Blafrokan

National Black Film Festival, Black-ish?

Bring Hollywood to Houston

HOUSTON – “It was all a dream,” rapped Biggie Smalls, and “bringing Hollywood to Houston,” was the dream for J.O. Malone, Founder and Denisha Hardeman, Co-Founder of the First Annual National Black Film Festival, NBFF. If you know anything about Texans, it’s go big or go home. In Texas fashion they launched their first annual film festival B-I-G style in the 3rd coast, fourth most populated city in the country, HTown. Formally known as Houston, the event debuted at the newest premier venue and hotel, Marriot Marquis Houston.

The event was stacked with a cast and crew of rising influencers and industry professionals: Lucius Baston, Orlando Valentino, Nina Gloster, Greg Carter, Ty Walker, Nate Edwards, Jerome Bailey Jr., Thada Catalon, Everette Taylor, Willie D, Ky Meyer, Jillian “JJ” Simmons, and Torri Stuckey. A few Black vendors were on site and a line up of workshops were scheduled, catering to novices and professionals. Networking was not limited to Texans. Participants represented from Atlanta, DC, Los Angeles, New York and one ventured across the Atlantic from London. A bastion of creativity and talent melded into a Black magic cinema pot for potential collaborative opportunities and film awardee celebrants.

Workshops

Whether writing, acting, filmmaking or marketing was your area of interest, there was a wealth of information was presented. Panelists seemed passionate about the objective to “bring Hollywood to Houston,” and increase Black representation in the film industry. Houston Community College Media Arts & Technology Department and Kollective Media acted not only as sponsors but additional onsite sources for attendees. Entertainment attorneys Jalene Mack and Warren Fitzgerald impromptu lent their all business no show legal expertise that almost halted any no budget filmmakers production if they were afraid to go guerrilla style.

The overarching focus was on mastering the fundamentals of film business, training for ones craft, “just get started,” and consistently create. Attendees prepared for the next level had an opportunity to pitch their feature film ideas to reputable producers. Producer/Director Greg Carter briefly interviewed and accepted early cast and crew submissions for his upcoming television series “5th Ward,” set to shoot in Houston summer 2017.

Screening

Indie cinema fans kicked back for film screenings running early afternoon into the evening each day. The films penetrated beyond the trite hip hop gangsta narratives and overdone man in a dress routine. The caliber of films were impressive, yet not overly intimidating for filmmaker novices. Every genre from rom-coms, horror, post-apocalyptic, period pieces, to social dramas revealed the expansive narrative of storytelling Black filmmakers are capable of delivering. The plethora of stories would inspire any budding filmmaker to write a script, grab a camera and set to roll action and create!

“to the left, to the left…” – Beyonce
A couple hangups needing improvement that sent this Blacktastic event, “to the left.”

Pricing

The first annual NBFF turnout was buzz worthy, however the crowd was a bit small. From a city boasting more than 500,000 African-Americans, a burgeoning Black film community, perhaps some would be attendees, were priced out of participation. However, NBFF was quite feasible in comparison to “traditional” film festivals not catering to Us. On behalf of film students, aspirant creatives and artist supporters representing socioeconomic backgrounds typical of average Black households who have to consider downtown parking at $24/day hotel garage and $38/day hotel valet. That meant $72 – $117 just to park at the 3 day event.

NBFF Pricing

  • $35 – $45 per workshop
    $10 per film screenings
    Best bang for buck, festival passes:
  • The Green Pass $75.00
    Access to:
    Film Screenings
    Option of one Workshop session
    Option of one Panel session
  • The Blue Pass $125.00
    Access to:
    Film Screenings
    Full access to both Workshop sessions
    Full access to both Panel sessions
    Access to Opening and Closing ceremonies
    Access to Film Market Saturday
  • The Gold Pass $175.00
    Access to:
    Film Screenings
    Full access to both Workshop sessions
    Full access to both Panel sessions
    Access to Opening and Closing ceremonies
    Access to Film Market Saturday
    Express entry to all Events
    Free entry to Festival parties
    One on one with Panel members

Note, this is a an all day event. Hotel convenience foods and restaurants would “break a leg,” for most artists not including comparative surrounding options.

