By Hala Moddelmog, President and CEO, Metro Atlanta Chamber
Atlanta made another strong showing at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. In ChooseATL’s third year of taking over the city, we shared the worldwide launch of THEA, hosted extraordinary experiences at the ChooseATL House, and held the largest job booth at the festival, visited by thousands of people interested in hearing ATL’s story.
At the annual convening of tech innovation, film and music, I was thrilled to witness firsthand the worldwide launch of THEA, a first-of-its-kind video streaming network built to showcase Atlanta through its brands and creators to attract next-gen talent. Specifically, three pilots on THEA premiered at the festival and prove to be on everyone’s watch-list.
This dark comedy series focuses on two musicians who have parted ways and are reunited seven years later, only to realize the complications of reuniting. It takes inspiration from series like “Empire” and “Nashville” that combine quality storytelling with original music to give fans an experience they can both enjoy listening to and watching. Marshall Seese Jr. and Eliot Bronson created “Verses” to explore their passions: filmmaking and music. You can view it here.
“Take 2” is a reality show focused on telling the stories of women of color pursuing careers as entrepreneurs, content creators and changemakers in the realm of new media, while challenging assumptions about how reality TV portrays its subjects. Diamonde Williamson is the founder and creator of Blossom, a streaming platform and media company focused on women of color. With “Take 2,” she pulls back the curtain on the friendships, personalities and challenges of running a new media company. You can view it here.
“Sheep” is another dark comedy written and directed by local Atlantans that demonstrates the power of our local filmmaking community coming together for a project they are truly passionate about. The pilot was a community effort, pulling resources from reimagine:ATL, Third Rail Studios, Moonshine Post Production Studio and others. You can watch the teaser here.
I was glad to see a strong representation of Atlanta’s independent film industry front and center at the festival. While tentpole Marvel movies are filmed in metro Atlanta, we also have independent films making their debuts in the region. One of my favorites is “The Mascot.”
Currently filming in Atlanta, “The Mascot” is a coming‐of‐age tale about finding your identity. Based on the original Hairy Dawg Matthew Perkins, The Mascot is a redemption story. University of Georgia Ex-quarterback Nick Shepherd puts on the mascot suit and becomes the most famous person no one has ever known. Ultimately, Nick learns that sometimes you have to wear a mask to figure out who you truly are.
Also noteworthy – at SXSW, THEA partnered with Scriptd, a service that connects talented writers with fans and the film industry to help find, promote and actualize film and TV’s next big scripts. The partnership focused on a competition for Atlanta-based screenwriters to post their scripts for pilots and short films, culminating in a live table read of the script at SXSW. The winning script was “Alive” by Jordi Castells, a story that blends dramatic tension with the brave new world of virtual reality. The table read featured talented individuals bringing the script to life, such as Casey Cott of the CW’s “Riverdale,” Kelly Lamor Wilson from the new Atlanta-produced film “Summer ’03” and more.
Atlanta’s film industry is thriving, and THEA gives everyone the opportunity to experience our culture through an app in the palm of their hands. In 2017, more than 70 film and TV projects were shot in and around Atlanta, and the state is number one in the world for highest-performing U.S. feature films. These developments and growth deserve a nurturing environment, both for established film studios and up-and-coming creative talent. With THEA and other experiences hosted by ChooseATL at SXSW, we are working to build a foundation for the continued success of the industry.