Life Of An Atlanta Film Festival Screener

“Where in the hell have you been, Chuck?” I get this all the time recently. People were pretty worried when they didn’t hear from me for a while. Naturally, I assume the readers of Zombie Cat experienced the same frustration and terror.

Well, for your information, I’ve been screening films for the Atlanta Film Festival! You’re jealous, I know. But I wanted to talk a little about it. I can’t name specific films or names or anything, as the screening process is still going on.

However, I did want to talk a little about WHY I like screening films so much for the festival. Hopefully it will inspire you to do screenings for yourself in the future.

That’s right! They don’t just need professional auteurs like me. Everybody out there can apply for the job. The idea is they want to get a wide variety of folks to watch films so they get a wide variety of opinions. This way they might just find that magic combination of movies that gets butts in seats.

But it’s a lot of work. You have to watch a LOT of films. The minimum this year was 30 movies for my category, which was documentary features. Towards the end I started running out of features and watched some shorts, but not many. That means I put in over…calculating…TEN MILLION HOURS of movie watching.

It was made worse by my personal “do not cut off” rule. No matter how bad, I had to finish it. This was on top of watching other films, working 40+, making “Frowning,” and doing the whole “husband and dad” bullshit. Yikes!

So why should you do it next year? Is there any reward whatsoever? For a film buff, I definitely say “Yes” to my question I just listed.

Back in 2009, I tried out the screening thing for the first time. I watched probably around 50 films that year – a good mix of narrative features and shorts, and doc features and shorts. Out of those, I saw one movie I screened on the bill for the festival. ONE. It’s not that I saw nothing but garbage, either; there was a lot of good stuff I watched.

Why is this a good thing? Despite all the broken hearts involved with rejecting films, I saw many movies that no one else will probably see. Some were a good thing, like a three hour documentary on the history of the house in the “American Gothic” painting. Others were not a good thing, like “Zombie Girl,” a documentary about a 12 year old girl making her first full length film. That movie actually went on to get some notice at Slamdance and Comic Con, luckily.

Also, it’s really interesting for any filmmakers to see just how many films are out there. We often hear how swamped the field is. If you want to get an idea, try screening sometime. You’ll be amazed, not just at the sheer amount of movies, but just how BAD a lot of them are. These people actually thought this movie was worth sending out. Not just for people to see, but to a damn film festival!

On the other hand, you’ll occasionally run across true gems. I can attest, I have seen some amazing films this year during screening. Some of the documentaries I watched I was skeptical they were truly docs, as they almost seemed perfectly scripted. And even if only one (maybe two this year!) of these make it in, I’ll feel like I did my job.

If you want to make movies or just simply love to watch them, you really should try it out next year. Besides, they don’t let you do it two years back to back, so SOMEBODY has to try and fill my shoes!

Oh and make sure to check out the Atlanta Film Festival this spring!