Black people are looking to break into an industry reporting less than 6% Black directors according to USC Annenberg 2016 statistics, even less Black women directors and minuscule representation of African-Americans occupying positions of influence above-the-line. ie. decision makers, studio executives and owners. We must create more economical and financially inclusive alternatives for our events to reach an often already left out demographic of Black people. If we intend to stimulate industry growth, which could generate employment and career opportunities for our people, then we must be malleable to grassroots event planning. We have the ingenuity to produce events reaching all segments of Black demographics leaving behind none.

Award Ceremony

NBFF Founders J and Denisha humbly stepped to the podium, delivered a tearful thanks of appreciation for support of Blacks filmmakers and nearly choked up the audience. Award Show host, Lucious Baston entertained the crowd with jokes, dropped starlit jewels of wisdom and proceeded to announce award winners.

Black movie maker magicians glided down the red carpet to accept their awards with celebratory applause. Finally the last award of the night, Best Feature Film. “And the winner is, Gary Martin.” PAUSE. Wait whuh? Recalculating so, trailblazing Hollywood Black filmmaker, Houston’s own, NBFF featured panelist, and TV show producer Greg Carter bringing a TV production to loses to, “The White Man.” . Deja Vu sets in, Beyonce, 2009 VMA’s. Where’s Kanye West when I need him. Greg Carter got Taylor Swifted at the National “Black” Film Festival Award Ceremony. The man flew to Houston from LA to support Black filmmakers at the first annual NBFF and his thanks, he got the Shaft. He go a slap to the face from the Black hand side along with all other Black contestants and future NBFF supporters.

Granted, first time hiccups are fine and graces are extended, however this Texas size blunder was beyond ridiculous. The delayed applause was obvious as voices uttered soft murmurs of disbelief and offense at announcement. But like good Black folks we played it respectfully cool. What aspiring filmmaker would want to voice outrage in Kanye West fashion, risking ruining networking relationships to contest this award or worse be mislabeled a “reverse racist.”

Award host, Lucious mockingly joked to make light of the unsuspected and awkward situation. Hell even award recipient Director Gary Martin, made a punchline of his surprise winning while giving his acceptance speech. Oh you thought, he’d return the award for a Black winner, nah. All jokes aside, the real joke was on us, Black people and Black self respect. The ceremony wrapped with millennials grossly missing the point and chucking off this social political infraction. However the elders in the audience denoted a flat expression of “how the hell did that just happen!’ “So NBFF is one of those ‘Black-ish’ events.”

An educated Black woman, I’d suppose in her late 50’s was quite critical of the overt diss. She expressed how she thought it was a Black film festival and had come to support Black artists, including her Black granddaughter’s budding acting career. I listened to her grievances and harkened a smile as I exited. I tried to make lemonade out of the situation, recalling the many Blactastic highlights from earlier, but the white cloud would not dissipate or move on. The disappointment and frustration of a white male winning the at the firs annual National ‘Black’ Film Festival set the tone for the future. It was a sobering reminder, we have nothing that is truly “our own,” just Black-ish.

Overall the workshops and film screens were great. There is clearly some confusion on behalf NBFF’s identity considering international films were accepted at a ‘national’ film festival, and non-Black winner can win categories at a ‘Black’ film festival. The solutions are simple if NBFF wants to live up to it’s name. Only accept film submissions within from the United States and all nominees for awards must be Black in order to qualify to win each category. The question is whether or not NBFF wants to be Black or Black-ish.

NBFF is off to a decent start if they stand committed to tying an loop holes that would discredit their name, National BLACK Film Festival, where they focus to “Bring Hollywood to Houston.”

Lastly we would love to send a Congratulations to NBFF’s Black Awardees!!!

