Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Who Says Memphis Has No Creative Class?

Who knew that Christopher Reyes’ fascinating website was just the beginning? In the coming week, there are two Reyes-conceived projects that offer us a fresh look at our city.

If you haven’t visited the Live From Memphis website in awhile, you’ll barely recognize it. It now has added film and art in pursuit of its slogan, “Support Local Artists.”

As the home page says: “We support and promote local musicians, filmmakers, artists and industry professionals who are the lifeblood of the Memphis creative scene. It is our goal to connect creatives, grow opportunity and gain exposure for our creative culture. Memphis is amazing!”

Most of all, the site is convincing proof that Memphis does have a “creative class,” the highly coveted young professionals fueling the knowledge economy. If the city is to succeed in the global economy, it must attract and retain 25-34 year-olds who are the most mobile, most entrepreneurial and most highly-educated demographic in history.

Faced with the retirement of the Baby Boomers and today’s lower birth rate, the competition for these workers is hot and getting hotter. A recent study by CEOs for Cities pointed out that the cities that have booming economies – cities such as Charlotte, Atlanta, Austin and Portland – have attracted five times more of these workers than the national average.

But we digress. Often, in assessing our failure to be a magnet for these young professionals, we see nothing but obstacles, but Live From Memphis reminds us that we do in fact have a core of creativity that we can build upon.

We were thinking this as we explored the website this week. It’s full of little known artists, great local bands, talented technicians and unheralded organizations. But as we mentioned, besides the normal fare of the “World According to Christopher (and his colleague Sara Fleming),” there are two other coming attractions of his that will be launched in the next week.

First on the agenda is Saturday’s Li’l Film Fest, which will take place at 2 p.m. at the MeDiA Co-Op, 1000 S. Cooper at First Congregational Church, always a hub of energy and tolerance, two qualities especially sought by young professionals.

The film festival is free, and you can get more information at What we liked best is that it’s not just another film festival. It’s quirky and fun.

Here’s the deal. For the festival, Live From Memphis sets a theme, and local filmmakers are challenged to make a film that is five minutes or less on that theme. The theme this year: the film must include the implosion of the old Baptist Memorial Hospital in its plot.

This is the first Li’l Film Fest, and it will feature 13 short films made by Memphis filmmakers Brian Churchill, Ken Armstrong, Jon W. Sparks, Lin Workman, Geoffrey Brent Shrewsbury, Tommy Marqueerius, Rod Pitts, David Thompson, Edward Valibus Phillips, Sarah Fleming, Nike Ross, Elizabeth Harris, and Christopher Reyes himself.

The goal of the film fest, according to its creator, is to “encourage and inspire Memphis filmmakers while engaging a local audience to strengthen our artistic community.”

If that wasn’t enough to keep us entertained, on Wednesday of next week, Reyes’ films entitled My Memphis will premiere at Malco’s Paradiso at 5:30 p.m. The films are an outgrowth of the Memphis Talent Magnet Report (in the interest of complete disclosure, a project undertaken by this firm and a forerunner to the follow-up national conference, Memphis Manifesto Summit). The Talent Magnet Report concluded that current marketing of Memphis reinforced an image among young people that it was frozen in time, a city of Elvis, riverboats and a languid, slow-moving culture.

This is Reyes’ answer to the challenge of portraying the “real” Memphis – an engaging, fresh look at Memphis from the viewpoints of 25-34 year-olds. The three films – An Introduction to Memphis, An Insiders’ Guide to Memphis and Why Memphis? – paint a portrait of Memphis as a vibrant, culturally rich and ethnically diverse city. It’s full of surprising, interesting insights.

The premiere of the films is sponsored by Memphis Regional Chamber (which has wisely set the development of a talent strategy as a major priority of its new president/CEO John Moore), by the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau (which is charged with the marketing of the city to the tourism and convention industry(, and the Memphis and Shelby County Film Commission (which encourages the growth of the local film industry).

Special guest for the premiere is Craig Brewer, writer and director of Hustle and Flow and currently wrapping up Black Snake Moan. He and about 20 other Memphians are featured in the films, and the soundtrack is music by current Memphis bands. Concurrently with the premiere, a website will be launched, and it will feature the 20 people telling their personal stories about Memphis.

All in all, the two events make for an exciting seven days in Memphis, and make for new and exciting ways to tell the story of our city and sell it to the young workers who will ultimately define its future.


Cam said...


sherman said...

A great site with valuable resources for Memphis musicians & music businesses. I can't wait to see where they are at in 5 years!

Jon W. Sparks said... is splendid. I am unaware of any other site that so thoroughly catalogs upcoming events -- not just music but whatever fine and performing arts events/people/organizations that want to come along for the ride. The Li'l Film Festival (Disclosure: I have an entry in it) is a smart idea that is doing a lot to stimulate the local indie film community.

MemMusicFan said...

Maybe instead of smoozing at Sundance Rey Flemming could help out Christopher Reyes. Not that a Sundance presence was a bad idea, but come on guys. Let's at least get an email address on the Memphis Music Commission website.

If you are reading, great job Chris. You should get more press.

Sarah Fleming said...

Just an FYI - the "Li'l Film Fest" was conceived and impliment by Sarah Fleming....
The goal of the film fest, according to its creator, is to “encourage and inspire Memphis filmmakers while engaging a local audience to strengthen our artistic community.”
the "creator" being me... Sarah Fleming... just giving myself my credit. Thanks for the post and all of your support!!