I Wanted To Start a Festival Where it Doesn’t Matter Who is in Your Film or How Many Followers You Have

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Antoine Allen: How are you doing guys? Today we have very special guest Ms. Emelyn Stuart of Stuart Cinema Cafe and founder of the October Film Festival.  How are you doing today?

Emelyn Stuart: I’m doing wonderful. How are you? Thank you!

Antoine: You are actually our first guest.

Emelyn: What?

Antoine: Yes. We’ve got this amazing platform on Film Courage.

Emelyn: Wonderful. Shout out to Film Courage.

Antoine: And we decided to have you as the first.

Emelyn: I feel so honored.

Antoine: Yes, because the title of this series is Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is.

Emelyn: Whew! All my money! All the kids money, all the college fund, I put everything, I went all in.

Lester Greene: She went all in.

Antoine: And this is an important series because I believe that people want people to invest in them. And they have to realize you have to invest in yourself.

Emelyn: Yes!

Antoine: So tell me your journey. What made you get into this crazy world of entertainment?

Emelyn: Wow! That’s a loaded question? Yeah, right! So I have a real estate background. I’m really a business person who happens to be in the arts. Somebody gave me a script, I read it. I thought “Oohh, I want to help this guy tell his story.” I called him up and said “What do you need?” He said “Everything.” I had no idea what everything was. Everything was a lot of money. And then I produced it and it won some awards and I thought “Wow? If I can figure out how to monetize this, I could do this for a lot of people.”

Antoine: So you had the passion of giving early on.

Emelyn: Yes, I couldn’t have said that better myself.

Antoine: So you started with a filmmaker that needed help, it won awards because of you. Do you still keep in contact?

Emelyn: Yes.

Antoine:  So I want to know now is you did that, what made you want to start a festival (the October Film Festival)?

Emelyn: Yes, so I went to a lot of film festivals as you guys have and there was just stuff that was missing. I felt like a lot of festivals (no offense to anyone out there. I love all you guys). But some of the festivals were very political and I felt like I wanted to start a festival that was clean. And by that I mean where it doesn’t matter who is in your film. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have. It’s strictly based on you being a filmmaker who can tell a compelling story.

And so I said You know what? I’m going to start my own film festival where we could do that. Where we could just give a platform and celebrate filmmakers for being filmmakers.

Antoine: Yes, that’s great because a lot of filmmakers out there (if you don’t know this), a lot of those turn into a business. They are showing three hundred films, taking submission fees and half the time they barely see you. So one thing I like about the October Film Festival is it’s very intimate and very engaging.

Emelyn: We’re a teaching festival.

Antoine: …A teaching festival. When you started the festival did you even realize how many lives you had touched?

Emelyn: I had no idea. I still can’t really wrap my head around all of the people that I see on television now, the awards…I mean even you guys. Just to see all the stuff that you’ve done and that I know you. Sometimes I see you and I’m like “Ahh! Look at them. How wonderful.”

Antoine: And to my viewers, that’s how we met. I was a regular filmmaker, I submitted my short film LIFE IS TOO SHORT

Emelyn: Actually somebody told me about you.

Antoine: Yes somebody told you…and this is all about putting your money where your mouth is.

So a little background story is Emelyn’s festival was at this poet day in Harlem. I actually rented it out a few months before and I sold it out (packed the house).

Check out Lester’s book on Amazon here

Emelyn: Multiple times.

Antoine: Multiple times and my name started buzzing and she started hearing my name and I got to the festival and it felt like home. And at the big festivals you can get lost because if you don’t have a big name for your festival or a big publicist you literally get lost, you never know about networking and contacting people.

Since then we’ve been doing business and in partnerships.

Emelyn: And that also speaks to you never know who is watching. Because then I looked you up and I was just kind of following and watching before I said not only do I want your film in the festival, but I also want you to come and speak to filmmakers about how you did this thing. How did you sell out a theater multiple times and then I’m thinking because I had never heard of you…so how did he do that?

So I thought if he could do it, other people can do it, we just don’t know how. And that’s why we’re a teaching festival. And I said “You know, we need to come and have him talk to filmmakers about how he did this thing.”

Antoine: That’s a lesson for filmmakers out there, put your best foot forward all the time because you never know who is watching.

So now you’re this business woman, you have this festival, you help filmmakers, now you decided…start your own theater. Now what’s going on in that head? Why you want to do this now?

Emelyn: I think that a lot of what I do, it’s an answer to my own problem. So I was renting space every year for the festival and I felt like the venues were treating us badly, considering we were spending $12,000 to $14,000 for four days to rent a space, I felt like the venues did not understand filmmakers and the importance of the Q&As (some of them were rushed) and there was a year when they turned the lights off on us during our red carpet.

Antoine: I was there for that year.

Emelyn: Yes, he was there for that. And it was just devastating. Or when a movie doesn’t play and they’re like “We’ve got to keep moving to too bad.” And I thought this can’t continue to happen. I want to be able to control when we have the festival, when the filmmakers have events, they should be treated better and I think what better way to do that than to start my own theater where I can give distribution in terms of theater runs, where I can help filmmakers make money and monetize their talent, grow their audience and then at the same time not have to deal with venues who don’t understand what we do.

When you go into a place where there is a four wall you don’t necessarily understand all of the issues that filmmakers have when they are trying to show their film.

Lester: We are here at Stuart Cinema Cafe.

Antoine: So we’re here at this famous movie theater that you started from the ground up, tell us what are the services? What do you provide?

