Presidente Pollo on August 18th, 2013
Mark II Theater in Aiken, circa 1999.

Mark II Theater in Aiken, circa 1999.

I grew up in the 1970’s and ‘80’s – the dawn of the megaplex.  Movie palaces were anachronisms of a lost era.  I knew the theater operators of the Cinema (formerly the Rosemary Theatre) and Mark in my hometown of Aiken, South Carolina.  Prior to 1982, each was a single screen theater owned by families or regional companies.  By the late 1980’s, megaplex theaters replaced the small mom and pop screens, were owned by large corporations; they sold more concessions, showed more movies and made more money with the same staff showing twelve or more movies instead of one.  The Cinema added two more theaters to become the Cinema Triple, and the Mark split its massive screen (which I saw “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on during its first run in 1981) to show more movies, and stay competitive with megaplexes being built in nearby Augusta, Georgia.  The quality of movies and the experience seemed to erode from that point forward.  More choices weren’t always better.  Movies lacked the uniformity of voice.  They became bold and loud.  Story driven pictures, like “The Accidental Tourist” and My Left Foot” became more difficult to find in the late ‘80’s.  At the theaters, ushers didn’t help you find a seat, and rarely kicked out obnoxious guests, who now can’t keep their fingers off their smart phones with their ubiquitous LED screens.  Makes it hard to enjoy the larger than life images washing over you with tiny pockets of light wandering below one’s eyes.  Yet, you could also argue that the product itself is part of the disappearing audience at the movie theaters.

Steven Spielberg, off Martha's Vineyard in 1974.

Steven Spielberg, off Martha’s Vineyard in 1974.

As screenwriter William Goldman says, “Jaws” changed everything in 1975.  A troubled production by a young director at Universal, “Jaws” cost $9 million, more than twice its original budget, mostly due to lost days shooting on the ocean with a malfunctioning mechanical shark.  Imagine “Transformers” without a robot that walked or fired rockets.  Editor Verna Fields saved the movie, arguing successfully with her young director, Steven Spielberg, that less shark was more, and fuel audience fear.  The strategy worked.  Universal Studios mogul Lew Wasserman cut the initial theatrical release down from 900 theaters as a vote of confidence.  He wanted moviegoers to travel to see it.  The initial 1975 release was 464 theatres on June 20, before widening to 900+ by mid-August.  Wide theatrical releases at that time were considered a sign of weakness, because studios would put out bad movies in as many theaters as possible to avoid poor word of mouth killing its box office potential.  “Jaws” became an event movie with $470 million worldwide (about $2 billion in 2013 U.S. dollars) and changed the distribution model movies forever.

"Titanic" (1997) Courtesy Paramount & Fox

“Titanic” (1997) Courtesy Paramount & Fox

Now, a movie is made or broken by its opening weekend in as many movies as possible.  Quality is less a concern than the amount of tickets sold.  Smaller films are released using the old strategy – open in a small number of large urban markets to build word-of-mouth, and, if successful, go wide.  Why?  Studios spend $50-100 million to market and distribute a big film.  A smaller distributor must navigate those economics to get their product into the same theaters.  Universal spent $1.8 million to market and distribute “Jaws” in 1975 (about $7.8 million in 2013 U.S. dollars).  “Jaws” would be a radically different film if produced in 2013.   Think “Life of Pi” meets “Sharknado,” and you get the idea.  The production budget would be at least $200 million.  Two of James Cameron’s films, “Titanic” (1997) and “Avatar” (2009) ultimately changed expectations of what a blockbuster should aspire to be.  Both cost well over $200 million to produce and exceeded $2 Billion in worldwide box office.

"World War Z" (2013) Courtesy Paramount

“World War Z” (2013) Courtesy Paramount

The stakes have become too high with production budgets escalating to $400 million.  The Brad Pitt zombie film, “World War Z,” cost almost about $325 million to produce, market and distribute.  “World War Z” has grossed $517 million worldwide to minimize Paramount’s risk and has become Pitt’s largest box office success to date.  Another summer film, “The Lone Ranger,” cost Disney almost $350 million to produce, market and distribute.  Its $217 million worldwide gross is considered a big disappointment, with Disney estimated to lose $80-100 million when the books are closed on it.  By contrast, “Fruitvale Station” the Audience Award winner at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, was produced on a meager budget and has grossed $15 million with its widest distribution just north of 1,000 theaters.   Which film has the best chance of enduring well past its release?  My money’s on “Fruitvale Station,” with a talented young director, Ryan Coogler and actor, Michael B. Jordan.  Audiences and critics will continue to seek it out, and Hollywood will have a better memory of it from 2013 when Oscar votes are cast.

