On Moving, Moving On

A college kid helping kids and others

Should Athens Ban Puppy Mills?

California is against puppy mills, and so is Georgia.

Puppy from Athens Area Humane Society | Photo By: Nicholas Cordts

In an exclusive interview with the Mayor of Canton Ga. on Wednesday Oct. 4, Mayor Gene Hobgood shed light on why he passed the first ordinance to discourage the sale of puppy mill animals in Georgia.

“My daughter was the one who brought this issue to my attention,” said Hobgood. “She works with the ASPCA, and she told me that the Georgia Legislature was trying to take preemptive measures to take authority over pet store ordinances away from local control. ”

What does this all mean?

According to bestfriends.org, an organization dedicated to a no-kill policy in animal shelters, only four cities in the state of Georgia have passed an ordinance to regulate the sale of puppy mill animals. These cities, in the order of when they enacted their ordinance, are Canton, Holly Springs, Waleska, and Woodstock. Canton was the first city to take action back in March of 2017.

“We wanted to pass the ordinance while we had the opportunity to prevent the sScreen Shot 2017-10-11 at 6.59.16 PMales before it happened,” said Hobgood. “We were able to do so because we don’t have any dog or cat pet stores in Canton. We have pet supply stores but no retail sales of dogs or cats.”

Hobgood said that Canton was number 223 in what’s now over 230 cities across the United States to have passed a puppy mill restricting ordinance.

“It would discourage puppy mills, and it would save tax dollars,” said Hobgood.

According to Hobgood, the ordinance would offer a break on tax dollars going to animal shelters because it would encourage the sale of animal shelter pets.

Who else is taking action?

Rescued kitten at Athens Area Humane Society | Photo By Nicholas Cordts

Actions to restrict the sale of commercially produced animals have been recently made at a much larger scale. According to the California Legislative website, Gov. Jerry Brown was presented with a bill to ban the sale of puppy mill animals statewide. The bill was enrolled and presented to the governor at 12 p.m. on Sept. 25.

The American Kennel Club has expressed opposition to the new California bill. They argue against AB 485, stating that the proposed bill will make “obtaining a specific dog breed increasingly difficult.”

In their web post, Why Californians Need to Worry About AB 485, the “Pet Store” Bill, they argue that this ban will increase chances of a person getting a pet that isn’t the right match for their lifestyle. Their stance is, “When governments attempt to limit the legitimate sources from which a person may obtain a pet… it increases the likelihood that animals will end up in a shelter.”

What about Athens?

When asked why the city of Athens hasn’t passed a similar ordinance to ban puppy mills, Clerk of Commission, Jean Spratlin couldn’t recall any past instance to incite a puppy mill ban.

Painted entrance to Athens Area Humane Society | Photo By: Nicholas Cordts

“We haven’t had a puppy mill issue in Athens to my knowledge,” said Spratlin. “There would have to have been a need for that particular ordinance.”

The Humane Society of the United States found that one Athens pet store had a history of buying puppies from a large middleman animal dealer cited with multiple violations. The now out-of-business Petland off of Epps Bridge Road allegedly received shipments of underage puppies from the violating broker back in 2009.

Aside from the closed Athens Petland, the Athens Area Humane Society and Clerk of Commission indicate that there hasn’t been an immediate need for an ordinance in Athens to restrict the sale of commercially produced animals.


-Nicholas Cordts, Grady Environmental Journalism

*Read this story, and my classmate’s environmental stories at: envtjour.uga.edu


October 9, 2017 Posted by | News | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Walking with a Young Filmmaker


Lights, Camera, Action! | Photo Credit: “Walking” crew

My dear son; by the time you read this letter, I will have passed into the hands of eternity. Do not be afraid. I have lived, I have loved, and I have hurt. I ask no more of life than this. You have been, are, and always will be forever mine. Please take these words as I pass them unto you, and nourish them into the depths of your spirit.                                                                                                            – Justyn Bell, “Walking.”

      These are the words of a 24-year-old baseball star. In his short film entitled, “Walking,” Justyn Bell began his story with heartfelt words from a mother who just left her son alone in the world.

Mary was the beloved mother of a young boy named Thomas. Unfortunately, Mary was ripped out of her son’s life too soon. Her death left Thomas angry, confused and impulsive. With an insufficient supply of dry food in his backpack, Thomas irrationally decided to pack his things and skip town to hike the Appalachian Trail. All he wanted was solace, and Thomas went to dangerous lengths to rediscover himself in the wake of his mother’s passing.


