By Michael Pearson
A film written and produced by a Georgia Institute of Technology professor and filmed on campus with the involvement of students has been accepted to the Peachtree Village International Film Festival.
Dr. Blues tells the story of an aging radio DJ played by Philip Auslander, professor in the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC), confronting the potential end of his career and lifelong love affair with radio.
But more than that, the film is really an exploration of how people might find ways to work together, despite their differences, Auslander said.
“There are all these issues of gender, race, and generation that initially are getting in the way of the characters being able to work together and make something happen,” he said.
Do they? Well, that would be a spoiler. You can instead go to a website affiliated with the festival—where the 18-minute film is a finalist in the short films competition—to view and cast your vote through Thursday, Oct. 25. An email address is required to register. You also could attend the screening at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26 at Hotel Indigo. Tickets are required.
According to the festival’s website, the event attracts more than 3,000 people a year. Now in its 13th year, it was formerly known as the Sweet Auburn International Film Festival.
Learning and Collaborating
Auslander conceived of Dr. Blues as a way to teach students film production in a collaborative environment with faculty. John Thornton, senior academic professional in LMC, served as cinematographer. Melissa Foulger, LMC academic professional and artistic director of DramaTech, directed the film.
Several students worked as crew members, and third-year biomedical engineering student Milan Riddick starred opposite Auslander as “DJ Dom,” a young African-American radio star who clashes with Auslander’s character. She had appeared in DramaTech projects, including the 2017 presentation of Dead Man’s Cellphone, but had never appeared in a film.
“I learned a lot in regard to how film works,” she said. “There’s so much more going on around you in the moment while you work than with stage performance. I’m so used to acting on stage with my fellow actors once all of the technical aspects are in place. I was so interested in all of the different technical aspects going on behind the scenes while the actors performed.”
Professional actors Liza Jaine and John M. Johnson rounded out the cast.
Thornton said the project showcases how the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and LMC are “committed to developing and creating content that champions the humanities, science and technology.”
“Dr. Blues is a masterclass of sorts that reflects the type of synthesis of textual analysis, performance interpretation, and technical application that we hope and expect our students to demonstrate,” he said.
‘A Pilot Project’
Media studies is a thread within LMC’s Bachelor of Science in Literature, Media, and Communication degree program. The school also offers a minor in film and media studies and a certificate in film media. Film studies also plays into the new Master of Science in Global Media and Cultures offered jointly by LMC and the School of Modern Languages.
Auslander plans to begin offering a course in producing that would potentially coordinate with more technically oriented film production classes offered by Thornton, scriptwriting classes offered by Senior Academic Professional J.C. Reilly, and acting classes taught by Auslander and Foulger.
“I wanted this project to be a pilot for what I hope will be an ongoing process of producing films in this way, with faculty, students, and local professionals working side by side, which I think is a viable way to further develop the film production curriculum here at Georgia Tech,” Auslander said.
Funding for the film was provided through a curriculum enhancement grant approved by then Ivan Allen College Dean Jacqueline Royster.
Foulger said projects like this get to the heart of what the Ivan Allen College is all about.
“Our goal is to meet at the intersection of innovation and the humanities. Working on a film does this quite well it because taps into student creativity to create a story,” she said. “Storytelling is one of the oldest and most traditional forms of human expression and provides a way for us to connect on any issue, including generational and racial differences, two key themes of the film,” she said. “We are proud to provide an opportunity for students to have practical experience in their career field and to foster their growth through that experience.”