Home Theater

Home Theater

Theatrical exhibition is in the fight of its life to sustain itself.  Summer blockbusters are opened on 4,000 or more screens.  Anything less than $80 million on the opening weekend is a failure.  It costs $80 U.S. dollars to take a family of four to the movies once per week.  Take that amount over the course of a year, $4,160, and you’d have a nice home theater and decent library of classic films on Blu-Ray.  The distribution window from theatrical release to home is about three months, down from six months or longer as recent as ten years ago.  Widescreen televisions, 5.1 surround speaker systems (both becoming more affordable by the day) and the availability of movie theater seats simulates the experience – without the distractions of cell phones plus the comforts of home.

Plaza Theater - Atlanta, Georgia (July 2013)

Plaza Theater – Atlanta, Georgia (July 2013)

Luckily, some movie palaces have been or are in the process of being restored.  The Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta generates about $80 million in annual revenue after multiple restorations in the 1970’s and ‘90’s as a concert and touring Broadway show venue.  The Fox runs movies every summer, including classic films.  This season, it ran “The Birds,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”  Another theater in Atlanta, the Plaza, ran the entire catalog of the James Bond films in July.  It cost the non-profit theater just under $8,500 to license all of the films, most of which were struck from new 4-K digital masters.  It gave movie fans the opportunity to watch all of the Bond films on the big screen again.  The Plaza is the first theater in the United States to run every James Bond film in succession.  The response was positive, and the audiences showed great support.  I attended “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” on July 7, and the showing was almost sold out.  The print looked and sounded fabulous.

The Cinema and Mark Theaters in Aiken both closed by the early 2000’s due to poor attendance, disrepair and their escalating property value during the regentrification of downtown Aiken in the late 90’s.  Today, even modern theaters can’t sustain themselves with the poor quality of today’s mega-budget Hollywood studio films, which don’t monopolize audiences. These overpriced films also can’t compete with television shows like “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men” or “The Walking Dead” on pay cable or “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black” on  All are shows produced by smart writers and directed by theatrical filmmakers who’ve reinvented the television program with larger budgets, authentic sets, costumes and a complimentary widescreen aesthetic.  Hollywood studios have abandoned the $15-25 million dollar drama for theatrical distribution, but, luckily, it’s finding a home on pay cable or online.  If Hollywood doesn’t reinvent its theatrical product soon, it, too, theaters will become just as anachronistic as the bookstore.

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Presidente Pollo on November 7th, 2012

“Skyfall” MGM/Danjaq S.A.

I saw my first James Bond film in 1979 on HBO.  I can’t remember if it was “The Man with the Golden Gun” or “The Spy Who Loved Me,” since I was only five years old at the time, same year I attended my first Masters Golf Tournament.  My mother took me to my first James Bond film in 1981, “For Your Eyes Only.”  I’ve subsequently seen every Bond film in its theatrical glory, and caught up with every installment, digesting them as comfort food as a young man, on a bachelor’s weekend or while my wife and son nap.  What was the attraction of James Bond?  It seems his appeal crosses cultures and continents, and men can identify with him.  He is a sex symbol, a male fantasy, yet fallible and frequently spending as much time digging himself out of mistakes he’s made as he does saving the world.    James Bond is a fantastic Superspy and cinema hero because he plays by his own rules, has vulnerability and has a dream life (exotic locales, cool cars, beautiful women and equally evil adversaries).  My three favorite Bond films, “Goldfinger,” “Casino Royale” and “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” fit those criteria, at least for the price of a movie ticket.

