Launching A Filmmaking Career With Short Films by Antoine Allen and Lester Greene

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Hey guys! This is Antoine Allen, award-winning filmmaker.

And my name is Lester Greene and I’m a producer, actor, and published author.

This is Film Courage, diary series.

Cultivating Success and Building Your Brand in the Film Industry

Lester: When I first started auditioning for student films and short films and I met a director by the name of Rickey Waymer and he gave me my first role. And ever since then I just fell in love with acting. I just love the idea of being in front of the camera and being a different character, that’s how I started.

Antoine: I started actually in the music business. I used to manage up-and-coming talent and I also used to do music videos. And from there it was a great fill-in but I felt limited. So I wrote my first short film called SPLIT / DECISION and I won my first award and that was it, that was like the love, love at first sight.

How we began collaborating

Lester: Antione has a feature film called LIFE IS TOO SHORT and Crystal Williams introduced me to him and told me about the casting call that he had so Antione looked at my reel and he saw one thing that he liked.

Antoine: Just one.

Lester: It was just one thing and he said “Yeah, I want this guy in my movie.” And so ever since then we’ve just been knocking out films.

Antoine: Yeah…I cast Lester because as a filmmaker and as a writer you want to get the top-notch talent you can on our level to make your stories come to life.

So he was in my award-winning feature film LIFE IS TOO SHORT and his role was really powerful and from there I started doing more films.

I always remembered him. I said “Lester, you could do so much more.” And sometimes it takes someone to see something in you that you don’t see in yourself. And from there we’ve just been knocking out short films back to back to fulfill our brand.

Lester: Yeah, he was just telling me that it’s so important to create your own work. Don’t wait for someone to cast you in a film or someone to put you in a web series.

And so we just created…what was that…it was the first short film that we did?

Antoine: So far it was like five short films together. And a lot of people say “Short films are dead.” It depends who you ask. So four to five short films. And what I did was I used those short films to build the Antoine Allen brand and we’re all part of the same brand.

Build Your Brand

And each short film won awards, we got short films on TV.

Lester: CBS.

Antoine: CBS. We had short films show nationally and we won national awards. And what that does is that builds your brand and builds your calling card.

For me I wanted to give back to the film community in a way that it felt like it would be effective.

So I started my own film festival called Validate Yourself Film Festival. And the reason I call it validate is because I think for a lot of artists they look for validation everywhere else except themselves.

I went to a few film festivals when I was traveling the film festival circuit and some festivals I just didn’t like how they were treating filmmakers.

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“You have to grind like an indie,

but move like a major.”

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Some times it felt like the filmmaker should be honored to even be at the festival. A film festival and the filmmaker is partnership. You can’t have a film festival without having filmmakers and a filmmaker needs a festival, so it’s a partnership. It’s not lopsided.

I came from the music business and I realized that if you’re a hiphop artist, mixtapes or demos are kind of like your calling card.

So the short film is kind of like your calling card. You do enough of it, you flood the market. I tell people all the time “You have to grind like an indie, but move like a major.”

Lester: Ooohhh, say it again.

Antoine: Grind like an indie, move like a major.

Lester: …And move like a major…ooohhh, that’s nice.

Antoine: And what that means is as an indie you do whatever you have to do. Anything that’s possible, anything that serves you’ve got to do it.

Move like a major is just because I have a little bit of money, don’t mean my film should look like an independent film.

Lester: Right.

Antoine: Do what you can to make your film look bigger than what it is.

And like I said, working together and find your partner. Find someone that you can really connect with.

Tell A Good Story

Lester: A lot of people don’t have a good story. I learned that from this guy. It’s so important to have a good story because you’ll watch films and it will look pretty. It will look great on the screen and everything but there is no story, there is no substance, nobody is reacting to it.

And we just finished shooting a short film called RAW FOOTAGE, right? And it screened at The Schomburg Center in Harlem [New York] through the Omari Hardwick Real to Reel Tour right. And people were watching our short film and they were feeling it, they were laughing, they were joking around. And then there was another film that aired right…

Antoine: Crickets!

Lester: Yeah…crickets! No reaction, no audience reaction. And it looked great.

Antoine: And honestly the film that was getting crickets looked way better than our’s.

Lester: It did. It looked better.

Your Film’s Success Depends On The Audience

Antoine: Better writing, better camera.  But…there was no engagement with the audience. So at the end of the day, your film’s success depends on the audience.

Lester: Right. Absolutely.

Antoine: Not the best camera, not the best colorist because that doesn’t sell tickets, the audience member does.

Lester: Right. Let me give you another example we screened our film MAMMA’S BOY at Necessary Studios, right? And we’re watching the film and I’m watching the film for the first time and I was crying. And Antoine was telling me that people in the audience were crying, too. It was amazing and that very same film is going to be screening where?

Antoine: At the African-American Academy in Africa.

Lester: In Africa! Africa guys. That’s an incredible festival. I didn’t even know anything about it, Antoine told me it’s like the Oscars in Africa.

Antoine: So we did a story in Queens [New York] that traveled all the way to Africa. It touched someone all the way in Africa. So you just never know.

Use Your Short Films To Market Yourself

This video is really for you to use your short films as marketing tools. There are only so many festivals you can submit to, so do things outside of a festival.

Do your own screenings, do your own premieres. There are a few websites out there that you can submit your films to try and get on TV. One of them is shorts.tv. Another one for more African-American filmmakers is AfricanAmericanShortFilms.com. There are a few other ones out there.

