ATC Short Docs Highlights Southern Filmmakers

After warming up with three short-doc screening events at Avondale Towne Cinema, we're holding our first "short" short doc festival on February 5th. Awards go to the top three films and the audience will choose a favorite as well.

ATC Film Festival Poster - Feb18 - v.4.jpg

Please drop by if you're in the area. Doors open at 6pm. Screening & Awards from 7:00-9:00 pm. 

FREE Admission. Cash bar. Great restaurants nearby. (What more could you want?)

Top Three (3) films receive judges’ awards. The audience will choose an Audience Favorite.

In Alphabetical Order:

“Garage,” Steve Summers (A father’s garage, Anywhere, U.S.)

—the mysteries of a father’s garage and workspace, candy corn and all

“Ghosts in the Road,” Jason Hales (Atlanta)

—possible paranormal activity near Arabia Mountain

“House of Saints,” Gerry Melendez (Columbia, S.C.)

—reflections of an excon living out his days at his historic family home in Columbia, SC

“Long Haul Truckers,” Greg Miller (Atlanta)

—hail to those men and women driving the big rigs

“Matthew’s Gift,” Jon Watts (Atlanta)

—a photographer gives a precious gift to a family

“A Name that I Admire,” Sam Smartt (West Virginia)

—a hard-working farmer faces a political dilemma

“What So Proudly We Hailed,” Duane Saunders Jr.

—students from Morgan State University delve into the third verse of the “Star Spangled Banner”

Special thanks to Tony Longval at Avondale Towne Cinema for hosting the festival!

Wrapping up "See Change" Video Series

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper approached us in fall 2016 to produce a series of short videos that would show people who live in the watershed—the river drains an area of 8,770 square miles—talking about the weather-related changes they've seen.

So we identified a few key areas and occupations up and down the river: the headwaters (fishermen, paddlers), Lake Lanier (boaters), Atlanta (gardeners), South Georgia (agriculture), and Apalachicola River or Bay (wildlife).

We appreciate everyone who spent time with us, sharing their observations. Yes, it's important that scientists and public policy people talk to each other about a warming planet, but until everyone starts having these conversations -- and seeing how we're all connected -- it's hard to see anything changing.

You can find the individual videos here:

For the CRK Climate Change Conference (Sept. 27-28) and Patron Dinner, we produced a five-minute video (below) that brings together all the interviews (and nice drone footage by Henry Jacobs) to give people a birds-eye view of the river.

The Chattahoochee River drains an immense area of 8,770 square miles — and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is talking to people about the changes they've seen in the watershed from the headwaters to the bay. (photo by Joe Boris Photography,

Our New Startup... The Avondale Towne Cinema Short Docs Festivals

With the collaboration of my younger son Henry Jacobs and my friend (and commercial photographer) Joe Boris, we've started organizing bi-monthly film screenings at a 1920s movie theater in Avondale Estates, Ga. We don't have a mission statement (thank God),* but we are screening short documentaries around different themes (e.g., water, work, politics, adoption), and we're organizing a film festival in February 2018 that will hand out awards and those little laurels you see on award-winning films.

This really feels like a golden age of documentaries in terms of getting the right equipment into the right hands of people who want to tell a good story. So we happy to help get the word out.

*Okay, if we had a mission, it might be to entertain, enlighten and energize our community with soulful films about the South.

Hambidge Documentary Wins Best Documentary Award at Festival

Very gratifying to win the Best Documentary Award at the spring 2017 Southern Shorts Award Film Festival in Roswell, Ga. The seasonal festival is on Film Freeway's top 100 list of national/international festivals and the unique thing about this festival is the scoring system... a 100 point system which increases the objectivity tremendously. Three judges per every film AND you get a written critique from each judge. And the award ceremony was a lot of fun for everyone.

Back to Basics (for Academic Science Funding)

My article on the importance of funding for basic science appeared in the spring 2017 issue of Emory Magazine (link here). Maybe every politician who denies substantial AND consistent funding for basic science research should be denied advanced medical treatment that grows out of basic science research. Just an idea.

Conversation with Camille Billops and James Hatch

The exhibition is coming down, but the memories stay fresh. So does the interview.

