Atlanta Film Festival: SOUND + VISION featuring Joshua Yates

By Jeff Simpson

April 5, 2015

Recently the Atlanta Film Festival celebrated its 39th year featuring entries from around the globe. The ten day event kicked off on March 20, 2015 showcasing excellence in independent film and cinematic arts in the categories of: Short and Long Form Narrative, Documentary, Animation, Music Video and Pink Peach.

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Pictured Above: Projector displaying artist works in Goat Farm Arts Center on exterior brick wall

During its tenure, notable independent film works such as Baadasssss!, 500 Days of Summer, Hustle & Flow, V/H/S, Rudo y Cursi, and Winter’s Bone have been screened at the ATLFF.

This year the opening night feature starred actor James Franco in I Am Michael, who was scheduled to appear alongside the film’s producer Vince Jolivette. On Sunday, March 9, the Fox Theatre brought the gala to a grand finale, hosting a sneak preview of Game of Thrones Season 5 free to the public.

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James Franco in I Am Michael.

Film festivals, in light of the digital age, are trying to respond to the growing wealth in film auteurship and viewership through expanded film and video formats. Their structure (by design) is in partnership with a brick and mortar institution whose establishment lends credibility to the venue, in hopes to galvanize festival goer support.

One such way the ATLFF has done so with programming in the past was the Out On Film Festival, celebrating excellence in cinematic arts in the LGBTQ community. ATLFF included this category until 2008, replacing it with the Pink Peach Jury.

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Pictured Above: Artist Installation Piece

As gatekeepers between filmmaker and audience, committees are looking for ways of re-formatting the program to increase interest in their. The goal being to continue recognizing quality artists works, but also create a potential viewership and variety of art displayed that is innovative to the craft.

Music festivals by comparison traditionally represent the opposite end of the spectrum. Hosted outdoors on a farm or open plot, visiting musicians throw pop quizzes to audiences under the influence of rhythm and alcohol. As impromptu dance marathons ensue, food trucks and the open space invite conversation over mutual admiration of an artist and their work.

Atlanta has broached the subject by marrying the two with its SOUND + VISION program that expands upon the traditional festival experience. Catering specifically to their objective of a “Music and Film Experience,” the project is the brainchild of a collaboration between the Goat Farms Art Center and indieATL, both located in Atlanta.

Now in its fourth year, SOUND + VISION featured a food truck, holographic art installations (holographic display, foam machine & leaf blower) and live music all within the courtyard of the Goat Farms 19th century architecture.

CLTure had the opportunity to travel to the Atlanta Film Festival and view the screening of North Carolina independent film maker Joshua Yates’ entries in SOUND + VISION. After participating in an artists conference held prior to the screening, Yates shared with us his outlook on the Atlanta Film Festival and expressed his love of hip-hop music, the challenges of film & video production and NC film tax incentives, and his plans for the future.

CLTure: Why is the Atlanta Film Festival important to you?

Joshua Yates: Music video is a really unique art form; it’s aural, it’s visual and it’s a bunch of different modes and forms of people coming together to make this thing that is, I guess at its core commercial, but that can also be unique and artful. Music videos are now in film festivals and exhibitions. Music video works have been curated into DVDs.

What I really like about the Atlanta Film Festival is that there’s no entry fee for the music video programming, and I think that’s really the right way to do it. At film festivals, a lot of it is about exclusivity and being able to see things before they’re made public, but music videos live on the internet now. It’s not MTV or Vh1 anymore, it’s posting to the internet, so it doesn’t really make sense to charge people to submit music videos to festivals. That’s where I think Atlanta is killing it right now, whereas at other festivals I question the point of paying money to submit these videos when they can be seen online for free.

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Pictured Above: J.K. The Reaper in “Exodia” Directed by Joshua Yates

CLTure: What was your favorite part about working on the Exodia project?

JY: I’m a really big fan of hip-hop music. I think it’s an under-appreciated art form, and anytime I get to meet the musician behind the music, it ultimately helps me appreciate their work more, and that was the case with J.K. [The Reaper]. Just getting a chance to know him, as well as the other people in FANG, as a person and not just a file or a song streaming on my computer was great.

Creatively the project was really challenging. We shot it around a 24-hour time period with very little room for re-shoots because I don’t live in North Carolina, I live in Iowa right now. Just getting everything done in a short span of time was an invigorating experience, especially as you’re re-adapting your original treatment and adjusting it to reality, because going from an idea to something that’s concrete can present its set of challenges.

CLTure: How did you come in contact with J.K. The Reaper?

JY: Through a mutual friend, Clint Norway, who I’d met on a video shoot in the summer of 2012 right before I moved to Iowa. I’m a big fan of Clint’s music and he’s the reason I found out about J.K.; I kept up with both of them after leaving North Carolina. I want to do a video with the two of them this summer, so we’ll see how that goes.

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Pictured: Emily Elizabeth Hinkler in “The Horse You Rode In On” Photo by Joshua Yates

CLTure: True. Speaking to that, Silk Duck’s, The Horse You Rode In On, had an opportunity to be programmed as well and are a group from Iowa/California. How did that come about?

