- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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…
- Define yourself in one word.
Thank you Cristyn, it was an honor speaking with you.
Call for Entries: The 16th Annual Women of African Descent Film Festival
The 16th Annual Women of African Descent Film Festival presented by The Brooklyn Chapter of The Links, Inc. now opens its CALL FOR ENTRIES. If you would like to see an example of the lineup from WADFF 2016, click here.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions regarding the festival.
MISSION & OBJECTIVE To showcase films which are centered around the theme of Linkages: Women, Their Families, Neighborhoods, and the Global Community, and to support the artistic development of Women filmmakers of African Descent by providing a supportive exhibition platform, offering stipends to participants, and seeking industry opportunities that will help to expose the filmmakers’ works and further their careers.
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL The Women of African Descent Film Festival (WADFF) is celebrating its 16th Anniversary in 2017. The media constantly bombards us with negative images of people of African descent. Our positive accomplishments, uplifting experiences, and gifts to humanity get little attention. The Brooklyn Chapter believes it is vitally important that our legacy be maintained, nurtured and preserved and it is our responsibility to shape the public’s perception of who we are as a people. Through the medium of film, filmmakers of African descent document and relay the stories of our past, present, and future. They have become the new historians –“preservers of our legacy.” The Brooklyn Chapter realizes that many societal misconceptions start with how we are portrayed in the media. To counteract the adverse portrayal of African Americans in the movies and media, the Brooklyn Chapter, in 2002, initiated Linkages: Women of African Descent Film Festival. By choosing and screening films that depict the positive linkages that women of African descent have to their families, neighborhoods and communities, the film festival is able to effectively influence people’s’ perceptions through the medium of film.
GENERAL RULES & SUBMISSION GUIDELINES All films must be produced, written or
directed by a female filmmaker of African descent, must have been completed on or after June 1, 2012, and must be 1 hour at most in length. Submission deadline is Friday, March 24th. Juror’s Choice Awards and stipends will be presented to the participating filmmakers.
Local, regional, national and international submissions are accepted.
Filmmakers are encouraged to submit a digital and/or online version of their films in a format such as AVI, FLV, WMV, MP4, MOV, QT, WMV, AVCHD, FLV, H.264, or DivX. If these file formats do not exist, please submit a link to your film on a site such as Vimeo, YouTube, Dailymotion, or MetaCafe. If applicable, include all passwords for video access.
DVD and VHS copies will not be accepted.
Please note: there is no submission fee. With your playable submission, please include a synopsis, crew list, press kit and any stills you would like to appear in the program and/or advertisements.
Send all films to: email@example.com
THE EVENT WADFF 2017 will take place Saturday, May 6, 2017 at LIU Brooklyn (corner of Flatbush and Dekalb Avenues), Media Arts Department, Spike Lee Reading Room, 10am-6pm.
THE LINKS Formed in 1952, The Brooklyn Chapter of The Links is dedicated to the support of educational, civic and cultural activities in Brooklyn. It is a chapter of The Links, Inc. an international, not-for-profit corporation, whose membership consists of 14,000 professional women of color in 282 chapters located in 41 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. The Brooklyn Chapter works under the guidelines of its national organization in providing services to its Brooklyn Community in five mission areas: The Arts, Services to Youth, National Trends and Services, International Trends, and Health and Wellness. A focus of the Chapter’s arts programming is to empower women and youth by lending support and encouragement to emerging artists – with a particular focus on filmmakers for the past 16 years. The foundation for all of the chapter’s programs and services is rooted in the African American tradition of giving and volunteerism. Members share a deep sense of communal responsibility, and for the past 66 years, have been committed to actively initiating and supporting educational, cultural, and civic programs that positively impact the lives of people of African descent residing in Brooklyn.
You can ‘Like’ and follow the festival Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/WomenofAfricanDescentFilmFestival/
For #WADFF2017 twitter updates, follow @BlackChickMedia.
Want to learn more about WADFF and the Brooklyn Chapter of the LINKS? Check out our Vimeo page here: https://vimeo.com/164791769
Please contact WADFF Co-Chair Yvonne Presha or Elyse Morris, On-site Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.