Quoth @Darth _Molly "Do not support the Atlanta Horror Film Festival!!
Asked @Vanuslux: Why Not?
Quoth @Darth_Molly, "they are not associated with Atlanta Horrorfest. The guy was kicked off athf for shady business practices, used a loophole to steal the name and misrepresents the festival while only accepting films from his friends or people that bribe him."
As someone who has personally been involved in film festival production for nearly twenty years, I recognize that creative and collaborative endeavors (like film festival production) inevitably lead to differences of opinion, passionate conflict, dramatic rifts, bruised egos, and hefty grudges. Such sniping is par for the course. (Two years ago, a similar dispute erupted as the creative team assembled to usher Out on Film toward independence disintegrated into contentious factions.)
To see if there was more to the story, I reached out to Eric Panter, Director of Events for the Festival League, and the creative team behind Atlanta Horror Fest (an event Independent of the Festival League's Atlanta Horror Film Festival). I was overwhelmed by the passionate responses from the folks at Atlanta Horror Fest, who all told a story worthy of big screen film treatment—imagine a Grindhouse version of the Social Network, with knives in backs followed by flowing buckets of red dye and Karo Syrup.
Lucas Godfrey, co-creator of HorrorFest (as well as Chambers of Horror and Splatter Cinema) was eager to discuss how his once optimistic partnership with Panter devolved. "Atlanta's horror community is closely knit. We all know one another, and we take this very seriously," explains Godfrey who personally invested his own funds to plan, book, market, and promote Atlanta Horror Fest. His vision included making Horror Fest a full-service, one-stop horror experience, complete with bands, the Atlanta Zombie Walk, a spooked out horror themed venue, as well as the promise of a terrifying line-up of grotesque, shocking, eye-popping, blood-drenched, bone-chilling, spine-tingling horror films.
But Godfrey, and his partners were disappointed Panter's attitude towards the programming and also found his treatment of filmmakers suspect.
Blake Myers, who worked as a projectionist for a number of film festivals including many of the Festival League events, the Atlanta Film Festival and Slamdance, broke ranks with Panter, calling his festivals, "consistently some of the worst experiences I've ever had."
Myers recounts his experience with Atlanta Underground Film Festival (another Panter/Festival League Production) thus, "A volunteer handed me a box of DVD's and said 'Here is the festival.' No schedule, no descriptions, and no Eric Panter. Eric did not show up to any screenings and couldn't be reached by cell phone, because he didn't have one. Patrons of the event were confused about what screening they were coming to see, and some filmmakers from out of town showed up to their screenings wondering when their films were going to show."
He only met Panter when he showed up at the end of the day, "to collect money he had made, and to let me know that my film had won the award for best local short film." A gesture, Myers suspects had less to do with merit than with cronyism: "Eric just gave me the award because I helped at the festival."
Molly Coffee (aka @Darth_Molly), whose Tweet opened the crag, acknowledges that Panter "helped Atlanta Horrorfest on the film side of the Festival." But, she continues, "Eric broke ties to Atlanta Horrorfest in 2008 taking all films with him without notifying those film makers that they would be associated with his new smaller festival and not the growing Atlanta Horrorfest."
According to Godfrey, the relationship soured when Panter commandeered the "www.AtlantaHorrorFest.com" web site re-directing it exclusively to the Festival League's "Atlanta Horror Film Fest" film screenings, cutting out Godfrey's access and forsaking all of the additional Atlanta Horror Fest events: concerts, the Zombie Walk, and the single venue experience. Godfrey and his team, who assumed the full cost of the event, continued as planned with the Atlanta Horror Fest, launching under a new URL:" www.ATLHorrorFest.com".
"Needless to say, there was a lot of brand confusion," says Godfrey, who believes that Panter continues to benefit from the strong reputation and following the Atlanta Horror Fest has built over the years. Coffee alleges that Panter made matters worse by engaging in "silly and petty" personal attacks on Godfrey.
Godfrey and Myers decided to cut all ties with the Atlanta Horror Film Festival, and start Buried Alive Film Festival, an event, as Myers puts it, "we could be proud of."
Coffee wanted to make clear that her "main concern in answering questions is just that the Buried Alive Film Festival is a positive experience that has tried really hard to separate itself from the drama surrounding Eric Panter."
Myers continues, "We wanted to have our selections reviewed by judges, put on horror themed parties and events, and reach out to the international horror community." He is very optimistic about the event's future: "We're working on our second year of BAFF we've got some great things planned."
Coffee concurs, "Buried Alive Fest is a truly independent film festival being brought to you by true fans celebrating the genre of horror. Atlanta is fast becoming the horror capital of the world and it is because of these people bringing year-round events to our community. You can only get that kind of dedication from people that really love what they are doing. They are working hard and they are into it for the experience, not the money."
When asked for comment, Panter, who was not on site at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival, responded by email with the following:
Thanks for getting in touch.
Sounds juicy, but this story is actually like 2007 break-up drama, and we've moved so far on that I don't even remember details.
My group runs Independent Film Month: Atlanta Shortsfest, Atlanta Horror Film Festival, Animation Attack!, Atlanta Underground Film Festival, DocuFest Atlanta. We also produce two international events annually, the Costa Rica International Film Festival in November, and the Puerto Rico International Film Festival Vieques Island in April......whew!
Festival League just wanted to bring the attention to the amazing filmmakers with an event that celebrated films first (hence the addition of the word 'film ' to our festival). I'm just trying to focus on promoting really great films to an international audience.
I wish them the best of luck with their event in October. Blake will probably find some awesome films to showcase!
Now, get to work on a blog about Independent Film Month!!
Myers, for one, is calling shenanigans on Panter's filmmaker-friendly response: "It's a lot of hard work to put on ONE good festival. Somehow Eric puts on five to six different film festivals a year? In my opinion, his festivals are run poorly and do a disservice to the filmmakers who pay him money to submit their films."
When asked to compare Buried Alive with Atlanta Horror Film Festival in terms of horror icons, Myers postulates, "Buried Alive would be brutal and scary, like Leatherface from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. AHFF would be Freddy Kruger from the Nightmare on Elm Street remake: boring, lame and uninspired."
Godfrey, in the process of planning Splatter Cinema's upcoming "Spatterday Night Live" screening of CREEPSHOW at the Plaza on August 28th, could care less about Atlanta Horror Film Festival as he will be working all weekend on the "Chambers of Horror" haunted house.
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