Cherokee Office of Economic Development · Cherokee by Choice.

Cherokee Brings Film Industry into Focus for Local Film Enthusiasts

January 24, 2020

The Cherokee Office of Economic Development (COED) hosted the Second Annual Cherokee Film Summit on Thursday, January 23, 2020, at the YANMAR EVO//Center in Southwest Cherokee, an event made possible through Cherokee By Choice – a strategic initiative and public-private partnership. With compelling breakout sessions ranging from on-camera acting with Stranger Things Actress Holly A. Morris to the Art of the Storytelling with award-winning filmmakers Kris Wheeler and Wayne Franklin, the Cherokee Film Summit helped over 350 local film enthusiasts “bring their story into focus” – the summit’s theme.

 “Cherokee’s reputation for being a supportive community to filmmakers has not only earned the trust of large production teams like Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings, HBO’s The Outsider, and Warner Brothers’ Just Mercy, but has enabled our up-and-coming filmmakers the opportunity to inspire the next generation of film professionals through events such as the Cherokee Film Summit,” said COED Chairman Marshall Day.

The power-packed day kicked-off with the Cherokee Student Film Summit, an event designed to give Cherokee County School District CTAE Audio/Video Technology & Film Pathway students an insider’s look at Georgia’s film industry through hands-on learning, networking, and five unique breakout sessions. 121 students and educators attended the summit representing all six Cherokee high schools.

The dynamic line-up of sessions included Momentum in Movies with Filmmaker Sharif Salama, Every Second Counts with filmmakers Thomas Cantley and Azariah Oldacre, Extracting the Story with producer Luke Livingston, On-Camera Acting with Actress Holly A. Morris, Screenwriting with acclaimed writer Cheryl McKay, and The Art of Storytelling with award-winning filmmakers Kris Wheeler and Wayne Franklin.

Each of the breakout sessions were designed to teach students to extract, craft, shape, write, direct, and film great stories. During the “Every Second Countsbreakout session, students collaborated within groups to produce a short, five-second movie to showcase among their peers.

“It’s been awesome to see the students’ engagement, how excited they are, and what they’re learning,” said Ashley Pruitt, Audio & Video Technology & Film Pathway Teacher from Creekview High School. “The Cherokee Film Summit has been a great experience.”

Representatives from the University of Georgia, Berry College, Chattahoochee Technical College, the Georgia Film Academy, and Reinhardt University were also on hand to provide students with guidance on pursuing a career in communications, film, and multimedia.

The Cherokee Film Summit evening event kicked-off with networking and some of Cherokee’s most notable local fare – Alma Coffee, Four 41 BBQ, Flux Ice Cream, and Pie Bar.

Feature panelists for the summit included Location Manager and Photographer Jonathan Owens (Location Manager on the recent Netflix series Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings), Key Assistant Location Manager Samantha Merten (HBO’s The Outsider), and filmmaker Sharif Salama (working as a Key Assistant Location Manager on the upcoming Chris Pratt Film, The Tomorrow War). The panel shared about recent projects filmed in Cherokee and their reliance on well-developed relationships with communities.

Event attendees were able to choose three sessions from an impressive line-up of 11 informative breakout sessions. These sessions featured a wide variety of topics spanning all aspects of film, including marketing and building trust, women in TV and film, marketing your property for film, shaping your story, voice-over, interviews, and giving voice to your vision. For a full list of breakout sessions, visit the film section of the COED website.

During the event, COED President Misti Martin presented Retiring Deputy Commissioner and former Director of the Film, Music, and Digital Entertainment Division for the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) with an award in appreciation for his 33 years of service to GDEcD and support of Cherokee County. Mr. Torre has long been an advocate for Georgia’s film industry, blazing the trail to lead this booming industry forward.  

“I was part of the Cherokee Film Summit in 2019,” said filmmaker Kris Wheeler. “I do indie filmmaking and a large percentage of people are from that world. If I can share anything that can help someone navigate their journey, then it’s all worth it.”

“Cherokee has long been a community rich with storytellers, creatives, and outside-the-box thinkers, said COED Film Project Manager Molly Mercer. “Thank you to everyone who played a role in the Cherokee Film Summit. The Cherokee Film Summit truly represents the spirit of our community… of what it means to collaborate, share ideas, and know-how.”


For more information and a complete list of sponsors, contact COED Film Project Manager Molly Mercer.