Get Over Fear

And there are so many different outlets to show your short films. My journey of how I accomplished so much, first is I had to get over fear. Fear is one of the main reasons why most people are living a life they are not happy about.

Once I got over that I had to realize this is my own voice and have faith in myself. God have me amazing talent and I don’t want to waste it.

Right now I am 37 years old. I officially got into the film business (without stopping, without pausing, without tippy-toeing) at 31. Right now I am at 37 and so far I’ve got one feature film under my belt that won 15 awards (domestically and internationally). I never traveled outside of the U.S. but my first feature film took me to Spain, France, I went to Africa. And also I was in a publication book that is now iTunes for the top 100 indie filmmakers in the world. I made number five on the list.

And the bigger accomplishment I think I had was helping other people.  When I saw Lester (when he first met me) he was just trying to find his way. Now he’s an author, award-winning producer, award-winning actor, and that’s my bigger accomplishment. And all those pieces happened because I listened to myself and God.

Do Your Research And Continuously Build Your Knowledge

And also to, research sites like Film Courage. Film Courage is another tool that I use to get information.

Lester: Ooohhh…yeah.

Antoine: So Film Courage, they don’t know this but for years I’ve been watching a lot of their videos. I’ve been taking pieces, here and there and there. And sites like that are the reason why I’m in the position that I am.

Lester: And I’ve learned so much from just watching those Film Courage videos. So kudos to you guys for giving us an opportunity to learn.

Antoine: And the funny part about it, I used to watch those videos and be like “I want to be on Film Courage one day. I have courage.” And look now…I’m on Film Courage.

Lester: Right, right.

Antoine:  Behind-the-scenes diary, original series.

Lester and Antoine: Peace!

 

About Lester and Antoine:

Lester Greene majored in English/Journalism at Queens College, and he studied acting with the likes of Alec Baldwin (Southampton Theatre Conference), Peter Miner (Terry Schreiber Studios), Matt Newton, & Mary Boyer.

Lester starred in and produced two short films that aired on CBS (with director Antoine Allen & producer Emelyn Stuart). He also produced another short film, “I Got a Callback” with director Christopher Fox.

Lester landed several co-starring roles on Gotham, Power, Jon Glaser Loves Gear, 50 Central, I Am Homicide and Rachael Ray. He has also appeared in various commercials for Chase, Rogaine, AAO, FYI, Amazon, MTB Bank, Peeps Delights, Buzzfeed, Boost Mobile, Nike, Crown Royal, Brooks, AutoLenders and many more. 

Lester has four music albums on I-tunes: “The Greenehouse Effect,” “Cocktails,” “No Bush, Straight Dicks” and “The Greene Room.”

Lester is in the process of shooting two films: “Control” by Gregg Dacosta and “The Last Fishing Trip” by Christopher Fox – and he’s getting ready to produce his very own feature film with Antoine Allen tentatively titled, “Emotional Killer.” 

His new book, “Act Like You Love Yourself” is available on Amazon.

 

Award-winning filmmaker Antoine Allen had dreams like any other kid growing up, and it was those same dreams that allowed him to break through every obstacle in his path. Despite growing up poor in Jamaica, Queens, Allen was already rich with potential. Refusing to let this define his future, he moved forward with a passion, drive, and tireless dedication that has now become synonymous with the Antoine Allen brand.

Allen began his career in the music industry, successfully managing hip-hop artists for many years. During that time, he had several experiences that opened his eyes to the fact that he had more to offer. It was at this time that the phrase “dream big or don’t dream at all” really hit hard.

Forgoing the traditional film school route, he began educating himself on all creative, technical, and business aspects of the process and never looked back. Allen transformed himself into a successful writer, director, filmmaker and producer. He sold his first screenplay, 

No Where Land an animated feature film in 2008. As an award-winning director, Allen has gone on to be involved in a variety of film and music video projects.

In the summer of 2010, Allen made his directorial debut with Split Decision a narrative short film exploring love, rejection and motivation, which he also wrote and produced. He took promotions into his own hands, launching a highly successful social media campaign. The trailer alone received over twenty-one thousand views on YouTube and countless ‘Likes’ on Facebook, all culminating in the Split Decision world premiere. The opening screening in New York City sold out. This should have come as no surprise since Allen sold out a premiere to a 3-minute music video that he had previously directed. On a personal level, the film allowed him to draw from his own experiences of beating the odds when life got tough, and was an experience that brought Allen full circle.

His most recent project, a full-length feature film Life Is Too Short (2015) premiered to another crop of sold out audiences and has been honored with multiple awards and film festivals selections.

Aside from pursuing his creative projects, Allen has devoted a great deal of his time inspiring, mentoring and giving back to his community by helping young entrepreneurs and artists achieve the bigger dreams that they have for themselves. This is a reflection of the extent and impact that one person can have within their surroundings. 

 

CONNECT WITH ANTOINE ALLEN

Antoineallenfilms.com

IMDB

Instagram.com

CONNECT WITH LESTER GREENE

Lestergreene.com

IMDB

Instagram

Twitter

LINKS TO HELP FILMMAKERS GET THEIR SHORT FILMS ON TV OR CABLE

1 – Shorts.tv

2 – Badamitv.com

3 – Hewespictures.com

SUBMIT YOUR FILM TO ANTOINE ALLEN’S FILM FESTIVAL

Validateyourselffilmfestival.com

 

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