Recently, based on a column I had written regarding music festivals, I was asked about ideas I might have for staging similar events here.
As ideas were bounced back and forth, it occurred to me that while the music festival landscape is becoming increasingly crowded – there are several in Georgia where as a few short years ago there were none – there might be an untapped market for a festival of a very different sort; a festival that would not require building out any sort of infrastructure, temporary or otherwise.
There is a space, I believe, for a large-scale destination event that would require much less investment than a live music festival. Yes, there might be some technical upgrades needed here and there and some significant hours spent ensuring scheduling, booking and other devils-in-the-details are hammered out.
Other than that, all we would need is popcorn.
Augusta is, quite honestly, perfectly situated for a film festival. The hardest obstacle to overcome for most communities is a lack of acceptable venues.
With a little imagination, that shouldn’t be an issue at all. Even if we take the Regal and Georgia Theater Company screens out of the mix, it is quite possible to screen films at the Imperial Theatre, Le Chat Noir, the Miller Theater post-restoration, the Maxwell Theatre at Georgia Regents University and Sacred Heart Cultural Center.
Outdoor screens could be set up at Augusta Common, the old railroad depot on Reynolds Street and at the Old Academy of Richmond County building on Telfair. That’s a lot of screens and a lot of movies.
Add in some premieres and appearances and suddenly there is a strong foundation for an event that not only attracts and entertains people from the immediate area, but also has the potential to attract visitors to the Augusta area.
Of course, this is not a completely original idea. The Poison Peach Film Festival – held each January – has operated, on a smaller, single-screen basis, for some time. What I’m suggesting is something grander. It might, in fact, be an idea to bring Poison Peach’s mostly local programming into this theoretical fest. It would be interesting to have a Poison Peach screen.
The immediate benefit, of course, would be a little economic bump while this theoretical film festival was active. That said, I believe it might also offer the opportunity for a secondary – and perhaps even greater – source of income locally.
It’s no secret that Hollywood has become a pretty close neighbor. More and more major film and television productions have migrated from established bases of operations in favor of locations and facilities in Georgia – Atlanta in particular.
Not only have the movies moved here, but so have the studios, with major construction projects either underway or completed. Pinewood Studios, the British filmmaking facility best known as the home to James Bond, Alien and the Star Wars series, recently opened a satellite studio – its first – near Atlanta. That said, Augusta has seen very little of the moviemaking, or money.
I know local entrepreneur and activist Brad Owens has recently taken interest in attracting productions to the area and believes – rightfully so – that establishing specific production services will be an important calling card.
I believe those efforts must be augmented by finding ways to bring key players to town so they might see what, in terms of locations, we have to offer.
Right now, I believe the best way to do that is invite them to the movies.