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How The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival Comes to Life Virtually & In-Person

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Learning to run a virtual film festival with drive-in movies too, for the first time isn’t easy? The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival is back and better than ever! Karl Barham and Rico Figliolini are joined by Sari Earl, the vice president of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival board. For years the AJFF has been bringing great films to Metro Atlanta and on this episode listen in to explore how they’re doing a film festival in a pandemic and socially distanced environment.

Website:
https://www.ajff.org
New Website: https://ajffrecommends.org
Social Media: @AJFFAtlanta

Timestamp:
[00:00:30] – Intro
[00:03:17] – About Sari
[00:07:10] – Changing Perceptions
[00:13:20] – Going Virtual
[00:18:09] – Ideas to Take into the Future
[00:22:33] – How Films are Selected
[00:24:35] – Cost of Films
[00:26:53] – Getting Involved
[00:27:58] – Film Recommendations
[00:32:11] – Closing

“I have always been drawn to the mission of the film festival, which is the bridge building. Bringing people together, digging into a topic, and then unpacking it together with a guest speaker. To me that’s really exciting, but it’s the first time where I really think, art is more than art. Art is human and it’s a human connection. And it really spoke to me. It was great.”

Sari Earl

Podcast Transcript

Karl: [00:00:30] Welcome to the Capitalist Sage podcast. We’re here to bring you advice and
tips from seasoned pros and experts to help you improve your business. I’m Karl Barham with
Transworld Business Advisors, and my co-host is Rico Figliolini with Mighty Rockets Digital
Marketing, and the publisher of the Peachtree Corners magazine. Hey Rico, how are you
doing?
Rico: [00:00:48] Good, Karl. How are you?
Karl: [00:00:50] I’m doing well. I’m excited. This is one of my favorite times of years, film festival
time. And today we are going to have a great discussion with Sari Earl, the vice president of the
Atlanta Jewish film festival board. And we’re going to talk about some of the exciting things
that’s coming this year to Atlanta and the film festival. So I look forward to having that chat.
Sari: [00:01:15] Thanks for having me, Karl. Thanks Rico. I really appreciate you having me.
You have a great show and I’m glad to be here.
Karl: [00:01:21] Awesome. Why don’t we introduce our sponsor before we get into our
conversation with Sari today?
Rico: [00:01:27] Sure. Our sponsor is Hargray Fiber. They’ve been a sponsor of both Peachtree
Corners magazine, and for the family of podcasts that we do. And this year they are the, they
introduced the Hargray Economic Stimulus Plan. Just like the federal government has one,
Hargray has one. They’re an internet cable company that provides fiber optic, fast internet
connection and business solutions for not only small businesses, but enterprise sized
businesses. So the economic stimulus plan, real simple it’s one year free of business, internet,
and phone service for those that qualify. So check them out there at
Hargray.com/business/economic-stimulus, and find that website, check them out. Look at what
they’re doing. They’re here in Peachtree Corners. They’re all over the Southeast. They’re not
like the cable guy. They’re really committed to the communities that they’re in. So check them
out, Hargray Fiber.
Karl: [00:02:32] There isn’t a business today that should not have great internet speed, making
sure that their fiber optics is working and they’re able to communicate. Whether they’re working
from home or they want to keep that speed up at their place of work. So I’m really grateful to
Hargray Fiber for all they’re doing in the community and helping businesses with this great
stimulus package.
Rico: [00:02:53] Absolutely. So I just also want to say one other thing. We are a sponsor of the
Atlanta Jewish film festival with the Peachtree Corners magazine and the latest issue that came
out. So I just want to let everyone know that, you know. And I’ll tell them how great the website
is when we get to it. But it’s a great film festival. So I’m excited to have Sari on.
Karl: [00:03:17] Well today’s guest, Sari Earl is the vice president of the Atlanta Jewish Film
Festival board. And for years they’ve been bringing great films to the Metro Atlanta and beyond
community. And today we get to talk about this year’s film festival, some of the interesting things
they’re doing. And even get to explore how we’re doing this in this pandemic environment, this
socially distanced environment. Lots of great options for you to get out and see some films. So
we’d like to welcome Sari to the podcast. How are you doing today?
Sari: [00:03:52] I’m great. Thanks for having me.
Karl: [00:03:54] Why don’t you tell us a little bit, start off by telling us a little bit about yourself.
What do you do when you’re not enjoying great films and tell us how you made it to Atlanta?
Sari: [00:04:03] I’m originally from Brooklyn, just like Rico. And moved down here to attend
Emory law school. I stayed and got my master’s in laws and taxation. And then I worked at Delta
as in-house counsel. I worked for another trade association. And ultimately turned to writing.
And I’ve been a professional writer ever since. I’ve published about 10 books, some fiction,
some non-fiction. I love to try new ways of writing. I’ve written a screenplay and I got involved
with the festival a number of years ago. Mostly through the community building. The American
Jewish committee created the film festival originally, and they have a black Jewish dialogue, a
Baptist Jewish coalition. They have just amazing events and programming, but it’s really about
the interconnecting of our communities. And so the film festival was a program that was so
successful at bringing people together. That we kind of outgrew our founder and partner
American Jewish committee, and we became our own non-profit. And once we did that, like the
partnership with American Jewish committee is so strong and it’s a huge balance. Because yes,
we’re a film festival, but we are focused on our community and our wider community. We
conversed over Jewish films, but the topics are wide ranging and a large percentage of our
audience is not Jewish. And we love that. So typically on a typical year, non COVID year, I go to
the film festival with my friends. As an example, I have a friend who’s an atheist, one who’s in
Hindu and one who’s Catholic. I am Jewish. We all go together, we pick certain films and then
afterwards we debrief about how we process them. And it’s that kind of magical experience that
we’ve done year after year. We love it. As soon as the program guide comes out, people start
circling what they want. I get emails from people I’m going to this one, I’m going to that one. But
also the other thing that really gets me excited about it, are the Q and A’s. We bring in these
guests and we get guests that you’re really not going to hear somewhere else. One of my
earliest guests that I remember so clearly was, it was a film about a Mossad agent, an Israeli
