Athens Natives Bring Film Fest To Athena Cinema

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Two Athens High School graduates are returning home with a one-of-a-kind touring film fest.

Film producer Eric Zudak and Penn State media studies professor Matt Jordan are hoping to shake things up with the College Town Film Festival, a four-day event designed to bring together working professionals, students and academicians.

The festival, which takes place at The Athena Cinema, opens Oct. 2 with Karaoke Man, starring Brian Dietzen from the CBS TV show NCIS. After the film, Jordan and Zudak will be joined onstage by writer Kevin Guzowski for an audience Q&A.

Zudak, who executive-produced Karaoke Man, said he got the inspiration for the College Town Film Festival after taking his film to other fests.

"There are many good film festivals, but they seem to focus more on the organization itself and the community and less on the films and filmmakers, which is fine…but we wanted to do something different," he explained. "After a conversation with my friend Carrie Preston, in which we shared stories about how costly film festival participation is, it occurred to me that–having grown up in a college town–college towns had several things that are advantageous to the film festival concept."

Zudak and Jordan, whose friendship goes back to their little league days, have managed to stay in touch for more than 35 years, partly based on their shared love of film.

"Matt did his Masters degree in Clairmont, Calif., while I was living in L.A., and we would go to the occasional Dodger games together during the '90s," said Zudak. "Matt and I have talked a lot about film over the years since. I followed his career development at Penn State and when he began contributing to The Huffington Post."

Zudak discussed the idea for the College Town Film Festival with another longtime friend and business partner, Mike Petty (Zudak had produced and acted in several of his plays). The idea resonated with Petty and the duo decided to bring it to Jordan.

The concept was tested at Penn State and was deemed a success, "especially for the first time out," according to Zudak, who added that an Athens-based fest was always in the cards.

"We've always thought of Athens as the paradigmatic 'college town,' so I think it was always the plan–whether or not it was articulated–to have the festival stop there," he said. "The involvement of Dr. Geoff Dabelko of the Voinovich School is what made the Ohio University festival really become a reality. We're really looking forward to returning…I love Athens."

The festival's highlights include:

Twilight of The Gods, Oct. 4, 1 p.m.: Filmmaker Julian Doyle, editor of Life of Brian, Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Time Bandits and Brazil, will share his unique perspective on the movie business, Monty Python and "The Language of Film."

That's What She Said, Oct. 5, 7 p.m.: Join Emmy-nominated actress Carrie Preston (The Good Wife, True Blood) as she presents and discusses her new film, That’s What She Said (a Sundance Film Festival Official Selection), starring Anne Heche. The film will be followed by a closing night party at Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery featuring musical act Guiney and Grimes, featuring Bob Guiney of ABC’s The Bachelor.

No Horizon Any More, Oct. 3, 2 p.m.: Documentary highlighting the struggles of living in Antarctica. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with film director Keith Reimink and Ryan Fogt, assistant professor of meteorology at Ohio University.

Tribewanted: Sierra Leone, Oct. 3, 4 p.m.: Hermione Way, star of the Bravo reality series Silicon Valley, travels to Sierra Leone in Western Africa to visit the eco-tourist resort Tribe Wanted. The documentary follows Hermione’s experiences as she lives with a tribe and the culture clash between a woman from the Western world in a developing society. It will be followed by a panel discussion with film director Jonathan Sarno; Geoff Dabelko, Ohio University professor and director of environmental studies at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs; Bruce Martin, assistant professor of recreation and sport pedagogy; and Jeremiah Asaka, president of the Ohio University African Student Union.

Too Cold Out There Without You, Oct. 5, 3 p.m.: When Rev. Christopher Fike was ordained in the Episcopal Church he was a straight, married mother of two. The film is a story that looks beyond the act of gender transitioning and instead focuses on the transformations that take place in Chris’ relationships and the church. Fike and the film’s director Amy Gattie will be joined by the OU LGBT Center to discuss the making of the film and its powerful impact.

• Late Night Zombie Fest, Oct. 4, 10 p.m.: films include the short Revenant and the psychedelic Brazilian-made feature, Beyond The Grave.

The College Town Film Festival will be held Oct. 2-5 at the Athena Cinema. Visit for a complete schedule.