John Jamilkowski, former director of programming for the Serenbe Film Festival, has released his debut film The Forever Woods to the film festival circuit, making its rounds around the globe.
Oz sat down with Jamilkowski to explore his work.
Tell us about your film.
The Forever Woods and was written, produced and directed by myself, John Jamilkowski and starring Nelson Bonilla, Kate Jamilkowski (my daughter) and Virginia Kirby, all Atlanta people. Nelson has appeared in numerous films (Creed, Lets Be Cops, Walking Dead and many others). Kate has previously appeared on stage at Radio City and Madison Square Garden as a singer. This is her first film.
The film is an unexpected story about the interior life of a young girl after a world-wide apocalypse. The young girl Jenny, goes to live with her gruff Uncle Bo, who doesn’t really know what to do with a little girl. The two of them slowly form a bond in a world that is in transition around them. The film has a number of special effects as well including a swarm of birds flying in a beautiful pattern.
It’s a very character driven study. I like taking B-movie genres and giving them an A-list treatment, concentrating not on effects (which I LOVE!) but on character development. Very similar to the movie Arrival. Terrence Malick and George Romero are key influences.
Can you give the readers a bit of your background? You’ve had a long run in the film and TV business here in Atlanta.
I’ve lived here for five years in the town of Serenbe in South Atlanta, previously coming from NY.
I have a television background, having worked at USA, Turner, Lifetime, Sundance Channel and others as a Sr. Creative Director creating trailers. I also create content including three seasons of the series Video Timeline for VH1. My wife and I also created Serenbe Film, where we brought our skills and contacts to come to our town. I was the Director of Programming. Francis Fischer was our first event interview and bringing Sundance Film Festival down here was probably our biggest. In between we did drive-ins, holiday screenings as well as partnered with the Atlanta Film Festival for events.
What went into the making of The Forever Woods?
The finances were all donations from family, friends and industry people I’ve worked with before who’ve admired my work and wanted to support me. It was very gratifying that people had faith in myself as well as the creative which was insanely gratifying. I could not have made this film without so many people helping all along the way – it was truly a group effort!
We shot the film in four days at the end of July 2016 in the south of Georgia, at various locations in Palmetto. One amazing location was at a friend of mine, Carter Williamson, at his incredible farm Cherry Hollow Farm. The setting was perfect and Carter jumped right in and helped out in every phase of filmmaking so much so that I had to give him a credit at the end of the film. Truly another person who lent his time, energy and enthusiasm to this project!
And where is the film now?
Forever Woods has been on the film festival tour with great national and international success, from NY to LA to Ibiza. It premiered at the New York Short Film Festival, then was the Official Selection in the LA Independent Film Festival, the Hollywood International Film Festival, the Hollywood Just 4 Shorts Film Festival and the Ibiza Cinefest. It most recently is the Official Selection in the MAC Underground Film Festival in the Amazons! Because it’s still being submitted to festivals, the short is not appearing anywhere online yet.
What’s your forward motion for the film (or for yourself)?
Looking forward, I’m engaged in getting financing to shoot the feature version of the short, which actually is the first of a 3 movie franchise. I like how more marketing people are becoming creators in film from Tim Miller at Blur Studio directing Deadpool to Trailer Park re-editing Suicide Squad. I think this background makes for directors who understand film language and approach the work in a very unique style. I’m hoping this similar background of mine will work in the same way for me (Marvel Studios, are you listening?).