“Goldfinger” is at the top of most Bond fans’ lists for its iconography, great villain and Connery’s best Bond performance.  The third Bond installment features some of the most iconic images from the Bond series:  the slain woman painted in gold across Bond’s bed, the first use of the seminal Bond vehicle, the Aston Martin DB5, and Bond waking up to be greeted by Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman).    Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe) has some of the most memorable dialogue of any Bond baddie (“no Mr. Bond, I expect you to die” and “This is gold, Mr Bond. All my life, I have been in love with it’s color, it’s brilliance, it’s divine heaviness.”), and one of the best henchman, Oddjob (Harold Sakata), who slices up prey with his steel-rimmed bowler hat.  “Goldfinger” starts with the iconic shot over Miami, and takes the audience to Switzerland, and the climax at Fort Knox.  Bond engages Goldfinger in Miami while he cheats at cards, follows him to his factory in Switzerland, and is transported to Kentucky by Goldfinger, where he eventually foils Goldfinger’s quest to become the world’s richest gold thief.

“Casino Royale” Sony/MGM/Danjaq S.A.

“Casino Royale” (2006) features one of the best scripts of the entire series, and Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond sizzles on the screen.  Craig is a commanding physical presence, and shows vulnerability both physically and emotionally, the latter of which has only been displayed by Bond sparingly.  It is currently the largest grossing Bond film to date, grossing $594 Million during its international release.  The story takes Bond to Montenegro, The Bahamas (using Paradise Island previously featured in “Thunderball”) and Italy.  The film balances action, character and story quite well, and the love story between Bond and Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) is the dominant through-line to the film’s watery climax in Venice.  The film was structured as a reboot to the Bond series, which allowed the filmmakers to re-visit some of Bond’s best iconography – gadgets, exotic locales, beautiful women and a slick, newly-designed Aston Martin DBSV12.  The one discontinuity of the film is Bond plays Texas Hold ‘Em with Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) instead of Banko, his ubiquitous card game from so many films past.  Producers made this decision to appeal more to Western audiences.  “Casino Royale” still has a fine ending.

My third choice is “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” mostly because of its story, great locales and fantastic editing.  No Bond film is shot or cut the way OHMSS is, and probably never will be again.  Christopher Nolan has expressed his desire to eventually direct a Bond film, and often cites Peter Hunt’s lone entry as his personal favorite.  Most Bond fans write off OHMSS because it’s the only outing of Australian model-turned actor George Lazenby.  I think John Barry’s score in OHMSS is one of his best, and came on the heels of another of my favorite Barry scores, “The Lion in Winter,” which won him an Academy Award.  Maibaum’s adaptation of Fleming’s namesake novel is one of the most faithful, and Hunt’s mise-en-scene seems to inform the aforementioned Nolan and Paul Greengrass’ work in the “Bourne” series in recent years.  Telly Savalas plays a very cool Blofeld, and is aided by the excellent Ilse Steppat as Irma Bunt, Blofeld’s henchwoman who kills Bond’s only wife during a failed assassination attempt in the film’s climax, one of the most poignant endings in Bond lore.  OHMSS is revered today for its production quality, but Lazenby’s performance is the film’s lone flaw.  Film Critic Leonard Maltin claims that had Connery reprised Bond for this entry, it would have been the series’ seminal film.

Bond is comfort food at its finest.  I’ve never regretted any time I’ve spent in Bond’s world.  It’s total spectacle, fun and mindless.  I can attribute a lot of my cinema fascination to Bond – story, characters, great lines, cinematography, editing, sound, sets, costumes and iconic villains.  My son is already showing interest, and he’ll watch them all, too.

Presidente Pollo on February 26th, 2012


Oscar night may offer a few surprises this evening.  The Acting Categories should be “status quo,” with Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jean Dujardin and Christopher Plummer all picking up their first Oscars tonight.

The juggernaut I foresee is “Hugo” making clairvoyants of the pundits by sweeping most of the technical Awards: Art Direction, Costume Design, Cinematography, Film Editing and Sound Mixing.  However, they aren’t picking “Hugo” for Picture or Director over “The Artist.”

No film has won Best Picture and Director since 1996 without winning the DGA Award for Theatrical Direction.  That movie was “Braveheart,” which didn’t have to compete with that year’s DGA winner, “Apollo 13.”  I’ll admit this prediction is a long shot.

