Thousands of people from across the United States gathered in Nashville for an exciting and informative event celebrating diversity in movies and educating the public about the entertainment industry by celebrating its 10-year anniversary the week of October 5-9.
The International Black Film Festival of Nashville gave festival attendees an opportunity to meet with celebrities and independent filmmakers from different backgrounds and a chance to view new independent films, ranging from documentaries to short and full-length feature films. The festival kicked off with ‘Tennessee Talks Back,’ a town-hall forum that addressed the issues that are affecting people of color including entertainment industry trends, diversity in film and entertainment, along with educational and employment opportunities in the film and entertainment business. The forum featured film and entertainment industry representatives as well as media professors from schools such as Belmont University and Tennessee State University.
One of the issues that was discussed was bringing college students into the film and entertainment arena. Dr. Melissa Forte, associate professor at Tennessee State University, said there is always interest in film and entertainment from college students at TSU apparent from the requests for the course program from students. She also said that the goal for the film and entertainment program at TSU was to increase growth of the program by bringing in students and professors along with creating internships and experiences in Tennessee and across the country. Forte said the future of entertainment and television will lean toward the digital age.
“I think the online content is opening a lot of doors for people,” said Forte. “I think there’s going to be a lot more room for more stories to be told.”
Nan Puetz, president of Tennessee Women in Film and Media, said that there are challenges to bringing film to Tennessee. When it comes to incentives, there is always a spending goal of $200,000 before going to state officials to ask for funding of a film before a budget audit is complete. Puetz also said that the key to a successful film is storytelling—if you want people remember a movie you are writing for a long time. When it comes to writing a story, Puetz said that people want a story that is relatable. It must garner interest to generate positive feedback before selling it to film studios. Also in order to have more diverse films, more writers from different walks of life must be brought in reflecting diverse audiences.
“I fully believe that streaming is a way for a certain percentage of the future. But there is still a group of people who will end up going into that darkened theatre, having the lights go up and seeing the film,” said Puetz.
“I think people need to be entertained and want to be entertained. Times are tough, and people are staying in their homes—but people will start going out again, and there will be a group of people that’ll come out and see a film in theatres.”
One of the films of interest at the IBFFN was Black Gold: America is Still the Place. The movie is based on a true story about Charlie Walker, who moved to San Francisco in the late 1960s to make a better life for himself and his family, but ran into obstacles such as institutional racism, capitalism, and other barriers while working on a crew trying to clean up an oil spill that occurred in the San Francisco Bay Bridge in 1971.
He has to deal with an oil company trying to remove him and his crew from the cleanup spill at the beach. Patrick Gilles, director of the film, said the goal of the movie was to capture the issues that were affecting people such as racism and capitalism, and the entrepreneurial spirit.