On Saturday, the 15th annual Savannah Film Festival came to an end. "What a fantastic week, fantastic guests, fantastic films, fantastic enthusiasm,” said Danny Filson, the festival’s executive director.
Those who can’t bear to see the festival close, take heart. Passes for the 2013 festival, which will run Oct. 26 through Nov. 2, go on sale Dec. 3.
The final screening was "Rise of the Guardians,” an animated 3D film that will open nationwide on Nov. 21. As always, the focus of the festival is on the students, who benefit from one-on-one interaction with industry professionals who participate in master classes and panel discussions.
Norman Reedus, a film and television actor who currently plays Daryl Dixon in AMC’s hit series "The Walking Dead,” was in Savannah to participate in panel discussions and other events at the festival on Saturday.
"I shot ‘The Conspirator’ here three years ago,” Reedus said, adding that he’d developed a fondness for Vinnie Van Go Go’s pizza during his time here. "Savannah has a New Orleans-Austin kind of vibe that makes it one of those rare places everyone likes to go.”
"The Walking Dead” shoots in Senoia, a small town south of Atlanta in Coweta County. "I knew it would be amazing before I started,” Reedus said.
"Life has changed for me in a million different ways,” he said. "I ride my motorcycle to work, and there’s no traffic.
"If you’re in this business long enough, it beats you down. The show’s renewed my faith in the whole business.”
Life has also changed for Reedus’s son, Mingus. "The first season, he wouldn’t watch because he was scared,” Reedus said.
"The second season, he came home with a smile. Some of the older kids said, ‘Is your dad Daryl Dixon?’ and when he said yes, they said ‘We like Daryl Dixon!’ The third season, he loves it.”
The show is based on a comic book series, but Reedus’ character was invented for the show. However, Dixon, a Southern redneck hunter, has become so popular with viewers, he is being added to the comic book series.
"He’s tough on the outside and mushy on the inside,” Reedus said.
In addition to working as an actor and filmmaker, Reedus is a noted painter, sculptor and photographer whose work is sold in galleries in New York and across Europe. "I’ve sold things at Sotheby’s and had a show of giant photographs at Times Square for Oxfam,” he said.
While in Savannah, actress Michelle Monaghan spoke with students and also got out and explored the city. "I went down to the Olde Pink House and had the most beautiful, best meal,” Monaghan said. "It was just dynamite.
"Everyone was in a sharing mood, so I got to try out at least a third of the menu. I’m going to have to come back so I can try the rest of it.”
The next day, Monaghan ate at Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House. "We stuffed our bellies,” she said. "Then I spent the afternoon walking around Savannah and taking pictures. I picked up some souvenirs and mementoes.”
While at SCAD, Monaghan did a master class with acting students. "It’s always nice to talk shop and answer questions,” she said. "The students were lovely.
"I’d love to come back here. My husband couldn’t come. He’s a graphic artist, and he would get such a kick out of SCAD.”
On Monday, Monaghan will be back in Los Angeles to begin work on a film titled "Love is a Many Splintered Thing.” She is in heavy demand as an actress, an enviable place to be.
"I can’t say no,” Monaghan said. "I took two years off after my daughter was born, and I’m happy to be working. When it rains, it pours.”
One film she is particularly happy with is "Fort Bliss,” about an Army medic who has returned home from Afghanistan and is trying to reconnect with family and friends. "It will probably hit the festival circuit next year,” she said. "I’m really proud of it and would love to bring it to Savannah.”
Actor/director Matthew Lillard did a master class in acting while at the festival, encouraging SCAD students to let nothing stand in their way and strive for want they want.
"Create your own path around the roadblocks,” he said. "We are not waiting for you. You have to create your own world.”
Lillard encouraged the students to make their own decisions, and not wait for others to make them. He said his own success has come about because of hard work.
"I am not Tom Cruise, I am not handsome, there is nothing special about me,” Lillard said. "Do not wait for validation to make your move.”
Fear is an actor’s worst enemy, Lillard said. "Fear is a useless act.
"It is useless to you as an artist, it is useless to you as a person. Unless someone is chasing you, there is no up side to fear.
"It’s the single most dangerous thing to happen to us as artists,” Lillard said. "It’s hard to get over it, but the only thing stopping you is fear.”