Gil Robertson talks making movies

The veteran critic opens up about our city’s growing industry and the upcoming celebration of film, Synergy

For all of the advances and accolades thrown Atlanta’s way in the film space over the last few years, there is a noticeably missing trickle down effect. Somehow, the local professionals you would expect to be the driving force behind the now No. 2 market in film and television production have yet to fully be accepted by their peers outside of the city.

“Hollywood and New York have yet to fully embrace Atlanta and show Atlanta the type of respect it deserves,” says veteran film critic and author Gil Roberston. “Especially when you consider the amount of projects that have been made here for about a decade now. “Up until recently, for a number of projects, the majority of those people working in production would be shipped in for the duration of the project, then head back to New York or LA. Atlanta has been slow to grow the infrastructure that’s necessary to grow the industry here. You’re starting to see that change now, with institutions like the Georgia Academy taking disciplines and professions that are part of the production workspace seriously. So I think with the next generation of professionals emerging out of Atlanta you’re gonna have to see that change.”

While the idea of creating a professional community that supports future professionals in film may have been slow to grow in Georgia, it has been the driving force behind Robertson’s Atlanta-based organization, the African-American Film Critics Association, for nearly 15 years.

Alongside fellow journalist Shawn Edwards, Robertson crafted the AAFCA to spark constructive dialogue and create opportunities that would provide their peers and future film journalists the kind of access they needed to grow their careers. “We wanted to make sure that if we could serve as door openers for them, we provided that type of support,” Robertson says. “And the same for filmmakers, because of course very often Black filmmakers aren’t given the same type of support as their counterparts receive. So we wanted to be able to provide them with an extra level of support as well.”

Through partnerships with schools and studios across the country, and support from Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes elite like Academy Awards winners Ava DuVernay and Barry Jenkins (whose film Moonlight received early critical support thanks in part to AAFCA), the organization currently boasts a reach beyond just filmmakers of color, with the AAFCA Awards now considered part of the film industry’s awards circuit.

AAFCA’s other tentpole program, Synergy, brings that vibe back to Atlanta. “Synergy provides an opportunity for mostly below-the-line professionals, journalists very much included, to come together under one roof in hopes of sparking the seed of collaboration,” says Robertson.”We added the award component because we felt there was a need to recognize people who go above and beyond with regards to bringing work to the city and creating opportunities for those who live in Atlanta.” The award’s sixth recipient Rob Hardy, whose credits range from Shameless to Power to pop culture neo-classic Stomp The Yard will be honored Thurs., July 20.