In their SoHo loft, filmmaker/artist Camille Billops and theater scholar James Hatch talk with Randall Burkett and Pellom McDaniels, curators at Emory University's Rose Library (March 28, 2015). This edited interview was featured in the exhibition "Still Raising Hell: The Art, Activism, and Archives of Camille Billops and James V. Hatch" (fall 2016 - spring 2017) at the Schatten Gallery, Emory Library.

Something about Maggie

Filming Maggie Koerner in action at Eddie's Attic last month was a great chance to see Maggie do her thing... which I find incredible... and work with my son, Henry Jacobs, who also filmed  (using our new Panasonic GH5's) and edited.

"See Change" Project for Chattahoochee Riverkeeper

It's a simple premise. Talk to people up and down the length of the Chattahoochee River watershed about the changes they're seeing in the environment. Hotter summer? Harder rains? More droughts? Leave politics out of it (for the moment). Just have a conversation about what seems to be changing. Then maybe we can sit down and figure out ways to help the situation.

Chattahoochee Riverkeeper is sponsoring this project and the short documentary that will follow. See more information here.

Building a Garden Extraordinaire

For over 40 years, Dr. Alan Solomon, researcher and oncologist, has been moving rocks, building stone walls, planting conifers, installing sculptures and water features on his land overlooking the Tennessee River in Knoxville. We spent a weekend with him, walking through his 10+-acre garden, which rivals any botanical garden anywhere, learning more about him and his work. There's something very fitting that a healer like Dr. Solomon should create a garden that has natural healing powers of its own.

We're already looking forward to visits in the spring and autumn to capture more views of the garden.

Affordable Video

For the last couple of years, Campbell Gitomer, a recent Emory graduate in film studies, and I have been providing low-cost video services to the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory. JWJI offers a well-attended weekly lecture series and wants to reach a broader online audience but couldn't afford to pay the usual fees ($300-$400) for recording, minimal editing and export to a Youtube-friendly file.

You'll find their YT playlist at

If there are other centers, arts groups or nonprofits out there who would like occasional help with talks, please let us know and we'll try to help out.

Jontavious and Muddy and Me

A few days ago I uploaded this little interview clip to Facebook... and after two days it had received over 7,000 views and was shared on the official Muddy Waters Facebook page.

Interestingly enough, the first time I heard Jontavious Willis play in spring 2016, he reminded me of Muddy Waters. Not exactly the way he phrased his songs, but the emotion behind the songs. His charisma. Humanity. Soul. He was playing at a little street festival in LaGrange, Ga. My son and his friends were playing in another group right before him. Someone told us we should stick around for the blues player. That he had played a cigar box instrument at a little New Orleans festival a few months earlier. That Taj Mahal had invited onstage in Atlanta a few months before that and was telling everyone he was the real deal (ie, country blues musician). 

After Jontavious played, he carried his guitar over to my son's house, a few blocks away, while talking about the history of the blues like a grad student in musicology.  Then he jammed on the front porch for the next couple of hours with my son and friends. By the way, he knows a bunch of bawdy blues songs and knows how to make them work.

At some point I told him my Muddy Waters story. It was a Sunday afternoon. April 9, 1978. I was working part-time at the Coop record store in Tallahassee, across the street from Florida State University. Muddy Waters was giving a concert on campus that I planned to go to. But then my coworker said he'd heard from a record distributor that Muddy would try to drop by the store after the show. So I stayed. Missed the show. Watched the door. A hard rain fell. One of those Florida afternoon showers. No Muddy. And that was that. Maybe it's good sometimes not to meet your heroes. 

But as I told Jontavious on that spring day about 38 years later, I was feeling Muddy through him. And I thanked him for that.

The Shiloh-Rosenwald School in Notasulga, Alabama

The Shiloh-Rosenwald School sits at the crossroads of talking about the history of civil rights in the South, and it's hoped that future generations of students and visitors will drop by this living museum.

The school was built in the 1920s, perhaps on the site of the original school building that was one of the first Rosenwald Schools (numbering 5,000) built as a result of a partnership between Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington.

The landowning farmers (former slaves and children of slaves) helped build the school and pay for its operations. Students thrived here under wonderful teachers until they were able to attend integrated schools in the 1960s.

