Be Inspired: Cristyn Steward

  1. Tell us about yourself. How long have you been a filmmaker?

I am a Columbus native and I have been making films for about 7 years. My background is in creative writing, more specifically, poetry creative non-fiction and screenwriting. I studied film San Francisco for many years before I returned home to Ohio to help create more spaces for local filmmakers for thrive.

  1. Do you focus on a certain genre?

Drama, suspense and comedy are my favorites. I am still learning comedy, I am not that good at pacing yet, but I am getting there. I mostly just love delving into compelling story.

  1. What is the best part of your work?

Freedom. Being able to work at something that I wake up and I am passionate about. I also enjoy the networking, screening films that wouldn’t have been seen locally otherwise, the constant opportunity to be creative and being able to maintain a growing platform to advocate for other filmmakers like me.

  1. Why did you develop the Columbus Black International Film Festival (CBIFF)?

After getting my master’s in San Francisco I was exposed to niche film festivals of all types. I was also noticing from afar that Columbus was expanding support of the arts, so upon my return home after graduating, I was disappointed that black film was still being underrepresented at the local film festivals that I was attending. To every problem there is a solution, and I wanted to start helping solve this issue. So, I sought out my mentor and fellow filmmaker Mark A. Cummings and discussed film festivals and our experience and, with his encouragement, I decided this is something that can definitely be possible and successful in Columbus. And then I got to work and quickly noticed that there were many people in the community that were feeling the same way and luckily support for this idea soon poured in.

  1. How can the community get involved with CBIFF?

We need people who are willing and committed to volunteering and want to help uplift the voices of black artists through film. We are also looking for people to spread the word in any way that they can. This is the first year and we want to make sure everyone in Columbus knows this film festival is happening. We need everyone to share about the screenings on social media, help push the message by word of mouth or do us a favor and pass out a few of our flyers.

  1. Can you speak about some of the films you’ll be showing?

CBIFF will be screening nearly 30 films representing the black experience from all over the world. There are several timely films being featured about our current political climate, including, a short film called “Aftermath,” about the day after Trump was elected. We also will be featuring the popular documentary, “parTy boi: Black Diamonds in Ice Castles,” that has been making an impact on the festival circuit lately. It’s about the rise in crystal meth use among the black and Latinx LGBTQ community. The film’s director, Michael Rice, will also be sitting in our #BLACKMEDIAMATTERS panel. We also will be showcasing the documentary “Panomundo Part 1: The Evolution of the Steelpan,” a film that delves into the fascinating story of the creation and cultural importance of the steelpan in Trinidad. Local film prodigies The Turner Brothers will also be joining us and brining their latest award-winning film “Pseudo,” which takes a special look at police brutality and racial injustice. We were very lucky to get so many amazing films for our first year. Folks can see the full schedule at www.columbusbiff.com.

  1. What do you hope to achieve with CBIFF?

My hope is to give a unique platform to marginalized filmmakers in this community, and to help put some of the control of the black narrative back into the hands of those living the experiences. We also hope that this will start a movement in Columbus and will lead to a growing space where black media representations can thrive.

  1. What is the long-term vision for the festival? Do you partner with other companies and events in the city?

We hope that this will spark an annual renaissance and will eventually become a staple statewide and nationally for black film. We also hope to double our submissions in the coming years and expand the festival to a week-long series of showcases and workshops hosted in various neighborhoods throughout the city. The support this year has been overwhelming. Many institutions and organizations have lined up to support our efforts, including Wexner Center the Arts, Film Columbus, Greater Columbus Arts Council, Columbus College of Art and Design, The Ohio State University Film Studies Program, among many others. We hope that we can continue to build on some of those relationships and we continue to invite new relationships. One of my personal goals is to partner with other black film festivals throughout the country and create a network that supports us all.

  1. Do you have any films in the works at the moment? What are you focusing on? Who is your audience?

I have been working on a couple of screenplays for a while, one feature and one short. I am considering filming the short film later this year. I also have a second book of poetry I was working on early last year that took a backseat to my last short and now CBIFF. I am hoping to pick that back up sooner rather than later. My audience is pretty broad. Leaving Columbus and coming back years later, I am forced to recreate my audience. I don’t think Columbus really knows me as an artist yet. They know I am an advocate for black film and I am creating a platform for filmmakers locally and aboard. So, I hope to show Columbus how I fit in on both sides of that coin.

  1. How does one survive as a creative in a city like Columbus?  Are spaces and sources needed specifically for Black creatives to thrive?

