By Will Arenas
This year has felt like living in a movie. As students at Morgan State University, we live near the protest areas and former stomping grounds of Freddie Gray. As a result, all the footage of death and people getting arrested for breaking curfew has been, to say the least, stressful.
Still, the Maryland Film Festival was a breath of fresh air and served as a good place to emerge oneself in all things film and film-related. From May 6th-10th, the festival was filled with film screenings, panel discussions and social opportunities for film professionals and enthusiasts alike.
Day and Distro was the title of one festival panel that covered “navigation of the ever-changing landscape of distribution.” It was hosted by David Ehrlich of Time Out NYC. The panel was very informative and honest about how film is handled in 2015. Speakers on the panel were filmmakers sharing their distribution trials and tribulations. Missy Lane, of Sundance Artist Services, assists new and up-and-coming filmmakers with the distribution of their movies. Lane says that independence is usually the best option financially and that new filmmakers should take the time to handle their film in-house before trying to go through an agency. Lane said that by investing this type of energy and time into a film could be more beneficial for new filmmakers since they will then own more of their film rights and profits.
Dylan Marchetti of Amplify Releasing shared some insights about video-on-demand and day-and-date release terms. “Outside of iTunes, you do not get to see your view numbers and their are few companies that help with receiving film viewership info,” Marchetti said.
From a filmmaker’s perspective, Alex Ross Perry, director and writer of Queen of Earth and Listen Up Phillip, shared his stories of losing control of the his film. Ramona Diaz, director of Don’t Stop Believin’ Everyman’s Journey, gave tips and pointers from lessons she’s learned along the way as she reinforced the power of reading your contracts and getting a lawyer for contract review.
Directing socially conscious films was also a panel, titled A Discussion About Filmmaker Responsibility & Engagement with the Community. Morgan was represented on this panel and at the festival in general, as documentary film professor Stanley Nelson spoke about his featured screening, Black Panthers the Vanguard of the Revolution which made its Maryland premier at the film festival Saturday night. “I attended the film festival last year. This year I feel like I have a connection to Baltimore. I’m working with young filmmakers at Morgan and I hope it makes what I have to say this year a little deeper and a little more meaningful.”
On Saturday night, filmmaker and photographer Kahlik Allah premiered his documentary. The film, titled Field Niggas, is an avant-garde style documentary about the 125th and Lenox Avenue street corner at night in Harlem, New York. “I wanted to combine the feeling of a photo and I wanted you to use your own imagination like reading a book,” Kahlik said. Known for his gritty street photography, Allah explored the conversations and lifestyles of the homeless people that live and work near the street corner, and also local police who monitor the area.