was so spooky about it the whole time. People were wondering,  "oh my god when are they going to send me a bill?" I know of a number of participants that went on to create their own games because they loved their experience so much. In the film there is the Elsewhere Public Works Agency and from that participants created the Elsewhere Philatelic Society, which is stamp collectors. They created this game that is all about postage and sending things in to get maps. It is really, really neat. Also the Jejune Institute spread itself all the way to Fargo, North Dakota. Apparently there is something similar up there that one of the players who was visiting San Francisco created.  I hope more are created because they are pretty cool.  It’s a new kind of entertainment. Entertainment is becoming increasingly more and more consolidated onto your telephone or other little electronic form.  It’s kind of neat to see that there is something else emerging that is more real and visceral. Of course it’s not for everyone though. It’s a very interactive experience. In some ways making a movie about an interactive experience like this is almost like sacrilege. It’s kind of hypocritical. One of the messages of the movie is to go out in the world and explore what's around you and maybe stop being such a spectator. At the end of the day, it [The Institute film] was kind of the only way that it was going to live on and I wanted it to live on.

What are your thoughts on individuals that aren’t receptive to your film? How have Q &A sessions been at other film festivals you have attended?? How was the reception?

They have been awesome! They have been really, really cool! I don’t want to give anything away though.

What are you most excited about being a part of the Atlanta Film Festival?

Atlanta Film Festival is super prestigious. It’s one of the best.  If there is South by Southwest, you guys are basically South by Southeast in many ways! I am looking forward to it.  It’s fun being in the festival circuit. You start to see the same people in multiple festivals. I can’t wait to see your lineup and see if I run into similar filmmakers that I have met on my festival trail.

Describe your film in one sentence?

In 1988 a girl name Evalyn Lucien went missing around the Coit Tower area of San Francisco; 20 years later bizarre flyers and posters started going up all over San Francisco about her disappearance, which led people in the city down a rabbit hole of exploration. 


The Institute  screens at the 2013 Atlanta Film Festival taking place March 15 - March 24 at the Plaza Theatre, 7 Stages Theatre and additional venues.  Come out and join the exploration in search for Evalyn Lucien and experience this unique, alternative game of art. It will be an experience that you will never forget.


CLASS 1:  Creating characters and developing your premiseJune 23, 2012 1st Assignment Due:  July 2nd

CLASS 2:  Creating story beats (mapping out your plot) July 14, 2012 2nd Assignment Due:  July 23rd

CLASS 3:  The ABC’s of Television Dramas August 4, 2012 3rd Assignment Due:  August 15th

CLASS 4:  Finessing your story and writing the script (screenplay formatting) August 25, 2012 4th Assignment Due: September 5th

CLASS 5:  Polishing your draft and working in the industry September 15, 2012

10am - 12:30pm

Location: GSU Campus - ATLFF365 Offices (1 Park Place, SE, 30303)


Individual Sessions

All 5 Sessions General Registration – $275 (15 % Off Full Registration Price) ATLFF365 Member Registration – $225 (30% Off Full Registration Price)


This five-part “Screenwriting 201” series will guide students through the development process of turning their ideas into a solid one-hour television series concept. Storytelling structure will be used not as a template, but as a device to create a beat sheet outline. Students will then focus on the steps needed to finish a rough draft. Writers’ room brainstorming sessions will be conducted and scenes from produced shows will be screened and dissected in order to illustrate what works or doesn’t work on the small screen. Students should come prepared with ideas.

Register for all 5 Classes



CLASS 1: Creating characters and developing your premise June 23, 2012

Writers often have great ideas that prompt creative executives to ask, “But why is this a series?” This first class will examine the character development process and delve into standard structure of the hour-long television format (teaser plus five acts). Find out what elements are needed to transform your idea into a series.