The writing awards will be split by “The Artist” (Original Screenplay) and “The Descendants,” both of which feature complex characters and tight structure.  Hazanavicius, writer/director/co-editor of “The Artist,” is a Robert McKee disciple, and the teachings of the “Story” class are engrained in the film’s classic 2nd Act.  The “Negation of the negation” is deployed by main character George Valentin self-destructing and burning his memories of celluloid (his films).  “The Descendants” was adapted by Jim Rash (of “Community” TV fame) and Nat Faxon, both of whom hail from the Los Angeles Improv group, The Groundlings.  Four nominated writers from The Groundlings (also “Bridesmaids” scribes Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumulo) will be awaiting their fate in the Hollywood & Highland Theatre seats tonight.  Filmmaker Alexander Payne, a UCLA alum, did a rewrite of “The Descendants” prior to production, but Rash & Faxon retain credit, and should share the stage with Payne this evening to accept.

The biggest technical surprise will be Cinematography.  “The Tree of Life” has swept everything, but the Academy has its own ideals of what this category is – big shots, eye-popping compositions and pretty actors.  I used to thing heavy CGI and compositing was always a deterrent to win this category.  Mauro Fiore’s “Avatar” triumph was a consolation prize for James Cameron’s epic, and tonight, “Hugo” wins as part of technical landslide.  The question is…can it sweep to Director and Picture?

Presidente Pollo on January 23rd, 2012

Three Dog and a Chicken’s fearless Oscar Nomination predictions.  Why is it fearless?  We’re picking nominees for every category.  The current prediction is The Artist leads with 11 nominations on Tuesday.

The Weinstein Co.

The Weinstein Co.


The Artist, The Weinstein Company; Thomas Langmann

Bridesmaids, Universal; Judd Apatow, Barry Mendel & Clayton Townshend

The Descendants, Fox Searchlight; Jim Burke, Alexander Payne, & Jim Taylor

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Columbia; Cean Chaffin, Scott Rudin

The Help, Touchstone; Michael Barnathan, Chris Columbus, Brunson Green

Hugo, Paramount/GK Films; Tim Headington, Graham King & Martin Scorsese

Midnight in Paris, Sony Pictures Classics; Letty Aronson & Stephen Tenenbaum

Moneyball, Columbia Pictures; Michael De Luca, Rachel Horovitz & Brad Pitt

Fox Searchlight

Fox Searchlight


George Clooney, The Descendants

Leonardo Di Caprio, J Edgar

Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Woody Harrelson, Rampart

Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Weinstein Co.

Weinstein Co.


Viola Davis, The Help

Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Focus Features

Focus Features


Albert Brooks, Drive

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Nick Nolte, Warrior

Kevin Spacey, Margin Call

Touchstone Pictures

Touchstone Pictures


Berenice Bojo, The Artist

Jessica Chastain, The Help

Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Octavia Spencer, The Help


Michel Hazaavicius

Michel Hazaavicius

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Alexander Payne, The Descendants

Martin Scorsese, Hugo

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

Terrence Malick, Tree of Life


The Adventures of Tintin, Steven Spielberg & Peter Jackson

Kung Fu Panda 2, Jennifer Yuh

Rango, Gore Verbinski


The Artist

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II


War Horse


Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

The Artist, Guillaume Schiffman

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth

Hugo, Robert Richardson

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Hoyte van Hoytema

Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki


The Artist, Mark Bridges

The Help, Sharen Davis

Hugo, Sandy Powell

Jane Eyre, Michael O’Connor

Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides, Penny Rose


Bill Cunningham New York, Philip Gefter, Richard Press

Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky

Project Nim, James Marsh, Simon Chinn

Undefeated, Daniel Lindsay, Seth Gordon

We Were Here, David Weissman


“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement,” Gail Dolgin, Robin Fryday

“In Tahrir Square: 18 Days of Egypt’s Unfinished Revolution,” Jon Alpert & Matthew O’Neill

“Saving Face,” Daniel Junge

“The Tsunami & the Cherry Blossom: Supply and Demand Integrated,” Lucy Walker & Charleen Manca

“Witness,” Neil Ever Osborne


Film District

Film District

The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius & Anne-Sophie Bion

The Descendants, Kevin Tent

Drive, Matthew Newman

Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker

Moneyball, Christopher Tellefson


Bullhead, Belgium; Michael R. Roskam

In Darkness, Poland; Agnieszka Holland

Footnote, Israel; Joseph Cedar

A Separation, Iran; Asghar Farhadi

Warriors of the Rainbow, Taiwan; Wei Te-sheng


Albert Nobbs

The Artist

Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life

Paramount/Bad Robot

Paramount/Bad Robot


The Artist, Ludovic Bource

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

Hugo, Howard Shore

Super 8, Michael Giacchino

War Horse, John Williams



“The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore”