JY: I met Justin when I was out drinking one night in Iowa City at George’s Buffet, and with both of the artists, and Weirdo [EP TEASER] as well. Those were all situations where I liked the music and hit up the musicians about collaborating. There was no monetary exchange for any the videos, it’s really all about making work for something that I believe in, and then hopefully getting it to a wider audience.

In the case of Silk Duck, “The Horse You Rode In On” has screened in a couple festivals, but I can’t really get a sense of its overall accomplishment because the real test of the video is the long form version that I’m still trying to finish up.

Now that THYRIO has screened in a couple of festivals, there are a few websites interested in my music video work and what I make in the future. I think they may have a release platform and in that case it would help Silk Duck’s music become more widely known. Once again that really is the goal, to get their music seen and heard by more people.

CLTure: That’s another interesting point about these videos, that there is no money exchanged. Do you think that’s going to be a factor in the future? You support these artists, but there’s no business transaction. If in the future you were asked to work with a bigger artist that had a budget and someone backing them, do you think that would strengthen or hurt the process?

JY: I’m glad that the first few music videos of mine were made in the way that they were because I feel like the style I put out is truly what I’m trying to do at least at this point in my life. I’m interested in the thought of working with more money, and with more widely known musicians and bands, but I do think I would have to be a fan and appreciate the music.

I could just see it being really hard to work on something where I’m not down to listen to that song at least 500 times. Through the conception of the idea, through production and then into the post-production that’s a song you really have to live with, and I think when you believe in the music the visuals will come easily. They’ll just mesh with the music.

That’s not to say I wouldn’t work with someone that I don’t believe in, I could just see it being really challenging. It’s a scenario that I’m interested in seeing how it would pan out.

CLTure: True. That’s a hell of a long time to listen to the same song. Now that you’ve done a few music videos, even prior to those mentioned in this interview, are you looking to longer form? I know you’re doing Jeff Jackson’s Dying of the Deads, but do you want to do more music videos, short form, long form, experimental, or more of what you’re passionate about?

JY: I want to do some short experimental stuff, probably a music video. The next thing I’m going to do will definitely be under the ten minute mark. With long form music video, I think it would have to be an EP or an album that I really believed in through and through, and enjoyed the listening experience. Again it comes down to time and money, and if the musician is open to the process.

From a musician’s standpoint, I guess the idea with music videos is to release a lead single and a cool video, then pique interest in the album throughout the course of the year with new videos. So the long form video to a recording artist may not be ideal. It’s one video that comes out once, therefore it can make it hard to sustain interest in your album or EP over the course of a year, but it is a form that I think is interesting and am looking forward to exploring more in the future, hopefully.

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Pictured L to R: Will Bethel, Isiah Donte Lee, Ayinde Anderson, Joshua Yates; Photo by Jeffrey Simpson

CLTure: That’s incredibly insightful. Are there any artists in the Southeast region you’re interested in working with?

JY: As far as hip-hop in North Carolina, it would be Deniro [Farrar] and Well$. Those two really stand out for me. I really like their music and they seem to be on the come up as well…I mean, , Deniro’s already there, but Well$ I keep seeing more and more press about him, and I think his music is getting better with every track he puts out. There’s a Charlotte based group, MTHR, that I’m interested in working with as well.

CLTure: If you could give three music videos or directors that you’ve enjoyed or that stand out to you in the last year-to-date, who or what are they?

JY: I think Hiro Murai is the best guy working in music videos right now. “Never Catch Me,” the Flying Lotus/Kendrick Lamar music video is its own thing, and is an incredibly experiential piece of work that has infinite replay value to me. Khalil Joseph has done work with Flying Lotus as well. He did the FKA Twigs video for “Video Girl.” And as far as long form, “Runaway,” directed by Hype Williams.

CLTure: Having gained entry to well established film festivals in the Southeast region and nationally as a member of the North Carolina film community currently removed, what is your perspective on the NC film community?

JY: North Carolina film culture is richer than most people think. The loss of tax incentives is sort of a bummer to be dealing with right now. A lot of work is going into Georgia, mainly Atlanta. Although, I’m pretty sure North Carolina has always been right up there in the top five in production. Definitely behind New York and California, but there’s always been a lot of work.

I think we have our fair share of well known, established film festivals. Wilmington’s Cucalorus is one and Full Frame Documentary Festival, River Run, those are all big. I think Charlotte needs to have a long standing festival. There has been a Charlotte Film Festival, but it seems to kind of come and go and I don’t know the reason behind it. I know that it is back this year and hopefully it’s something that sticks around, because we need that.

Joshua Yates’ work has been screened at the Indie Grits Film Festival, Atlanta Film Festival and the Montreal Underground Film Festival. You can follow him on Instagram @thisisyates or subscribe to his website at THISISYATES.com.

J.K. The Reaper // “Exodia”

J.K. The Reaper // "Exodia" from YATES on Vimeo.

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