The film industry has been around for many years. It is not only a means of entertainment, but also a visual representation of this generation’s culture and lifestyle. Filmmakers can tell their own stories or the stories of others, which is exactly what this year’s UWG Media Day panelist Jon Watts does. Watts will represent the film division of mass communications on the panel.
Watts is a director and producer based out of Atlanta, who specializes in documentaries. He and his wife, Brantly Jackson Watts, operate Half Pint Productions, LLC, a film production company. His first documentary feature debut “AKA Blondie” has been played at film festivals throughout the southeastern United States and internationally. He won his first award in Brazil, where “AKA Blondie” played at an LGBT festival and won the audience award for best documentary.
Since then, Watts and his wife have developed a docu-series called “Homebound.” They team up with other talented filmmakers to tell compelling, community-driven stories. His documentary “Machine Gun Mary” features the story of Mary Matia, a local 22-year-old boxer, who is a contender for the 2016 Olympic games. The film was featured in the “Homebound” series and has been nominated for best documentary short.
Watts attended the University of Georgia (UGA), where he obtained his Bachelor’s in mass communications with a concentration in video production. Soon after he graduated, he began freelancing.
“I worked on any kind of films I could be a part of,” said Watts. “I worked on anything from commercials to documentaries.”
However, after about four or five years of freelancing for other people, Watts decided that was not what he wanted to do anymore. He chose to focus on his own films.
“I really liked the idea of documentaries and wanted to try and do one,” he said. “I wasn’t really sure what, but I felt like I was ready because I had worked on a lot of other people’s projects, and I felt like I could dive in to doing my first documentary.”
While many of Watts’ films have been nominated for awards, the nominations and winnings are not what he loves best about his job. It is the prospect of meeting new people and talking with them that gives him satisfaction.
“I’m an introvert by nature, so I’m a pretty shy person, and I don’t do well in group settings, but if I’m one-on-one with a person I tend to touch my best,” said Watts. “I like the idea of bringing in one person and just sitting them down and having a conversation with them. That’s my favorite thing to do.”
On top of being an award-winning director and producer, Watts and his wife are the Atlanta Film Society’s first Filmmakers-in-Residence. Residents are required to make a public presentation of their core work, perform educational service to the community and serve as ambassadors of the Atlanta Film Society. Watts also serves as a member of the advisory board for Trashwater, a non-profit organization in Atlanta, that provides clean water to other countries.
Watts emphasizes how difficult it is to become a successful filmmaker. It takes hard work and dedication. His advice to any future filmmakers is to constantly make films.
“If you make a crappy film, it’s going to be a crappy film, but at least you will always be learning something new,” he said. “Getting involved and networking are the other main pieces, and if you do that, you will find a way to be successful.”