Assignment: Complete character profiles and structural template NOTE: Assignments must be submitted before class to receive feedback in the following session – (Due June 23rd)

Register for Class 1

CLASS 2: Creating story beats (mapping out your story) July 14, 2012

The true task of writing is the story you come up with before going to script. This second class will walk students through the process of plotting story beats for a step-by-step outline. Careful attention will be paid to the series structure developed in the first class.

Assignment: Refine structural template and begin beat sheet (Due July 11th)

Register for Class 2

CLASS 3: The ABC’s of Television August 4, 2012

Hour-long dramas typically have three storylines that are interwoven to create an episode. This third session will be used to examine the A, B and C stories of television and how they are used to heighten drama and conflict. Learn how to plot and interweave multiple storylines for a robust episode.

Assignment: Complete A, B and C stories (Submit by August 1st for feedback in session 4)

Register for Class 3

CLASS 4: Finessing your story and writing the script (screenplay formatting) August 25, 2012

The first part of this fourth session will explore the following elements of 6-act structure: Foreshadowing, set ups and payoffs, dialog, act breaks and the twist. The remaining part of the fourth class will examine the rules and conventions of screenplay formatting. Learn how to format your script in a professional manner.

Assignment: Submit teaser and Act I (Submit by August 18th for feedback in session 5).

Register for Class 4

CLASS 5: Polishing your draft and working in the television industry September 15, 2012

In this fifth and final class, students will learn how to improve and polish their scripts. Remember writing is rewriting. Learn how to tackle your rewrite and assemble submission materials like a logline, synopsis and television treatment. The discussion will end on the television industry and how to improve your chances of breaking into the business.

Register for Class 5

Instructor Bio:

Kevin Collins is an Ivy League graduate with nearly two decades of entertainment industry experience. He has worked for several large studios including Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and most recently DreamWorks. After years of writing as hobby, Kevin took a draft of his screenplay, “Talk Show,” and used it to gain entrance into the Bill Cosby Screenwriting Fellowship Program located on USC’s film school campus. Even though features were his primary focus, in 2000, Kevin joined the production staff of the Showtime series “Soul Food.” In series television, he learned invaluable knowledge about the production process from writing to post-production.  Fascinated by the world of television, Kevin wrote his first television spec of the then popular series, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” which advanced to finalist status in Disney’s Writing Fellowship Program and gained him “consider” status in Fox’s Diversity Writing Program. Two seasons later, Kevin received his first produced credit when he wrote a free-lance episode of Soul Food: the series. The following year, he was hired on as a staff writer in the show’s final season.

Kevin’s passion for storytelling centers on thrillers and sci-fi fantasies in the vein of “Silence of the Lambs,” “Fatal Attraction,” “Blade Runner” and “The Lord of The Rings.” In 2004, he wrote and produced his first short, a thriller entitled, “Headliners” about two competing serial killers. In 2009, he relocated from Los Angeles to Atlanta where he is now a professor of screenwriting at two local art schools, which include the Atlanta campus of The Savannah College of Art and Design and The Creative Circus. Kevin’s most recent work includes a feature-length, fantasy-action screenplay entitled “Mitlandia.” He has lived in Africa and Europe and is fluent in French. His memberships include Cornellians in Entertainment and two independent writers’ groups.


Advanced Screenwriting Mentored Workshop June 16 - August 25, 2012

Course: Advanced Screenwriting Mentored Workshop Schedule: Class meets 5 times between June 16 and August 25, 2012

Price:$230 for the non-members

Discounted rate of $175 for ATLFF365 members

Register Now

Location:  GSU Campus - ATLFF365 Offices (1 Park Place, SE, 30303)

Course Description:The “Advanced Screenwriting Mentored Workshop” with instructor Kathy Cabrera is designed for students who have a screenplay that is ready to be fully developed and written. Students will receive mentored guidance in a collaborative small group setting to help develop their initial story into a detailed outline, and to start writing their screenplay pages. The class will meet five times between mid-June and late August 2012.

