Mercer has been a presenting sponsor of the Macon Film Festival, which took place on the third weekend of August this year, for the past 10 years. Yet, organizers say there is a lack of student involvement when it comes to coming to attending events, submitting films and volunteering.
Despite the festival’s outreach and Mercer’s presenting sponsor status, Board President Justin Andrews also wonders why they hardly receive submissions from Mercer student filmmakers.
“It's sad that we see Mercer University as our presenting sponsor, but then not having Mercer students being involved or not caring,” Andrews said. “It's a little bit of an issue to me.”
Andrews acknowledged that there is untapped potential in Macon’s own backyard and wants to see engagement between the film festival and students.
“I don't know if (...) Mercer doesn't know about it or if we need to do a better job of promoting that and feel included,” Andrews said.
Andrews estimated that there are around 150 to 200 submitted films. The amount of films that get selected varies depending on the quality and talent of the filmmakers, as well as the subject matter and presentation of the films. This past festival selected almost 90 films to screen. Andrews confirmed that about half of the submitted films usually get selected for screening.
Andrews sees no problems with student filmmakers potentially getting rejected. To Andrews, the submission process is realistic for students.
Mercer University professor and film festival screener Evey Wilson agrees that student films have a chance of being selected by the festival. Despite her involvement in both communities, she had not considered submitting to the Macon Film Festival as an option for students before.
Student attendance at the film festival is as low as student submissions. Wilson said that the main reason for low involvement is the placement of the weekend. If the film festival’s weekend, which takes place the third weekend of August each year, did not coincide with the move-in weekend for students, there might be more turnout to the events.
Members of the Mercer Film Production Club expressed that the weekend of the festival was inconvenient because it overlaps with campus move-in and many extracurricular responsibilities related to the beginning of the year.
Among the members of the Mercer Film Production Club, knowledge about the film festival was limited but members did show interest in submitting their own work. The club’s president, Roderious Phillips '23, said that work created by the club could be submitted to the film festival and, in part, is why the production club exists.
“The reason why this club was actually started was so that we could come together as a collective and create something,” Phillips said.
The festival works closely with the community, yet outreach to the colleges is not necessarily a priority.
With the University’s status, Andrews said “there should be zero disconnect” between the students and the festival.
Although Andrews sees the disconnect in student outreach, he said there is not much his team can do. Andrews does not want direct outreach with students to overwhelm his team nor does he want to overstep lines in relationships that the festival has with Mercer and with other donors.
“If we start doing that for students then we have to start doing it for everybody else,” Andrews said.
The film production club faculty adviser Marquez Cornelius sees a larger disconnect between students and the festival. He said that film festivals often do not go for student films because of submission fees and the prioritization of opportunities to host larger talent.
“The bigger films are way more promoted than the smaller films and that oversights everything rather than the local talent getting the chance to come to see that,” Cornelius said.
Wilson spitballed some ideas that could get students more involved with the festival scene. Professors, including Wilson, can take a more active role with students who are interested in using their films outside of their classes.
Wilson also said that the film festival could employ workshops or small challenges for filmmakers to take part in. Her idea was to have a 24-hour filmmaking challenge where the film festival could screen and select films from those submissions. Wilson said that this would be an engaging activity to draw in not just film students, but anyone with an interest in filmmaking.
“We are a community festival," Andrews said. "We are very much involved in the community and want the community to come out and support this festival."