spy who went to go work in Egypt to try to uncover nuclear ambitions in Egypt. And he had a
family in Israel and then he had a family for his undercover work. And the film was about what
happened to him. Great story. At the end of the film, we got to talk to his son about the impact of
his father being a Massad spy on his life. It was fascinating, fascinating. So we get really good
conversations going.
Karl: [00:07:10] I think in particular this past year, if there was a time where people needed to
one, be distracted from the day-to-day through film and through art. And at the same time, bring
people together through shared experiences and seeing artists’ stories and visions and seeing
how it’s received. It’s been this year. And I think, you know, I think many people I talk to have
missed films on a mass scale. And especially the independent ones that are story-driven plot
driven, performance driven stories. We all love the Marvel big, fantastic. But those quieter, that’s
where a lot of people learn about other cultures. And I think the work that you’re doing and the
film festival does to bring that together is amazing. So I’m curious, you know, and do you have a
favorite film that you’ve seen over the past few years that brought a different insight to
something that you may not have, the film fundamentally changed the way you perceived a
person or people or culture or something of significance?
Sari: [00:08:28] Absolutely. The first one that pops into my mind is why culture, why art? And I
remember watching, it was a documentary about the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust and
how people were starving in the streets. People were suffering such indignities by the Nazis.
And during that time they chose to put on theater productions. And I’m thinking, this is the worst
of times, you’re in the worst of places. Who’s thinking about putting on a show? And something
clicked. What was happening is they wanted to keep their sense of joy and play and culture.
And so they put on Yiddish theater in the middle of a Holocaust. And for me, I have always been
drawn to the mission of the film festival, which is the bridge building. Bringing people together,
digging into a topic, and then unpacking it together with a guest speaker. To me that’s really
exciting, but it’s the first time where I really think, art is more than art. Art is human and it’s a
human connection. And it really spoke to me. It was great.
Karl: [00:09:46] Absolutely. I remember watching a film some years ago. And I think it was about
Indian culture, this particular one. Have you heard of the ones that follow water? I think earth,
fire. I remember watching them. They’re just great films and they’re based on books, great films.
But it gave you an insight into a culture that you didn’t see every day. But I remember it made
me reach out to people and want to get to know them and their culture and experience more of
that. And I think the film festivals like this that brings those types of elements together is going to
be the way that a lot of young people are going to really get to learn about people that are
different from them, or grew up differently from them which might make them curious to go meet
more people and get to understand more people. Which is a lot of what we could probably use
now after the past year. People got disconnected, socially distanced. And how do we start
bringing them back together.
Rico: [00:10:45] No, it’s interesting. Go ahead.
Sari: [00:10:48] Sorry Rico. It is really interesting. I mean, the film festival has a lot of films that
are international. We have films from Israel, you know, I have the list here, but it’s a huge list.
We usually have a German films, a lot of German films. Spanish films, Japanese films. So we’ve
had the directors come in. It’s been really exciting, but what I like about it is that I would not
otherwise watch a foreign film, just not my cup of tea. And here through the Atlanta Jewish film
festival, it’s been curated for me then I know it’s good. I know it’s interesting. I know it’s
something where I’m going to learn something about another culture and I love it. So during the
film festival, I’m watching international films. And you’re right, Karl, it makes me feel more
connected and understand these other countries and the people living in them so much better.
And I don’t know that I would do that otherwise.
Rico: [00:11:46] You know what’s more about that too, is that because it’s other countries and
people think Judaism or Jewish people are Israel or the United States. And they’re not
understanding there are Egyptians that are Jewish. There are Brazilians that are Jewish. There
are Japanese that are Jewish. And that culture of Judaism mixed in with the other culture that
they grew up in or country they grew up in, right? Just makes it so much different and it adds so
much to that fabric of what’s going on in their life because they might be Japanese, but they’re
also celebrating Judaism in that country, right?
Sari: [00:12:26] Yeah. That’s an interesting point. There’s a film this year in the film festival,
which I’m really excited about. I’m going to try to see if I can find the page in this beautiful
program guide, that we love. It’s our Bible for the festival. It’s called They Ain’t Ready For Me.
And it is about an African-American rabbinic student who decides to help save the people of
Chicago’s South side. I mean, it looks so exciting. And the fact that’s something else that’s been
really interesting is learning more about the, not everybody’s just one thing. One color, one
culture, one country. We’re all, you know, a mix of everything and to explore all the different
corners of how different people can intersect those different identities is really fun and opens us
up.
Rico: [00:13:20] I noticed that you circled within that directory your movie. I’ve done the same
thing. But then I’ve gone to the website, which by the way, I’ve got to give you props for. That
website is phenomenal. It’s easy, you can register for the movies. You register yourself, you
register for the movies you want to see. You can go back and check the times and stuff. And as
you’re looking at the videos and actually you can look at trailers on the site too, or a description.
It’s rare that you see a website works so well. To be able to keep you informed and in the ease
of use. So it’s intuitive. You don’t see that even on corporate websites, they’d probably spend a
lot of money. So on a nonprofit side, I’m just totally impressed. So I’ve just got to tell you that.
Sari: [00:14:09] Thank you. I have to give kudos to the staff. Kenny Blank is a phenomenal
leader. The staff is amazing. They’ve worked so hard on the ease of use and I was also
impressed, like everything’s new this year. So going virtual, like we’re on Apple TV. We’re on
Roku. You can find us. You can find us on all of our Q and A’s are going to be posted on
YouTube so you don’t even have to buy tickets to the film. And yet you can access those
amazing question and answers where we have these phenomenal people talking about their
films and their journeys. And we’re really trying to make it as accessible as possible. And I’ve
