The event, which kicks off Nov. 3 at the Georgia Tech Research Institute Conference Center (250 14th Street, NW Atlanta, Georgia) and runs through Nov. 5, serves as a vehicle for writers, producers, directors, actors and entertainment entrepreneurs to connect with influential movers and shakers in the television and film industry.
“This is getting executives, networks, film studios, reps, agents, any and everybody that has the advantage to push a project further along into another process in that stage for production,” Johnston told EUR’s Lee Bailey, adding that participants can “get the chance of a lifetime to be in front of that person they never thought they would be able to get a meet with… we are bringing in people from LA and New York. There is quite a bit of people here in Atlanta that are very used to each other. So the Atlanta Pitch Summit is introducing those that are not from here to the creative community of Atlanta.”
The Summit is the latest endeavor for Johnston, a veteran television and film producer who got her start working in the independent film world and worked for the Black Family Channel. In addition to spearheading opportunities for aspiring creators, the J3 Productions general manager is set on using what she has learned and known over the years to help bolster Atlanta’s place among she labels as “Southern Hollywood.”
Noting the presence of Screen Gems and Tyler Perry Studios, Johnston points to the arrival and establishment of other production companies as further evidence of Atlanta’s value in attracting filmmakers.
“Right now, we have great state incentives, which you have to spend at least half a million dollars. So if you want to be smart and wise about it and you do have a low budget, we already know that half a million dollars is considered low budget for Hollywood. Maybe not for some people, but it is,” she said. “You can come in and do four films for $125,000 and still get [a] 30 percent return within 12 months. That’s really good. So the invitation is extremely attractive for those that don’t live here in the state.”
Despite incentives, Johnston knows it’s still hard for workers, particularly students, to find jobs in this day and age.
“It’s tough and you want to show that there is some opportunity. At least show that there is some hope,” she stated. “That is my main reason of coming up with this Atlanta Pitch Summit because it’s not so often you can ever get an opportunity to meet with someone that can possibly greenlight a project or have interest in your film. You call these offices out in LA and you’re bounced around or, if not, somebody just hangs up the phone on you extremely quickly. Give you one short answer and that’s it. And it discourages you. So then you don’t even want to have anything to do with LA.
“But it’s not that bad,” Johnston continued. “It’s just about educating people and, of course, keeping people motivated.”
With an impressive string of movies and TV shows to add to his production company, Tyler Perry has become well-known among Atlanta residents and supporters around the country. So much so that despite the entertainer/director’s popularity and accomplishments, Johnston maintains there is more to her home state than the house that Tyler built.
“I’ve never personally met him so I can’t speak anything about him. I’ve been to his facility. It’s extremely amazing that someone can come in and build something like that from the ground up. My hat definitely goes off to him,” said the film and TV educator, who has heard rumblings from those who feel a disconnect with Perry.
“It’s kind of weird because I’m all for any and everybody that is just extremely positive. And he’s doing great work. When I say great work, if you make the Forbes list, you’re doing something good. There are actors that hadn’t had a job in quite some time until Tyler Perry started ‘re-occurring’ those same actors. And that’s a good thing,” Johnston added. “As far as looking at Atlanta as a whole and those things that need to be done, it can take one person to do it and be forceful about it in a positive way and sharing that with others.”
With the Summit on the horizon, Johnston is hopeful the event will be a success and expand to be held soon after.
“The goal is to have it every six months because it doesn’t take a year to revise a script. With the average writer, you’re gonna take up to three months to make some of these revisions and then, of course, maybe another three months if you’re doing a second draft or however,” said entertainment professional, who encouraged participants to take full advantage of the limited time they will have with the person who will hear their idea. “It’s kind of like speed dating. You don’t have 30 minutes with these people. You got a little bit less than five…What they would really need to have is at least a log line, which is one sentence that is really hitting home of what your concept is. And then after that, of course, having a synopsis, a treatment or a script ready to back it up and sharing your pitch with the exec that is in front of you. And if they like it, they’re going to bite in to it. If they don’t, then they’ll pass and they’ll say ‘hey, all the best …
“So every six months this will be a turnaround,” Johnston explained. “Atlanta needs this. If we’re going to be the home of Southern Hollywood, then we need to perform that way. We need to set a foundation that way. That’s the goal.”
To register for the Atlanta Pitch Summit or for more details, visit www.atlantapitchsummit.com.