In small towns filmmakers survive by any means necessary. By doing whatever it takes to create and share their work. I think it’s first important to note that as a black creative in Columbus, black artist supporting other black artist is integral, for many reasons. We have tons of emerging artists in this city who need support, and we have visionaries, like myself, who also need support. What I am creating with this festival is not just for me, it’s for all of us. It’s to combat the erasure and revisionist history that our stories succumb to.  The support does not always need to be financial, though it helps. We need electricity to make art, right? But time is a big one. Black creatives need guidance and mentorship, and that is how we get access to resources, and grow our audiences. We need spiritual and emotional support. Say a few kind words, pray on our behalf, light a candle, gift some sage, take note on how our ancestor took care of our elders, or didn’t, and help cultivate a growing community. Finally include ALL of us, by any means, and do so with good intentions.

  1. If you could meet anyone in the world dead, or alive, who would it be, and what would you say?

Wow, I have not had to think about a question like this in a while. As cliché as this may sound, I would have to say Oprah Winfrey. And I wouldn’t speak or ask questions, but I would watch and takes notes. If I did decide to speak at any moment I would simply beg for a job at OWN (The Oprah Winfrey Network).

  1. Who is your inspiration/role model?

Right now, it’s anyone who speaks life into me and transmits positive energy. Planning an event of this magnitude is not an easy task. As for artists, I have been listening to a lot of JAY Z and K.dot. They are discussing wealth in the way that Mobb Deep and Dead Prez used to use hip-hop to elevate the community. It pumps me up and makes me want to press toward the mark of the high calling. Creating this platform, writing influential work and introducing film to children in the community.

  1. What are your passions?

Wow, that’s a loaded question to ask an artist. I am passionate about people, black people specifically, controlling the black narrative, black independent film, black television, black web series, good health, writing, writing, writing…

  1. Define yourself in one word.

Passionate

 

Thank you Cristyn, it was an honor speaking with you.

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To London & Back: Women and War

IMG_3595 2To know me is to know just how much I love the So & So Arts Club and its founder Sarah Jane Berger.  So & So is a professional development organization by actors for actors, and I cannot even begin to explain how my life has changed for the better because of this club.

Now, as I have absolutely no trouble in admitting I’m a snob (but in a good way!;) and wish So & So was still a very well kept secret; one that only the best sorts of people would be privy to (ahem).  But I commend Miss Berger for creating a global artists club, and I’m still advocating to be American Representatives and/or head a chapter here (Please oh please!).  If there’s one thing Sarah knows how to do (and let’s just be honest, the woman is a wonder as an Actor, Director, Producer), it’s put on a festival. From Women in Arts and Hopefull Rep, to Kick up the Arts and Women and War, So and So offers numerous opportunities for artists to connect, engage, learn and work.

This year, I was lucky to be in London during Women and War, which was held at the So & So space IMG_8166 2at 6 Fredrick’s Place.  While I did not have time to see everything I wanted, I was able to see my extremely talented friend Zelina Rebeiro and the lovely Isaura Barbé-Brown (who even fooled this Midwestern gal with her American Accent!) in Veils.

Written by Tom Coash, the play focuses on American University in Egypt roommates Intisar and Samar.  “Intisar, a veiled, African-American Muslim student, thinks she might finally fit in when she enrolls for a year abroad at the American Egyptian University in Cairo. However, the Arab Spring is about to explode across the Middle East, threatening to overwhelm the young American woman and her liberal Egyptian roommate, Samar.  In the struggle to find their footing in this political storm, the young women instead find themselves on opposite sides of a bitter and dangerous cultural divide. Will the violent events leading up to the revolution salvage their friendship or shatter it?” 

VeilIMG_0736 2s is a great two hander focusing not only on religious differences (and similarities), but also the bonds between women, the Arab Spring (and what that meant for Muslim Youth), displacement and cultural hybridity. Zelina Rebeiro is superb as Samar, the party loving, freedom fighting non-hijab wearing Egyptian Muslim; and Isaura Barbé-Brown dazzles as Intisar, the American born conservative Muslim student who hopes to finally be understood and respected in Cairo. The exuberant Samar enlists her new African-American roommate in helping her create a blog debating the practice of wearing veils, but when the revolution interrupts, it threatens to ruin their friendship.

After Veils, it was on to see The Marvellous Adventures of Mary Seacole, a one woman show starring actress andFullSizeRender 2 songstress Cleo Sylvestre. The title is a play on Mrs. Seacole’s autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857), which is considered to be one of the first autobiographies by and about a mixed-race woman.

Who is Mary Seacole you ask?  I was wondering the very same; and was amazed to discover she was a Jamaican/Scottish/African entrepreneur, world traveler, hotelier, healer and self taught nurse who successfully tended to battlefield soldiers during the Crimean War.  It is widely believed that Florence Nightingale was the first woman to develop what we now know as modern nursing, but to hear Mary Seacole’s story puts all of that into question.  The viewer even learns Mary applied to the War Office to assist (and even spoke to Florence Nightingale herself), but was refused (no great surprise there…).