got to tell you, the staff really has out done themselves.
Rico: [00:14:52] And as a former film production manager, when I was in school and I used to
publish a fanzine back in Brooklyn for movies. I went to the Star Wars premiere and sat next to
Rex Reed, who was wondering who these kids were. I was with my siblings reviewing the movie
for the fanzine. Just to be able to see the Q and A part and understand how that movie was
made. Where people think, Oh, that’s easy, or they have a predetermined a way that it was
done or something. And you realize, wow, that was an accident? That happened on set? That
was just improv when it looked like it was organic or something. So the sweet spots of seeing
how a movie is made.
Karl: [00:15:37] Today, they have all those extras on films. If you go on Netflix, you’ll be able to
see the extra director’s cut, directors comments, and so on. Well, you know, 20 years ago they
didn’t have those things. And if you went to a film festival, you get to hear some of those
insights, those questions. You know, was that luck or was that planned and how did they think
through making a film? Which I’m pretty sure that those folks ended up being this generation of
filmmakers. And so for young kids out there right now and their families, if they’ve enjoyed film,
going on that website, and I think doing, circle the films that you want to take a look at and sign
up, get tickets and enjoy with your family. Make it a family experience. And listen to the Q and A,
and then have that discussion with your family about what you interpreted from the film.
Whether it’s the technical, how it was made, or maybe it was the story of the plot, or questions.
That’s a great COVID socially distant activity to do with the family that, you know, in years past,
you may not have been able to do as easily if you had to go out. But I got a couple of kind of…
Sari: [00:16:47] Before we leave this topic, it’s a really good point. The things that are made
easier by going virtual in the past, you had to be in your seat for the seven o’clock showing, and
then wait afterwards for the setup to have the guests. This year, it’s seamless and you have a
window. So the film festival is February 17th to February 28th. And during that time period,
tickets are on sale now AJFF.org. Which is, thank you for complimenting our website, that was
great. But you have a window now, so you don’t have to watch it at a certain time at night. You
might be a morning person. You might want to watch it while you’re working out. You might want
to watch it, you know, with other people, as you were saying, Karl. So there’s a window within
which you can now screen it. And that really opens it up. And then the Q and A’s will be there for
you.
Rico: [00:17:39] And not only that you can watch more than what you may have done before. So
last year before COVID, maybe you got to three of these movies, maybe you did the midnight
show. Which I’m going to watch that midnight horror movie, right? The Vigil. That’s going to be
cool. I’m going to watch that I’ve been dying because that’s the time to watch it. But this time I
can watch a half a dozen or a dozen if I want. I mean, it’s so different than before. It’s probably
opening it up to a wider audience than could otherwise have made the festival.
Karl: [00:18:09] And that was actually where, where I was going to ask, of the things that have
changed because of COVID. What are some of the things that just, you know, maybe might’ve
surprised the team and or blessings that, you know, things that you’d like to figure out and
incorporate and keep around, even beyond this period that everyone’s socially distant.
Sari: [00:18:30] That’s a great question. So when everything first hit, the real conundrum was,
do we hibernate or do we innovate? And we went with innovate. So we spent a lot of time
searching web platforms, figuring out what a virtual film festival would look like. Going to drive
ins, which was really fun. We got to test different drive-ins and for the first time ever, we’re
having drive-ins at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. They’re going to be at the Mercedes-Benz
stadium and the Home Depot backyard. And we’re going to have three films. Shivah baby,
Spaceballs, we always bring back some great films that we love, and Little Shop of Horrors. And
we’re having food trucks. We’re having a donut truck. We’re having giveaway bags. I mean,
we’re trying to really bring the festival and the festivity into this experience. So that’s definitely
something different than I really had fun with. But there’s something else that happened that we
realized during COVID. First, we have hundreds of volunteers and they really wanted us to stay
on track. They wanted us to keep our schedule. They wanted to keep working in the film
evaluation and get the films curated for this upcoming festival. And doing all of our meetings on
Zoom, we not only became more accessible to new volunteers who otherwise couldn’t have
gotten into our building. I never want to lose that voice at the table. Someone who maybe had
an accessibility issue or some kind of an issue that made it so that they could not be there in
person. Now they can participate. I never want to lose those voices. Those people who are
fresh to the table and let us see things from a different point of view. We’ve had a number of
new volunteers come on, who otherwise never could have been able to attend and participate.
And I don’t want that to ever go away. It’s been phenomenal. The other thing that we did is we
took our entire collection of every film that we’ve shown at the film festivals in years past. And
we uploaded it onto a platform on the internet. It’s at AJFFRecommends.org, brand new
website. I’m particularly excited for the educational pieces. We have a lot of school partners,
great schools that are exposing their students to, like you said, Karl, these different viewpoints,
different countries, different cultures and then want to unpack it. And so we can recommend
films to them that they can get off the platform and help them unpack and create a way to
connect these students to the story on the screen. And then the final thing, which I’m so excited
about, is we created a filmmaker fund to help filmmakers struggling to help them get their films
to audiences. And we have our first film ever that has benefited from the filmmaker fund. And it’s
premiering, it’s world premiere is that the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. And it’s about the city of
Atlanta. It’s called The City Too Busy to Hate. It’s a great film and it’s produced by three local
filmmakers who are phenomenal people and the film shows you things you would not have
otherwise seen. I got to see a few snippets of it and it was showing Holocaust survivors being
brought together during COVID, spatially distanced to listen to a concert. You know, the things
people did to really open their hearts and try to find ways for other people to be connected.
Because Atlanta is pretty awesome. The greater Atlanta is a pretty unique place and they, this
film explores different pockets of the community and how they tackled with COVID, but also how
