That’s a wrap: Southern City Film Festival ends with Oscars party

February 25, 2019

While Hollywood presented its highest awards at the Oscars on Sunday, Aiken celebrated the end of three days of movie screenings and film workshops at the third-annual Southern City Film Festival.

During the event, festival-goers saw 35 movies from all genres of film by local, national and international filmmakers.

The festival culminated Sunday night with an Oscars party at the Aiken Municipal Center. Party-goers walked the red carpet – just like the stars – posed for pictures, watched the awards on a big-screen TV and, of course, munched on popcorn.

Justin Wheelon, the festival’s founder, called the festival a “huge success.”

“My main No. 1 barometer is customer satisfaction: did the people have a good time? And universally, I think they did,” he said before the Oscar awards began. “Everyone said it was an amazing time. That was my No. 1 goal: Did the people enjoy the movies? Did they enjoy themselves?

“Film festivals take about five years to find their niche, find their footing. We’re in our third year, and we’re starting to find the things that work. A lot of things went right this year. We’re really, really excited.

Wheelon said the festival made several changes this year that added to its success.

This year, Wheelon changed the month of the festival from November to February specifically to coincide with the Oscars.

“We think coinciding with the Oscars just makes a lot of sense in terms of piggy-backing with the whole nationwide movie talk,” Wheelon said.

Wheelon also scheduled all the films for one venue, the Aiken Municipal Center. Previously, films ran simultaneously at four or five venues around town.

“Everyone universally liked the one venue,” Wheelon said. “People knew they could show up any time of day and movies were playing. There were always movies or an interesting workshop going on.”

One thing didn’t change: the cost. The price was $65 for all weekend events or $3 to watch a block of movies.

“People commented on the value for the money,” Wheelon said. “We try to keep the price as low as we can so there is not barrier for entry. We don’t want anyone to think the festival is too expensive and say I can’t go.”

Wheelon said he and the festival’s board already are thinking about next year.

“We would love to repeat this weekend,” he said. “This was an opportunity to get people out to see what the festival is like, and then we just build and build and build.”