Justyn Bell, with a smile. | Photo Credit: “Walking” Crew

This was the synopsis I could gather after reading director Justyn Bell’s script. In all honesty, the eloquently written script threw me off guard. When I was invited to meet Bell, I expected to be shaking the hand of a roughly 40-year-old man. Instead, a young man greeted me with a big smile on his face and said, “Hey I’m Justyn, nice to finally meet you. Come on in!” My curiosity peaked, because after that surprising first impression, I wanted to know who Bell really was.

Bell is a young filmmaker who works for MBP Media Group in Roswell, Ga. In 2015 he started writing the script for “Walking.” A year and a half later he would go on to direct his low-budget short film with a rag-tag crew of about 15 people. Two months of filming, and three to four months of editing brought Bell to premiere his finished movie at the Plaza Atlanta Theater. After an emotional night and a packed-out audience, Bell was on cloud nine and couldn’t think of a greater honor than to have his passion project seen by so many people.

Bell has even more to look forward to, now that he’s one of the few directors from over 500 submissions to be selected to premiere his film at the 2018 International Christian Film Festival. In the short film category that Bell submitted for, “Walking” is one of only 15 short films to be selected to premiere at the ICFF. According to the official ICFF website, this particular festival is, “One of the largest Christian film festivals in the world, and it’s the only film festival with a screening in France during the Cannes Film Festival.”

After my first meeting with Bell, I was left amazed at how a young man had achieved so much. How did a 24-year-old end up writing and directing a festival-worthy film? To answer this question, I had to go back to the beginning of Bell’s life. As the old adage goes; mothers know best, and there was no better person to shed light on Justyn’s childhood than Connie Bell.

“Justyn was always the fun one. When he learned to ride a bike, he was the one standing on the seat instead of sitting,” said Connie. Call him the black-sheep brother. Between he and his twin brother, Josef, Justyn was the one who didn’t like to be told what to do. As his mother puts it, “He very much lives in the moment and wants to experience the consequences. He gets that from his mother.”


Justyn before a shot. | Photo Credit: “Walking” Crew

Despite the fact that Justyn had a natural born talent for baseball, he didn’t seek out the traditional sports scholarship upon graduation. According to his mother, Justyn’s humble character keeps him from even mentioning his life in sports. Perhaps this was because Justyn’s heart wasn’t in baseball like it was in film. But before his love for filmmaking came to fruition, Justyn was the performer.

Watching a movie at the theater wasn’t the end of the story for Justyn. After Peter Pan saved Neverland from the nefarious Captain Hook, Justyn would gather his family together and reenact the whole movie in the form of a play or puppet-show.

“He doesn’t like being the center of attention, but he does like being involved,” said Connie. This held true for Justyn when he picked up a video camera for the first time. Justyn was 13 when he began writing movie scripts to make short films with his neighborhood friends. Connie remembers coming home after work to a house full of kids. “Justyn would yell, ‘I’m going to the clubhouse to shoot a movie mom,’ and off they went,” said Connie. These were some of the most beautiful years of Justyn’s childhood that his mother holds on to. Some days she would clean her son’s room and the floor would be littered with crumpled papers, each one a new script.

Among the many kids that Justyn filmed with when he was 13, he could always count on his brother Josef and long-time friend David Nobles to film with him. The three of them would frequently switch roles when they made their fun Nerf gun videos. “I was in all of Justyn’s early films, and I would either act in them or work behind the scenes,” said Josef.

Nobles was also a regular star in Justyn’s early films like “San Diego Heights.” Nobles remembers having sleepovers and spending the whole afternoon filming. “Justyn would quickly edit what we shot, and at night we would grab snacks and watch the movie we made earlier that day,” said Nobles. Coincidentally, Justyn would end up recruiting Josef and Nobles as part of the crew in “Walking” about ten years later.


David with his Canon C100. | Photo Credit: “Walking” crew

On day one of the production of “Walking,” Nobles could be seen with his professional-looking Canon C100, ball-head tripod, and shoulder rig. Justyn had recruited Nobles as the director of photography, or DP for short. Nobles was a “shoe-in” to be the photographer, not only because of his history with Justyn, but because he had been honing his craft by filming weddings.