they came together under COVID. Very exciting. And the filmmaker is going to keep going. I
love it.
Karl: [00:22:33] We always talk about innovating. When something external challenge is brought
in the organizations that thrive are the ones that figure out how to innovate. And some of the
best, you know, things that we see today comes out of hardship, where people have to figure
out a way. And I think you might’ve missed, you solved the one other really important challenge
that people have in enjoying film festival. You solved the babysitting challenge. Now today
instead of having to get that babysitter and go out there and see a film you could put the kids to
bed, you could put the kids in front of Disney. You can still enjoy the film in so many different
ways that’s going to be important. You mentioned volunteers, hundreds of volunteers. Why don’t
you give a little insight on the process to get the films selected and featured into the festival
each year.
Sari: [00:23:32] So I think this year we had about 500 films submitted. You can go on our
website if you want to submit a film. And then it goes to the film evaluation committee. And I
have served on the film evaluation committee and I did it one term and I was done. Because
you have to see a lot of really bad films to get to the good ones. And I want my film experience
to be curated. That’s why I like the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. These hundreds of volunteers
having thousands and thousands of reviews that they post online. And then they discuss them.
They come together and they discuss the films. And are they good enough as far as production
value? Is it a relevant story, is it timely, is it Jewish? That question comes up a lot. And then they
curate those films and they propose a list of films that they recommend for the festival. And then
that’s what we weed through to get you the best of the best. So you don’t have to be digging
through a bunch of different platforms. It’s curated for you.
Karl: [00:24:35] Then I’m curious, the other part is the cost now. So the traditional model where
you buy a ticket and you show up and so on. How would the cost of the film and what are the
options for people to enjoy these films this year?
Sari: [00:24:50] Well, the great thing about the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival this year is that
when you buy a ticket, it’s for whoever’s in your house. So the ticket could be for five people. It
could be for ten people. It’s whoever’s in your pod can get it. You get a code and the code gives
you entrance into the film. The drive-in, you pay per car. And once you pay per car, you can
have as many people in your car as you want. You can show up for that screening. So the
prices are actually pretty good. And then the Q and A’s are free. Anyone can watch a Q and A,
even if they haven’t seen the film.
Rico: [00:25:27] Let me ask you something on the drive in part. If someone comes in with a
pickup truck and lays down the back and puts the all the blankets down, is that a good, is that
good?
Sari: [00:25:38] Don’t make me laugh. You’re making me laugh. That’s good. I think we said any
vehicle, any vehicle.
Karl: [00:25:50] I can see school buses rolling in, people in school buses.
Sari: [00:25:54] Hey there is a donut truck coming with hot cocoa. So a school bus would be
very appropriate. But, yeah, so we tried to make it accessible. And, but we’re also a nonprofit. I
mean, we’re not making a profit off this. We’re providing a service, we’re part of our community.
And that’s the thing that was amazing about this year. People wanted to support us. They said,
we don’t want you to just survive. We want you to thrive. And it’s been really beautiful to see
how many supporters came up and said, you’re important to our experience of living in Atlanta.
You’re important to our experience of being in Atlanta, Jewish and non-Jewish. And it’s been
really exciting. And heartwarming, I guess, is the best word heartwarming to have so many
sponsors and supporters really care about us and volunteers who are willing to give their time. I
mean, we’re a volunteer nonprofit and we have some of the most talented and amazing people
coming to help us. We’re very, very lucky and we really appreciate it.
Karl: [00:26:53] We want to help continue that. So if people are out there watching this and they
want to get involved, whether it’s through sponsorship and donations, whether it’s through
volunteering their time, what are the ways that people could get involved? How do they reach
the organization?
Sari: [00:27:09] Well we are on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. AJFF Atlanta is our hashtag,
AJFF Atlanta. So Atlanta Jewish films. But more importantly, I would go to the website. We have
one of our best committees is called community engagement. And it brings a cross section of
people, different religions, different races, different identities, different socioeconomic
backgrounds. And we come together to talk movies and how to bring people to films. I love that
committee, highly recommend it. We have a guest programming committee also, that’s really
fun. A lot of celebrities because we pick who gets to introduce films, who gets to do the Q and
A’s. So I would go to our website and check it out. Please volunteer, AJFF.org.
Karl: [00:27:58] That’s fabulous. Well, I mean, we could talk about films forever. Are there any
that you have on your watch list? For folks that are new, you might suggest that they take a look
at? Give me one or two recommendations that I can put on.
Sari: [00:28:14] Okay, alright. So we have some phenomenal guests. If you guys seen the show
Unorthodox on Netflix, the actress who stared in it is brilliant. And we have got her attending our
festival and speaking to us, she’s throwing in a film called Asia. And it’s ASIA, and I’ll see if I can
find it. But it’s a phenomenal film about a woman and her daughter and their relationship which
can be really challenging. The other films I’m really excited about, Howie Mendell is our closing
night. He is coming to our festival via Zoom. We’re interviewing him and he’s great, and funny,
fun, fantastic. Who else is fun? There are so many, I mean, the one I mentioned to you earlier
They Ain’t Ready for Me. Can’t wait to see this, very excited. Okay, the horror movie is called
the Vigil. And the Vigil is having a midnight showing. And then of course we have a window to
watch it afterwards. If midnight is not your cup of tea. And I heard it’s phenomenal. In Judaism,
when someone passes away, there’s a tradition to have someone sit with the body. And the film
takes that experience and creates a horror film out of it. And I heard it was fantastic. We have a
film critic who’s on our film, who chairs our film evaluation committee. He said this film was
fantastic. And Karl, to your point about the children and the babysitter problem, there’s a film I
don’t know if you can see it, it’s called the Crossing. And it’s about children who have to cross
over a wilderness during World War II in Norway, and it’s great. Great films. So there are films
that are child-friendly including the drive-ins. I mean, the drive-ins are a great opportunity to get
