McKay met R.E.M. when they opened for Gang of Four in New York City in June of 1981, then returned to his Boston College radio station, WZBC, in September with the 7″ “Radio Free Europe” single in-hand. He and the band stayed in touch and six years later, McKay moved to Athens at Stipe’s urging, with the promise of “plenty of good restaurant jobs” to be had. Sure enough, soon he was washing dishes at the Bluebird Cafe.
McKay was already at work on his first film/video project, a documentary called Lighthearted Nation. He and Stipe, who himself was diving into numerous film projects related to or independent of R.E.M., formed C-Hundred, which was housed at Prince Avenue and North Newton Street. Together, along with cohort Tom Gilroy, they started the Direct Effect PSA project and produced music videos for local bands like Pylon and Chickasaw Mudd Puppies, as well as R.E.M., and distributed short film collections by Jem Cohen and James Herbert. In 1989, McKay and Stipe collaborated on Tourfilm, a feature-length concert film documenting R.E.M.’s world tour for the album Green.
McKay served on the board of Community Connection and was also involved in historic preservation issues during his time in Athens. He lived in Athens from 1987-1989 and 1991-1993, at which time he moved to New York City to begin work on his first feature film, Girls Town, which was shot in 1995. Girls Town received the Filmmakers Trophy and a Special Jury Prize for Collaboration at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival.
McKay’s second feature as a director was Our Song (1999), which premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, played at the New Directors/New Films festival the same year, and was distributed theatrically in the U.S. by IFC Films. His third feature, Everyday People (2004), was selected as the Opening Night Film of New Directors/New Films 2004 and played at festivals around the U.S. before being broadcast on HBO. His fourth feature, Angel Rodriguez, co-written with Hannah Weyer, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in September, 2005, had its U.S. premiere at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and was broadcast on HBO in Fall, 2006.
McKay has directed episodes of numerous television shows, including “The Wire,” “Big Love,” “Hung,” “In Treatment,” “Treme,” “Boss,” “Breaking Bad,” “Rectify,” “The Good Wife,” “Blue Bloods,” “Law and Order,” “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “New Amsterdam,” and “Gossip Girl.”
He served as a producer on American Movie, (directed by Chris Smith and Sarah Price), Spring Forward (Tom Gilroy), Scars (James Herbert), Stranger Inside(Cheryl Dunye), Backward Looks, Far Corners (Christopher Munch), Tree Shade (Lisa Collins), La Boda and Escuela (Hannah Weyer), Brother to Brother(Rodney Evans), Room (Kyle Henry), Memorial Day (Josh Fox), Mosquita Y Mari (Aurora Guerrero), Fourplay (Kyle Henry) and Me at the Zoo (Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch).
McKay was a Rockefeller Fellow in 2003 and a Guggenheim Fellow in 2004. In 2005, he was a recipient of the Lincoln Center Martin E. Segal Award.
His haiku have been published in The Haiku Year (Soft Skull Press, NY, 1998); Snapshots 12 (Snapshots Press, Liverpool, 2006); Noon – Journal of the Short Poem (Noon Press, Tokyo, 2006); Haiku, Not Bombs (Booklyn Press, NY 2008), and Rensselaerville Festival of Writers Haiku Project, Special Edition (2013).
McKay and special guests, including David Daley, editor-in-chief of Salon.com, will introduce screenings and participate in post-film Q&A sessions, as well as in a panel discussion on the UGA campus.
All proceeds from the festival will go to Whatever It Takes, a nonprofit initiative whose mission is to fight poverty in Athens through support for public education and families. Tickets for screenings and events at Ciné will be available through www.athenscine.com. More information on tickets to all events will be available soon. The November 18 1:25 pm panel discussion is free and open to the public.
The festival schedule is as follows:
FRIDAY, NOV. 15
- 7:30 pm • CinéLab • Opening event: fundraising reception for Whatever It Takes with music videos screening and memorabilia exhibit
- 8:30 pm • Ciné • Screening of Tourfilm with intro and Q&A featuring David Daley
SATURDAY, NOV. 16
- 4 pm • Ciné • Screening of Girls Town with intro and Q&A featuring Jim McKay
- 7:15 pm • Ciné • Screening of Everyday People with intro and Q&A featuring Jim McKay
- 9:30 pm • Little Kings Shuffle Club • Screening of “Treme” episode “Saints” with intro by Jim McKay
SUNDAY, NOV. 17
- 2 pm • Ciné • Screening of Our Song with intro and Q&A featuring Jim McKay and Tim Johnson
- 4:30 pm • Ciné • Screening of Angel Rodriguez with intro and Q&A featuring Jim McKay
MONDAY, NOV. 18
- 1:25 pm • UGA Fine Arts Building, Balcony Theatre • Panel discussion on working in the film and television industries featuring Jim McKay, David Daley, and Nate Kohn
- 8 pm • UGA Tate Center Theatre • Screening of American Movie with intro and Q&A featuring Jim McKay