Josef was responsible for post-production graphic design, where he worked late nights with his brother. Justyn had a vision of a real-looking butterfly in his movie, serving as a spiritual guide for the main character. “Every time you saw the butterfly, that was me,” said Josef. Josef would model for about an hour and his brother would come to check on it. “Animating was really tedious,” said Josef. But animating wasn’t the only tedious part of Justyn’s filming journey.

Before casting the actors and choosing the crew, Bell and his girlfriend, Hannah McCune, had a big job on their hands. The script that Bell wrote was very visually demanding, meaning he needed to film in the most beautiful locations to set the tone for the movie. In November of 2015, he and Hannah began scouting locations all over the North Georgia Mountains. “Every other weekend, over a four month period, we hiked about 12 different trails,” said McCune. Bell had a vision for each scene, and he wanted each different background to be symbolic of the main character’s grief. That’s why he carefully scoured every last trail he could find.


A scouted location. | Photo Credit: “Walking” crew

The legalities of the film industry caught up with Bell and McCune when they realized they needed a permit to film in certain government-owned parks. “I really didn’t know how hard it was going to be to get the permit,” said Bell. The cost of a permit can vary depending on the size of a production. When selling permits, the Georgia State Parks website makes it clear that, “Primary consideration is given to protecting the natural resources, reducing disruption of normal public use, and recovering expenses incurred by the department.” Luckily, Bell and McCune got in contact with the USDA and were able to secure a permit at a low cost since their production was small and wouldn’t be disruptive.

With the hassle of scouting out of the way, the next thing Bell had to worry about was finding a skilled crew. He needed someone to handle sound, another person to diffuse and reflect light, and someone to manage props. On top of Nobles being the DP, he also needed a behind-the-scenes photographer, and a producer. Finding enough dedicated people to fill all of the roles is a tall order to fill for any filmmaker. But Bell had a reliable gang of old friends to turn to, thanks to some connections he made with a production company called Farmin’ Dreams Studios.

Bell’s connections with Farmin’ Dreams Studios traces back to 2013, when he met a guy named Dave Rajkumar. Back then, Bell had to start from scratch. He moved so much as a kid that he didn’t have any strong ties with like-minded filmmakers. So one day, Bell hopped on Facebook and saw an ad for a film called “Tonight is no Different.” Rajkumar had posted a casting notice for his film being produced at Georgia State College. Even though acting may not have been Bell’s passion, he thought auditioning for a part in Rajkumar’s film would be a good way to find a potential crew. He responded to the Facebook post with enthusiasm, even though the project would inevitably be scrapped down the road. But that didn’t stop Bell and Rajkumar from harvesting a friendship through Farmin’ Dreams. “I knew I had to prove myself to them. I was serious about my work so I auditioned for one of their films and we’ve been good friends ever since,” said Bell.


More crew members since Farmin’ Dreams. | Photo Credit: “Walking” crew

For the years to come after their first film, Bell and Rajkumar worked together to write even more scripts. Rajkumar would produce a movie and Bell would be DP. Then the next idea would be thrown on the table, and Bell would write a script while Rajkumar produced it. Bell and Rajkumar were partners for years, constantly filling new roles in their co-produced movies. “Justyn was always there to help me brainstorm projects,” said Rajkumar. From one of the earliest collaborations, to one of their most recent films, new friends were invited into Farmin’ Dreams Studios along the way. In fact, the woman who voiced the mother in “Walking” was cast after working with him in a previous Farmin’ Dreams film called “Lost and Found.”

Enter Valerie Menzel; The beautiful award-winning actor from Charlotte, North Carolina. After she met Bell on the set of Rajkumar’s “Lost and Found” film, Bell was happy to have Menzel be the lead in his own film called “Saving Sarah.” “Justyn is so actor-friendly. He has no ego, and there’s never any drama. It’s always a pleasure to work with him,” said Menzel.

When Bell wrote the part for the mother in “Walking,” Menzel was his natural go-to choice. Even though Menzel lived hundreds of miles away from Bell, the two of them collaborated to get all of the mother’s voiceovers over the phone. Bell would send her still images of some of the filming they did to help get Menzel in the right actor’s mindset. As Menzel recorded herself in her studio, she had Bell in her earpiece where he could listen to her and give her feedback after each take.

