Sep. 10—QUITMAN — The film industry already had Georgia on its mind, and now South Georgia is officially ready for its close-up.
The South Georgia Studios & Film Academy and PhilanthoFilms' 2022 film camp premiered their summer short film, "The Buick Special," at the Brooks County High School Performing Arts Center this week, with the event featuring cameos from Kelsey Moore, Georgia Screen Entertainment Coalition executive director, and District 175 state Rep. John LaHood.
Directed by Valdosta State University alum Levi Johnson and starring Marcus McGhee, a VSU Theatre & Dance senior, "The Buick Special" tells the story of Jake Williams (McGhee), a 17-year-old high school student assigned to write a story about one of the seniors at the local retirement home.
While his assigned senior, Mr. G (Steve McCurdy), initially acts antagonistic toward him, the two eventually develop a bond over personal losses and their shared love of the titular 1958 Buick Special.
SGSFA and PhilanthoFilms co-founders Honnie Korngold and Cathy Parker thanked the productions collaborators, the Boys and Girls Club, Brooks County School System, Wiregrass Georgia Technical College and South Georgia Pecan, as well as the student talent and film crew for coming together to work on the project.
"I'm not sure if many of you know how much work goes into making a film. It is monumental. A typical film runs 90 minutes; this is 30 minutes, so they made a third of a full feature film in just 18 days, which is a really big deal," Korngold said.
"I think there would be no film camp without the cornerstone for these young people, Mr. Levi Johnson. Levi is a graduate of Valdosta State's media program. Levi said when he graduated from the program: 'My future is in film and I have two choices: I could move to Los Angeles or I could go to Atlanta. I don't want to do either. I want to do film in my own community.'"
Korngold added the premiere wasn't only to celebrate the film's completion but to celebrate the students for being the "first group of young people" to usher in film in the Brooks and Lowndes County region.
Parker said what they learned in the summer program opened up several opportunities for them, such as working on Workhorse Cinema Production Company's Lifetime film, "The Holiday Dating Guide," that has been filming in neighboring Tifton.
Representatives said the production company was so pleased with the work of students Isaiah Gentry and Elena Masler, they have hired them back for paid work on their next film.
"That's what it's really all about. It's about growing the workforce here in South Georgia," Parker said.
After Korngold and Parker's introductions, Moore connected to the event via a video call from Atlanta to praise the efforts of the Brooks and Lowndes County students for their contributions to South Georgia's economy and small businesses.
"This is a snapshot for the future of the film industry in our state. Content creation, production, post-production: all in Georgia, all by our talented and hard-working workforce. Congratulations too, to the people in this room for seeing opportunities for economic impact the film could bring to this region," she said.
After Moore, LaHood showed his support by delivering a personal message from Gov. Brian Kemp congratulating the SGSFA and PhilanthoFilms premiere of "The Buick Special."
"Film provides production jobs that range across a variety of skills from accounting to carpentry to engineering and graphic design. This industry also supports existing jobs in communities, as productions are using local vendors, eating at Georgia restaurants, and staying in our hotels. We're proud to be training more Georgians in film and television production, keeping their talents in our state," Kemp said in his statement.
"With the development of South Georgia Studios, the partnership with the Georgia Film Academy, and the construction of the first film backlot in the region, South Georgia is further confirming the incredible growth of the film industry in the state and that Georgia's film industry can thrive not just in the metro areas but rural areas as well. I understand you have a new slogan now ... South Georgia — home of peaches, pecans and production."