out with your kids in a safe space.
Karl: [00:30:16] Oh yeah, Spaceballs is a classic.
Sari: [00:30:19] Spaceballs is a classic. I mean, it’s the best and you know, our kids haven’t
seen these movies. Our kids haven’t seen Little Shop of Horrors and it’s an event and you’re out
and I’ve been to the Home Depot backyard at Mercedes Events theater. It’s phenomenal. It’s a
great space. It’s open, it’s, I felt really safe when I was there. I’m excited for the food trucks.
We’re doing giveaways. We’re making it festive because we want people to enjoy this and have
some fun.
Rico: [00:30:47] I think I would go for the food trucks too, you know? Kosher food, a couple of
knishes. I mean, it’s just like, I’m just missing a few things from New York.
Sari: [00:30:58] Oh yeah. I wish, but there’s no knish, but there are donuts. That’s another thing
that we’ve added for the festival this year. We have home delivery of some gourmet meals, with
your movies. So when you order your tickets, it’ll pop up and say, would you like a meal
delivered to your house? And if you buy opening night tickets, this is an insider tip. If you buy
tickets for opening night, you will get a free festival in a box delivered to your home. And inside
the box are treats, we want to support our restaurant partners who’ve been great to us for so
many years. I mean, we really want to make this fun and festive. So opening night festival in a
box drive in we’re going to have some giveaways and some swag and lots of food and fun. And
we’re really trying to make this an event. And so far, the audience is clamoring for this. We’ve
had an amazing response from our sponsors, amazing response from our audience saying, we
want you to, we want the show to go on. The show must go on. So AJFF this year has
reinvented, re-imagined. But we’ll be here February 17th till 28th, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
So join us, please.
Karl: [00:32:11] Well I want to thank you so much for sharing about the Atlanta Jewish Film
Festival and all the ways that you bring people together through film and continuing the tradition
and innovating it in a lot of different ways. Sari, you have been excellent and a great
ambassador for the program that’s coming up. And again, why don’t you tell us the dates of the
film festival?
Sari: [00:32:38] Sure. It starts February 17th. Tickets are on sale now at our website, AJFF.org.
We are a nonprofit. And our closing night is February 28th. The opening night film Kiss Me
Kosher has gotten rave reviews, and we picked a comedy. We said, we must start with a
comedy this year. We need to lighten up. And then we end with a comedian, with Howie
Mendell. And he’s coming in as a guest for the Atlanta Jewish film festival. So it’s going to be
great.
Karl: [00:33:11] Fabulous. Well, thank you so much. Sari Earl, vice president of the Atlanta
Jewish film festival board. And you know, this year we need laughs. We need distractions. We
need to get out. And the film festival is giving us all of that this year for folks to be able to enjoy.
And so I definitely want to give two notes that I made for myself. This sounds like the ideal
Valentine’s gift for folks. And the beauty of this is you could send this Valentine across the
country. People could enjoy it anywhere. So just through the realities of being virtual, people
could enjoy this from anywhere in the country, really. So really great idea for a gift. So thank you
so much for sharing everything you have today.
Sari: [00:34:00] Thanks for having me. Some of the films, just so you know, are geo blocked. So
they’re only available in Georgia. A lot of the films are available anywhere in the United States of
America. So you just have to go to the website and check it out. But there are plenty of films.
And like I said, they’ve been curated. Like someone else, hundreds of times have viewed this to
make sure it was good and worth my time. So it’s worth checking out.
Karl: [00:34:24] Fabulous. Well, thank you again. Thank you so much. Well I wanna say thanks.
Thanks everyone, the sponsor, Hargray Fiber for continuing to support the Capitalist Sage and
the other family of podcasts that we have. I’m Karl Barham with Transworld Business Advisors
of Atlanta Peachtree. Our business advisors are available to consult on your business, whether
you’re looking to improve it or grow it, whether you’re looking to exit your business. You can
contact myself or any one of our advisors to help to guide you through that path. Now’s a great
time. The SBA is offering great rates and programs for people acquiring businesses. So if you
want to be your own boss, so you can watch more films at the time that you want give us a call.
And we could help you find the right business that fits what you’re doing. Rico, why don’t you tell
us a little bit about what you’ve got coming up.
Rico: [00:35:18] Sure, we just got our latest issue out of Peachtree Corners magazine. I showed
you guys that before. Faith and sports is the cover story. Lots of stuff in here, a lot of good
stories. The roller hockey Ogden rink, and the association along with stories about, from
education to summer camp, to the new redevelopment authority that the city has started, to
aging well resource guide. So that there’s a bunch of good things in here. You can find all of it
almost online now at LivinginPeachtreeCorners.com. There’s an article in here, a short piece on
the on the film festival as well. And we’re going to be doing more of these types of stories
coming out over the next few weeks. If you want to find out a little bit more beyond what I do at
MightyRockets.com. That’s content, marketing, marketing social media, and creative work,
creative services. Check that out. If you need me, you can find me on LinkedIn, Rico Figliolini. If
you can’t spell that, just go to the website and you’ll see it and you can find me almost
anywhere. So yeah, and from, and it’s amazing that the three of us let’s put us back on here,
three of us are all from Brooklyn or New York.
Karl: [00:36:31] Yeah. Absolutely, Brooklyn spreads out all over the country, right? They seem
like 30 something percent of folks in the United States came through Brooklyn. So here we are
reunited in Georgia.
Rico: [00:36:44] Right. Good to have you on Sari. Oh well, hold on. Can’t hear you for some
reason.
Sari: [00:36:50] Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. I had a lot of fun talking
with you guys. It was great. Really appreciate you hosting us and the Atlanta Jewish Film
Festival. Thank you.
Karl: [00:37:00] Our pleasure. Well everyone, go get your tickets. February 17 through 28, check
out the website. Get those tickets, send them out as gifts and support the local community and
just help bring people together. This is the Capitalist Sage podcast. Again, bringing you great
guests from the community here in all aspects of business, whether it’s for-profit or non-profit.
We do not discriminate. We want to talk to everyone and share what people are doing to help
innovate and bring value to the community. So thank you everybody. And thank you, Sari, for all
you are doing for the community
Rico: [00:37:36] Take care guys.

