Pictured: Russell Gottschalk and his mother, Kathy Gottschalk, at year's AJMF
We're incredibly proud that AJFF attracts some of the most talented, passionate people. We rely heavily on this village to make AJFF what it is, and we're going to introduce you to some of the people who make up that village. From our staff, to our volunteers, or even to members of our audience, there's a huge group of people that make AJFF a world-class cultural event. This month, we're putting the spotlight on the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival director and Community Engagement Committee Member, Russell Gottschalk.
A Little Bit About Russell
An Emory alum (’07 BA Film and Music) and native of Atlanta, Russell Gottschalk is the full time director and founder of AJMF (Atlanta Jewish Music Festival). In 2009, Russell became inspired to start the South’s first Jewish Music Festival after spending three years with Atlanta’s successful Jewish Film Festival (AJFF). As a young Jewish professional in Atlanta, he hopes AJMF will engage and unify our Jewish community, creating a unique forum for interaction our region has yet to experience. He’s an avid cyclist and can often be found in and around his Reynoldstown community where he lives with his wife, Mimi, and their big, beautiful dog, Cannonball.
How did you come to be involved with AJFF?
I started out as an Intern with AJFF during my senior year at Emory (2006-07). My advisor and chair of the Emory Film Department, Matthew Bernstein, coordinated the shidduch and I remained a part time staffer at AJFF for a few years after college.
What is the most interesting challenge, in improving AJFF, that you get to help with?
I think the most interesting challenge is bringing non-Jews and unaffiliated Jews to festival events. I like to compare relatively unknown films and actors to more popular examples to entice my friends and network to attend festival programming.
What is your fondest memory from being involved with AJFF?
There are so many fond memories but one that sticks out right now was dancing at The Socalled Movie and concert AJFF and AJMF co-created back in 2011. It was an interesting documentary and an awesome performance that followed the film.
How has your experience outside of AJFF played into your work with the festival?
Working outside of AJFF has made me appreciate how well run AJFF continues to be. It’s an incredible festival and you realize how special it has become when you work in other areas of our community.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with AJFF?
Meeting new people outside of my normal network is definitely the most rewarding aspect of AJFF.
How do you describe AJFF to those who've never experienced it?
I compare AJFF to other mainstream film festivals and then add the Jewish twist. Or if this friend is coming to AJFF through the Jewish music fest, I would say it’s like us but with movies instead of music!
What's your favorite AJFF film, and why?
It’s impossible to pick a favorite of the 100+ AJFF films I’ve seen throughout the years… but I really did enjoy Gilbert this past year. It gave us a portal into this famous comedian’s personal life and I really enjoy the “peeking behind the curtains” viewpoint documentaries like this provide an audience.
Thank you to Russell for his time this month and throughout the years. We don’t know what the organization would sound like without him! Stay tuned to see who we profile next and don't miss AJMF9 from March 8 - 25, 2018!