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GPB to air assistant professor's documentary Dec. 29

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Dr. Benjamin Garner, assistant professor of marketing and management in the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia (UNG), will have his documentary, "Southern Vines: The Rebirth of Wine in Georgia," will be broadcast at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, on GPB.

Christmas has come early for Dr. Benjamin Garner. The assistant professor of marketing and management in the Mike Cottrell College of Business at the University of North Georgia (UNG) will have his documentary about wineries in Georgia broadcast on GPB.

"I was really pleased when Georgia Public Broadcasting expressed interest in airing the film," Garner said. "They have really strict standards that you have to meet in terms of production."

"Southern Vines: The Rebirth of Wine in Georgia" will be shown at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, on GPB. The 26-minute film showcases the wine industry and its impact on the state's tourism and economy. A small invitation-only reception and preview party to celebrate Garner’s work was Tuesday, Dec. 11, in the dining hall banquet room on UNG’s Dahlonega Campus. A public screening is tentatively scheduled in the spring on the Gainesville Campus.

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A small invitation-only reception and preview party to celebrate Garner’s work was Tuesday, Dec. 11, in the dining hall banquet room on UNG’s Dahlonega Campus. A public screening is tentatively scheduled in the spring on the Gainesville Campus.

As a one-man-band, Garner interviewed winery owners and industry officials and filmed them, edited the content and incorporated graphic designs and music into the documentary. Garner received training in film at the University of Kansas, where he earned his doctoral degree in communications studies in 2014.

"I was also blessed to have a great mentor, Madison Lacy, help me learn the craft," Garner said. "He has won numerous awards and produced extensively for PBS."

Garner has completed two other documentaries focused on a family farm and a local food movement. He also has produced a soft skills video for businesses. He tackled his latest project "Southern Vines" during the summer and fall 2018 semesters thanks to a $10,000 Presidential Incentive Award.

UNG President Bonita Jacobs initiated the awards in 2013 as a way to incentivize faculty and staff scholarship in its many forms, ranging from research to creative innovations. Since launching the program, Jacobs has awarded more than $1 million in support of more than 168 professional development, research and innovation projects across UNG's campuses.

Garner explained he chose create a documentary instead of traditional research or through publishing a paper because of its ability to reach more people. He also chose to pitch it as a television broadcast instead of film festivals because of the greater audience reach it will have.

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Dr. Benjamin Garner, assistant professor of marketing and management in the Mike Cottrell College of Business at UNG, will have his documentary about wineries in Georgia broadcast on GPB. Garner, center, is pictured with Ash Mady, left, and Dr. Cesar Ayala during a reception and preview party for his documentary.

"So often, our academic work is only read by a handful of other academics, maybe 100 people, at most.  And that's if it's a really solid paper," he said. "With a documentary that gets shown on GPB, my film will reach somewhere between 13,000 to 54,000 people, on the first viewing. So the impact of my work is more significant this way. Film is a great way to communicate ideas to people in the community."

Talking to winery and vineyard owners about the industry in Georgia was the best part of the project for Garner.

"You always learn a lot when you do this kind of project," he said. "The most unusual fact I learned was that Georgia has a really old wine history dating back to the colonial days. I also was really surprised to learn that Prohibition laws from 100 years ago still affect wineries today."

Emily DeFoor, general manager of Habersham Vineyards and Winery, was interviewed for the project. She said Garner was easy to work with, and his vision for the documentary provided an interesting perspective.

"New wineries are popping up, and it merits a documentary about the rebirth of the industry," DeFoor said.

As president of the Georgia Wine Producers, DeFoor said the timing could not be better.

"Even people who live in Atlanta don't know that we have wine region," she said. "So this will help us with our awareness campaign. It will not only educate people about wineries here, but people will hear the stories behind them and types of wine we make."

Producing "Southern Vines" has whet Garner's appetite to gather more data about the wine industry.

"Several of the wineries have agreed to help me distribute a survey in the next few months, and that project is a direct result of this documentary," he said. "I am also considering doing some video production over the summer for businesses wanting to use digital storytelling for their websites."

But for now, Garner plans to sit back and soak in the fruits of his labor.

"Seeing the film finally come together and have audiences respond positively to it is one of my favorite parts," he said.

'Southern Vines: The Rebirth of Wine in Georgia'

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29

Where: Georgia Public Broadcasting

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