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Business

Gwinnett Principals Tour Businesses with Partnership Gwinnett for Workforce Development

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A breakfast panel comprising (L to R) Dr. Calvin J. Watts, Lauren Croft, Chad Wagner, and Nick Masino (with moderator Andrew Hickey) discuss the importance of education and industry connection. // Photos courtesy of Partnership Gwinnett

Partnership Gwinnett, in collaboration with Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS), recently hosted its annual Principal Field Trip event. The program aimed to connect professionals in education and industry to support continued workforce development based on existing and future needs.

The day began with breakfast and a panel discussion featuring Nick Masino, President & CEO of Partnership Gwinnett; Dr. Calvin J. Watts, Superintendent of Gwinnett County Public Schools; Chad Wagner, President of Peachtree Packaging; and Lauren Croft, HR Director at Peachtree Packaging.

Principals and Industry leaders gather for a group photo at QTS during Partnership Gwinnett’s 2024 Principal Field Trip

“Our principals and educators play a critical role in shaping the future workforce of Gwinnett County. This event provides an opportunity to bridge the gap between education and industry, ensuring our students are prepared and ready for high-skill and in-demand careers,” stated Dr. Watts.

In addition to having lunch at Gwinnett Technical College, principals visited several industry partners, including Price Industries, QTS, Peachtree Packaging, Mitsubishi Trane HVAC, Aluvision, CleanSpark, Nextran, WIKA and Eagle Rock Studios. These visits allowed educational leaders to engage with local businesses and understand industry needs.

“Supporting this event underscores our commitment to investing in the future of our workforce. By partnering with GCPS and Partnership Gwinnett, we can ensure that students are equipped with the skills necessary to thrive in today’s job market,” said Wagner.

PFT attendees tour operations at Peachtree Packaging.

Gwinnett County Public Schools, the largest public school district in the state, serves approximately 182,000 students across 142 schools. The district’s diverse student population, representing 191 countries and speaking 98 different languages, benefits from career pathways and college and career readiness programs that support career exploration, industry certifications and internships.

“With thousands of students graduating each year, GCPS significantly contributes to the 2.6 million labor draw within a one-hour drive of Gwinnett County,” said Partnership Gwinnett Director of Economic Development Andrew Hickey. “As these graduates enter the workforce, they bring essential skills for high-skill and in-demand careers, ensuring a strong future for the local economy.”

Learn more about the work Partnership Gwinnett does here.

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Business

Local Marketing Production Company Vox-Pop-Uli Finds Peachtree Corners Right for Business

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Instead of asking what Peachtree Corners-based company Vox-Pop-Uli does, it may be quicker to ask what they don’t do.
Andrew Hajduk // Photos by George Hunter

When perusing the list of goods and services provided by Peachtree Corners-based company Vox-Pop-Uli, instead of asking what they do, it may be quicker to ask what they don’t do. When it comes to marketing production, it’s easy to see why the company motto is, “Yeah, we do that.”

A first-generation Ukrainian, Andrew Hajduk’s parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1949 after the Soviet Union took over Ukraine. They settled in the Chicago area and worked in the steel mills. A job transfer moved the family to metro Atlanta in 1975, where they’ve been ever since.

In 1996, Hajduk worked at a similar company, where he was inspired to branch out independently.

“I had a partner at the time, and we were out making sales calls in North Carolina and visiting customers,” he said. “We thought we were a whole lot smarter than our boss and decided to go and do it on our own.”

Vox-Pop-Uli

Where did the name Vox-Pop-Uli come from? 

“Neither one of us was smart enough nor creative enough to come up with something. The only challenge that we gave [the designer] was we wanted a name that didn’t tie us to anything specific to what we did. And we didn’t want a name that didn’t reflect either of our names,” Hajduk said. 

The literal Latin translation is “voice of the people.”

“We use that as we help our customers be the voice to their people. Through marketing, with flyers, signage, whatever it is, but letting their marketing be the voice to their people, their employees, their customers, whoever it is.”

At first, they worked out of their homes until securing office space a year later. After a few years, Hajduk’s partner left, so Hajduk continued the vision on his own.

 “We have grown and adapted. Our model has changed a little bit. But it’s always been about working with our customers. We do a lot of specialty retail with other B2B customers, and we’re just really providing a full marketing service for them and acting as their fulfillment center,” Hajduk said.

Even though printing is a major part of the company’s work, communication of the client’s brand is really its backbone.

“We started before digital print had become commercially acceptable. We had an opportunity to be very early adopters of digital print because we saw a need, and we had some customers that were willing to take a chance on it with us,” he said. 

“It’s evolved with that, and there continues to be a heavy print component to it, but now there’s all the swag, all the different things that people use to communicate their brand,” he added.

Technology is the key to success

One aspect that has kept Vox-Pop-Uli ahead of much of the competition is embracing technology.

