Meet AJFF: Magick Lantern's, Jim Bowhall


AJFF attracts some of the most talented, passionate people. We rely heavily on this village – our staff, our sponsors, our volunteers, and our audience – to make AJFF a world-class cultural event. This month, meet Jim Bowhall, of Magick Lantern, who creates the brilliant animation you see at the beginning of each film.

A Little Bit About Jim

As a former Animation Director and Visual Effects Artist, Jim Bowhall works hand-in-hand with a small team to produce the festival’s animated open. Jim is a SCAD graduate and has embraced the SCAD Atlanta student body, working to create several courses and internship opportunities, and giving students a platform for their talents to the benefit of AJFF. This year's animation will be his third done in collaboration with SCAD students, working under his direction.

After a number of years with Crawford Media Services, Jim took over as Vice President and Creative Director at Magick Lantern in 2015. He's helped evolve the 30-year-old post-production company into one of Atlanta's premiere film and animation production studios.

Pictured above, AJFF staff, Brad Pilcher, Leah Sitkoff, and Kenny Blank, meeting with Jim and students working on the 2017 animated reel.

AJFF: How did get you involved with AJFF?
JB: While working at Crawford Media Services, [AJFF Board Member] Brennen Dicker introduced me to [AJFF Executive Director] Kenny Blank when we worked on the titles and sponsor loop for the first time. We have worked together on the festival open every year since. I take great honor in the role and always work to ensure the festival comes first and the work is the best it can be.

What is the most interesting challenge, in improving AJFF, that you get to help with? 
JB: For me, the greatest challenge has been working each year to grow the complexity and scope of the design, to match how the festival has evolved and grown over the years. The look and sophistication of the storytelling are at an all-time high and we want to continue to push that aspect of the festival experience. Our goal each year is to inspire and set the tone for the festival, drawing upon design and animation cues that are relevant to that year’s specific festival. Each year we create a unique, and yet shared chapter in a long running novel.

What is your fondest memory from being involved with AJFF?
JB: In our first or second year working together, Kenny asked me to come down to the Fox to make sure the files and show assets were in good shape. I got to the empty Fox, they walked me up through the balcony and along a back row of stairs, up through a special stairwell and through a tiny door into film-projector-wonderland.

Laid out in front of me was the Fox Theater’s legendary booth. The walls were covered in photographs with signatures of celebrities who performed there over the years. Old projectors stood in the corners like dinosaurs mixed with the new computers that were running the AV portions of the show. For me this was about as good as it gets! I was in heaven!

And for the next two hours, Rex and the team worked out the last minute details, compressing and uploading files just in time for the show to begin. During these crucial few hours, we developed the beginnings of a relationship that has lasted over the years. The behind the scenes experience is what I love about AJFF. Everyone, whoever they are, whatever their role in the festival; will jump in, roll up those sleeves, and get the show going when necessary. I have seldom worked with a more dedicated and highly talented team of people.

How as your experience outside of AJFF played into your work with the festival?
JB: First of all, I am not Jewish. But I have been married to a lovely Jewish woman Kathy Schlesinger for 17 years (Wow, it never seems like it has been that long). When I met and married Kathy something happened that I could not have foreseen or understood at that time in my life, I became a member of a much larger family. A family that has brought me in with open arms, loved and cared for me, helped me grow as a person and made me a better man. That is my Jewish family and I love them open heartedly and consider myself an adopted son.

AJFF has given me a platform to give back that love and hopefully embrace others like myself who maybe didn’t know as much as they thought they knew. Maybe I can affect one person or several people and open a mind, or a heart, in a way they were not expecting. For me as an artist, that is why I do what I do. For me personally, that is the very best thing I can hope for and expect from my craft.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with AJFF?
JB: First, getting to know the people behind AJFF and the people in front of AJFF. The festival is not possible without the people who make it happen and the people who come to see the films, the passionate crowds of fans that adore great stories. Getting to see the hard work of the teams that put these animations together, in front of a live audience that has such an appreciation for the art of what we do, is a wonderful thing.

Pictured above: A sneak peek via storyboard, of our 2017 animation reel.

What is your favorite AJFF film and why?
JB: I think it was the first or second year I worked with AJFF – there was this animated film Mary and Max out of Australia. It was stop motion and I grabbed a ticket for it when we did the screening lists. I have a background in StopMo and was intrigued by the cover art alone. I went alone and it was an amazing film.

It was the story of two very different people who become pen pals under odd circumstances. But once they start writing to each other they quickly discover they have much in common. The story was amazing and I was blown away by AJFF including such a wonderful animated film in the festival. That is rare for most festivals and have also attended many of the short film screenings. I am a short film filmmaker and so have a special place in my heart for festivals that embrace short films.

AJFF has always embraced both animated and short films. Mary and Max changed me a little – I thank AJFF for that. As a matter of fact, many AJFF movies have changed me a little. I think that is a fundamental undercurrent throughout all of the AJFF festivals for stories that mean something and as a result (more often than not) I can just go to any movie they sponsor and be moved in some way.

Thank you to Jim for his time this month. We are so excited to have him back on board to continue helping inform the look and tone of AJFF. Stay tuned to see who we profile next.