Film Bar Mondays: An Interview with Charles Judson
Film Bar Mondays has become a tradition for many over the last two years in Atlanta, where film industry professionals from all over town come out to have a pressure-free, hassle-free evening of conversation and community.
The two year anniversary took place on August 1, commemorating over 100 FBM meetings at bars all over Atlanta. Our film community has enjoyed this event so much, that starting September 5, FBM will expand to Tampa Bay, with new cities coming soon.
To learn more about this growing event, we spoke with Charles Judson, the creator of Film Bar Mondays.
What sparked the creation of Film Bar?
Back in 2005, I started covering film events writing for CinemATL. I began running into filmmakers new to town, especially ones from New York and L.A., that would ask where they could find other filmmakers. Cities like New York and Washington D.C. have long had industry bars. Places where folks in a particular industry would go to all the time. So if you're a lawyer, you likely knew where the lawyer bars are. If you're a journalist, you probably know what bar to go to if you want to chat up other journalists.
Unfortunately, I could never give anyone a satisfactory answer about where anyone could go to just hang out with other filmmakers that wasn't a screening, networking event or festival.
There was a time when local organizations like the IMAGE (now the Atlanta Film Society, who produces the Atlanta Film Festival) functioned as communal spaces year-round. I've run into artists and filmmakers who fondly remember when, in the 1980s and 1990s, they would go up to the IMAGE offices and just hang around for hours.
In fact, when I was still working for the Atlanta Film Festival, an artist in his 50s told me that after class at Georgia State, he usually went straight to IMAGE to hang. Partly because he met other artists that got him interested in filmmaking, and mostly because he could be around a girl he had a crush on at that time. She would edit her film on IMAGE's equipment, and they would talk.
Fast forward to 2014, the film community and industry had been growing at a record pace, yet it still was very obvious that connections weren't happening organically. Filmmakers and crew were having just as hard of a time finding each other and getting to know each other as they did 10 years ago. It didn't matter if they were a transplant or a local.
Atlanta's sprawl is definitely one of the reasons for that. Compounding that is that Atlanta, compared to other cities, doesn't have a lot of areas of the city where a large number of like-minded folks and businesses cluster en masse, regardless of industry.
Recognizing that filmmakers were eager for ways to find each other and get to know each other better, I took all of the above into consideration, and started formulating the first ideas for Film Bar Mondays.
Why is it important to you to be community based instead of promoting networking?
There already several networking events that exist in Atlanta. Atlanta didn't need another one.
Networking--generally speaking--is more transactional than relational. It's inherently built on the implication that you're meeting folks that can do something for you, and vice versa. It's what gives networking its icky vibe that turns so many off. Which doesn't track with the myriad of reasons people are interested in filmmaking overall. There are hobbyist filmmakers and industry professionals, neophytes and veterans, as well as folks like cinephiles or artists that are intrigued by film. There are people who aren't even sure they want to be in film. Networking events rarely can cater to all those people.
This is what I have posted on the Film Bar website: "We always want to see more people in the community consistently working, collaborating on projects, and starting new partnerships. We just believe that will happen organically by creating a space for people to build relationships over time."
There's also just the reality that for a number of professionals, especially ones that have been doing film for a while, they actively avoid networking events. They want to chill and relax when they hang out with other film folks. They don't want to be hit up every 60 seconds for jobs or for recommendations.
What were the highlights of the 2 year anniversary for you?
Ironically, I was in California at the time helping run a tech camp for rising high school juniors and seniors. So all my highlights came from seeing the pictures and comments posted to social media. Over the course of the night, about 200 people showed up. That makes me feel good.
What have you gained from hosting Film Bar each week?
Hard to nail down all the things I've gotten out of it. There are several people in the community I only kind of knew, and two years later I can count them as good friends. It's helped me stay in the loop, which has benefited my own work.
Truly though, I've been reminded over and over again how vital and important events like Film Bar are. Finding your tribe can be hard, even within your own city. When you're new town, it's even more difficult.
And what do you think the film community has gained?
Honestly, I'm not sure if I can answer this question properly. I know folks who have thanked the FBM folks for helping them get settled in a new place. I've seen film groups form out of FBM who've gone on to create new content. Others eventually got work from knowing folks. And for others, I know it's helped them feel like that filmmaking is for them. They were able to find their tribe, so to speak.
What goals would you like to accomplish by Film Bar’s fifth anniversary?
I'll let you in on something I haven't been shy sharing. In five years I hope there's no need for Film Bar. My dream would be that there are so many spaces (bars, organizations, etc.) where filmmakers can hang, meet each other, and organically build community, Film Bar would be irrelevant.
Realistically, building off what's happening in Florida, I would like Film Bar to be in a few dozen cities. It would be awesome to know that a Film Bar filmmaker could go another Film Bar city and instantly have a place they can go and meet other filmmakers. The film community is a global one. Film Bar can play a role in bringing that community closer together.
How would you pitch Film Bar Monday’s to a new GA film industry transplant?
I don't really try to pitch Film Bar Monday, I really don't push it on social media too much, so that's hard. But, if they're new to town and they need a place to start, I say come to FBM. We're a gateway to the larger community. An unofficial welcoming committee. So come have a beer with us and make some new friends in your new home.
To learn more about Film Bar Mondays, and to access the calendar for your city, please visit www.filmbarmondays.com