“One of the things that it’s done to our internal processes is it’s made the timeframe a lot faster. It allows people to be way more responsive to an immediate need,” he said.

“If I want to do a last-minute campaign for Memorial Day weekend, which is in what two and a half weeks, I can do that. Whereas, with the traditional print or before the technology was there, there was no chance I would be able to do that,” he explained.

Sometimes, that makes things challenging because clients don’t build in time. They know that last-minute orders are generally no problem.

“The other thing it’s done is it’s given people the ultimate flexibility,” he said. 

With many national clients, a lot of materials need to be customized for different locations, different states and different markets.

“Everybody’s got legal disclaimers because of pricing, services or whatever. So, we can customize down to a state or local level, depending on the product,” said Hajduk. 

“We don’t print 10,000 of any one thing, but we might print 1,000, each of 10 different versions for a company because if you’re in Kentucky, you’ve got one disclaimer, one price package. And if you’re in Florida, you have something else.”

Creating online store for clients

“We’re maintaining stores where they can go in and order their products,” he said. “Whether it’s posters, business cards, whatever it is, but all the inventory exists virtually now. As a business, you’re not maintaining large inventory levels of anything. They can do everything on demand. … As opposed to printing or producing a whole bunch of something to last you, they can literally order it as they need it. And it exists virtually until it’s printed.”

Vox also helps customers create campaigns.

“People ask me all the time, ‘What form do you think works best?’” said Hajduk. 

“I believe you must be omnipresent. People have short attention spans today. We’re competing harder for that consumer dollar. I don’t think any one thing is going to work. It’s not about a single Facebook ad, a digital post, or a postcard; all things have to work together,” he explained.

Hajduk said the most successful campaigns involve print, storefront, digital and social media elements.

The right place for business

“We’ve always been in the Gwinnett County area,” Hajduk said. “We started out in Duluth on the other side of 85.”

Hajduk and his partner lived on opposite sides of the metro area, so Gwinnett County was a good middle ground. 

“The Interstate 85 corridor was always a good place for us. We started out off Steve Reynolds Blvd; then we’re in Duluth for a little bit. And then in 2005, we moved over here to the North Woods complex and watched it become Peachtree Corners,” he said. “Then, in 2019, we moved to this space. I just love the feel of the community. I love this location. I like being on Peachtree Industrial Blvd.”

Megan Hajduk, Andrew Hajduk, Cindy Hajduk, and Daniel Hajduk

City leadership

“I think Peachtree Corners has done a lot of things right. In terms of how they’re growing and things like that,” he said. “The location is good and central. My wife, Cindy, and I moved to Peachtree Corners in January. We were in Johns Creek till we became empty nesters. We wanted to be on the river, and we found a great house,” he said.

Even though the kids have moved out, Megan and Daniel are part of the Vox staff. Along with his wife, a stay-at-home mom until the children were older, the Hajduks are building a legacy of family and community. There’s room if younger son Steven also desires to join the family business.

“We see continued growth and scaling,” said Hajduk. “We’re excited about growing here. As technology has changed, it’s given us a broader mix of clients. Up until about five or six years ago, the company was very retail-based, meaning we had a lot of retail clients. We have a lot of clients outside of Georgia, and I spent way too much time traveling. But we have a great opportunity now with everything we do to grow here.”

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Business

The Forum’s Transformation: A New Chapter in Peachtree Corners

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Photos courtesy of The Forum

Led by North American Properties (NAP), The Forum is being reimagined as a mixed-use destination in the center of Peachtree Corners. This multi-phase project aims to enhance the already strong community connection between residents. It also seeks to attract new businesses, residents and visitors, while creating jobs and boosting tenant sales. 

Innovative rebranding and technology

Built in 2002, the Forum is an open-air shopping center featuring a variety of retail stores, restaurants and entertainment options. Following its acquisition by NAP, The Forum in Peachtree Corners has undergone a significant rebranding to update its visual and verbal identity and reflect its more modern persona. 

Early in redevelopment, NAP partnered with the city of Peachtree Corners to improve the connection between The Forum and the Town Center

“The overall goal of the project is to create a more cohesive ecosystem that embraces the city’s hometown charm. It also reduces the need for residents to venture outside the area to nearby destinations for in-demand experiences,” explained NAP Public Relations Director, Britni Johnson

The new branding is evident throughout the property with updated pole banners, property and directional signage and window graphics, along with digital enhancements to The Forum’s website and social media channels.

“One of the first things NAP completed upon taking over management at The Forum was a rebrand encompassing a new visual and verbal identity,” added Johnson.

In addition to aesthetic updates, The Forum is set to roll out several technological enhancements designed to improve the visitor experience. These include four new digital directories for wayfinding, event information and interactive features such as a “snap a selfie” function. 

“State-of-the-art stage lighting and A/V for the main stage in The Plaza, which is under construction and set for completion in late summer 2024, will transform the entertainment experience,” Johnson said. 

Moreover, additional Wi-Fi access points are being installed to enhance connectivity and support an outdoor workspace. 

Greenspaces for community gatherings

In terms of design, new community gathering spaces have replaced excess street parking, promoting longer visits and greater interaction among guests. These improvements are part of a broader effort to boost walkability and connectivity across the property.

To enhance the overall guest experience at The Forum, Phase I of the redevelopment focuses on expanding the public realm by adding new greenspaces that welcome casual gatherings. 

The first of these spaces, the 1,700-square-foot North Plaza, was introduced in October 2023 and is complemented by surrounding restaurants with inviting patios, including the soon-to-open Politan Row food hall.

Further enhancements are visible in the construction of The Plaza, situated near Pottery Barn. This development is set to include a 6,650-square-foot turfed event plaza equipped with a covered performance stage, a large LED screen and comfortable seating areas. Upon completion, The Plaza will host The Forum’s annual events. 

