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Macon Film Festival to welcome college students with free entry and advanced film technology

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The Macon Film Festival will return downtown this week for its 13th year, this time with Mercer University as its presenting sponsor. The festival features live screenings of independent films, question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers, after parties and celebrity guests.

Students who present a college ID at the festival headquarters will receive a day pass for free.

Macon Film Festival President Julie Wilkerson said that involving college students in the festival is one if the primary goals of the volunteer-run organization.

“We want to develop a relationship with all our college students,” she said.

As Georgia grows as a space for film production, Wilkerson said she hopes local students can learn about opportunities for careers in film and experience the way technology has begun to revolutionize movies.

For example, she said, the festival has been expanding into virtual reality (VR) and Fulldome films, which are usually used for educational purposes, mainly in science and technology. Now, the Macon Film Festival is challenging these uses and highlighting VR’s ability to serve as an art form.

“We are the first mainstream festival to include Fulldome, and we have both documentary and experimental and narrative films,” Wilkerson said. “They can’t do that at Sundance, or South by Southwest, because there’s not a planetarium.”

Fulldome refers to 360-degree real-time projection in covered dome spaces so viewers are fully physically immersed in the film experience.

Wilkerson said industry professionals are coming from all over the world to experience Fulldome film.

“It’s another way that science, that technology and art have come together to create this immersive film experience. And I really think that’s where a lot of art is going, into that interactive, immersive place,” she said.

Attendees can also participate in workshops on the production of VR and Fulldome films. All festival events will take place in Macon’s historic theatres, venues and museums.

Wilkerson said the festival has come a long way since its inception 13 years ago.

At first, the Macon Film Festival was a project of the Cox Capitol Theatre and inhabited just one venue.

“Really, it was a vision to help downtown back in the day when downtown needed help,” she said. “And to also introduce independent film, which really otherwise wasn’t shown.”

Highlighting independent film was important to festival leaders because the art form is often used to shed light on important personal and regional issues or histories, she said, pointing to a new film this year about southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, who have close ties to middle Georgia and to Macon’s Capricorn Studios.

In 2009, when Georgia was just starting to vie for filmmakers to shoot in the state with tax-credit initiatives, the city of Macon established the Macon Film Commission under the Macon Film Festival.

Wilkerson said members wanted the festival to contribute to that effort by inviting industry professionals to attend and see what resources and filmmakers middle Georgia had to offer, which also supports emerging filmmakers and cultivates community interest in film.

“Oftentimes, the filmmaker’s there, so after the screening there’s a question and answer,” Wilkerson said. “You ever been to a movie and you didn’t really have closure at the end? Well, if the filmmaker were there, you could go ‘hey, why did that happen like that?’”

Giving filmmakers a space to receive feedback and connect with their audience helps launch them into later success. Wilkerson said that one filmmaker who presented his work at the festival early on helped produce “The Help” just two years down the line.

She said that the festival has benefited from new technology and increased interest in Georgia as a place to shoot major productions such as “Baby Driver” and “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

“Thirteen years later, we now have five venues to screen films, plus we run a headquarters and a media room, and we have these after-parties,” she said. “It’s amazing how much it has grown.”

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Macon Film Festival to welcome college students with free entry and advanced film technology