On Saturday, June 15, hundreds of Black filmmakers, industry executives and creative professionals gathered in The Conga Room at L.A. Live to mix, mingle and celebrate diversity. The day began with a free and delicious brunch. Directly following were three back-to-back panels featuring HBO execs, web content creators and groundbreaking filmmakers.
In “Inside HBO,”HBO execs explained to an eager audience what their network typically looks for and outlined their commitment to diversity.
In “Computer Love: Color Adjustment on the Web,” Issa Rae, Dennis Dortch, Numa Perrier, Al Thompson and Asha Kamali May screened clips from their respective web series and covered everything from funding to pleasing an audience on a panel moderated by Effie Brown.
In “The ‘New American’ Independent Cinema,” Ryan Coogler, Ava DuVernay, Grace Lee and Henry Barrial discussed how their films are adding much needed variance and nuance to the American film narrative.
While it was exciting to meet fellow USC alum Ryan Coogler (Writer/Director of Fruitvale Station), Asha Kamali May (Milk + Honey), Numa Perrier and Dennis Dortch (Roomieloverfriends), my most meaningful connections were made with people who were also there to learn and network. I quickly saw that a new generation of content creators is on the rise. Once we realize that we’re our own greatest assets, we’ll be as powerful, if not more, as those who came before us.
Instead of waiting in line for thirty minutes to tell Ava DuVernay how much respect I have for her, I exchanged contact information with the screenwriter behind me, a New York native looking to build his Los Angeles network. Instead of stalking my twin, Issa Rae, I met a fabulous Black female editor who has already followed up with me and agreed to let me shadow her. Within a few hours I met people whose resumes more or less match mine and created powerful alliances that I wouldn’t have otherwise made had I only been focused on “the important people.”
I couldn’t look around the room without creepily smiling at everyone. It was surreal to be in a room full of young professionals who were utilizing all available mediums to expand the Black narrative. It was beyond inspiring to hear people I’ve never met articulate their dreams and suggest that I become a part of them. And it was simply amazing to see so many of my distant mentors in the same room dropping knowledge and insight into this seemingly impossible business.
If there’s one thing I took away from Diversity Speaks, it’s that all things are possible. I am looking forward to continuing this new tradition at the LA Film Festival for years to come and will not be surprised to see my new friends listed as next year’s panelists.
The LA Film Festival is running from now until June 23. For more information visit lafilmfestival.com