“Magic Piano”

“Specky Four-Eyes”


“I Could Be Your Grandmother”


“The Road Home”


“The Shore”


“Lay Your Head Down,” Albert Nobbs

“Hello Hello,” Gnomeo & Juliet

“Life’s a Happy Song,” The Muppets

“The Living Proof,” The Help

“Pictures in My Head,” The Muppets

Paramount/GK Films

Paramount/GK Films





Super 8

War Horse



Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Super 8

Transformers:  Dark of the Moon

War Horse



Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

X-Men: First Class

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures


The Descendants, Nat Faxton, Alexander Payne & Jim Rash

The Help, Tate Taylor

The Ides of March, George Clooney, Grant Heslov & Beau Willimon

Moneyball, Stan Chervin, Aaron Sorkin & Steven Zaillian

We Need to Talk About Kevin, Lynne Ramsey & Rory Kinnear




The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius

Beginners, Mike Mills

Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig & Annie Mumolo

Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen

A Separation, Asghar Farhadi

Presidente Pollo on January 19th, 2012

I shot my student film with classmates in 1994 on Kodak monochromatic film with an Arriflex 16mm film camera.  It was about a mime chasing two guys on an island during their sporting vacation.  It was mostly silent.  Our actress didn’t show for the production, so we rewrote all night the day before production.  We killed our audio professor’s Neumann shotgun microphone, and turned our sound recordist into the film’s comic relief.  We got an “A” in the class, but very few people outside of classmates and family ever saw “Enemy Mime.”

Eastman Kodak has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today, with a current debt of $1.65 billion, according to the Washington Post.  At the company’s financial peak in the early 1980’s, it employed 130,000 worldwide.  In today’s filing, their numbers have dwindled to 17,000.  Kodak failed due to bad management and failure to adapt to consumer appetite for digital products.  Kodak is an icon of Hollywood’s past – many of cinema’s greatest stories and images were struck on its celluloid film stock, printed and projected to audiences all over the world.

For me, Kodak is nostalgia, but it died many years ago.  I’m happy I got to shoot motion picture film in school and handle it whilst editing on a Steinbeck flatbed editor. I shot my documentary, “Pigskin & Magnolias:  12 Days of Fandom,” on HDV and edited on Final Cut Pro.  Why?  I was paying the bills, and it fit my budget.  I’ll eventually go 100% tapeless with SDHC cards, because HDV tape tears, and I lost a little footage using it. Filmmaker Edward Burns used a Canon DSLR to shoot “Newlyweds” with a crew of less than five, and few lights with a budget of $9,000 – less than the cost of the average film print prior to digital projection.

Oscar front runner “The Artist” was captured on Kodak Vision stock, but it will probably be the last Best Picture winner to be originated on film.  In American Cinematographer, the creative team decided to frame the film in the Academy’s classic 1:33 aspect ratio, and used custom attachments on their Super Speed lenses to soften the look to something reminiscent of an era long past.  An Oscar win for “The Artist” will be a fitting tribute to Hollywood’s transition into the digital age.

Presidente Pollo on January 9th, 2012
Getty Images

Getty Images

If there was ever a year Boise State might have finally crashed the BCS National Championship game, it might have been 2011.  The Broncos opened with a convincing neutral site win in Georgia’s backyard, 35-21.  Boise State has only played in NCAA Division I since 1978, and won the FCS title in 1980.  They’ve claimed two BCS Fiesta Bowl titles (2007, 2010) and eight straight WAC Championships.  However, their first season of Mountain West Conference play would be a little tougher than planned.

TCU's Patterson/Getty Images

TCU/Getty Images

A 36-35 home loss to TCU, their first conference loss on the blue turf of Broncos Stadium since 1998.  Another missed Field Goal, eerily similar to last season’s lone setback at Nevada.  Both Quarterbacks combined for 793 yards through the air, but it was a late fumble by Boise State RB Drew Wright that put TCU QB Casey Pachall in position to drive his team 68 yards for a touchdown that put the Horned Frogs within one point.  TCU Gary Patterson made a gutsy call with 1:05 remaining – go for a two point conversion to ice the Broncos’ raucous crowd.  Pachall converted it with a short pass to Sophomore WR Josh Boyce.  The win avenged a 2010 Fiesta Bowl loss to Boise State.

