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James Kicklighter: Camera with a Conscience

James Kicklighter: Camera with a Conscience

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Published by James Kicklighter
Article in the March/February edition of Macon Magazine. For more information on writer Candice Dyer, visit her blog at http://anticsincandyland.wordpress.com/, for Macon Magazine, visit http://www.maconmagazine.com/.
Article in the March/February edition of Macon Magazine. For more information on writer Candice Dyer, visit her blog at http://anticsincandyland.wordpress.com/, for Macon Magazine, visit http://www.maconmagazine.com/.

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Published by: James Kicklighter on Mar 28, 2011
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10/24/2013

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30 l MACON MAGAZINE FEBRUARY/MARCH 2011
conscience
Camera
with a
by
candice dyer
photography by
maryann bates
Filmmaker’s artcomes from the heart
While shooting a movie in Ethiopia, James Kicklighterwandered alone at dawn into some high grass, hopingto  lm the sort o molten, birth-o-creation sunrise thatsymbolizes Arica.While adjusting his camera, he was startled by a manbrandishing an AK-47 assault rif e. Realizing they sharedno common language, Kicklighter began pantomiminghis intentions, pointing rantically to the camera and thenthe horizon. T e man responded with a motion o hisweapon that indicated an ominous command: march. Heorced a panicked, sweating Kicklighter arther into theundergrowth at gunpoint.“I genuinely thought that  eld in Ethiopia was the lastthing I would ever see,” said Kicklighter, who was 21 at thetime. “No one would have ound me.”Finally, they reached a clearing. T e guard pointed hisrif e toward the sky and le as abruptly as he had appeared.He helpully had led Kicklighter to a better vantage point,where the knockout opening scene was  lmed or “Lando Higher Peace,” one o three projects the up-and-cominglmmaker has entered in this month’s Macon Film Festival.“At the end o the day, I got the shot we were waiting or,and that is all that counts,” he said.For Kicklighter, movie making is not just a route to thered carpet; it is a risky calling grati ed by intangible butdeeply elt rewards. “Land o Higher Peace” explores thedaily challenges o Ethiopia – the “pain and beauty” –through the eyes o American Christians at an orphanagein Gondar. His other estival entries also are intimatedramas o human connection: “Winter,”  lmed in a northGeorgia cabin, and “T e Car Wash,” a “coming o old age”
 
FEBRUARY/MARCH 2011 MACON MAGAZINE I 31
story starring grande dame Edith Ivey, who appeared in “TeCurious Case o Benjamin Button.” (During lming, Ivey’saecting monologues about mortality and loneliness le eventhe well-rehearsed crew in tears.)“Tere’s nothing wrong with making a popcorn fick or pureentertainment,” Kicklighter said, “but lm is such a powerulmedium that I think there’s a responsibility there to go a stepurther and interact with the audience, to ask questions thatmake viewers evaluatetheir own lives and whatis really important. Idon’t have the answers,but I like to use strongstorytelling to posequestions, with the hopethat viewers will seek out their own answers. Ireceived an e-mail roma lady in Pennsylvaniatelling me that she hadjust watched ‘Te CarWash’ and or the rst time elt she wasn’t alone. Just that onemessage made that entire project worthwhile.”Kicklighter, a 22-year-old rom Bellville, is inevitably taggedas a prodigy, wunderkind and lovable “old soul,” with eightmovies to his credit, more in the works and a shel o awardsrom indie lm estivals and arts organizations around theworld. He established JamesWorks Entertainment at 16 withthe mission “to create socially conscious lms that engageour audiences through new media to action in their personallives, communities and around the globe.” So, in a inseltownyearbook, he might be voted “least likely to appear in the creditso a Michael Bay schlockbuster.” Kicklighter’s visions o “painand beauty” do not involve the shoot-’em-up car chases, breast-implant buets and other cheap eects that dene big-budgetAmerican cinema. Granted, his most recent lm, “Followed,”which was shot in Macon, eatures zombies, but it may be hismost ambitious “message movie” to date, redening horror interms o everyday guilt. Tese undead do not eat brains; they godeeper, tugging baleully at your conscience, haunting you orlapses in social responsibility, or sins o omission.“Te zombies represent all o the invisible people in our liveswe should care about – the homeless person under the bridge,kids in a sweatshop – but don’t,” he said. “At best, we throwmoney at the problem, but we don’t stop to touch these people,to eel them, to bring them back into the community. One o the zombies in ‘Followed’ is wearing shoes made o plastic waterbottles because we’d seen a child in Ethiopia wearing those,scrounged rom the trash. So we weren’t trying to be campy orcheesy; we’re using zombies to illustrate real social divisions.”Kicklighter does not have stars in his eyes, but he clearly has seen
Macon Film Festival
• Feb. 17 - 20• Downtown at various venues• www.maconlmfestival.comThree of James Kicklighter’sworks will be featured.
PAGE 73
Read more about the festival.
Continued on page 56
(1) James Kicklighter instructs child actor Joshua Tweedy and zombie extras inthe opening scene o the short flm "Followed,” which was shot here in Macon inDecember. This scene took place in Washington Park. (2) Kicklighter gives directionto lead actor Erryn Arkin and actress Sylvia Boykin in a scene shot at the So ChiGallery. (3) Kickligher reviews with director o photography Jason Winn on a sceneshot at Mercer University. (4) From let, Kicklighter, Kasey Ray-Stokes, child actressAbigail de los Reyes, Abigail's dad Bruce Reyes-Chow, Mark Ezra Stokes and RachelWilliams view on a monitor a scene previously shot at the Terminal Station.
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