Workshop panels, feature movies spotlight film festival

Pictured (l to r): Tracy Byrd, Gabrielle Dennis, and Woody McClain at the International Black Film Festival in Nashville at Belmont University.

Dozens of people from all over the United States and around the globe descended upon Nashville to view some of the best independent films and learn how the film and entertainment industry works and how to promote quality films on October 3.

The International Black Film Festival was held October 3-6 at Belmont University and Watkins College of Art, Film, and Design in Nashville. The IBFFN showcased the best, recent films and documentaries. The festival opened with the premiere of the film Black and Blue, which opened in theatres on October 25. The film, starring Naomi Harris and Tyreese Gibson, tells the story of a female police officer in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans who witnessed the murder of an unarmed confidential informant by other fellow officers with her body camera. The film showed how the female officer tried to survive while attempting to expose her fellow officers. Deon Taylor, director of Black and Blue, said the movie was an intense thriller about corruption and about a woman who decides to blur the lines by doing the right thing to make sure the corrupt officers are convicted. Taylor also said the film was designed to make people understand there are good police officers in society.

“The community should not be afraid of the police and the police should not be afraid of the community,” said Taylor.

The film festival also held panel workshops for anyone who wanted to find out more about how the film and entertainment business operated. One of the panels was a discussion on how to use musical scores in film. Angela D. Green, founder of Memphis Music Box, said she enjoyed participating in the panel discussion and said the music placement for film starts with the director or writer, who are thinking about what type of music they want in their project. This helps the music supervisor find the music that fits a particular scene. Green also said that when it comes to promoting music, it was important to understand what the legal procedures are when it comes to the music score in a film.

“I hope filmmakers get the fact they need to make sure the legalities surrounding their music in their projects are sound and in place, because that can make or break what their project does and how far it goes. For musicians, I want them to get the fact that there are people and organizations that are ready to help them break into the music industry/licensing area,” said Green.

Another panel discussion was ‘Real Conversations.’ Moderated by Tracy Byrd, it examined how people are able to establish their professional acting careers. Byrd interviewed actress Gabrielle Dennis and actor Woody McClain for the panel discussion. They discussed what it was like having an acting career in the film and entertainment business in Hollywood and how Dennis and McClain got their start as professional actors. Dennis said the key to establishing your acting career is trying to decide which direction to follow. But there are challenges.

“The challenge is we getting in our own way,” he said. “Within those challenges, you need to put the work in. You need still to dream, but now the climate has changed and you fit your own context anywhere in the world. But there are very specific things you can try to do. Theater work should be the place. If it’s TV or film, you might want to spend a few years in Los Angeles. If you don’t get to the level you want to go, opportunities (are there) for you to learn.”

The IBFF also showcased fascinating documentaries, including a documentary that had local ties to Nashville. The Past is Prologue: The Class of 1969 tells the story of how a group of Nashville high school students became involved in the civil rights movement following the events of a local high school basketball game. Mark Schlicher, the film’s director, said they interviewed former students of Cameron High School—discovering that Cameron High School was a place students enjoyed attending, despite it being a segregated school in the late 1960s. Schlicher said Cameron always had a commitment to academic excellence and sports programs, even prior to the sports program being integrated.

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