We're incredibly proud that AJFF attracts some of the most talented, passionate people. 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 AJFF’s Events & Technology Coordinator and President of SHOWORKS, Inc., Rex Garrett.
A Little Bit about Rex
I have had a love for theater and stage technology since high school. Although I never attended a formal college theater program, I used every opportunity to take theater classes and improve my technical knowledge. After college I worked as a freelance production tech for clients like Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines. I worked as a design engineer for Oliver Electronics. I served as the on-stage monitor engineer for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra summer pops series in Chastain Park for many years. I enjoyed getting to work will all the headline acts, Tony Bennett, The Smothers Brothers, Ray Charles, the Pointer Sisters, the Beach Boys and Gloria Estefan to name a few. In 1982 I started SHOWORKS to provide technical direction and equipment rental to business and entertainment clients. In 1985 we had the opportunity to mic James Brown and his band for the recording of James Brown, Live at Chastain Park for Charly Records. To serve the King Center and the Carter Presidential Center we developed an expertise in providing Simultaneous Language Translation and conference audio. I have enjoyed being part of so many events that touch hearts and make a difference in our community.
How did you come to be involved with AJFF?
In 2006 [AJFF Executive Director] Kenny Blank called me to get my help with the [former AJFF] Audience Awards presentation. The next year he asked me to return to help with the [annual] festival. Once I discovered the wonderful mission and purpose of the film festival staff and volunteers, and met all the people involved, I was hooked. The next year we expanded the length and number of events including the Opening Night party at Fox Sports Grill. At that time, the planning and execution of all the events was basically handled just by Kenny Blank. Together we planned for everything from projection and sound in the theaters to signage, stanchions, ticket booths and all the elements of Opening Night. The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival has become part of my life and family. It has helped me to grow as a person.
What is the most interesting challenge, in improving AJFF, that you get to help with?
Our continuing challenge and one that will never end is improving the guest experience. I have learned a lot from Kenny [Blank] and Brad [Pilcher] as we have worked on this area of the Festival. I think and hope that our efforts are paying off. I enjoy spending time observing our audience members and looking for ways to improve our operations. We are all looking forward to our first year at the beautiful new City Springs theater. There are many benefits, but also new challenges, related to this expansive space. The staff has spent considerable time on the guest experience and I am excited to see what our movie-goers think.
What is your fondest memory from being involved with AJFF?
This is a very hard question to answer as I have so many fond memories. One that comes to mind is an early year when Opening Night was at Atlantic Station. As we were rushing around setting up, we all worried about the weather that night. When everything was set in the theaters and party venue, we all walked outside on the street to find beautiful white snowflakes falling. The scene was so beautiful with our banners on the light poles and the SkyTracker search light sending beams of light through the snow- filled air. The memory of that night spent with people I respected and cared about is very special to me.
How has your experience outside of AJFF played into your work with the festival?
I have been very blessed to be asked to provide A/V expertise and technical services for the High Holidays at two of Atlanta’s temples. As a person who grew up in a southern city that did not have a Jewish temple, I was unaware of the importance and traditions of these important holidays. I've enjoyed meeting many rabbis and congregants that open their arms to share their experiences and beliefs. I've followed along with the prayers and some years I fasted with my friends (sometimes I may have cheated with an ice cube or two). This all was good preparation for working on and enjoying the film festival. I have even picked up a word or two of Yiddish. I am so impressed with this festival and all it is accomplishing in our community I am just kvelling!
What is the most rewarding aspect of being involved with AJFF?
That is easy; it’s the people involved. The team of people who make the festival happen is amazing. I am talking about a large family including the staff, volunteers, Board and committee members, vendors and staff at our theaters. We work together because we care about our guests, the movies and each other. In the Disney movie Ratatouille there is a line, “You must not let anyone define your limits because of where you come from. Your only limit is your soul.” This turns out to be very true and my time working on the festival has proved it.
How do you describe AJFF to those who've never experienced it?
This is an important question as I find many people who have never been to our festival have no idea what we are or why we exist. The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival is a cinematic explosion! It highlights the Jewish experience sharing culture and history. It also provides a valuable platform to explore the work of Jewish filmmakers from around the world. The selection committee, may their work be blessed, puts special emphasis on excellent storytelling. Kenny [Blank] says it best: “The Festival uses the power of film to both entertain and educate while challenging conventional perspectives on complex and challenging issues.”
What's your favorite AJFF film, and why?
One would be Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy. All I can say is mazel tov, or actually thank you very much for the gift of great musicals. Another I would have to include is the Mel Brooks documentary. I cried, I laughed, my side hurt!
Thank you to Rex for his time this month and his longtime participation with AJFF. Stay tuned to see whom we profile next month.