TCU finished their last Mountain West season 11-2, with losses to bowl teams Baylor and SMU.  Boise State, who’s lost their last four games since 2007 by three points or less, pounded Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Presidente Pollo on January 9th, 2012
Marcus Lattimore/Getty Images

Marcus Lattimore/Getty Images

As a South Carolina graduate, and lifelong fan, I must admit bias on picking this as one of my favorite College Football games of 2011.  Yet, it’s hard to ignore the game’s entertainment value.  The teams combined for 60 points in the final 21 minutes of the game, including four lead changes and one tie.  South Carolina claimed the SEC East opener in Athens 45-42, capitalizing on three Georgia turnovers, all converted for touchdowns, and a fake field goal called on the Gamecocks’ 37 yard line.  Georgia had the most overall talent on the field, but on the sidelines, Steve Spurrier was in a league of his own.  The fake field goal pushed the momentum early for the Gamecocks, and they rode their defense and RB Marcus Lattimore’s 176 yards to wear out the ‘Dawgs talented defense.

Coaches Richt, Spurrier shake/Getty Images

Coaches Richt, Spurrier shake/Getty Images

Georgia would go on to claim the SEC East division crown by winning their next 10 games, while South Carolina’s home loss to Auburn would prove keep them out of the SEC Title game a second straight season, and out of BCS bowl contention.  Georgia finished 10-4, closing with losses to LSU and a heartbreaker to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl.  South Carolina lost Marcus Lattimore to an ACL injury and Stephen Garcia finally ran out of strikes, but the Gamecocks finished strong at 11-2, setting a school record for wins, beating in-state rival Clemson a third straight time, and pounding Nebraska to win the Capital One Bowl.

Presidente Pollo on January 2nd, 2012

In the fall of 2008, three aspiring filmmakers took their personal video camera to The Grove at Ole Miss with one goal:  talk to a few fans at tailgates about their passion for SEC football, and favorite game day experiences.  While it was quite obvious fans had a lot to say, we didn’t have the right video equipment to make something that looked professional.  We used a little savings and bought a Canon XH-A1, tape stock, a decent microphone to record good audio, and some grip equipment.

When we went out again to interview fans in Knoxville a few weeks later, fans were more receptive, and talked endlessly about landmark fan experiences, including rushing the field after beating Florida at Neyland in 1998, and winning the BCS Championship later that season in Arizona.  What was most apparent was their passion for telling stories about their fandom, and how it was intertwined with identity.  We hit four more stops that fall, and began constructing our plans to hit the remainder of the SEC venues in 2009.

Our plans for the fall of 2009 were carefully orchestrated to the remaining eight SEC venues to complete the cycle of campuses.  Then, our plans hit a snag. Budgets and schedules forced us to make cuts.  Our trips to Baton Rouge (L.S.U.), Fayetteville (University of Arkansas) and Gainesville (University of Florida) had to be sacrificed.  We did manage to schedule production on game days to interview their fans at away games, a lesson adapted from filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, whose lesson is always “budget restrictions force one to be creative.”  By the way, he sold his body to medical science to fund his film, “El Mariachi” in 1992.  He recorded his own sound with a crude audio recorder from Radio Shack. Now the film is on the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress.

We did get great traction from the places we visited in 2009, including a location access to Oxford, Mississippi’s Square Books, where we interviewed SEC Blogger and author, Clay Travis, who was signing his book on the University of Tennessee’s 2008 Season, “On Rocky Top:  A Front Row Seat to the End of an Era.” Mr. Travis was generous with his time and anecdotes, and we finally had something to shape fans’ stories in the documentary.  Our next inspiration was interviewing my former graduate school professor, Dr. Ted Friedman, a cultural studies expert at Georgia State University, on fandom, identity and what motivates fan behavior.  His knowledge and responses was truly a breakthrough for us. Dr. Friedman’s interview was the highlight of 2010 production.  The hard drive we were digitizing footage died, and all of our digital footage was lost.  We had to essentially start over post production.  

In January 2011, a rough cut of the documentary was accepted into the 2011 Atlanta Film Festival. We began to feverishly re-cut and re-mix the film to be presented in April to its first audience. Since the debut in April, we have re-cut the film to 60 minutes, down from the 78 minute version that showed at the Atlanta Film Festival.

