Making movies is a considerable challenge. Making money from them can be even a bigger obstacle.
A sold-out film industry mixer at Hostos Community College on April 13 drew dozens of aspiring filmmakers to learn some of the ropes of selling their work from a panel of professionals.
The pop-up event, organized by the non-profit Bronx Independent Cinema Center, was the latest in a campaign to help nurture filmmaking in the Bronx and bring a new theater to the borough.
The Cinema Center’s mission is to shine a spotlight on filmmakers in the Bronx and create a brick-and-mortar hub for them in which to congregate and create. The next step is to raise $250,000 and host a follow-up event at the landmarked Paradise Theatre in October.
It’s all part of a larger plan to raise an additional $3 million by 2025 to buy the theater, located at 2417 Grand Concourse near Fordham Road, and restore it to its once cinematic glory.
“How great would it be if we were able to bring that back to reality?” said Gregory Hernandez, executive director of the film center. The Paradise Theatre at 2403 Grand Concourse hasn’t served the community as a cinema for decades.
Wednesday night’s event featured eight VIP panelists offering their advice on the money-making side of film production. Panelists included Dominic Davis, manager of the documentary fund at Sundance; Jacob Stebel, program manager at the Ghetto Film School; and Tiffany Joy Butler, curator at the Museum of the Moving Image.
“There’s a lot of programs that teach you about film editing, but not the business side of it,” said Jerelyn Rodriguez, a Bronx-born panelist and founder of the Knowledge House – a program created to bridge the technological gap among Bronxites to facilitate a career path.
Rodriguez attended the Ghetto Film School as a 14-year-old nearly 20 years ago and through the program she gained an internship with Spike Lee.
“We need a physical tangible space for us as filmmakers to come together,” Hernandez said emphatically to the attendees.
Kiarra White recently started script-writing but doesn’t know where to go after that. She was enthusiastic and filled with questions for the panel.
Panelists participated in a moderated Q&A followed by roundtables where each of them sat with a group to discuss ideas and strategies. The quiet space at Hostos soon turned into a hubbub of conversation. The energy was palpable as individuals plugged into a common thread – filmmaking and how to make money from it.
“I have a million and one ideas. Some of my ideas have started to turn into a script and I need help. I don’t know too many people in the film industry,” said Kiarra White, an attendee who had a lengthy conversation with Stebel. One of White’s questions to the panel was, “How do I protect my work?”
“Your job as a creative person is to make so much work that nobody can copy,” said panelist and film producer Craig Williams. He added that filmmaking is laborious and expensive and it would take too much effort for someone to envision someone else’s creative process.
“No one can tell your story,” added fellow panelist Gillian Fritzsche, director and producer of the web series “Bronxish.”
Lisanette Rosario, a Hostos alumna and now director of career services there, reminded attendees that Hostos’ media program could be a valuable resource for them. “This is very important for us as a college – for students and the Bronx community to know that there are opportunities right here for them to grow, get educated and also turn into professionals in film,” she said.
The night capped with a raffle, leftover pizza and newly forged relationships between novice filmmakers and veterans. No future pop-ups are on the calendar yet, but one can subscribe to the Bronx Independent Cinema Center’s website for updates. Hernandez urged everyone to join the Center in whatever capacity they can.
“We should not have to leave our boroughs to have terrific moviegoing experiences and indulge in the higher echelon of cinema,” said Hernandez, who hopes that the Paradise Theatre will serve not only as a screening space, but also as an incubator for anyone interested in filmmaking.