Photo Credit: Courtney Cooper Johnson
Springtime has brought more than a thick layer of pollen to Athens; it’s also yielded a crop of new films by local directors. Dominar Films and Tiny Volcanoes production companies have both recently finished up short film projects set for release in the coming weeks, and dark humor seems to be the uniting theme.
What started out as a childhood dream and Dad’s video camera grew into Dominar Films, one of Athens’ newest film production companies, run by co-directors and lifelong friends Jordan St. Martin-Reyes and Benjamin Roberds. “We have been making movies together since we were 11 years old,” Roberds says. “We started out brainstorming and we have been brainstorming ever since.”
Although Roberds and St. Martin-Reyes have been making movies together as long as they can remember, their official production partnership is much more recent. The pair adopted the Dominar Films production label in January.
Dominar Films’ main business is music videos. The duo have made music videos for a host of local artists, such as Monsoon, Chief Scout, k i d s and Muuy Biien. One of their main concerns, according to St. Martin-Reyes, is to make music videos that keep the audience fully engaged.
“We are always trying to do something unique,” she says. “Someone is always at any given point trying to click away from the video or close it out, and that’s kind of what our job is: to make sure they don’t.”
Recently, Dominar Films has also produced several short films. The co-directors say that their particular brand of film is so dark that it is almost funny. “People see it, and they get really disturbed,” says Roberds. “It’s funny how ridiculously terrible it is, and I think that is just life in general. You have to laugh at the darkness.”
Dominar Films’ most recent project, Screen, starring David Chandler and Laura St. Martin-Reyes, will be showing at Flicker Theatre and Bar for the 24-Hour Film Festival on Apr. 29th. Though the pair was hesitant to reveal too much detail about the short film, they did say that it was their best short film yet. “It’s about a stalker,” says Jordan St. Martin-Reyes. “Whoever isn’t there, unfortunately, will not be able to see it again.”
The film, which Roberds describes as “unstable,” will supposedly only be showing once. After the one-time showing of the film, Screen will be “eradicated from the face of the Earth,” he says.
Alexis Sturgess, who says she has always considered herself to be more of a producer than a director, recently finished directing her first film, The Chaise, alongside co-director Scott Nesbit. “It was an outrageously ambitious thing to do,” says Sturgess. “We shot it in three weekends. It was madness.”
Produced by Tiny Volcanoes, the script for the film was based on a true story. The plot is centered around a man’s rather unusual Tinder match-up. “My friend Chris Nelms told me about this really terrible date that he had on Tinder this one time and I literally said, ‘I am going to make that into a movie,’” Sturgess says. “Then a year later, I did.”
The tagline for the film is, “The true events of a man’s serendipitous relationship with his couch.”
After the main character, played by Bert Rochelle, gets out of a bad relationship, he turns to his couch for solace, developing an unhealthy connection to it. He then sells the couch, only to be reunited with it via Tinder, and thus the awful date ensues. Again, this is a true story.
“It’s almost verbatim what happened on the date,” says Sturgess.
Sturgess’ script earned her third place in the BEA Film Festival, which is a nationwide contest for college students. The recent University of Georgia graduate says that her film, while it falls under the realm of dark comedy, has a relatable quality to it.
“It’s funny how many people were like, ‘I have had moments in my life where I was extremely attached to my couch’, so it’s just kind of relatable in that way,” she says.
The short flick was filmed entirely in Athens, featuring such locations as the Whitehall Lofts and several homes on Ruth Street and Hancock Avenue. Sturgess was impressed by how many local businesses supported her film.
“Every restaurant in town catered our shoots for free,” she says. “I didn’t have to pay for one meal.”
Keeping true to the hyper-local spirit of the film and its production, The Chaise will be premiering at Stan Mullins’ art studio on Pulaski Street on June 5 and 6. Sturgess says she is staging a very appropriate atmosphere for the premiere that will tie into some of the themes of the film.