Kennesaw State alumnus writes, directs independent film in Smyrna

By AUTUMN JOHNSON

SMYRNA, Ga. — Kennesaw State alumnus, Brent Lambert-Zaffino, 26, is currently working on independent film, “The Head,” tentatively set to be released in May of 2017.

Lambert-Zaffino took an old childhood memory of his grandfather carving a wooden head, and is working on turning it into a dark comedy based off his current life experience.

After spending the past three years working on music videos and short films, the idea for the project came about when Lambert-Zaffino was filming a music video and had the idea to have the artist walk around the city holding a wooden head.

The song ended up falling through because the artist dropped out. However, still in love with the idea, Lambert-Zaffino took this idea and wrote his story based off of the music video.

“There’s nothing special or cute to me about this film, but when you promote it and show it to other people, you begin realizing it’s cool to them,” Lambert-Zaffino said. “You get a lot of warm responses from people who just think it’s really great that you’re doing your thing. It’s rewarding to see people act as positively as they do.”

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Poster for “The Head” film. (Submitted photo)

Lambert-Zaffino said that filming this project in Smyrna felt very appropriate to him since the city is right off Interstate 285 and therefore has a little Atlanta flavor, but not fully since it’s still in the suburbs. He also said there’s a big immigrant culture in conjunction with a large student culture, so it’s a diverse mix.

“The characters remind me so much of what I experienced here in Smyrna,” said Will Copeland, the actor who plays the lead character. “I feel like Smyrna is in between so many things, and the main character of this movie is too. He’s not in one place ever, so I feel like it makes sense to do film “The Head” here in Smyrna.”

About “The Head” 

“The Head” is about a man named Drew who quits his job at a coffee shop and begins carving a wooden sculpture of a head in his spare time. The sculpture ends up getting popular on the Internet, and he starts to believe that this head is his real calling.

Instead of finding success in the real world, Drew’s life spirals out of control because he is so caught up with this head, which doesn’t bring him any real, corporate life success.  As he contemplates what to do with the sculpture he created, he begins to feel the rejection life is bringing him as a consequence of dropping everything that he had to pursue this calling.

Not dealing with it very well, Drew begins making the same mistakes over and over again until, ultimately, he ends up back at the coffee shop and leaves the head sitting by the tip jar on the counter, hoping for the best.

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Brent Lambert-Zaffino. (Photo by Autumn Johnson)

Great learning experience

Lambert-Zaffino said he believes this film has made him a better film writer. The experience has taught him how to approach comedy along with other useful tactics for the movie industry.

One challenge Lambert-Zaffino said he encountered was telling people what they wanted to hear when you tell them that you’re making something. He said he did not think that finding the right words to convey his work to other people would be such an art form.

Lambert-Zaffino encourages anyone who wants to write or produce a film to go for it.

“Everyone has a cellphone,” said Lambert-Zaffino. “You can download script writing for free and editing programs are on computers. The more you shoot, the more you learn, and to me, that is invaluable.”

Local entrepreneurs share secrets of success

Passion, sacrifice required to start business

By MAEGHAN DUCKETT

KENNESAW, Ga. — The world is filled with passionate people who are eager to make a living from something they love to do.

Patrina King, owner of Golf Women Mean Business, Joseph Daniels, owner of Joseph Daniels Body Sculpting, and Maretta Johnson, owner of Johnson Thomas Brown Productions, are all passionate people who put their eagerness to work and are making a living out of doing something they love.

Patrina King

King is the CEO and founder of Golf Women Mean Business. King said to be a successful business owner, you have to have that mind set, and you must set standards, create values and be valuable.

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Patrina King (left) (Submitted photo)

“I don’t know if you know this, but people don’t value ‘free,’” King said.

Beyond social media

Also, you must be visible to your target audience. This doesn’t just mean post on your social media sites, send email blasts, or even go to one or two networking events. You have to be social, personable, and noticed within your target market.

“Your social media will get you the retweets, the likes and the selfies, but the personal conversations will get you the checks,” King said.

Joseph Daniels

Daniels is a fitness trainer who once worked in corporate America.

When questioned by one of his clients on why he didn’t pursue doing fitness training full time, Daniels had to ask himself that exact question. Daniels said he has always had a passion for fitness, but he never thought about seeking fitness as a replacement full-time job with a steady income.

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Joseph Daniels (left) works with client (Submitted photo)

“I couldn’t convince myself to leave a steady paycheck,” Daniels said. “It was by far the hardest decision I had to do.”

July 2010, Daniels decided to take a leap of faith and leave corporate America to pursue what he said he believed was his true purpose.

Daniels struggled, like many other businessmen, to find consistent clients and a consistent paycheck.

Anyone who is thinking about owning a business should know it requires being able to network and be personable, Daniels said.

