Meet two local filmmakers making waves at Sidewalk Film Festival + 15% off tickets with BHAMNOW15


Lauren Musgrove
 Local filmmaker Lauren Musgrove in action on set of “Super Science Showcase.” Photo courtesy of Lauren Musgrove, photographer Austin Hammock

When your mind sees the world in set designs and moving images, the camera never stops rolling. Local filmmakers Lauren Musgrove and Jeremiah Fanning are screening films at the 2020 Sidewalk Film Festival this year, but their history and connection to Birmingham and the event go more in-depth than 5-minutes on screen. Buy tickets today to the festival August 24-30, sponsored by Regions Bank, and get 15% off when you use the code BHAMNOW15.

Meet Lauren Musgrove + Jeremiah Fanning

Lauren Musgrove

Lauren Musgrove
Lauren is from Houston, TX and graduated from the University of Alabama in 2016. Photo courtesy of Lauren Musgrove

Before having work that premiered at Cannes and the Tribeca Film Festival or collaborating on shoots with Jared Leto, the stars following Lauren Musgrove’s 10-year-old direction on camera were Bratz Dolls.

The narratives behind the big-headed makeup queens sparked a passion that led Lauren into an accelerated career as a three-time Emmy award-winning filmmaker. Not straying too far from the days of bossing her Bratz around, Lauren’s films include narratives, documentaries, music videos and more.

When she’s using her voice behind the camera to make magic in front of it, she focuses on taking the truth of her subject and making it larger than life.

“Creating someone’s story, you have this opportunity to make a really creative visual for it. I’ve always been interested in the subconscious reactions to certain imagery that people might have and how that can play a part in just enhancing that story telling.”

Lauren Musgrove

Birmingham is no LA, it’s better

Lauren’s first film with Sidewalk was in 2016. Lauren remembers being incredibly grateful Sidewalk saw something in the film and put it in the festival. The experience was so fun and exciting, she knew she had to make something for the next year and years after that.

Attending that festival was a lot more than seeing her hard work on the big screen—it opened up the door to Birmingham’s film community. Now, if she wants to make a film she knows who to talk to, who to ask questions and overall where to find help and support.

“Sidewalk really helped me gain confidence and that passion in myself to keep going—that’s the biggest takeaway. But also, just to see the beauty of filmmaking that exists outside of the creative world. Like, that just exists in the community aspect. I think that Birmingham is really special in that the film community here is so tight-knit and so helpful.”

Lauren Musgrove

Telling the stories

Sidewalk is showing three of Lauren’s films this year—”Feed the Need,” and “One in a Million,” made with Red Clay Media and the music video “Roll on My Friend,” made in collaboration with William MacGavin, Lauren’s fiance. While vastly different from each other, all three films are totally unique, inspiring and tell a story.

William MacGavin creating the winter scene in "Roll on My Friend"—rosemary sprigs were used for trees. Photo courtesy of Lauren Musgrove
William MacGavin creating the winter scene in “Roll on My Friend”—rosemary sprigs were used for trees. Photo courtesy of Lauren Musgrove.

“It’s fun with docs and music videos, because you’re dealing with real people’s stories and real people’s music. You kind of get that aspect of it too that they’re part of the collaboration.”

Lauren Musgrove

One beautiful story is told in “Feed the Need,” which follows Lisa Thomas-McMillan, who operates Drexell & Honeybee’s in Brewton, Alabama— a donations-only restaurant with no menu, no prices and no staff.

Sidewalk Film Festival
Tamika Moore, co-producer on “Feed the Need” and Lauren at Sidewalk 2019. Photo courtesy of Lauren Musgrove

“When she started talking about her life, and why she is the way she is, she just said it in such a visual way I couldn’t help but see the film in my head when she told these stories.”

Lauren Musgrove

Lauren and her team found the story through Michelle Matthew, an author who lives in Mobile, AL and covered the generous restaurant in an article. That’s how all of Lauren’s films work—not necessarily in this specific way, but with collaboration and help from her team.

“Filmmaking is such a collaborative art. I work with an amazing team to produce these films and a lot of people and work went into them.”

Lauren Musgrove

Jeremiah Fanning

Jeremiah Fanning for Sidewalk Film Festival
Jeremiah on set of on set of “Tonight” music video. Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Fanning

Late 2018 a baby squirrel almost went out of this world and a media company was brought into it. That’s not exactly how it went, but when Jeremiah Fanning and his friend Ian Miller were deciding on a name for NutHouse Media, the fluffy friend played a part.