“It was tough because you don’t have the visuals, you don’t have anyone else there, and you don’t know what’s going on so it’s like you’re working in a vacuum,” said Menzel. Luckily for Menzel, music was her saving grace. Before each take, Bell would play the accompanying music for her to set the mood. Bell had appropriately chosen songs that reflected a young boy’s highs and lows after the loss of a mother. Menzel was that mother. But just as Menzel had challenges of her own to get in character, Bell faced new uncharted territory.

Bell knew he wanted an original soundtrack for “Walking,” but just like when he was looking for a crew, he didn’t know anyone who could take on the task. Facebook ended up being his safety net for filling the many roles that his movie required. Again, Bell typed up an ad and released it into the wild, unsure if he would get any bites. Though, Bell was pleased when he got a response from a young fellow from Florida. Bell happened to have ties to a boy named Conner Grubbs, who saw the Facebook ad and offered up his talents. “I don’t know what came over me but I just offered and said, ‘Hey if you want music for this, I’d love to be involved,’” said Grubbs. From that one post, a whole new chapter in the production of “Walking” came to Bell’s attention.

Initially, Grubbs sent Bell some samples of the music that his old band produced. Some songs featured a blended sound of mandolin and piano, but one element stood out to Bell. He gravitated toward Grubbs’ songs that featured nothing but stripped down guitar. It matched his vision of the film perfectly, so he packed his things and took a long drive down to Florida. While sleeping at Grubbs’ parents’ house, they knocked out the whole score in a week. Working alongside Bell was very experimental for Grubbs since all their recording was improvised. “Justyn was willing to take risks. He was okay with me playing a riff off the top of my head after getting inspiration from a scene,” said Grubbs. Even though “Walking” was Bell’s passion project, that didn’t stop him from taking chances every now and then. Other times, adverse circumstances forced him to try new things.


Lucas on set. | Photo Credit: “Walking” crew

For Bell, there was nothing worse than finding out that his lead actor was too sick to shoot during one weekend. The film was nearly wrapped and Bell only needed a few more shots, so he had to improvise. Bell’s girlfriend, Hannah McCune, had a younger brother named Lucas McCune who looked believably similar to the main actor. So Bell decided to use “movie magic” and trick the audience with some close-up shots of Lucas. “This role was thrown at me last minute, and I was little skeptical about it. I was honestly surprised how well it worked out,” said Lucas. Judging by the positive response from the audience, Bell agreed that Lucas’ scenes did their job at tricking the audience. Now only two questions remain: will the judges at the International Christian Film Festival notice the actor’s double? And how will Bell’s film perform in the long run?

In a market that doesn’t favor independent films, it was bold for Bell to devote so much time to his short film. Adam Leipzig, publisher of “Cultural Weekly,” analyzed a 2016 Sundance info graphic and concluded that big budget studio films account for 92.1 percent of the total box office. “This leaves approximately 550 independent films to fight for less than eight percent of the box office,” Leipzig writes. Although this is the case, Bell isn’t concerned about the return on his investment.

To the ever-humble Justyn Bell, walking away with an award is not his main concern. What matters to Bell is the two-year journey behind “Walking” that makes him firmly believe in his work. Kevin Powers, the sound guy for “Walking” and all around veteran in hosting film festivals had advice for Bell, “What’s great about these film festivals is that you get to be around other independent filmmakers who share the same interests in film.” Bell and Powers are in the same frame of mind. It was an honor for Bell to find out that he was chosen out of 500 submissions, but he’s in it for the networking.

Not even the reserved Justyn Bell could be kept out of the spotlight on the night of his first big premiere. Again, making reservations and contacting the right people to premiere “Walking” at the Plaza Atlanta Theater was completely spearheaded by Bell. On the night of the screening, Bell’s mother, Connie, remembered how nervous her son was. He took it upon himself to stand in front of the audience and hold a Q&A for anyone with questions. After watching the movie, the mesmerized audience gave Justyn their full attention. No matter how nervous Justyn was on the inside, his mother saw him glowing on the outside. “I can’t even use human words to express what I felt,” said Connie. “It wasn’t self-pride. It was me being as proud as a parent could be for her son. He was where he was born to be.”

[“Walking” video footage from day two of production. Shot on the War Woman Dell Trail.]


Written by: Nicholas Cordts

Print Citation: Bell, Justyn. “Walking.” Film Script. 2015. Print. 20 April. 2017.