Importance of word-of-mouth

“You have to go out there and market yourself,” Daniels said.

Going out mixing and mingling is what will get you those first few clients, especially if you do not have the finances you need to kick start your company, Daniels said.

Once those first few clients see you’re genuine, you know what you’re doing, you’re passionate about what you’re doing and you like what you’re doing, word-of-mouth will bring in more clients.

Word-of-mouth is the best way to get clients because they stick, Daniels said.

If you hear from a friend, associate or family member about a product or service, you are more likely to try it out versus just Googling that product or service you were looking for.

Daniels has been living proof of what it means to make a living from his passion, and he is currently enjoying his newfound full-time employment.

Maretta Johnson

Maretta Johnson is the manager and mother of musician Jacques Johnson, and the creator and producer of two reality shows debuting in October on Peachtree TV.

Maretta Johnson emphasizes how important it is to keep pushing toward your goals regardless of what obstacles might come your way or what others may think of you.

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Maretta Johnson (left) and her son, Jacques Johnson (Submitted photo)

The music and entertainment industry is a hard one to crack into, she said.

She mentioned how difficult it can be managing such a unique artist. Maretta Johnson said her son has never has tried to conform to fit the music trends, but he simply just does him.

Character sells

With starting any company, business or new venture, it is also important to remain true to yourself because that is what will sell, Johnson said. Your personality and character are so important.

Her son, Jacques Johnson, remained true to his character and his sound regardless of what styles of music people gravitated toward. This has allowed this mother-son duo to make a living from both of their passions.

Jacques Johnson, even though he doesn’t conform to the norms, is thriving in the music and entertainment business. Maretta Johnson is overwhelmed with joy seeing her son excel into the trade of his choice.

“When you are a mother, and your child has a dream and a talent, then you just do it,” she said.

Students ‘Get The Scoop’ on Journalism

By ANNA STREETMAN

KENNESAW, Ga. — Students from Kennesaw State University and other schools had the opportunity Saturday to learn the “ins and outs” of journalism from three guest speakers who have found success in the field.

Speaking to a joint meeting of the Atlanta Press Club and the Kennesaw State chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the panelists each gave advice for those wanting to go into journalism.

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Elly Yu, Christina Lee, and Roger Newton. (Photo by Sierra Hubbard)

“Take advantage of your internships and always be persistent,” said Elly Yu, a reporter at WABE in Atlanta and a graduate of City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

“Sharpen your multimedia skills, and go back to school if you think there’s more to learn,” she said. “Go into every job believing you’re a reporter, and don’t be afraid to pitch your own story ideas.”

Christina Lee, a freelance journalist who specializes in hip-hop music, recommended potential journalists “put themselves out there.”

“Immerse yourself in your interests,” Lee said. “Go to shows if you like music. Go to town meetings if you enjoy politics. Eighty percent of journalism is showing up. You never know who you are going to meet or what you could learn. There’s a whole world of stories outside of your desk.”

Roger Newton, a KSU alumnus who is video editor for the Center for Sustainable Journalism, stressed the importance of school for networking opportunities.

“Pay attention in class and make a good impression,” he said. “Work hard, make good grades, and don’t be afraid to stand out. Take advantage of the connections you make with professors and advisors. It could help get you a job.”

Lee had some advice for conducting a good interview.

“Do your research so you can ask better questions,” Lee said. “For example, if you are interviewing somebody who is a musician, listen to their album. Know specific songs and lyrics you want to ask them about. It’ll help make the story more personal and will show them you are interested in their music.”

All guest speakers recommended having an online presence and portfolio, internship experience, a diverse skill set, and a good resume.

“Consider what each employer would want to see,” said Lee. “Are they interested in a good leader? Somebody who can make videos? Somebody who can edit? It’s important to think about what each individual employer wants to see in an applicant.”

Newton said his favorite part of being a journalist was “having an impact on people. All it takes is one person telling me I made a difference for me to keep going. One person makes all the difference.”

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s – One Family’s Fight

By DARRIN HEATHERLY 

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s, held annually by 600 communities nationwide, is the largest event to raise awareness and money for research, care and support for victims of Alzheimer’s and their families. Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to fall victim to the disease. After the loss of a close family member to Alzheimer’s, Ivonne Lara and Rocio Mandujano began their journey to find a cure.

ATLANTA – Every 67 seconds in the United States, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease. The sixth leading cause of death in America is the only disease within the top 10 causes of death without a cure. Five million Americans battle the disease that does not just affect its victims, but also the 15.7 million caregivers who must sacrifice time, patience and energy in hopes of being remembered or saving a life.