“At the time my sister was rescuing a baby squirrel and brought it back and had it for 3-4 months. So, that’s where the NutHouse Media actually came from.”

Jeremiah Fanning

From the creation of the company, the team began working on local, independent projects. As they gained more traction in Birmingham, it became clear to Jeremiah this career was a permanent gig.

“I personally have wanted to be a filmmaker since I was 12. I’ve known for a long time that I was supposed to be behind a camera.”

Jeremiah Fanning
Jeremiah Fanning on set
On set of the mini series , “The Adventures of Aak and Pat.” Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Fanning

The team also started participating in Sidewalk Scrambles—where you have 48 hours to produce an entire short film. The biggest catch? Each theme for the short comes with its own “quirk” that must be included somewhere in the film. For example, if you drew the word “pickle” out of the hat, the glowed-up cucumber would have to make its on-screen debut at some point during the short.

Nuthouse Media even won the Audience Award at the 2019 festival for their music video “C1UB : AM.” It was the first festival the team ever attended and provided a jumping-off point that allowed them to grow within the community.

“Sidewalk has opened up a lot more than I could’ve imagined. I even told Ian that there was a point in time where our future changed because of this certain situation that happened. It was a life-changing moment and we knew it right away and it absolutely was.”

Jeremiah Fanning

Sidewalk gave them style + silly string

Through Sidewalk, the team was able to connect with a group of local artists and musicians to begin producing music videos. Two of which, “B.A.M.A.S” (Better Ask My Momma About Style) and “Tonight” are premiering at the 2020 Sidewalk Film Festival

“The artists trust us so much to produce their vision that they have allowed us to create a music video for them. With the couple videos that we’re doing right now, the subjects of the videos are coming on board and walking through the process with us. It’s a big collaboration.”

Jeremiah Fanning

Another film from Nuthouse Media screening at this year’s Sidewalk Film Festival also came from a Scramble—this one required participants to use silly string somewhere in the short. “String of Deaths,” a murder mystery, replaces gore with colorful sticky string and jump scares with laughs.

 Ian Miller and Jeremiah’s nephew filming a lego building YouTube video. Photo courtesy of Jeremiah Fanning

Although the Scrambles are partly why Nuthouse Media is able to premier at the Sidewalk Film Festival and make these awesome connections, the true joy, Jeremiah said, is just being able to be a part of something as a community.

“It wasn’t about the money or anything tangible. It was more of the experience. That’s why I do this personally—for the experience and not for the benefits of anything. That’s what Sidewalk gives me that feeling of gratitude.”

Jeremiah Fanning

Wheels + Reels

Birmingham, Sidewalk Film Festival
Grab your popcorn, this is going to be good. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

With the festival being held at the Grand River Drive-In at The Backyard in Leeds this year, it’s clear the beloved event won’t look like years past. However, not everything is changing—including the spirit of the festival.

“I do think it’s still going to be that Sidewalk feeling. It’s going to still feel like a community, people are still going to show up. It’s still going to be a great time and that’s what Sidewalk is really meant for—to have a great time.”

Jeremiah Fanning

This will be a socially distanced event, and Sidewalk Film is honoring all regulations put forth by our local and state governments and public health officials.

You should come to the event only with the people you’ve been “safer at home” with, wear face coverings when visiting restrooms, and follow all safety and security guidelines (see your confirmation email for more information).

“It’s not just ‘Sidewalk saw something in me’ it’s,’I heard the audience laugh at a part that I meant to be funny’—that is why we do what we do. I think you’ll still be able to feel the presence of the audience

As far as keeping the Birmingham film scene alive and keeping the filmmakers moving forward it’s totally going there.”

Lauren Musgrove

With, safety precautions in place, we’re all eager to watch Birmingham’s finest filmmakers, and those across the country come together during a time that’s made the community a little harder to find.

View more than 150 awe-inspiring features and short films on Monday, August 24 through Sunday, August 30 during a safe and socially distanced festival experience.

Don’t forget to use the code BHAMNOW15 to get 15% off tickets. Stay tuned for new titles announced each week by following Sidewalk Film on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Sponsored by:

Irene Richardson
Irene Richardson
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