Calvin Walker knows the struggles that other local Black filmmakers face all too well. An award-winning filmmaker, Walker has been making independent films in North Texas since 2012. He's directed both web series and short films. He recently won the 2021 Best Texas Short at the Denton Black Film Festival for "The First Time After," a short film that tackles the subject of infidelity and intimacy.
He sees his fellow Dallas filmmakers struggling to gain access to the same equipment or information that big markets like New York, Los Angeles or Austin offer.
It's a struggle that Denton Black Film Festival director Harry Eaddy recognizes. It's one he is addressing with the festival's partnership with Panavision, a leader in the film industry. It will offer emerging filmmakers like Walker more opportunities to produce their art.
Through this partnership, Eaddy plans to offer exposure for festival storytellers, train future filmmakers, and increase representation for diverse stories. He stresses that it’s important since Black filmmakers like Walker often feel underrepresented and under appreciated.
“For them to be able to have an organization like Panavision hear them and want to acknowledge some of their stories, that’s really huge,” he says.
The inner hope
One of the ways this partnership will come to life is with its educational workshops. This upcoming quarterly series aims to spur on future creatives. It will include lessons on a variety of topics that guide participants through the filmmaking process.
Due to the complexity of emerging technology, Eaddy says that sometimes filmmakers do not take full advantage of camera capability. These workshops will help storytellers learn how to maximize the capability of cameras. It will also offer creative advice such as how to frame compelling shots to enhance their story.
The Denton Black Film Institute is collaborating with Panavision on a series called "Voice x Vision." The series will highlight independent filmmakers who tell diverse stories as well the behind-the-scenes projects that directors, cinematographers, and gaffers are working on.
In addition to the workshops and the social video series, Panavision donated two $20,000 camera rental grant packages for filmmakers. The film company donated these packages to the 2021 Denton Black Film Festival winners in the Best Narrative Feature and Best Documentary Feature categories. The winners were Lanie Zipoy’s “The Subject” and Bayer Mack’s “Black Seeds: The History of Africans in America” respectively.
The grant could potentially save 15 to 30 percent of a film budget, Eaddy says. This monetary support, he continues, showed Panavision’s dedication to representing the voices of emerging Black storytellers.
President and CEO of Panavision Kim Snyder echoed the importance of this partnership in a recent press release:
“Panavision shares the Festival’s and the Institute’s goal of empowering individuals from the Black community who aspire to or already work in the film, television, and commercial arenas.”
New format, same powerful stories
Adjusting to COVID-19 required the festival to expand in a virtual format. But their goal remained the same: to create a space where diverse stories could be shared and celebrated.
“People get to look at stories that are being told through different mediums, and I think that's exciting,” Eaddy says. “Beyond that, (it offers you) a place where you have a congregation of people wanting to understand more diverse stories.”
For Walker, this year’s festival was a special one. Not only did Walker win Best Texas Short, he also won the People’s Choice in the same category. Surprised would be an understatement. Receiving recognition from people who have experience in film, he says, was an honor. It was also special, he adds, to receive affirmation from the audience.
“There’s nothing more important for an artist than when their work connects with somebody else,” he explains. “And that person reaches back and says, ‘I feel seen.’’’
For more information about the winners of the Denton Black Film Festival, the DBFF Institute or the partnership with Panavision, visit dentonbff.com.