For cousins Ivonne Lara, 23, and Rocio Mandujano, 21, these statistics became their unfortunate reality. Their grandmother, Maria Concepcion Rodriguez Alvarado, began experiencing significant symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

“It went from ‘Where are the keys’ to ‘I don’t know how to walk anymore,’” Lara said.

Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive, irreversible neurological disorder, strikes most of its victims aged 65 or older but can strike in the 40s and 50s. Victims to the disease experience symptoms such as gradual memory loss, disorientation, impairment of judgment, personality change, difficulty in learning and loss of language skills.

Lara’s family came together and realized that Alvarado’s struggles were not a result of aging, but a serious medical condition that needed to be handled properly.

“I grew up with my grandmother,” Lara said. “She raised me. She is a very lovable person. Anyone she met loved her.”

Mandujano and Lara spent hours providing care for their grandmother. However, Alvarado began to lose touch with her family and caregivers, forgetting their names or treating them as somebody from her past.

“My grandmother would think we were her daughters,” Mandujano said. “She thought my grandfather was her dad.”

Alzheimer’s Disease – A 24-Hour Job

Alzheimer’s victims require assistance throughout all stages of the disease. Early within the diagnosis, patients need help adjusting to the future. Both the victim and the care-giver will experience significant life changes. In 2014, 15.7 million American caregivers provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care valued at $217.7 billion.

“Taking care of our grandma, going to school and working,” Mandujano said. “That became our life.”

When Alvarado deemed her granddaughters as other family members or strangers, Lara and Mandujano would have to assume the character.

“Sometimes you have to play along with the role,” Lara said. “You have to have patience because there are a lot of people who don’t have patience. She would become stubborn or angry, but you would need to work with her.”

Alvarado became more upset during the early evening, experiencing a setback of Alzheimer’s disease called sundown syndrome. Fading light became a trigger that worsened her symptoms.

“My grandma would get really angry about the same time the kids would get out of school,” Mandujano said. “She would start screaming at everyone or would want to leave the house.”

When their grandmother insisted on leaving the house, Lara and Mandujano would drive her around the neighborhood and return her home to calm her down. The sedative five-minute drive would become Alvarado’s soothing get-away but an illusion to the reality that is Alzheimer’s disease.

In late 2013, Alvarado began experiencing very severe declines in her health. In March of 2014, at the age of 72, Maria Concepcion Rodriguez Alvarado lost her battle to Alzheimer’s disease.

“The last time we spoke, I asked her who I was,” Lara said. “She looked me in the eye and said ‘You are Ivonne Lara.’ She hadn’t remembered my name in so long. It was my most significant memory of her.”

The Hispanic Killer

A month after the passing of their grandmother, Lara and Mandujano began fundraising for a cure in April of 2014. The two started Team Conchitas in Atlanta’s chapter of The Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The two shined a very bright light on who the disease affects the most.

“Our main focus was to bring attention of Alzheimer’s disease to the Hispanic community,” said Lara.

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that Hispanics are about 1.5 more times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than non-Hispanic whites.

This may be attributed to vascular diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol usually within the Hispanic or African-American diet.

“My grandma and her twin are a great example of this,” said Lara. “They both suffered from Alzheimer’s and diabetes, but my grandma refused to change her diet while her twin ate healthier so my grandmother suffered worst.”

Lara and Mandujano were discovering that other Hispanic families close to them were also experiencing a family member suffering with Alzheimer’s from conversations at church or through school.

The Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report in 2010 predicts that the number of Hispanic elders with Alzheimer’s and related dementias could increase more than six-fold, from fewer than 200,000 in 2010 to as many as 1.3 million by 2050.

Lara and Mandujano’s Public Impact

Since beginning their campaign in 2014, Lara and her team have made significant strides in publicity for the program. Lara was featured in the July 2015 issue of People En Español Magazine.

The two were able to garner the local masses in a radio interview with Atlanta’s Cumulus Media in 2015, which airs on several of Atlanta’s local radio stations. This year, Lara is working with El Patron 105.3, the biggest Spanish speaking radio station in the city of Atlanta.

Lara and Mandujano were featured in a national Spanish advertisement for the My Brain Campaign, a movement created by the Alzheimer’s Association of America. The creators of the movement are the directors behind the movie “Still Alice.”

A Walk of Vindication

This month, Lara and Mandujano begin planning for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in September.

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is held annually in more than 600 communities over the United States. Starting in 1989 as the Memory Walk, $149,000 was raised from 1,249 participants. In 1993, just four years later, the Memory Walk became a nationwide event raising $4.5 million at 167 locations. In 2015, the fundraising campaign has nearly 50,000 teams and 600 walks countrywide.

Leila Rodrigo, 38, is a member of the Duluth chapter of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Last year, she experienced the growth of the program from 100 participants in 2014 to nearly 400 in 2015.

