Two Grady Graduates debut dance documentary

At the premiere of the documentary, the creators celebrated and reflected on their work. left to right: Margot McLaughlin (’19), Carrie Miller (’19), Carolyn McLaughlin, Evelyn McLaughlin (’25)

Sierra Pape

Four years ago, Carrie Miller was experimenting with cameras in Midtown’s Film classes and Margot McLaughlin was swiftly designing pages for The Southerner. Now, their over-hour-long film project is debuting in theaters across Georgia.
“This has been really surreal; I mean, not a lot of people get to do this,” Miller said. “Especially in college for film, we’re all just doing little projects and class assignments. But this is a legit film with a website and a social media presence, and it’s premiering in theaters. This has been a great opportunity for me to further my growth as a filmmaker and get the message of this film shown to people.”
The documentary is a part of Movement Arts Atlanta’s dance project of the same name which demonstrates the impact of the modern dance pioneer Isadora Duncan. According to their website their website, “The project explores how one artist influences many, integrating historic dance works, new choreography, visual art, photography and filmmaking.”
Carolyn McLaughlin, Margot’s mother, is the Creative Director of Movement Arts Atlanta and has been passionate about the topic of this film for a long time. The idea sparked over 10 years ago, and since then she has worked to host workshops with nation-wide reconstruction artists on Isador’s work and coordinated inspired pieces that were performed at Inman Park Dance Festival and independent showcases.
“[This documentary] reinforces what I so greatly appreciate the work of Isadora Duncan and I know a lot about her life,” Carolyn McLaughlin said. “It has sparked this whole cycle of getting to work together. I know that I’ve been very, very, very grateful for this opportunity to have all these wonderful people of different stages in their art career work on this project.”
Both McLaughlin and Miller were involved in the arts programs during their time at Grady between 2016 and 2019. McLaughlin now is a senior at the University of Georgia studying Landscape Architecture.
“I actually was an Associate Managing Editor for the A&E section on the Southerner and did journalism all four years,” McLaughlin said. “I learned my initial exposure to doing graphic design from editing in InDesign through the Southerner. I was also involved in the fashion program all four years which tied into just a love for design.”
Miller accredits the Audio, Visual, Tech and Film (AVTF) program at Midtown for post-secondary educational pursuit in Film and their interest in this project.
“I’m so thankful I took those classes in high school because it really got my feet wet in the film world,” Miller said. “In Mr. Roberts’ class, he gave us cameras and we could do what we wanted so we could create our own stories. Having that basis really helped this project and the freedom of it.”
Miller is also a current student at University of Georgia, pursuing further education in Film. With the duration of this project lasting over 70 minutes, the full-time student editors and cinematographers had to manage their time well to complete this large piece.
“[Time management] has been a challenge because we had a lot of work, especially from September to February and all of our schoolwork on top of that,” McLaughlin said. “Every evening, Carrie and I would sit down after dinner and just edit the documentary for several hours. Once we would finish sections of it, we’d send it to my mom, Carolyn, she would give us notes, and send it back. Sections, get notes, repeat.”
The premiere of the event was in Athens, Georgia at Cine Athens, an arthouse and theater, and garnered very complimentary responses, even soliciting comments from members of the community who are not involved in dance or film.
“After our premiere in Athens, I got some good feedback from a few people who really had no idea who Isadora Duncan was,” McLaughlin said. “They weren’t involved in dance at all. But they said that the documentary was very informative, and engaging, which was great to hear, because the hope is that even people who aren’t super interested in dance will learn something.”
Miller believes that the purpose of the documentary extends far beyond discussing Isadora Duncan’s powerful dance movements.
“The documentary is really cool, because it just shows the whole phenomenon of how everybody’s been influenced,” Miller said. “Carolyn even mentions in the documentary, the way she teaches dance is the same way her former teachers taught her so that influence has carried her through a lifetime and then obviously, other things have been influencing her. And then she discusses how she hopes to influence other people. So you kind of see that theme for every person in the documentary and [a viewer] get to follow that. What I hope happens and what people get out of it is it finishes and they say ‘Oh my gosh, like, how have I influenced people? How have I been influenced?’”
The second showing is at the Plaza Theater in Midtown, Atlanta on Sunday, March 26 at 3:30 pm, and the crew is excited to see the response in Atlanta.
“My hope is that people from Midtown will come,” Margot McLaughlin said. “Evelyn [Margot’s sister who is currently a sophomore at Midtown] mentioned bringing some friends and I think that would be cool to see because Carrie was so involved in the film program at Grady. It would be cool if people could come and see what Carrie’s up to these days,post graduation. All of the dancers will be able to come, hopefully, because most of them are based in Atlanta. So them getting to come and see the documentary for the first time will be really exciting.”
The creators hope that, if Midtown students view the piece at the premiere in Atlanta, it can follow this theme and positively influence students by serving as an example of what is possible after high school.
“When I was a student, I remember older classmates would graduate and I would look up to those successful in their creative fields,” McLaughlin said. “I think that Carrie is definitely also one of those people; she really has a lot of passion and vision when it comes to film. Their creative passion is unique and I think a lot of that did kind of start with the availability of art [possibilities] at Grady because you’re just surrounded by a lot of great art and resources being in Midtown. I think Carrie can be a great role model for students starting in film at Midtown, showing how you can do amazing projects even outside of school.”