Nov. 30—"Dalton: A Story of Survival," a documentary tracing the city's history of resilience, gained acceptance into three film festivals and won an award for best long documentary at the American Golden Picture International Film Festival in Jacksonville, Florida.
"We thought (our documentary) was good enough to" aim higher than film festivals restricted solely to student work, so STEP (student, team, entertainment, production) Studio applied to more prestigious festivals, and "getting into (three) festivals was a victory for us," said Jacob Poag, director of STEP Studio, which is comprised of area high school and college students interested in film work.
With Atlanta and Georgia becoming prime territory for filmmaking in recent years, acceptance into the Cobb International Film Festival was "very big and special," Virginia's Global Film and Music Festival USA was another dose of affirmation, and winning an award in Jacksonville was unexpected but "amazing."
Poag, a junior at Christian Heritage School, was also able to speak about the film in Atlanta at the Cobb International Film Festival, and "we got a lot of great feedback from people" from all around the country at that event, he said. It was "a cool moment."
STEP screened the film at an October meeting of the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society, where "they loved it," and Poag plans to do more screenings next year, he said. A premiere for those associated with the project is planned for February, and "we want to do a public screening, too," but dates and locations have yet to be determined.
Completing the film took nearly two years, including 250 hours of editing, so head editor Noah Crump deserves much praise, said Poag.
"This film wouldn't have happened without him."
Crump has long been interested in editing, and he works for the North Georgia Radio Group, but he'd yet to do a project of the scale of this documentary, he said. Fortunately, "I was with them for almost all of the filming, so I could see the footage we'd collected."
Several test screenings also were beneficial for the finished product, Crump added.
"It was good to see."
Poag concurred, noting that "we had a pretty closed circle of three to four people for editing, so" allowing more individuals to view rough cuts and offer suggestions "opened up more (possibilities) for us."
For Poag, "A Story of Survival" is a fitting title because Daltonians are "survivalists who get knocked down but always get back up," he said. "I'm not from here," but since he moved to the area a few years ago, "I've learned how extraordinary (this community) is."
Shortly after they'd set the title, local attorney Lane Haley (one of the dozen interviewed for the documentary who provided perspective on Dalton and its history) also zeroed in on the impressive survivor instincts of Daltonians, Crump said.
"It was the most beautiful coincidence."
A similar fortitude among members of the studio allowed this film to flourish, Poag said.
"It would have been easy for us to quit, but we didn't, and I've never seen something like this happen with" a crew of strictly students.
Poag and his fellow STEP mates haven't set a follow-up project, as they're focusing more on helping former members of the studio who have gone to colleges all over the country get their films off the ground.
"For a lot of them, film was a hobby" when they started working for the studio, but "now they're majoring in film," he said. STEP will aid other student filmmakers, too, if they have worthwhile ideas, and act as producers for those projects, so anyone interested can contact the studio at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The studio is also accepting new staff members, as the current crop departs Dalton for college elsewhere, and anyone interested in joining the operation can email the studio at the email address, he said.
"We're looking for new people at the Dalton branch to replace" those who leave.
Working with the studio has provided Crump invaluable experience, he said.
"Working around issues, I've learned so much about the process" of editing and filmmaking.