The course is best suited for students who are already up to speed on the elementary basics of writing screenplay (as covered in the February-May 2012, 4-course series “Screenwriting 101”). Students with knowledge of the screenwriting basics who are new to taking classes with the Atlanta Film Festival 365 are welcome to join (prior classes, like Screenwriting 101, are not required pre-requisites).

Students can work at their own pace but will have the opportunity each class to share their story outlines and excerpts of the scripts they develop in the course for direct feedback from the instructor and fellow students. Students will be expected to also provide collaborative feedback on each other’s work, and can also submit the work they develop between classes via email (and an online Google Group) to the instructor and each other for feedback as well. While some students at the earliest stages of a project may use this course as an opportunity to fully develop their story into a detailed outline and complete the first 30 pages of a script, students who are further along in their projects can also treat each class meeting as a deadline and expect to finish a full draft of their script for review by the instructor. The dates of each class follow:

  • Class 1: Sat, June 16, 2012
  • Class 2: Sat, June 30, 2012
  • Class 3: Sat, July 21, 2012
  • Class 4: Sat, Aug 11, 2012
  • Class 5: Sat, August 25, 2012

The class will meet from 10AM to 12:30PM on each of the above dates. If more than 10 students join the class, a second afternoon session will be offered to accommodate additional attendees.

Students enrolled in this course who finish a screenplay they started in the class will have until September 20, 2012 to submit it for one review only by the instructor for formatting and high-level story notes. The Atlanta Film Festival 365 will also waive the $40 entry fee for students who wish to submit a script developed in this course into the 2013 screenwriting competition (entry deadline November 1, 2012).

Register Now

Instructor Bio:

Kathy Cabrera is a graduate of the UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television’s MFA in Screenwriting program. In addition to penning six feature-length screenplays and a drama television pilot, Cabrera has also written and produced several short films. Cabrera has one screenplay optioned and was a finalist for the 2007 NAACP & NBC Screenwriting Fellowship and awarded the 2008 Young and the Restless Fellowship in Television.

A short film she co-wrote with UCLA MFA director Walter Richardson and produced entitled Forgive Us Our Transgressions was awarded the Silver World Medal at the 2010 New York Festivals International Television & Film Awards. The short film, a thesis project for Richardson and Cabrera as part of the UCLA MFA program, was also sponsored by Panavision, Kodak and Technicolor and received generous financial support from the Directors’ Guild of America (DGA) when it was awarded the distinguished Frankenheimer Fellowship. Cabrera and Richardson are currently partnering on a new documentary featuring retired world champion boxer Terry Norris and his mission to protect the long-term health and lives of boxers. Cabrera also produced Atlanta writer-director Jenna Milly’s debut short film, A Peacock- Feathered Blue, which screened first at the Atlanta Film Festival in 2009 and went on to become a featured selection at Austin Film Festival, The Baltimore Women’s Film Festival, London Short Film Festival, LA Shorts Fest, DC Shorts Fest and Branchage International Film Festival in England. Kathy also penned the script for the short film Stew, starring Lourdes Benedicto of the ABC drama V.

In addition to filmmaking and currently working as a freelance writer-producer, Cabrera also serves as the Director of New Media for Carabiner Communications, where she leads the agency’s social media and video initiative to help businesses create a narrative in their messaging to engage their audiences and to build and integrate social media tools and compelling content into their communications campaigns. Cabrera is the media manager for celebrated storytelling guru, movie industry expert, and longtime chairman of UCLA’s legendary graduate program in screenwriting, Richard Walter; as well as Peter Desberg, Professor, California State University Dominguez Hills and Jeffrey Davis, Screenwriting Department Chair and associate professor of film and TV writing at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, co-authors of SHOW ME THE FUNNY!: At the Writers’ Table with Hollywood’s Top Comedy Writers.

Cabrera earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communication studies from Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. She began her own journey in learning the craft of screenwriting by attending classes at the Atlanta Film Festival (then called IMAGE Film & Video Center).