In the 13 years it has been in business, Lakeland’s Indie Atlantic Films has carved out a niche in the video and film production industry, producing visuals for businesses, schools and colleges and nonprofit organizations. Now the company has produced its first feature-length film, a documentary that is getting some attention in the American film-festival circuit and already has won a couple of awards.
The 84-minute film, “Fly Like a Girl,” was conceived and directed by Katie McEntire Wiatt, a producer at Indie Atlantic. Her husband, Matt Wiatt, a co-founder of the company, was the film’s co-executive producer (along with Andy McEntire), and other members of the company had roles in filming and editing. It is an expansive look at women in aviation, bringing the stories of pioneering women pilots, including a U.S. senator and an 11-year-old from Tampa, into the present.
Katie Wiatt says the idea for the film arose from her experience teaching fourth grade at Churchwell Elementary School.
“I saw a lot of disconnect between girls and STEM subjects. My principal suggested connecting with Sun ‘n Fun’s Aerospace Center for Excellence. A woman wearing a flight suit showed up, and the girls’ eyes lit up,” she said. “I realized that a lot of girls don’t have a visual of what women are doing (in STEM). Besides, I was really interested in aviation myself.”
Wiatt says that although there are numerous documentaries and feature films about the early days of women in aviation, especially Amelia Earhart, there are few that bring the story to the present day.
“Fly Like a Girl” gives a nod to the early pioneers, but many of the subjects in the film made their mark more recently, such as Patty Wagstaff, the first woman U.S. National Aerobatic Champion; U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., who lost both legs while flying a Blackhawk helicopter in combat in Iraq; and astronaut Nicole Stott.
A star of the film is Afton Kinkade, an 11-year-old who is learning to fly, and appears in the film looking the part, in aviator sunglasses and a flight jacket.
“That was the most fun part of the film,” Wiatt says. “Her story is sort of woven throughout.”
The Wiatts went into the project unsure of whether they would succeed at capturing such an ambitious subject. Indie Atlantic self-funded the film, one reason it took three years to complete, but the team continued to plug away at it.
“You can’t story-board a documentary, but we kept aiming for the stars and we started getting some high-level interviews,” Matt Wiatt says. “The fun part was in the editing, putting the story together.”
“Fly Like a Girl” has been accepted into a dozen film festivals so far. It has won the Best Feature Documentary award at the Hot Springs (Ark.) International Women’s Film Festival. On Oct. 26, it will be one of five feature-length documentaries to be screened at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival, a notable festival in the circuit. And on Sunday, Katie Wiatt will be present in Wichita, Kan., to receive the DoXX Spotlight Award for the top woman-directed documentary at the Tallgrass Film Festival.
“It’s an amazing honor. It’s a testament to the power of the story. People want to hear more women-centered stories. We fell in love with it,” Katie Wiatt says. “The ultimate goal is that women can look at a woman on the screen and see possibility for themselves.”
The Wiatts are working on a distribution deal for the film and plan to screen it sometime early next year in Lakeland.