Left picture: (Left to right) Florida Film House (FFH) creative director Blademil Grullon, Master P, Romeo Miller and FFH executive director Marco Mall kick off the Urban Film Festival Sept. 1 with a press conference. Right picture: A group performs during the opening night of the film festival at the Little Haiti Cultural Center.
By ISHEKA N. HARRISON
Giving back is major theme at Urban Film Festival
MIAMI – The spirit of giving back was on high display at the 2nd annual Urban Film Festival held Sept. 1-3 during Labor Day weekend at the Overtown Performing Arts Center (OPAC) and The Historic Lyric Theater.
Not only did hip hop royalty Master P and his son Romeo Miller confirm Miller’s company Romeoland has inked a three-picture deal with Florida Film House to make Miami a sought after market for urban film content, industry insiders willingly shared their knowledge – and even personal phone numbers – with attendees.
“Miami has untapped talent. It’s sexy. It has everything. We want to make this the next Hollywood,” Master P and Romeo Miller said between alternating statements. Master P said he was there to support his son’s new venture.
“My favorite rapper is Romeo and I know people will think I’m saying that because he is my son, but he’s my favorite because he’s also a business man. He went to college to educate himself on the business and he’s worked hard to prepare himself for life after the music.”
South Florida has admittedly struggled to attract and maintain television and film productions since film incentives in Florida were stopped two years ago.
However, Miami-Dade County’s newly revived entertainment incentive program and the fairytale Oscar-winning rise of “Moonlight” have made it a favorable destination for content creators once again. Yet, Miller said his interest in filming in the city precedes all of that.
“I was talking to Marco (Mall) and Florida Film House before ‘Moonlight’ and the incentives,” Romeo said. “I’ve wanted to establish something here for a while. It’s a great hub for urban film. And, the benefit to the community is the creation of new jobs and opportunities for young people who want to be filmmakers. Who better to do this with than Florida Film House in their backyard?”
Mall is the executive director of Florida Film House (FFH), a Miami-based company that develops original content for TV shows, documentaries and full feature movie projects for domestic and international markets.
He said he and a team of 40 others created the festival to address a gaping need in the market.
“We did it out of necessity because we couldn’t find anywhere to put our films that was giving us good representation, so we said if we have this problem, there’s a lot of people with this problem,” Mall said.
He said last year the festival received the third most submissions ever for a new film festival on “Withoutabox,” the platform festivals use to discover filmmakers. This year, he said the number of submissions was even higher.
“The first year was a lot of our (FFH) films and a lot of our content and just people that we knew in the community. This year we were able to put out content from all over the world,” Mall said. “We had a Chinese film that played. We had a couple of Caribbean films play. One of the premiering films was “Candy,” that was from Houston … so the content’s coming in from everywhere now. It’s really doing really well for a new film festival and its because there’s such a need.”
The festival included an array of film and web series screenings featuring local and national talent and locations; educational workshops led by industry insiders (including Miller and Randall Emmett, executive producer of “Power”); several parties and an awards ceremony.
During the festival Miller took the time to speak to the participants in FFH’s 1st Take Youth Film Program, which teaches youth ages 12-18 filmmaking and prepares them to succeed in the entertainment industry. Emmett did likewise with the adult attendees and even shared his personal phone number and told them to reach out if they needed him.
“Randall Emmett sat there and gave everybody everything today,” Mall said. “He said call my office; call me, say you met me at Urban Film Festival and I will take your calls. I will look at your content. I will be open to you. That’s huge! He’s one of the biggest financiers and producers in Hollywood. He’s from South Florida and he’s just showing love.”
But the spirit of giving back did not stop there. “Candy” was produced by Mr. Boomtown, a native of Houston, whose cast and crew couldn’t attend due to the catastrophic flooding the city has experienced. Therefore the festival decided to donate 100% of the film’s proceeds to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort.
Mall said overall the festival has three goals: education, exposure and distribution. He said he wants to effectively make sure the people who are telling black and brown people’s stories can get access to the resources they need to do so effectively. “Who else is going to tell them and correctly? Who else cares really at the end of the day,” Mall asked. “Everybody tells their stories. We’ve been telling our stories, but we’re starting to tell our stories at a better level, higher quality; because of technology we’re able to really start to express ourselves.”
Mall said they chose Labor Day weekend for the festival because, while it is a busy weekend overall, it is not really in competition with other film festivals. He added that FFH is working on several movies, may begin doing a monthly screening event, and will soon resume its black box acting sessions and intern incubator.
He said this year several distributors expressed interest in the same film so there could be a bidding war – and that’s what it’s all about.
“I want to turn this into a film market. That’s the goal; the goal is to conduct it where all the best urban filmmakers are coming here and all the best people looking for urban content are coming here and deals are being cut,” Mall said.