Best Actor – “Sayeed Shahidi” in the film “The Sandbox”
Best Actress – “Cheryl Francis Harrington” in the film “Make America Great”
Best Original Screenplay A Complicated Love Story written by Dan Adams
Best Feature Film – “Singleton Boulevard” Directed of Gary Martin
Best Documentary – “The Uncomfortable Truth” Directed by Loki Mulholland
Best Original Song – “It’s A Man’s World” by Quinton Sampson
Best Short Film – “Remnants” Directed by A. Plancher
Best Extended Short Film – “The Sandbox” Directed by Jennifer Kramer
Best Student Film – “Fate of Revenge” Directed by Elias Moreno
Best Web series – “Monogamy” Directed by Tony Clomax
Audience Award for Feature Film – “The Sandbox” Directed by Jennifer Kramer
Audience Award for Short Film – “Make America Great” Directed by Candice Vernon

According to NBFF “Rules & Terms” qualifications for film submission,

The National Black Film Festival (NBFF) is “Bringing Hollywood to H-Town.” The NBFF will act as a bridge to connect celebrity professionals and those upcoming together under one roof for 5 days of entertainment, education and empowerment.
The NBFF was founded by film producer J.O. Malone with an initiative to build an enlightening platform for future filmmakers and actors. Another primary goal of the NBFF is to stimulate the production of more high quality films in the Houston, Texas metropolitan area-mapping the city as a major cinematic outlet.
Come mix and mingle with the industries elite, learn trade secrets and build those essential relationships that will take your filmmaking to the next level.
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Awards & Prizes
Award winners:
Best Actor
Best Actress
Best Original Screenplay
Best Feature Film
Best Documentary
Best Original Song
Best Short Film
Best Extended Short Film
Best Student Film
Best Web series
Audience Award for Feature Film
Audience Award for Short Film
All winners of each category will receive a reward on the night of the awards.

Rules & Terms
In order to submit to the National Black Film Festival, one or more of the following should be African American:
1. Lead Actor/ Actress
2. Director
3. Writer
4. Producer
Eligibility Requirements
18 or older to submit
All films must have been completed after Jan. 1, 2017 to be eligible.
Feature films must not have been on or released through U.S. or international television, in commercial release or on the Internet prior to the dates of the festival. This includes Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, DVD Sales or Amazon.
Those submitting in student films MUST have proof of current enrollment.
All films submitted not in English must be subtitled in English for presentation.
Submission Requirements
In order to be completely submitted, all submissions must include:
Completed filled out entry form
Preview DVD (Please put run time and title of the film on the screener)
Entry Fee
All Entry Materials will not be returned.
One person may submit in different categories but only once in each category.
Also, each particular film submitted maybe only be submitted in one category.
Each submission requires a separate entry fee.
If your work is selected:
An electronic press kit completed with production stills, Synopsis of the film, and a 350 or less word biography of the director must be sent to the Houston Black Film Festival email.
2 additional DVD copies must be mailed to the National Black Film Festival office.
Film trailers should be emailed.
EPKS, posters and postcards should be sent to the NBFF office for press and marketing no later than March 11, 2018.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS:
Films that are accepted into the National Black Film Festival should NOT have been on or released through U.S. or international television, in commercial release or on the Internet prior to the dates of the festival. This includes Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, DVD Sales or Amazon.
The filmmaker is responsible for clearing all rights to the material in their film.
The National Black Film Festival is hereby granted the right to utilize an excerpt from any film submitted and accepted for exhibition at the Festival for promotional purposes.
The individual or corporation submitting the film hereby warrants that it is authorized to commit the film for screening, and understands and accepts these requirements and regulations.
The undersigned shall indemnify and hold harmless National Black Film Festival from and against any and all claims, liabilities, losses, damages, and expenses (including but not limited to attorney’s fees, and costs of the court) which may be incurred by reason of any claim involving copyright, trademark, credits, publicity, screening, and loss of or damage to the screening videos entered.

 

LaToya Hamer

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