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ATL Preview: Documentary Shorts/Q&A with Farm Team Director

April 11, 2009
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Two blocks are dedicated to documentary shorts at this year’s Atlanta Film Festival. One of the shorts, The Farm Team, recently won an award for Best Short Doc at the Magnolia Film Festival in Mississippi. A great subject, the film looks at the grounds crew for an Alabama minor league baseball team.
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Director Scott Balzer recently obliged me with a few answers to some questions after viewing the film. If you get a chance, check out the film, and the other short docs at the ATL (listed below the Q&A)
OFF: The Farm Team is on a subject pretty close to your heart. Tell me about your own experiences as a groundskeeper and how you went from that to filmmaking?
SB: After finally realizing I would never be a professional baseball player, I discovered the chance to work in minor league baseball. I spent the summer of ’93 doing an internship in upstate New York with a team working mostly out on the field with the head groundskeeper. I loved working out on the actual baseball field. So I decided to pursue the chance to do this for a living the following year and was hired to be a full time groundskeeper in Columbia, South Carolina. After three years in Columbia, I decided to relocate to Mobile, Alabama and work at Hank Aaron Stadium which was set to open in the spring of ’97. During my third year in Mobile I decided to go back to school and finally get my degree.
While attending the University of South Alabama in the fall of ’99  I took an Intro to Film Studies class and my life was changed forever. I figured out that filmmaking was my calling. I soon transferred to Auburn University which offered a degree in Communications and by the Fall of 2002 I was working in production on TV shows in Atlanta, Georgia. I spent my first few years in Atlanta working on commercials, features, shorts and TV shows mostly as a PA learning about the industry and how things worked and didn’t work. By 2005 I was ready to start making my own projects which have been mostly short films and videos but I was actually doing what it was I wanted to do. Today, I’ve made over ten short films that have played in numerous film festivals and on television. I’ve also really enjoyed the editing process and have recently taken on a full time editor position in Atlanta that I’m really excited about.
OFF: Did you know the three guys beforehand? They seemed very open and honest with you – very likeable in such a short time that we spend with them?
SB: I actually did not know the members of the grounds crew (Daniel, Caleb and Brenton) at Hank Aaron Stadium. I called the stadium one day last spring and asked if I could speak with the head groundskeeper (Daniel) about coming down to Mobile sometime in the summer to potentially shoot a short documentary with him and his crew. I told him that I was a former groundskeeper at Hank Aaron Stadium when it first opened ten years before and that I was now a filmmaker wanting to make a short about the grounds crew. He said that it wasn’t a problem and for him or his crew but for me to just give a heads up upon my arrival.
They warmed up to me probably after the first two full days I spent with them recording all the field maintenance work they do from very early in the morning till after the game was over. I think they were just happy that someone was just paying attention to what it is they do everyday to make the field the best playing surface it can be. So often the players and coaches get the spotlight but this time it was about them and what makes them so unique.

OFF: You have already won at the Magnolia festival, the first fest this was accepted into, now screening at Atlanta, what is next for the film? for you? any plans to extend into a feature length?

SB: After the screening in Atlanta, “The Farm Team” is currently scheduled to screen in the 2009 Sunscreen Film Festival in St. Petersberg, FL happening April 29 – May 3. Im still waiting to hear from a few festivals happening this spring and summer and then hopefully it will get the nod for a few more festivals in the fall mostly in the southeast. In the meantime, I’ve taken a full time position as a video editor in the world of professional drag racing.

OFF: You are fairly involved with the Atlanta film community, having worked on The Signal and The Adventure (and having them work on your films). Tell me more about the film community in Atlanta?

SB: I’ve been involved in the Atlanta Film Community for about the last five years and find it to exactly where I want to be at this part in my filmmaking career. I think it has matured nicely over these last few years even with people coming and going. It’s a great place to be in a group thats not too intimidating and snobbish but very open minded and willing to aid whenever you may need help. I’ve helped out a few things over the years for practically no pay. But it was the want to not only help out a fellow filmmaker but also to get a chance to better and learn my craft.

OFF: Random Question: What is the dream movie you haven’t yet made?

SB: I like this question. Yes my dream movie I haven’t made is another baseball film, but it’s loosely based on the life and times I spent working in the minors not only as a member of the grounds-crew but also as the teams’ mascots. I need to make one feature film in my life and I feel this is the one I’m meant to make.

The film will play on April 22 at 9:35 PM and April 24 at 1:45 PM in the Short Docs Group at The Landmark Art Cinema. The trailer for Balzer’s film is below:

DOCUMENTARY SHORTS  1
12 Stones
Me Broni Ba
Push Button House
Salt
State of Unrest: A Look Into the Life of a Young Sex Offender
DOCUMENTARY SHORTS 2
A Bronx Dream
Jennifer
The Farm Team
The Leftovers

For the schedule, visit the Atlanta Film Festival schedule.

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