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Photography by Dan Austin and Courtesy of Indie Atlantic Films

Aviation has inspired women around the world. In the award-winning film Fly Like a Girl, Andy McEntire tells the story of women and girls who dare to aim higher. 

It’s 2006 and the world is enthralled with Talladega Nights, Cars, The Departed, and other top earners at the box office that year. Going to the movies is one of humanity’s greatest and most exciting comforts — we might come for the popcorn and the company, but we stay for the stories told on screen. And it’s that idea of telling stories on screen that inspired a young Andy McEntire to start his own film production company right here in Lakeland.

Andy McEntire lives in Lakeland with his wife, Ashley. Together they founded Indie Atlantic Films and nonprofit GiveVisuals. They also co-own Concord Coffee.

McEntire and his wife, Ashley, started Indie Atlantic Films in Lakeland with one goal: to tell stories. Ones that mattered and ones that showcased real people. It’s fair to say, that after 15 years they’ve done just that. Indie Atlantic is now a leading company in the film industry and a prime example of how Lakeland-based entrepreneurs are able to find success. 

[pull quote] “Lakeland has played a huge part in our success, I soon realized after moving to Lakeland that it is a great place to do business because there are great people here.” 

“I started Indie Atlantic because I love telling stories,” says McEntire. “I realized a while back that there is more to life than money, and it was up to me as a filmmaker to give back and do some good and leave a legacy that we’re proud of at Indie Atlantic.”

That legacy at Indie Atlantic Films includes a widely impressive portfolio of various commercial and brand work for top companies and universities, amongst a handful of original content including short films and documentary projects that have been represented at various national film festivals. Though both McEntire and Indie Atlantic Films have found much commercial success over the years, McEntire likes to dig a little deeper when measuring what success means for Indie Atlantic Films. “I think success to me has nothing to do with money, and it has everything to do with being able to change the lives of others for the better. That might be through storytelling and different forms of filmmaking, but success comes when your eyes are open to the needs of this world, the needs of your community, and the needs of those around you. Success comes when you allow yourself to get out of the way of all these numbers and do what you were called to do.”

Indie Atlantic Films might be a local film production company, but their reach extends far beyond Central Florida. The production company has shot projects in California, Tennessee, Georgia, Washington, and beyond. But no matter how far they travel, they’re always happy to return home. “Lakeland has played a huge part in our success,” says McEntire. “I soon realized after moving to Lakeland that it is a great place to do business because there are great people here.” 

 

The director of Fly Like a Girl, Katie Wiatt, placed emphasis on highlighting women and girls honestly and intentionally.

And it’s those great people of Lakeland that lifted Indie Atlantic up during these unprecedented, challenging times. “The pandemic made me realize how appreciative I am to be in Lakeland,” says McEntire. “How appreciative I am to be in this community that rallies behind entrepreneurs. I saw it firsthand. I received multiple calls from people in this community who said, ‘Hey, I know this is a hard time. How can I help?’ I truly can say I’ve never seen that in any other community I’ve lived in. And I feel like we’re able to take more risks here in Lakeland, because we have people who believe in us and people who have our back. And that just makes me want to do that for other entrepreneurs and creatives. Obviously, we had no idea what to expect from the pandemic, and we had to rethink our business. There were some tough decisions we had to make, and we worked harder than we ever have. It was a tough year, but we never slowed down, because we had to work even harder to stick around.”

McEntire believes that you don’t have to live in New York City or Los Angeles to produce an award-winning film.

All of that hard work paid off in the form of Indie Atlantic Films’ recent feature-length documentary Fly Like a Girl, a film that gives “an in-depth view of girls and women who relentlessly pursue their passion for aviation, a field currently dominated by men.” McEntire served as an executive producer for the film, while his sister, Katie Wiatt, directed the feature. “Katie is one of the hardest workers you’ll ever meet,” says McEntire. “She’s very dedicated to telling the true story and not selling out. It’s really easy to follow the money early on and sell out, but she stuck to her guns. And we all made the right calls for the documentary together, led by her care for the film. She really wanted to showcase people in the film that viewers could see themselves in. So, talking with a 13-year-old girl, or a young woman in college, felt both real and right for this project.” 

[pull quote] “A man walked up to us and said, ‘If women were supposed to fly, the sky would be pink.’ We thought he was joking, but we soon realized he was not joking at all, and we thought, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’

When it came to producing Fly Like a Girl, McEntire was inspired by an interaction he shared at a local airshow. “A man walked up to us and said, ‘If women were supposed to fly, the sky would be pink.’ We thought he was joking but we soon realized he was not joking at all, and we thought, ‘Wow, that’s crazy.’ It was from that interaction that we realized we needed to make a film that would represent females in aviation. I produced it, Katie directed it, and Indie Atlantic did a lot of the work to get it where it’s at. We flew around the country gathering as many stories as we could. We took a journalistic approach, and we really stayed true to the story and didn’t try to manipulate anything. We don’t create gotcha documentaries or anything like that at Indie Atlantic. We really stick to the stories.” 

Fly Like a Girls most impressive feat as a film might be how it is able to make you care about something you may have had no interest in otherwise. You don’t have to have dreams of flying in the sky to be moved by the feature, which is a testament to the storytellers involved and the impact a story like this carries. At its best, Fly Like a Girl might inspire more young pilots to find their wings. But, at its most simple, human level, it might make you start paying attention.

[pull quote] “I started Indie Atlantic because I love telling stories. I realized a while back that there is more to life than money, and it was up to me as a filmmaker to give back and do some good and leave a legacy that we’re proud of at Indie Atlantic.”

It’s that authentic, human-level approach to telling the stories showcased in Fly Like a Girl that has helped it resonate with so many people and has landed the film the success it has found. Upon the film’s digital release, it trended in the top-five documentaries on iTunes. The film has since found its streaming home on Hulu, where you can watch it with a Hulu subscription. In fact, on the day of my interview with McEntire, the film reached the popular page on Hulu. 

“A lot of people really rallied around this,” says McEntire. “And I don’t think we really knew how big it was going to get. Our goal was to make it into one film festival. We had done shorts, but this was our first feature. Then, after we made it into one, we made it into another. And then we started getting calls and awards, and it started to snowball. We had an amazing producer come on board and were able to get distribution rights through Gravitas Ventures [which is] one of the largest independent distributors in the world.”

[pull quote] “Our goal was to make it into one film festival. We had done shorts, but this was our first feature. Then, after we made it into one, we made it into another. And then we started getting calls and awards, and it started to snowbalL.”

It’s all a bit exciting, to say the least. And not just for McEntire or Indie Atlantic Films, but for Lakeland. “It’s unreal. I think it’s exciting if you live in Lakeland, because you’re able to say that we are doing exciting things here,” he says. “You don’t have to be in California or New York; we were in Lakeland and we were inspired to make this film, and now it’s being seen by people around the world. It’s crazy. I mean, my sister Katie was a teacher here in Lakeland, and now the movie she directed is on Hulu.”

 

Fly Like a Girl

Stream the film on Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, other major platforms.

Indie Atlantic Films | indieatlantic.com

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