Student documentary film about Dalton, Georgia wins major international film festival award


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A documentary on the history and resilience of Dalton, Ga. Won the award for best feature documentary at the American Golden Picture International Film Festival in Jacksonville, Florida.

STEP Studio founder and chairman Jacob Poag called the victory a “huge victory” in a phone call with The Times Free Press on Wednesday and said he was especially proud of “Dalton: A Story of Survival “because everyone involved in the film making process at STEP Studio is a high school or college student interested in film work.

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Poag is a junior at Christian Heritage High School in Dalton and first established STEP Studio – which stands for Student, Team, Entertainment, Production – in 2020 with the aim of creating completely independent student films. He said he had never been a big movie buff before the pandemic, but got hooked on the subject after reading books about how movies are made and edited.

“I started looking for opportunities to get involved in filmmaking locally and didn’t see any, so I recruited 15 other people who were also interested in it and we created our own,” said Poag. “This is the group that made the documentary ‘Dalton: A Story of Survival’.”

The team of local high school and college students spent more than 200 hours on the assembly alone, Poag said. Even more time was spent collaborating on the script on Zoom, conducting interviews and doing historical research. He estimated that the team spent at least three or four hours a day talking about the changes and adjustments they wanted to make. They didn’t have an office at the time, so the few times they’ve met in person, he said they did so in an office in their editor’s house.

All this work has paid off. So far, the film has been shortlisted for entry at three film festivals: the American Golden Picture International Film Festival, the Cobb International Film Festival, and Virginia’s Global Film and Music Festival USA. The film won an award and Poag said it was an incredible honor to be selected to participate in these festivals.

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Photo provided by Jacob Poag / “Dalton: A Story of Survival” tells the story of Dalton, Georgia, and his struggles.

“It’s phenomenal that we were able to achieve this as students who had never done this before. We were the only students to participate in the festival in which we won, which was good for us because we were competing against adults, ”he said. . “I think it shows how ready everyone was to work and how amazing the story we wanted to tell was. Dalton is an amazing city and the story of how it became what it is. is today is amazing. It shows how strong people are here and always have been. “

According to Poag, the 53-minute feature tells the story of Dalton from the earliest days of the carpet industry to the founding of Shaw Industries in town and the eventual addition of other large carpet companies to the community. . He then recounts the 2008 recession and the impact it had on the city and its businesses.

“Dalton was the second worst affected city in the country in 2008, but no one here has given up,” he said on Wednesday. “People keep getting up and working hard. That’s why it’s a story of survival. The people who live here never give up.”

As of Wednesday, Poag and his collaborators at Dalton had yet to start work on a new film project. Instead, they are focusing on expanding STEP Studio to college and university campuses statewide. Their ultimate goal, he said, is to see independent student films take off in Georgia and transform STEP Studio into a non-profit production company that supports that goal.

Students at Oglethorpe University and North Georgia University have already started putting together film crews. Poag said the University of Oglethorpe team already has 15 members and has started working on a script for his project.

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“These guys are freshmen and did this on their own,” he said. “The script is still being written but filming should start soon.”

A screening of “Dalton: A Story of Survival” was held in October at Dalton for the Historical Society and Poag said future screenings are now planned. The dates have not yet been decided.

Contact Kelcey Caulder at [email protected] or 423-757-6327. Follow her on Twitter @kelceycaulder.

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Gerald R. Schneider