The Color Wheel
I’ve been covering film in Chattanooga for more than two years. When I started, there wasn’t much to report. Occasionally, there would be an independent film series or a student film festival, but most weeks were spent writing about whatever schlock Hollywood forced on its captive audience of teenagers and casual viewers. But now, there seems to be a film story everywhere I look. It’s great from a writing standpoint because I don’t have to waste my time seeing the newest Adam Sandler film. I don’t need 800 words to tell you a movie sucks, but my editors tend to frown on two word reviews. I can choose the movies I want to see and cover film events and programs at the same time. It’s an exciting time to be a film enthusiast in Chattanooga.
This week, I reached out to several of my contacts to update me about what’s happening in film right now and what’s coming up. The response was so overwhelming I can’t include everything, so I’ll to try to hit the highlights.
Chattanooga State Professional Film and Television Program
I’ve covered this program before in The Pulse. It is the only film program in the area that focuses on hands-on training for students interested in working in film. The South is becoming a more viable option for Hollywood studios and, as a result, they need professionals to work on the technical aspects of film. If we can train a base of skilled light designers, electricians, makeup artists and other behind-the-scenes pros, Chattanooga becomes more attractive to these studios, bringing jobs to the area and a boost to the local economy. It is a very cool program, one that has real-world applications for its students. This summer, the students have been working on a feature film funded by a Kickstarter campaign. According to Chris Willis, the film is called “Coal River Crossing” and follows James, a late twenties man dealing with his past and present circumstances. The film is nearly 80 percent completed and will be submitted to the South by Southwest Film Festival. More information about the project can be found at coalrivercrossing.com.
Chattamovies is a newer group that encourages networking between local filmmakers. Founder Jimmy Lee describes Chattamovies as “a group of movie makers that have our own individual projects going on [that] work as a group, too. The two main goals of the group are for people to network and find other people to help them make something.”
The group meets monthly, hoping to enrich and encourage a strong community of filmmakers. One of the cooler parts of Chattamovies is their Earluminator Open Screen nights, which take place in both Chattanooga and Atlanta. These screen nights are essentially open mic nights for filmmakers. This gives artists an opportunity to have their work screened and critiqued by other filmmakers, which is an invaluable resource for any artist. The next Open Screen Night is at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 22, at the Heritage House in East Brainerd. For more information on Chattamovies, check out chattamovies.com.
Heritage House Arts and Civic Center
Chattanooga Film Society member and Heritage House arts assistant Kris Jones most recently worked for five weeks on the feature film “42: The Jackie Robinson Story.” While I spent a day wandering around the set, not talking and pretending to eat hot dogs, Jones served as a locations assistant, a greenskeeper, a set painter and an intern coordinator. As the arts assistant at the Heritage House, Jones has assisted with the planning of their first movie series, which focuses on the “film noir” genre. The first screening is a free showing of Edgar G. UImer’s “Detour.”
“The show will be preceded by vintage news reels and cartoons of the era,” Jones says. “Everyone is encouraged to wear their best ‘noir attire’.”
The film is the only “B-picture” to ever be listed on the National Film Registry. For more information, visit the Heritage House page on Facebook.
Mise En Scenesters
Mise En Scenesters is my personal favorite Chattanooga film group. Their screenings are frequently quirky and strange, always containing films Chattanooga never gets to see, and the entire event is more entertaining than a typical night at the movies by a factor of 50. Founder Chris Dortch is now a board member and program director for the Chattanooga Film Society and has been busy creating unique film experiences for Chattanooga.
“We’ve made partnerships with almost every indie film distributor in America now, so we have some amazing films coming up in the weeks that follow,” Dortch says. “We’ve also started getting some national attention and have attracted a few sponsors so we will soon be launching mesfilmclub.com, a place for cool film journalism, podcasts, MES short films and all manner of wacky fun.”
Dortch says the group is also actively raising funds to open its own arthouse/theater/pub in Chattanooga.
MES events happen every month. Coming up on Saturday, Aug. 25, is a screening of “The Color Wheel.” Dortch describes the film as “an MES exclusive screening of one of the best undistributed indie films in America. This film cannot be rented, seen on Netflix or even found illegally on the Web. MES is one of the only places you can see it in Tennessee and all proceeds of our event go directly to the filmmaker himself.” For more information about MES, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/MESFilmClub.
This is just a small taste of what’s happening in the Chattanooga film scene. I don’t have enough space to include everything. For instance, I’d like to tell you about Daniel Griffith of Ballyhoo Productions, who had a feature-length documentary on the recent Blue Ray and DVD release of the 1971 horror film “Twins of Evil.” But I’m running out of room. What I can say is that it is that the improvements to the film industry in Chattanooga have been staggering over the last couple of years, and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon. Help keep it going. Support local film.