April 22, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hand to God, not Grandma

“This is Nicholas Cordts, reporting from the Grady school of Journalism.” I’m still in college, and I’m still trying my hand at being a reporter. What you can see above is another news package to help promote the UGA Department of Theatre and Film Studies’ production of “Hand to God” by Robert Askins. What you can also find below is a link to my written story for the play. I give a behind-the-scenes look at the cast and crew behind this must-see comedy. I hope you enjoy! Until next time. (Here’s the link as promised)



April 19, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What I’ve been up to

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 3.19.31 PM

It seems like just yesterday I was writing inspirational quotes and making music video parodies with friends. The Grady School of Journalism has made me switch gears and try my hand at reporting. You can watch my latest news package by clicking here.

April 1, 2017 Posted by | Education, Videos | Leave a comment

The Birth of a New Gaming Genre

Very few games have ever made me feel something. Video games today have come so far where it feels like a step above a movie-watching experience. Instead of just consuming information, you actively make decisions that can shape your experience and even the game’s narrative in some cases. This gaming formula was most certainly prevalent in a game I just finished called Firewatch.

Instead of me simply reviewing this game, giving it a numerical score, and filing it away in my memory of good games, I need to take my experience a step further. Upon completion of Firewatch I remember just sitting still, staring blankly at the screen, thinking, “That’s it?” It’s true; the final act seemed almost lackluster and anticlimactic. The gamer in me wanted more… Like a twist ending that would’ve been formulaic, fitting and entertaining. But what actually transpired was a conclusion that left me wanting more. At that moment of still feeling hungry for more, I started mentally retracing my steps through the game’s story. I was looking for flaws, unanswered questions, or a hidden gem of information.

Yes, this game actually made me physically write out my thoughts. Most games don’t do that for me. Yes, this game made me write a blog post about it. No game has ever done that for me. Which brings me back to what this game made me feel.

Playing this game made me feel detached from societal norms, and was a refreshing simulator in a world full of first-person shooters. I don’t consider myself the emotional type, but what this game did for me was sort of place me in the shoes of one character in particular. I truly pondered what I would have done given the same traumatic situation. Though, I don’t want to specify which character in Firewatch made me feel this way. My intent isn’t to spoil the story because I think it’s an experience that even non-gamers should have.

One final point I’d like to make is that Firewatch made me think there should be a new genre to categorize games that present a thought-provoking story in the time-frame of a movie or short book. I’d like to coin the term “gamella”. Pronounced gu-mella, it’s a combination of a video game and a novella. In order for a video game to fit into this genre, it needs to be a short game. They usually range from $15 to $20 and present a 4 to 6 hour experience. The game also needs to be story-driven, and finish with an overarching theme or life-revelation. Firewatch fits the bill in its entirety. Some other fitting games of the term gamella include Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, Journey, and The Unfinished Swan.

In short, I had to write about Firewatch because I really want more people to feel what I felt from this game. If you’re not a gamer, that’s okay because this game has intuitive controls and simple enough direction. You’ll never really be scratching your head, wondering what to do next because the constant dialogue makes your objective clear. If you’re on the edge about buying this game, let me make it simple for you… Just do it.

Disclaimer: The picture featured within this article belongs to Campo Santo. (Video game developer of Firewatch).

February 17, 2016 Posted by | Reviews, video games | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


This is my latest YouTube video… it’s a parody! Check out my other videos at http://www.youtube.com/flixonix

September 14, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to be an Assassin

This is a comedic short film. Go to my channel, http://www.youtube.com/flixonix and subscribe to Flixonix on Youtube for more funny videos every week.

August 24, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Solitude is as…

“Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character.”
-James Russel Lowell

August 18, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Arguing with a…

“Arguing with a fool proves there are two.”
-Doris M. Smith

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“I cannot give …

“I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure–which is: Try to please everybody.”

-Herbert Bayard Swope

This is basically another way of saying you can’t please everybody. You will always find the people who are dead-set in their ways and believe that everyone is out to get them. It’s sad to think about, but perhaps these kinds of people have lost something or someone in their lives that caused them to turn into a negative person. You have to let these people find happiness themselves if they are close-minded.

On that note, don’t stop trying to be a people-pleaser. You are commendable for trying to help as many people as you can. That is a great goal in life that you should never lose sight of.

August 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment