Shellie Schmals Talks The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, FAME, and Electric Shock.

Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.

For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions. 

We are proud to introduce the first Leading Lady for March 2018: Shellie Schmals

Where do you work and what do you do? 
The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, I was working contract for a few years and joined the team full time in 2014, when we became our own agency. My role as Film Programming Manager has a few different components to it, but I love how it varies!

From May to November, I recruit, manage and train the the 200 volunteers who sit on the Film Evaluation Committee. This group plays an active role in selecting the nearly 600 films that are considered for each annual Festival. Starting in November thru January, my work switches to the film acquisition stage. This is where I coordinate marketing collateral and the necessary materials needed for 75 films to screen in 7 venues, 11 auditoriums, and 200 screenings in 23 days. January and February, I’m working with our production team and venue staff to manage behind-the-scenes and on site for the 3 weeks we are in motion for the festival.

February to May – back again to prepping for the FEC to start again. Throw in there some event planning for our year-round events, and you’ve got a good feel of what a year in my AJFF life is like!

When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
As an observer, I’ve always been interested in artistic endeavors and truly appreciate those who can draw, sing, dance, mold, design and fabricate. My skills in those areas – not so much!! It took me many years to realize there was an art to producing events and that’s where my talents were the strongest. Weird to say, but I’ve been at this for 30 years. I was 13 when I planned my first event – it was a fundraiser for my high school youth group and in a way, I’ve been doing non-profit work ever since.

What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
An actress. I knew it at 4 years old and made the declaration to my parents. By 8, I was obsessed with the tv show FAME, and told anyone who would listen that I was going to the High School of Performing Arts in NY. I also wanted to be a rock star – because, Madonna!

If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
Mae West, Sarah Bernhardt, and Fanny Brice – I’m fascinated by their humor, life stories and stage presence. I’m so interested to see what they would think of women’s role in creative industries today and hear about how they would tackle issues like #metoo.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My mom. She’s the loudest cheerleader and the most supportive person in my universe. She may not have understood all of my interests or why “planning could be a thing” – but she’s always proud of what ever mad cap adventure I get myself into.

How is art a passion for you?
It’s like an electric shock, I get really excited about a concept and I want to move quickly for it to crystallize. I also love watching others create and find inspiration in their energy.

What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
We’re no where near where we should be and we’ve got a long way to go! Inequality doesn’t change overnight, and it’s going to a unified effort to enact meaningful change.

What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
Spaces like Relapse Theatre, that double both as a performance venue and an art gallery; people like Ian Aber, who are curating events to include all genres of performance; and communities like Castleberry Hill, that are supporting Atlanta artists by committing to the monthly Art Stroll and growing into the film community. It’s a fantastic time to experience Atlanta as an artist!

What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?

I hope to provide opportunities, connections and outlets where all kinds of artists can collaborate, feel valued and create together.

Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?