Atlanta native Bobby Huntley was only 10 years old when he discovered his knack for filmmaking. His father had rented a video camera for a brief amount of time– just long enough for the future filmmaker to establish his newfound passion.
The rented video camera eventually had to be returned, but it was that following Christmas when young-Bobby Huntley asked his dad for his very own camera. His wish was granted and he’s been molding the craft ever since; from childhood days of filming his cousins, to high school projects in his production class, to his college campus “Workaholics” crew which filmed comedic sketches all around campus. “It’s my way of connecting with people,” says Huntley.
In 2018, Huntley began writing “Connect”, a Sci-Fi drama surrounding a young man named Vincent, who has the ability to communicate with the dead. Grappling with the sleepless nights and anxiousness that comes along with this ability, Vincent confides in a friend, who fails to keep Vincent’s secret safe. In almost no time, the entire community is aware of his uncanny gift of conversing with dead people. And not only are they aware, but they’re showing up to Vincent’s doorstep, seeking help with talking to their own dead loved ones.
Overwhelmed, exhausted, and actively seeking ways to rid himself of this heavy superpower, Vincent kindly sends the people home; claiming that they heard wrong. This film, says Huntley, is about the journey of Vincent trying to deal with this gift that he doesn’t want.
But soon, an opportunity unlike any other presents itself. After a Black teen is tragically shot and killed in the community, the victim’s mother, seeking justice and at wits’ end, desperately approaches Vincent, begging for his help to communicate with her dead son in an effort to get to the bottom of what exactly happened.
The question that writer and director Bobby Huntley hopes to bring to the surface: “If you have a gift, and we all have a gift, would you use it to help those around you? Even if it was to the detriment of yourself?”
In 2021, “Connect” continues to gain recognition on the film festival circuit, but it’s been a long road with much required patience. Three years ago, the idea was born and writing began, but the struggle to find production funding led to multiple delays. “I would have to stop production, do a side project, have that project go viral, attract viewers and potential investors, and repeat that two or three times,” Huntley recalls. And then the COVID-19 pandemic added an extra layer of difficulty.
But finally, COVID-safe filming of “Connect” began in June 2020 in Atlanta, coincidentally amid the same time that the city, and the world, was demanding justice for Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man who was killed by Atlanta police in a Wendy’s parking lot.
“Atlanta was under distress,” said Huntley. The team briefly paused production until it was deemed appropriate to return to work. “Connect” seemed to be exactly what the world needed at that time, and continues to be. Art has a keen sense of working out that way.