Justin Wheelon knows the difference a year can make.
“Last year, we had to beg everyone to send us their film,” said Wheelon, founder and president of the Southern City Film Festival, which will be Nov. 2-5. “This year, we had triple, almost quadruple, the entries.”
Held in Aiken, the festival was in its inaugural year last year with no history and nothing to show potential entrants, but he said it was a success nonetheless with the film festival website, FilmFreeway, calling Southern City one of its top 100 festivals.
“It was a success because it was a quality festival,” he said.
There are almost twice as many films being shown. There were 40 in the first year with 72 in several categories slated to be presented over the weekend, many of them being shown twice.
Films will be presented at the AECOM Center for the Performing Arts, Aiken Center for the Arts, Newberry Hall, the Center for African-American History, Arts and Culture and at USC Aiken.
The festival will open at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, at Newberry Hall with an opening party and the presentation of The Storyteller, a film about a girl who “strays into a nursing home with her favorite book,” according to the film festival website. This film will also be shown at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, at Aiken Center for the Arts.
Nov. 4’s main event at the AECOM Center will be the Homegrown Films Session from 7-9 p.m. featuring films created by local filmmakers.
Returning this year will be film critic Jeffrey Lyons, who will lead a discussion on auditioning for television roles at noon, Sunday, Nov. 5, at the African-American cultural center.
The event will end with an awards program and the closing night film of Dog Years at 6:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, at the AECOM Center.
Ticket information is available at the website, southerncity.org.
The event is a fundraiser for the Southern City Institute, which has a goal of training children and adults for careers in film.
“Atlanta is Hollywood,” said Wheelon. “There are more productions going on in Atlanta than Hollywood.”
Currently, films such as Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity Wars, Ant-Man 2 and Kevin Hart’s Night School are being filmed in Atlanta, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
“Atlanta’s become so saturated; they are moving further out,” said Wheelon.
Spots like Augusta are attractive, and having trained individuals in the area to work behind the scenes on films is important, he said. A film festival in Aiken also gives the area exposure for filmmakers seeking locations, he said.