“We host over 100 annual events – many of which are held in partnership with or support local organizations, including Light Up The Corners with the Fowler YMCA, Restaurant Week with Peachtree Farm, and Santa at The Forum with Neighborhood Cooperative Ministries,” noted Charlotte Hinton, The Forum’s marketing manager.

Prioritizing guest safety

Rest assured, when you’re attending an event or stopping by for an afternoon visit, your safety is NAP’s top priority. 

Since taking over The Forum in March 2022, NAP has significantly increased security measures, boosting coverage by 35% as a key aspect of the property’s ongoing redevelopment. This enhancement includes round-the-clock protection provided by onsite security personnel and off-duty law enforcement officers.

The Forum’s security infrastructure has also been expanded, with the installation of nearly 30 new CCTV cameras across the property. Additionally, NAP formed a strategic partnership with Fusus by Axon, a local technology firm based in Peachtree Corners, to integrate a real-time public safety intelligence platform with the existing camera network. 

“This allows police to tap into the surveillance feed and gain critical intel during active investigations, ensuring a rapid and informed response to any security issues,” shared Johnson. The security team is directly accessible for immediate assistance.

NAP’s dynamic retail strategy

Understanding the evolving needs of the Peachtree Corners community, NAP is curating a diverse mix of retailers, including popular brands and local entrepreneurs.

Brooke Massey, NAP’s Director of Leasing, emphasized the strategic approach of their retail team. 

“NAP’s retail leasing team has strong relationships with an extensive collection of 300+ in-demand brands and is in constant communication with them about their needs,” she explained. 

This network has facilitated the introduction of both well-known brands and local entrepreneurs into the retail space, maintaining a dynamic balance that caters to the community’s desires. 

Moreover, Massey highlighted the vision behind their tenant selection. 

“Our strategy is very data-driven, and our marketing team even plays a role in the curation process by polling social media followers on what they want to see at The Forum,” she added. 

Since acquiring The Forum in March 2022, NAP has secured 39 deals with various tenants. 

Notable recent openings include Alloy Personal Training, Cookie Fix, Giulia, Kendra Scott, Lovesac and Stretchlab. Coming later in 2024 are Nando’s Peri-Peri, Sucre and The NOW Massage

“We look forward to becoming part of The Forum community by providing guests with a truly memorable part of their day. So much of our days are rushed, running one errand to another. Everyone deserves a moment to slow down and enjoy something delicious. We want to be the space where that happens for Peachtree Corners and all who visit,” shared a company spokesperson for Sucre.

Creating memorable moments

The Forum turned a somber anniversary into a moment of joy for a local family. 

Two days after the 2022 Holiday Tree Lighting, tragedy struck Peachtree Corners Councilman Joe Sawyer‘s family. His daughter was murdered while working as a Lyft driver, leaving behind three young children. 

A year later, on the first anniversary of her death, the Sawyer family was invited to The Forum’s 2023 Tree Lighting event. 

“We worked with Santa to surprise the kids, and when I took them backstage, they thought they were just going to get to meet and chat with him,” said Sue Storck, The Forum’s general manager.

Unbeknownst to them, a larger surprise awaited as they were brought on stage to help Santa light the tree, delighting the crowd of over 14,000 attendees. 

“The kids were surprised and delighted to be able to do this, and it was a fantastic memory for both the Sawyer and Forum families,” Storck added, reflecting on the community’s effort to support one of their own during a time of loss.

The team’s efforts continue throughout the year, planting seeds within the community. 

“We’re constantly seeking unique opportunities to engage with our neighbors. The Peachtree Corners Photography Club currently has an exhibit of photos shot by local residents on display in the Forum South office lobby,” shared Hinton. 

“Our team participated in the 2024 Career Exploration Night sponsored by the Norcross Rotary Club. We also recently supported Wesleyan Middle School students on their construction project challenge win,” she added.

Local investments from new tenants: Kendra Scott’s philanthropic engagement

New tenants are bringing their own philanthropic efforts to the community, too. Kendra Scott Peachtree Corners partnered with the Norcross High School Cheer Team on May 10, donating 20% of the proceeds. 

The next day, they partnered with Spectrum Autism Support Group, again donating 20% of the proceeds to the local organization.

“When Kendra Scott opens a store in a new community, we always lead with giving. Philanthropy is one of our core pillars, and we love to celebrate our grand openings by partnering with organizations that are already making a difference!” shared Amanda Young, Southeast Marketing and Philanthropic Manager for Kendra Scott.

By working with Norcross High School Cheer and Spectrum Autism Support Group, we’re able to introduce ourselves to Peachtree Corners residents as a true community partner,” she added. 

Kendra Scott is also dedicated to strengthening community ties through “Kendra Gives Back” events at its Forum location. 

These events are intended to support local causes and foster connections among community leaders and area supporters. 

“We are looking forward to being able to host these organizations in their own backyard!” said Young.

The company is committed to maintaining strong partnerships with neighboring businesses at The Forum, such as Cookie Fix, Peche, and Giulia-The Italian Bakery

“We are so excited to be a part of The Forum family and have already enjoyed working with their leadership,” Young exclaimed.

Looking ahead

The transformation of The Forum is more than a redevelopment project; it’s a vision for the future of Peachtree Corners. 

With plans for adding residential units and a boutique hotel, The Forum is poised to become a dynamic hub of activity. 

“Long-term, we’re working toward creating a place that’s activated 18 hours a day, seven days a week,” projected Johnson. 

Through thoughtful design, community engagement and a commitment to sustainability, The Forum’s transformation is set to enrich the lives of Peachtree Corners’ residents for generations to come.

Read more news about The Forum here.

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