Unfortunately, the school and community also witnessed a tragic event in U.S. history -- the Syphilis Experiment conducted by the government that allowed men and their families in the community to suffer from the disease so that doctors could study its progress.

It wasn't until former Shiloh-Rosenwald student Charlie Pollard (among others) helped to bring the case to light that a U.S. president apologized to the community.

You can find more information about the school at

Update (April 8, 2017): The Shiloh film below was accepted in the Short Documentary category in the 2017 Inspired Faith Film Festival (

Telling the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Story

It's not the biggest success story of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (CRK). That would be winning a $2 billion legal victory against the City of Atlanta which convinced politicians it was time to upgrade an antiquated sewer system that made the waters downstream an extension of its sewers. (It worked. Now the river downstream is healthier than ever.) But it might be the #2 or #3: How CRK responded to an ongoing toxic spill by an asphalt company that refused to stop dumping or clean up the damage... how the contamination flowed down a stream into the Chattahoochee River... and how CRK teamed up with local lawyers and media to force a cleanup. It took many many months for the case to be resolved in the courts—but it's all in a day's work for CRK.

In September 2016, CRK showed the film at their annual membership dinner in which Ambassador Andrew Young received the River Leader Award. A few weeks later the film was chosen as a semi-finalist in the Cause + Effect Georgia Progressive Film Festival, with finalists to be named in late October.

Documenting the Billops-Hatch Story

In early 2015, my son, Henry, and I spent a memorable afternoon filming in the SoHo loft of James Hatch and Camille Billops with Emory archivists/scholars Pellom McDaniels and Randall Burkett, and the Rose Library director Rosemary Magee. One of the results of that day was a short documentary that gives an overview of Camille and Jim's passions and work -- creating art and documenting African American life and culture -- over the last 50+ years. Besides being online (see below), the documentary is playing at the "Still Raising Hell" exhibition (September 15, 2016 through May 14, 2017) that features some of the materials now residing in Emory's Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library.

(from left) Pellom McDaniels, Randall Burkett, James Hatch, Camille Billops, Rosemary Magee, Hal Jacobs, Henry Jacobs

(from left) Pellom McDaniels, Randall Burkett, James Hatch, Camille Billops, Rosemary Magee, Hal Jacobs, Henry Jacobs

The Stuart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library is home to the Camille Billops and James V. Hatch collection of materials related to African American life and culture. The current exhibition of this work in the Woodruff Library's Schatten Gallery features some of these materials and highlights the many ways in which the couple has been actively raising hell for more than 50 years through their artistic productivity and collecting.

Teaser for "moat" by Staibdance

A little peek at the upcoming performance of "moat" by Staibdance at Emory's Performing Arts Studio. George Staib and his dancers do it again... and again and again. You can find more info at

Jontavious Willis & The Hillside Front Porch Collective

Just a crazy good show... When you see Jontavious play for the first time, you realize why the blues community is so jazzed about him. He's from the country around LaGrange, Ga., learned to play on his own (with the help of YouTube videos), still plays in church every Sunday, and is starting to get gigs in other countries. My son Henry (the drummer) met him last month at a little festival down the street from his house, then invited Jontavious back to the front porch to jam with him and Nick (bass) and Haden (mandolin). A month later they had this gig at Maggie's Pure Life Studios in LaGrange. I hope it's not the last one.


Friend and neighbor Art Linton, with Marcus Durham, plays Bill Withers's classic "Use Me" on our backporch. That's Art's daughter, Kiki, kicking off the action. Art and Marcus are working out a complete song list, including some great originals by Art, and will start looking for gigs soon.

Miss Ann's Hamburgers

One of the first videos I made involved one of Atlanta's most infamous hamburgers at Miss Ann's Shack Shop on Memorial Drive. Miss Ann was an artist whose medium was ground beef. She was recognized by the "Wall Street Journal" as creator of the best hamburger in the U.S. That honor meant more work -- and 3-hour waits to get one of the 10 or so stools inside (you waited outside in the screened porch until everyone finished their hamburger shift, and she was ready to clock the next crew in).  She passed away a few years ago, but not before selling the place and getting some well-deserved rest.