My Moment At The 2015 BlackStar Fest…

Hezekiah, Mtume Gant, Dr. Guthrie Ramsey, and ME

A year ago this month I didn’t see any of this coming. By the end of July 2014, I was months away from my 30th birthday and the world was just OK. I went through the motions of working as a temp for a University, taking photos whenever I could  and my existence grew more and more mundane by the day. I hate ordinary. Hate is a strong word but it’s really the best to describe my feelings about it. Creatively, I wanted to make something impactful, or at least something that I’d be proud of. I always wanted to make a short film but I had no idea as to how to approach it and make it real. All I needed was an opening to show and prove and that’s just what was given.

Hezekiah recorded much of his album, Dreams Don’t Chase Themselves in early 2014. I had a hand in the direction of a few of it’s videos but the short film is what led to the main stage. Hez needed a compelling visual to accompany the project and I jumped at the chance. Now my memory fails me at this juncture and I don’t have access to my personal journal to confirm the date but I think that this all happened around the same time that I attended last year’s Blackstar Film Fest. There were two highlights from that event: 1) Watching “Time Is Illmatic” the documentary about Nas’s classic and culturally impactful debut album and 2) Seeing my mother’s friend, Ms. Tina Morton, who’s also a filmmaker and talking to her about having my work onscreen for the following year’s festival. I was down with the idea and although I didn’t know where to start, I definitely wanted the chance to show what I could do.

Creating the film, well writing the film was a synch. I listened to the album and I picked 3 songs that best fit what I thought the concept should be. A play on the albums title and how dreams can become reality by applying the philosophy of knowing, seeing and being. Each music video within the film represented that idea and I felt like it translated well to those that watched it. Now here comes the confessional, after a while I felt like it was a burden. I burnt out while shooting a portion of the video due to a serious conflict of interest. I am a writer, I’m not a director and when I do direct I don’t need problems especially when I’m doing it all as a favor. I purposely allowed another camera person, Embassy 730, to come in and handle the rest of the workload. Fortunately for me, my vision wasn’t altered.

Before the festival, “Dreams Don’t Chase Themselves” was shown during a Reelblack event at the International House of Philadelphia (same local for the actual festival) and another festival in Brooklyn earlier in the year. When Blackstar picked up our film,  I was overcome by humility. Slow and Steady are the only words that I can use to summarize the moves that I’ve made as a creative. As uncool as this would make me sound, I actually watched 2/3s of the film with my eyes closed during the festival. That sounds pretty bad right? But I couldn’t imagine how a room full of people were perceiving my film and I shut myself off from it mentally. As soon as everyone clapped, i felt vindicated.

Awkward moment in 3…2…1… After all of the shorts were shown in our category all of the filmmakers were called to the stage for a Q&A by the moderator, Philly’s own Lil’ Dave. I sat away from the other filmmakers and Hez. My comfort level on stage teeter-tottered . When asked about the film, I broke it down and I couldn’t tell if the audience felt/understood what I said or just didn’t give a dusty f*ck. That’s right, I said it… A DUSTY F*CK! But after it was all over, fellow panelist Dr. Guthrie Ramsey, who debuted his documentary about Jazz pianist Bud Powell, gave me a lot of love for our short film. That’s made it all worth it in the end. As a writer, I’m my own worst critic and yes I’m very confident about my work but I still have those instances where I’m questioning how good it is. Overall, I’m very fortunate to have this moment and now, as I type these garbled thoughts, I’m pondering the next project. What will it be, where will the inspiration come from, and how can I get my shit to the level of Kahlil Joseph.

I’d like to thank Mtume Gant and Dr. Guthrie Ramsey for their films and inspiring me to push my boundaries even farther. One day I’ll return to the BlackStar Film Fest with something great. Who knows but this will live with me forever.


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