Unveiling 30A: The Story of a Road – A Journey into Scenic History at the Redfish Film Fest - 30A


Unveiling 30A: The Story of a Road – A Journey into Scenic History at the Redfish Film Fest

By: Lauren Sage Reinlie | Posted Apr 2, 2024

30A The Story of a Road, a short documentary produced by The 30A Company, will debut at the inaugural Redfish Film Fest held in Panama City, Florida, April 11-13, 2024. The documentary-only festival will feature about 85 films at various venues across the newly revitalized downtown.

Filmmaker Jessica Plowden Anderson said she is honored that her film is included in the lineup. “This is truly a documentary of this place,” she said. “It fit perfectly.”

Anderson based her film on an article on 30A.com that captured the history of Scenic Highway 30A, from its roots as a rut in the sand to what has become a sometimes crowded road running through now-bustling beach communities.

Anderson is intrigued by the history of the 30A area. “A lot of people move here and visit here and don’t know anything about this place,” she said. “Hopefully, future generations will look at this film and get to know where this place came from.” Her interviews with people like 97-year-old Malcolm Patterson capture first-hand stories that rarely appear in this area’s public records.

In addition to Patterson, whom Anderson said was “an absolute gem,” she also captured on film other longtime locals, including Claire Bannerman, Becky Steele, Brenda Rees, Bobby Johnson, and Maunsel White. Their charming stories about years gone by are interspersed with footage of the 30A area today, including sweeping shots of the gorgeous beaches that run along the road. The 30A Company’s founder, Mike Ragsdale, narrates the film.

Kevin Elliott, organizer of the Redfish Film Fest, said Anderson’s film is part of the region’s history. “That road, I mean, for goodness sake, it’s a global brand that started as this little tiny road that nobody knew about.”

In 2013, after graduating from college in Los Angeles, Anderson started asking herself the requisite question: now what? Her sister, who had been stationed with the Navy in Panama City, still lived in the area, so Anderson decided to move to the beach while she figured out what was next. “Then you blink, and 11 years have passed,” she said.

She had been working in social media when in 2020 she was hired as a videographer for The 30A Company. She fell in love with film and hasn’t looked back.

Anderson loves being behind the camera, but the editing room is her favorite. “I know this sounds unglamorous to many people, but there’s something about sitting down in front of your computer and being able to create something out of nothing,” she said. “You take all this data and it’s almost like a puzzle. There are a million ways you could do it, but you just feel your way through and create what you want it to be.”

For her work with 30A, Anderson produced about 40 short films, each 10 to 15 minutes long, focusing on different areas around Northwest Florida and featuring history, personal stories, and stunning drone footage.

In addition to the story of Scenic Highway 30A, some of her favorites include films on Seaside, Freeport, and Morrison Springs. “They are educational and informative but also just great stories,” Anderson said. “My family joked that it was like the PBS of 30A.”

Anderson left 30A in 2022 and launched her film company, That Girl Media. She is currently in production on two documentaries, including one about Jackie Cochran, a famous female pilot who was born in DeFuniak Springs, Florida. Last year, she launched the SOWAL Foundation, a non-profit aimed at funding arts events in the area.

Through her film work, she met Elliot, the film festival’s founder and filmmaker, who runs his own production company, Wewa Films, out of Panama City. Since Hurricane Michael ravaged the area in 2018, he said downtown has undergone an impressive revitalization. It now includes coffee shops, restaurants, a boxing club, an arcade, a history museum, an art museum, an arcade, a brewery, a hotel on the water, and more. “Along with that, the arts community has really grown,” he said. “I wanted to do something to contribute.”

Jessica Anderson

Jessica Plowden Anderson

A couple of years ago, he set up a pop-up screening of one of his company’s short documentaries at the Boxing Club downtown. They had a packed house. It gave him the idea that maybe they could host a film festival. Armed with an idea and some experience attending festivals across the country, they put out for submissions for a documentary-only festival. He found only about six other festivals like it in the country and discovered a real hunger. “Documentary filmmakers started pouring films on us like crazy,” he said.

Submissions include student films from Florida State University and other renowned film schools. NASA and NatGeo entered films. PBS granted access to their entire Point of View series of short films, which will be screened for free. 15 headline speakers are traveling in from across the country. “We never expected all this,” Elliot said.

Organizers will set up pop-up movie theaters in five downtown venues. The weekend’s festivities include a free, family-friendly block party on Friday night at local brewery L Weirdo, with light projection art downtown and intermittent special performances. Opening and closing parties, meet-and-greets, and a champagne brunch are also included with weekend pass tickets.

Elliot is excited to see it all come together. He loves going to film festivals in other parts of the country. “But I live here and plan to live here the rest of my life. So we might as well build the stuff we want to see. Right?

To learn more, or to buy tickets, visit RedFilmFest.com. Follow Jessica’s work on her website That Girl Media





























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Lauren Sage Reinlie is an award-winning freelance journalist currently living in Freeport, Florida. Her work has taken her across the South, where she has covered topics ranging from the wily ways of politicians at the Texas state capitol to the storied land of sunshine and swamp sharks (a.k.a. gators) in Florida. She can be reached at [email protected].