Emelyn: You know it’s interesting you called it a famous theater. And I heard someone earlier this week refer to it in the same way. And I said “Why do you call it famous?” And she said “Because you are the first Black Latina to own a movie theater. And have a motion picture license and all the stuff that comes with that.” And I thought “Wow? Some people think this is a historical first…”

Lester: A movement.

Emelyn: Yes…a movement.

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Antoine: And that is one of the main reasons is we have so many theaters out there and you don’t know what the owners look like. This is a strong connection because there is nothing like seeing your own self, your own people and think “Wow! I could do that.”

And I want to segue to my next question…there are young females out there that want to direct, that want to produce. How do you balance being a woman in this man-dominated industry?

Emelyn: Ah…yes.  I will say I had major challenges building this place. All the contractors and business people that I was dealing with, they really had a hard time listening to what I was saying.

I’m a producer so I’m always looking for money and there is this idea that we women do not know how to manage money, that we’re not a good investment.

Antoine: In 2018.

Emelyn: And it’s changing, right? It’s changing. But that was also one of the struggles I had when I was doing this because people thought that I didn’t know what I was talking about. So I think part of it is, you’ve got to have a lot of your own skin in the game especially as a women, right? Because if you are going to wait for somebody to write you a check based on your talents and your visions, that may not happen. So you’ve got to figure out how to make it happen for yourself. I don’t need a man to validate me. And I feel like we all have our different strengths and weaknesses but I know what I bring to the table. I think that’s critical, you have to know what you bring to the table.

If you’re coming in with your two arms swinging, you can’t eat at that table. So if you know what you bring to the table, you have a much better chance of making it.

Antoine: And to the filmmakers out there, you have to bring value. Your talent is just not enough. If you have talent, that’s like a bonus. So if there is a table, you better bring the knife, you better bring the meat, you better bring the milk because we are in an industry now that it just doesn’t matter how talented you are.

Emelyn: I almost think it’s not about talent, as much. I mean it matters but if you take two actors who are equally good, it’s the one with the hustle that gets the audition. It’s the one that is sending out the headshots, that’s walking around the streets looking for work. That’s the person getting the job. And it doesn’t mean that they are more talented, it means they’ve got that drive.

Antoine: And that’s why this series is called Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is because the hustle is sold separate. I’m a filmmaker, Lester is an actor, we’ve both won multiple awards. There are people out there that are better than us, but what happens is we are out-hustling everybody.

Lester: I don’t know about that. There is no one better than me. But I work harder than them.

Antoine: So you work harder and that’s what you’ve got to do now. You go into meetings and they ask you how many Instagram followers you have. You’re like what? It becomes a numbers game.

Also being a founder/owner, how does it feel having kids? What’s that balance like?

Emelyn: Wow, that’s tough. I have also said the hardest part of being in the business is how many times I have to say goodbye to my children. Just in the morning, and I travel a lot and I’m gone a lot and it’s hard. But I’ll say this, I live in every moment that I’m in separately. So tonight I’m here with you, I’m in this moment. I’m celebrating what’s happening here. When I go home I’m in that moment with my children. I am the mommy, I am the homework, I am doing all that stuff.

Lester: Oh…so you don’t take your work home?

Emelyn: It’s one moment at a time. When I’m with my mom and we’re having coffee, I’m a daughter and at that moment, that’s what I do.

Antoine: And that’s the beautiful thing, you have to learn to be different people. If you’re married, you’ve got to be a husband or wife that night. If you own a company, you have to be a CEO that night. So you have to wear multiple hats and sometimes it confusing. But what do you do to detox? Having all this with the detox moments?

Emelyn: I read a lot and believe it or not, I love reading about the industry. So a lot of times you see me posting stuff that I learned. I am hungry for knowledge. And the more that I learn, the more happier and fulfilled I feel because I think that there are just some rooms that we’re not going to get invited to.

Lester: But I love that you share that knowledge.

Emelyn: Absolutely.

Lester: Some people are like I’m going to hold onto it and I don’t want anybody else to get ahead. You can’t get ahead that way.

Emelyn: You can’t.

Antoine: And Lester, you’re an actor. You’re in the business. What do you do to detox?

Lester: [Laughs] Well, usually what I like to do is just stay home, hang out with my partner, hang out with my dog. Sometimes you have to actually get away from what you do in order to actually enjoy it.

Antoine: Disconnect.

Lester: It’s almost like you shut down and then you reboot.

Emelyn: That’s true.

Lester: And then you go back into that world. You have to do that because you’ll drive yourself crazy.

Antoine: Yes, I think everybody needs that. I travel and get away from everything and then I come back refreshed…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

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. 

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SUBMIT YOUR FILM TO EMEYLN STUART’S FILM FESTIVAL
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LINKS TO HELP FILMMAKERS GET THEIR SHORT FILMS ON TV OR CABLE

1 – Shorts.tv

2 – Badamitv.com

3 – Hewespictures.com

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Watch it on Amazon here!

If you’re not quite ready to let go of the Halloween spirit, new indie feature film Mandao of the Dead is now available on Amazon VOD.

Mandao (Man-Day-Oh) of the Dead is about Jay Mandao and his nephew-in-law Jackson who use astral projection to reverse a ghost’s death on Halloween.

This astral comedy is the second feature film Written and Directed by Scott Dunn and produced by Gina Gomez Dunn. It was filmed in 10 days with a production budget of just $13k. The duo’s first feature film, Schlep won Best Comedy/Dramedy at the Hollywood Boulevard Festival and was nominated in 5 different categories at the FirstGlance Film Festival. Schlep is also available on AmazonMandao of the Dead will be released on iTunes and DVD/Blu-ray in January 2019.