“Truly our work is becoming more public and bigger than I could imagine,” Rodrigo said. “It may be due to all the celebrities getting involved, the movies and the publicity.”

Rodrigo is referring to celebrities such as professional skateboarder, Tony Hawk, whose grandmother is a victim from Alzheimer’s disease. Actor Seth Rogan has started the movement “Kick Alz in the Balls” alongside his wife. Together they created a documentary titled “This is Alzheimer’s” following the life of several victims including a 35 year-old man.

Lara and Mandujano’s chapter has grown increasingly since their first walk in 2014. The first walk took place at Central Park in Atlantic Station. In 2015, the group rented out the lot where Cirque du Soleil takes place annually. The streets were filled with purple and gold. Children, naïve and unaware, laugh and run for a disease they cannot yet pronounce.

Parents are gathered alongside bright young supporters. One thing is clear; the runners need a bigger space.

“We are currently looking for a new, bigger area because our cause has gotten a lot more media attention than before,” Lara said.

Lara and Mandujano were the first Spanish speaking members of their committee within the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Due to their involvement, they were able to convince most of their family to begin fundraising for the first time in their lives.

“Most of my family is coming from Mexico,” Lara said. “So this is their first time really being involved with anything like this. The first year we raised about $2000 as our family alone and we want to keep raising the bar by $2000 more each year.”

Eliminating Alzheimer’s Once and For All

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s continues to grow in numbers and supporters have raised nearly millions of dollars to vindicate the lives of their loved ones. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s was born out of a selfish love and aspiration to weather the curse this wretched disease places upon its millions of victims. Those who sacrifice precious time do so to cherish the thousands of memories their loved ones can no longer have.

“She’s not alone,” Lara said. “Everything that we are doing in the moment is for her. I hope that she is looking down and seeing us. I hope that she is proud.”

A cause often whispered about now has a pounding voice that echoes across the world. The work that Mandujano and Lara continue to do is in the memory of their grandmother, Maria Concepcion Rodriguez Alvarado.

“I miss her,” Mandujano said. “Everything I have done with the Alzheimer’s Association is in memory of my grandmother. This was a positive way for me to grieve. I’m thankful for the committee for helping me get through this process and everything I continue to do will be for her.”

Visit www.alz.org/Georgia to learn the warning signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Call 800–272–3900 or email lucretia.smith@alz.org for a 24 hour helpline in assisting with Alzheimer’s disease. Donations to Team Conchitas can be submitted here.

 

 

 

Boys and Girls Club Encourages Learning Importance of Historically Black Colleges

By KATELYNN HOWSER

ATLANTA — Throughout the month of February, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta participated in College Bound’s HBCU Month to teach students the importance of historically black colleges and universities.

During HBCU Month, members of the Boys and Girls Club will be able to partake in different events and activities that shine light on the importance of education after high school, more specifically HBCUs across the country.

The activities include the photo booth challenge that will encourage the students to take and submit pictures showing school spirit that will be displayed during the HBCU Night contest. Prizes will be given to the winner to inspire students to participate.

The students will also be encouraged to create a video explaining why HBCUs are important and have it submitted by Feb. 22.

The most current event that is taking place among Boys and Girls Clubs across Georgia is the HBCU Week competition. During this week, students and faculty in the organization will choose an HBCU to represent and they must transform their club into one of these schools. Judges from the College Bound organization will come record the event while also giving information about the selected HBCU’s the Boys and Girls Club choose.

A faculty member of the Paulding County Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, Dominique Henfield, said, “During HBCU Competition Week, each section of the club selects a school to represent, so the students end up learning a good bit of information about five to six of the HBCUs around our area.”

He said throughout the week the faculty and students spend time decorating the classrooms and learning different facts about the institutions. On Friday, they all participate in a daylong event where the parents of the students are encouraged to participate in the activities as well.

“I think it is really interesting and fun to learn about the different HBCUs,” said Harley Mickle, a 15-year-old student who has attended the Boys and Girls Club for six years. “We really aren’t taught much about these universities in school, so learning about it in the Boys and Girls Club is different. I also think it is really important for our success in the future.”

She said that a lot of the students who participate in the events thoroughly enjoy learning about the traditions of the universities.Because of the experiences she has had at the Boys and Girls Club, she said she now plans on attending a historically black college and university.

The mission of the Boys and Girls Club is to provide a safe environment for its members and change the lives of young individuals.

“I believe it is my job to inspire the minds of these young students,” Henfield said. “My goal every day is to encourage these children to achieve greatness. As a faculty member of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, I provide the guidance that some of these kids may lack and I believe it is very beneficial to the members of our organization to expose our youth to opportunities such as HBCU Week.”

HBCU Week concluded Feb. 26 and the organizations plan to continue the event annually during the month of February in an effort to encourage Georgia’s youth to attend these universities.