FILMMAKER/AUTHOR MICOLE WILLIAMS ATTENDS THE 16TH ANNUAL AMERICAN BLACK FILM FESTIVAL IN MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA, JUNE 20-24, 2012
“RT “@ABFF: “The fact that you are here at #ABFF means you are on the boat!”
Hearing those words during the American Black Film Festival’s Think Like a Man panel left me thinking, deciding and a bit…seasick.
I wasn’t the only one in the sea of Hollywood hopefuls, who are honing their skills, anxiously tuning in to listen to those who sit on deserved platforms, hoping that there will be a secret or two…or two hundred shared. For each ABFF panel, the captains were speaking and the audience was smooth-sailing!
This particular discussion was led by the masterminds behind the box office hit and was powerful, inspiring and often comical. But that particular analogy struck a personal nerve. It resonates with me for two contrasting reasons: one, all of my life, I’ve been “anti-bandwagon” rebuking most things “popular” or “in-crowded” just for the sake of preserving all things authentic and two, me seeing it as a celebratory declaration, acknowledging the triumphant effort, and more than likely, sacrifice many artists and entertainers make for their labor of love, I being one of them. Producers Will Packer and Rob Hardy, Director Tim Story, and actor Terrance J talked candidly about their trials and tribulations and made it known that there is a distinct difference between making it as an artist vs. entertainer. All I could think of was, where do I stand with all this? The battle was one many aspiring, you fill in the rest, who live outside of L.A deal with. For years I have been told by ShowBiz successes that in order to make it in the entertainment industry you have to be where the action is, otherwise you are not in the game. I played with the question “to move or not to move” and all it ever did was produce motion sickness. So was I really on the boat? Houston was my home. TV/Film was without a doubt, my heart.
I rarely re-tweet, but hype or truth, it’s safe to say, this is a quote I want to believe considering the voyage to the ABFF was more than what I bargained for!
Walking a tight-rope over high water, I stand as a dedicated, full-time teacher who works year-round. Long days become even longer when factoring in my persistent attempt to live both my day and dream jobs. A balancing act it is, but one I have juggled for quite some time, awaiting the day the best of both worlds harmoniously merge. But until then, when any opportunity to gain perspective on how to deal with being torn between two worlds presents itself, I’m there!
After years of reading TV production and filmmaking how-to manuals, and neatly-cut clippings on production gurus, I realized, I wasn’t getting any younger and my schedule didn’t seem to be opening up any time soon. It was now or never. I just reached a point where I needed a more up close and personal look at Black Hollywood. For the most part, if you’re focused and have a good zoom in camera, that is what you can get at ABFF. Not knowing what to expect other than I just, want to get something I can’t get anywhere else, especially from a magazine article, I decided that 2012 was going to be the year that I saw for myself what the ABFF was about. I had researched many festivals over the years, but based on the path I was on: making projects that celebrate the ups and downs of people of color, it was a no-brainer – attend one that seemed to have a huge presence in the Black community and undeniable prestige in Hollywood.
A friend who I met in 2010 on my first project, Tangled Web of True Love Tales, and who works in Public Relations agreed to come with me on this journey. The Marquee pass, jam-packed with screenings, panels, and more seemed like the best bet for us. Having just worked on my own novel/film/webisode project, I was ready to be all eyes and ears when it came to the Big Wigs in Hollywood sharing their knowledge.
There were many highlights. Looking back, while preparing for the trip and making accommodations, what I found to be intriguing about ABFF was the site’s innovative competitions for writers, actors and more. The amount of focus of finding young talent piqued my interest and I was curious to see if there was follow-through at the actual event. I was happy to meet some of the finalists of various competitions throughout the event. But what had me sold was The Talk Series, A Conversation with Power Couple, Mara Brock and Salim Akil. I guess I am a “two-in-one special” kind of girl. For someone who has admired both of their careers behind the TV/Film screen, come hell or high water, I didn’t know what I would ask during the Akil’s panel, I just knew I needed to ask something once in the building. (Mrs. Akil gave me an answer I needed to hear.) I was also grateful to get a number of contacts and direction options from fellow filmmakers who felt the same way I did after the series, which goes to show how much community was a central part of the festival.
My overall goal was to have “focused film fun” and that happened! Once in Miami, everyday there was a list of moments and encounters I am grateful for. Ang and I started our day early, following our itineraries, mapping out our routes and events, etc. We were on a mission to get the most out of this one-of-kind experience. Most of the events were held at the Ritz Carlton or Colony Theatre. The last day was a day neither of us wanted to see. Like a retro scene from Miami Vice, Dream Hotel is where the closing night party was held. I took advantage of the beautiful and chill ambiance and reflected on all the great things that took place over the course of four days while still enjoying the present one. It didn’t hurt that the last major event was right across from the hotel where Ang and I stayed. Hey, nothing is better than a Taxi-less night. I thought about how from Day 1 I spotted film heavyweights that I had never met in person, but I had the honor of interviewing in the past for my online Houston Filmmaking column. Throughout, there were more personal exchanges to follow that meant a lot to me. Meeting legends and up-and-coming legends, I made sure to ask the questions I felt would make me better at my craft. All of what was said and what was implied will stick with me all the days long.
Outside of “focused film fun,” the city itself was memorable. I’ll never forget the warm staff that was our family away from home. The frugal-me loved that everything was walking distance due to proper-planning and pure-blessing! The walk along South Beach was long enough to take pics, the new friends made, the old friends spotted, the great food on Lincoln Road, being in Miami for The Heat Championship win, the cute and classic cocktail dress I found on sale at H&M store, and the fact that we dodged the rain on our last day all made for a great vacation!
Right before leaving the party, I was making a phone call and in mid-sentence spotted the man behind the festival. Mr. Jeff Friday, along with his beautiful wife and friends, was leaving the patio party on the roof and heading to the elevator. As the festival came to a close, my naturally raspy voice was barely there, but I mustered up enough sound to personally tell the founder of the festival how much I had gotten from the experience!
This was my first film festival and definitely not my last. I look at my canvas before me, and the picture that I paint of my own future looks pretty bright!
Micole Williams is an author and filmmaker from Houston, Texas who is currently working on a sequel to her novel and film projects. Find her on http://will-m-power.blogspot.com, Facebook, on her website: www.twotlt.weebly.com, on YouTube@twotltseries, and follow her on Twitter at @willmpower. If you have a filmmaker you’d like to see featured, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.