The play takes you on a journey from her early days learning about herbal healing from her mother, to her travels through Jamaica, London, Panama, her marriage, the Great Fire of Kingston, the Cholera Epidemic, and the war.  Throughout her life and career, Mary was held in the highest regard, and associated with such dignitaries as he Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge, and many other senior military officers.  Late in life, when she faced economic downturn, Mary was able to survive and live somewhat comfortably due to the fund and care of her illustrious patrons.

In 1991 she was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit, and in 2004 was voted the greatest Black Briton.  More recently, a statue of her describing her as a Pioneer Nurse was erected at St Thomas’ Hospital in London on 30 June 2016.  The only known portrait of Mary Seacole resides in the National Portrait Gallery in London, England.

The final play on my agenda was Shrapnel, “A Collection of poetry, monologues and a play excerpt from the writers Chris Fogg, DHW Mildon and Rose Solari, ranging from a mother grieving the death of her son in the final minutes of WW1 to a mortician at Camp Bastian preparing for a date. Voices of women across class, generations and history [are heard].”  The featured shows and interwoven poems were Posting to Iraq by Chris Fogg, Coda, Go Firm, Shades and Prize Giving by DHW Mildon, and two Poems by Rose Solari.  I mostly had to see this show because, as long as I’ve known Sarah, I’ve never seen her act.  But now, I’m so happy I have! (secretly thinking of a show to in which to have her star…)

All in all, Women and War was an amazing festival, and I wish I had time to see more shows.  But, knowing Sarah and the So and So Arts Club, another festival isn’t far behind.

Love

BCM

 

Forever is a mighty long time…

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We’re back!  And we hope you’re as excited as we are.  Yes, we realize we’ve been away for what seems like forever, but we swear it’s for a good reason!  Despite our absence, thank you for remaining loyal and checking in with our team.  Nothing makes us happier than knowing we are part of an amazing, loyal and engaging community.

 

Our absence has not been in vain; we’ve been traveling, networking and making art magic with creatives all over the world. Theatres, movie sets, board meetings. New York, Paris, New Orleans–we’ve been busy little chicks.

2468C9291-ABBE-5B42-9191127EB0A6FC25Speaking of travel and (international) relationships, we’ve just returned from London, England, and had more than a fabulous time. From seeing the marvelous play Fabric written by the delightful Abi Zakarian (and we’re not just saying that because she’s our friend), to spending a majority of the trip at Women and War presented by the So and So Arts Club, Black Chick Media was all about empowerment, education and advocating for the arts.

Fabric, directed by Tom O’Brien and starring Nancy Sullivan, is a one woman play about Leah, “…who lost her friends, family, career, and dignity. Forced to move for a third time following a harrowing court case, she relives painful events in her past as she sorts through all the stuff that has accumulated in her spare room: clothes she doesn’t wear, books she doesn’t read, things she doesn’t need anymore. Leah desperately tries to unpick just where it all went wrong and who or what is really to blame.

FABRIC deals with the aftermath of a rape that isn’t believed and confronts the traditional roles still expected of women; questioning how much has changed since the sexual revolution of the 1960s.”

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L-R: Actress Nancy Sullivan, Writer Abi Zakarian, Director Tom O’Brien

It’s fierce, raw, powerful…a tour de force and just what is needed. Is it a feminist manifesto? Sure (is that even a bad thing?). But only in so much as it’s a story that highlights the patriarchal laws that oppress, regulate and condemn women’s bodies and rights… the standards set up by some omnipresent societal leaders who say how we should behave, who we should love, how we should look.

We’ve all been Leah at one time or another.  If it’s the cute plucky Leah who falls in love with a stranger in a bespoked suit, or if it’s the Leah depressed and trapped inside herself after a traumatic experience. This is a story that resonates and is more than familiar even if you’ve never personally experienced what Leah has; we all know someone. We’ve seen the news, read the papers, heard the conversations.  It’s a story that’s all too familiar and painful.  What we love most about Fabric is that the entire story is told from Leah’s perspective.  All characters, all action, all fear anger happiness and rage–seldom do we hear from women by women about women.  We love that the play is unpretentious; it meets you where you are, accepts who you are, and trusts you enough to take you on the journey.  If you learn nothing, if you leave this play unchanged, you should consider questioning your morals and basically your entire existence.

Thank you Abi for writing such a brilliant character and story that transcends all cultures, space and time. Leah is all women everywhere, and we can’t wait to see this piece stateside!

If you happen to be one of the lucky people heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival I highly recommend you see this unforgettable show (and also Mary Seacole but more about that tomorrow!).

We can’t wait to make magic with this fabulous creative.

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Keya Crenshaw & Abi Zakarian

Love

BCM

 

Get ready for #WADFF2016!

Time for the 15th annual Women of African Descent Film Festival!  Saturday, May 7th 10am-6pm at LIU Brooklyn Campus.  Check our site for details.

Here is a great video from the presenting sponsor, the Brooklyn Chapter of the Links. See you there!