Dig South, the Charleston-based interactive festival that attracts participants from across the Southeast, is adding a new component to its interactive lineup: Dig Create. “Art is innovation,” says founder Stanfield Gray. “I think that’s a false construct to draw this clear distinction between the two. From the beginning, Dig South has always had panels on design, marketing, and video, but we decided to focus this year on three main things: on technology, on creative, and on business. Each of those are the umbrellas, or the pillars so to speak, of the festival, and then we have a ton of topics underneath those three.”
Dig Create will encompass digital arts, media arts, viral videos, advertising, and all other channels of technology that help to create creative projects. It’s also meant to explore the business of art, covering topics like the use of Kickstarter or other alternative sources of funding.
Gray has brought on two filmmakers, Kayla Morrisey and Jenny Kleiman, to curate the new Create branch of the festival. Both are young, and both have had successful and varied careers in the industry — not just in Charleston, but in Los Angeles as well, where both lived for several years before moving back to the Holy City. Morrisey has produced and directed three original shorts and has also performed as an actor with the Upright Citizens Brigade, as well as in films. The Charleston-based Kleiman is the founder of the production company Limelight Lens and has worked on editorial, creative, and commercial projects for clients like BMW and Adidas.
The two directors were already working together on a feature film, Tuer Les Fleurs — Kleiman describes it as a “genre-bending dark comedy-psychological thriller” — when Gray approached them about heading up the Dig Create track for this year’s festival. “Kayla and I wanted to flex our muscles together, so we created a series of super fun and short commercials for Dig South … that will be released as quick YouTube ads,” Kleiman says. “This crossover is what Dig Create is all about. You inherently know that the film industry needs technology and that tech businesses need creatives, but how do you draw a direct line when we are talking about completely different fields? That gray area is why Dig Create is so important: so that the industries stop being seen as separate entities, and there’s more of a give and take.”
Kleiman and Morrisey have helped secure big names for panel discussions like Scott McDaniel, NBCUniversal’s music supervisor for TV and promo; Jon Milavec, owner and president of Atlanta’s Mixed Bag Media; and William Etundi Jr., the CEO of See.Me, a photo sharing website for artists and creators of all types.
In addition to securing panelists, Morrisey and Kleiman’s main project this year will be to make a film in 48 hours, a challenge that will coincide with Dig South’s annual app-building contest, HACKCharleston. For that event, teams of three — usually comprising a software developer, a coder, and a designer — compete to build the best app in a 24-hour period. In years to come, applicants will be able to compete in the film spinoff of HACKCharleston.
Gray and the Dig South team have also decided to host the majority of the festival’s 2015 events (which run April 28-May 2) at Cinebarre in Mt. Pleasant. This will add two things that just about every panel discussion needs: comfy seats and bar service.
“Cinebarre is a perfect location,” Gray says. “It has a creative vibe to it, it harnesses technology to deliver creative projects, the seats are insanely comfortable, they have a bar, and the footprint allows us to be really creative with the outdoor space.”
Coincidentally, Cinebarre owner Terrell Braly used to be the CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin, Texas — a similar venue that’s instrumental in Austin’s SXSW music, film, and interactive festival.
Gray is excited about working with Braly and Cinebarre because, among other reasons, Cinebarre can help connect the festival to cities like Denver and Seattle, where the movie chain has other locations. In Gray’s opinion, that connection to bigger technological hubs is one of the biggest things Charleston is lacking. To best utilize the facility, the Dig South team will use six of the theaters and build three large pavilions in the parking lot. The Mt. Pleasant venue switch also offers something that downtown can’t: free parking.
Dig South’s mantra is “Succeed in the South” — and if you ask us, finding free parking is always a success — but the second theme of Dig South this year is “explore” (or, more accurately, #explore). Dig Create is helping the festival do just that. It seems broad, but Gray frames it well: “I believe we’re in another age of exploration. First we had Christopher Columbus and De Soto and other explorers fan out along the globe and conquer civilizations, but today I think Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs prior to his death, and Uber push the use of technology in business.”