Despite the challenges and budget restraints of a three-person team, we are proud of producing a documentary film on a subject we hold dear to our hearts…SEC college football fans.  

The link to the 60 minute version of “Pigskin & Magnolias:  12 Days of Fandom” is here.  Please recommend it to your friends, and watch as often as you like.

A special thanks to all of the fans for sharing their stories with us.

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Presidente Pollo on October 2nd, 2011

The South Carolina Gamecocks’ 16-13 loss at Williams-Brice stadium is the strongest indication of where the team is in 2011.  While the defense has shored up its poor execution and tackling, the offense fails at its fundamental mission:  put points on the board.  After averaging 50 points a game the first two outings, the Gamecocks’ “putrid” offense is averaging just 18 points/game.  The first two games’ gaudy scoring was due to defense and special teams scoring multiple touchdowns.  Three reasons the Ball Coach’s philosophy in 2011 has to change:  defensive scoring can’t be counted upon every game, Spurrier must be proactive in changing the offense, and Stephen Garcia’s numbers have earned him a spot on the bench. 


The defense beat Georgia.  They scored two touchdowns, set up another, and Melvin Ingram dashed down the sideline on a fake punt from the Gamecocks’ own 35.  Without any of those scores, Georgia wins the game.  The Gamecocks’ Defense showed physicality and brawn that overpowered and outsmarted Georgia’s young offense.  Georgia’s fan base was in denial Spurrier could beat them with defense.  Even Spurrier was a tad embarrassed to win in such fashion.   


Fans should be done with the lip service of Steve Spurrier pointing out the obvious.  His offense is “putrid,” and he’s the coach in charge of the offense.  The defense, who’s bailed them out of every game, needs to hold Spurrier and the offense accountable for what they are…”offensive.”  Spurrier has recruited all the pieces of that offense, and they are loaded with talent.  They aren’t performing.  Marcus Lattimore is carrying the offense, averaging over 100 yards per game.  He’s doing his job and then some. 


The key issues are Offensive Line and Quarterback.  Both have to change.  Change the blocking scheme first.  We’ve already lost a Left Tackle, and the blind side was exploited by Auburn the entire game.  The spread option attack the Gamecocks use doesn’t seem to be the right fit for the line we have.  We have to go to a pro set offense, and get the ball to Alshon Jeffrey, Damiere Byrd, Nick Jones, Ace Sanders, Justice Cunningham and Marcus Lattimore.  Play action pass, I formation and some pistol would be sufficient.  We don’t need to deceive teams with the skill players we have, but dare them to stop us. 


Stephen Garcia has to be handed a clipboard.  His numbers are horrific.  Only twice this season has he completed over 50% of his passes.  He’s only had 30 or more attempts once this season.  He completed just 39% versus Auburn, and has four touchdown passes against NINE interceptions (the only stat he leads the NCAA with).  He’s a four year starter.  He’s the same thing he was way back in 2008.  If Spurrier’s satisfied with that, then he has to be accountable for it.  If he doesn’t start Conner Shaw versus Kentucky, he can join Garcia on his way out of Columbia in January.  It’s one thing to recruit great playmakers, Ball Coach, but you still gotta “coach ‘em up.”      

Presidente Pollo on September 10th, 2011
Mark Richt

Mark Richt

The Georgia Bulldogs will take the field against the South Carolina Gamecocks in Athens, knowing the outcome may determine Coach Mark Richt’s fate in Athens.  Richt has won 2 SEC Titles and 3 division titles since taking over in 2001, and 7-3 vs. South Carolina.  It is the Gamecocks who enter the game with the higher ranking, and trying to defend its SEC East Division crown from last year.  The question is…which team feels the pressure more?  The Georgia offensive line, who gave up six QB sacks in a 35-21 loss to Boise State.  A similar performance will make it too easy for the Gamecocks.

The Gamecocks can’t suffer an offensive letdown like they had last weekend in Charlotte vs. unranked East Carolina.  A slow start for Steve Spurrier’s team may be too much to overcome at Sanford Stadium.  It is South Carolina’s ground attack, led by Marcus Lattimore that will keep this game in South Carolina’s favor, but expect a close margin of victory.