really have to put through a process in terms of whether you want to accept it or not. And sometimes being too sympathetic or being too generous, you tend to accept things because you are really trying to make people happy or trying to inspire people to continue their journey. Sometimes that’s for the best and sometimes, it is not necessarily for the best. So we may pare things down a little more next year. It is not as easy as one might think.
EBONY: What are the criteria that you set for the films?
FR: Well, the criteria varies. I think we wouldn’t be telling the exact truth if we say we don’t say 'this filmmaker was here last year' or 'we kind of know this person...'I mean, that kind of works in your favor without a doubt. Typically, you can tell which filmmakers are die hard or very passionate about their craft and their art and what they are doing. Your sole intention is to spur them on and give them feedback and the encouragement that they need to perform at the next level. It means a lot to them to be accepted to a festival even on the lowest of levels. It means a lot to be rejected from a festival as well. No one likes rejection.
Although, sometimes by making the criteria more stringent, it creates more of a standard but you have to be careful with that as well.
Typically the criteria is 360 degrees in terms of visual competency, storytelling ability, editing, cinematography, directing ability and your overall presentation. Essentially, the whole package. We want to know how passionate you are about your film. We can separate the novice from the experienced veterans based on what they submit. I mean essentially it is their calling card. Some people’s calling cards are a little better than others. It is a good pay off to see someone grow and mature with their work and their craft. You pretty much know the sky is the limit for that person. Some folks are learning how to swim and other folks are in the Olympics already going back and forth.
EBONY: Do you guys think the film festival challenges any of the stereotypes that the media plays on in regards to the Black community?
STR: Oh, most definitely. The films that we get are so amazing. We showed one called Wolf and it was about molestation and it was done in a way where the molestee fell in love with his molester...It was crazy. We show really amazing films and really great documentaries. And I don’t want to say that I am amazed that we are so talented, because I have always known that African Americans are a creative bunch, but I just feel like the quality of work and the fact that they want to submit to our festival is an honor. When we get the films, it’s like 'wow I can’t believe they want to be here.' It’s been like ten years and we are still always honored. We keep it real humble!
The thing about our film festival is that Floyd and I are totally visible. We aren’t up island with our sponsors hanging out. We are here and you can talk to us. If a filmmaker wants to say something or if the DVD skips we’re there. Floyd and I are always hands on with people who register. We want people to know that we are not just taking their money and then we are gone. I’m here and anyone can ask me questions.
The ego thing, I’m not about that. It’s not necessary to do that stuff. Maybe in my twenties I did that. I’ll say I did since I was in the music industry and I thought I was fabulous, but you know it takes so much energy to be a diva. Let’s just chill and have a good time!
EBONY: Where do you see the festival ten years from now?
STR: I’d love to stay here. The thing I like about the Vineyard is the thing I don’t like about the Vineyard. It can only get but so big here, but I am happy about that because there is a certain clientele that comes. It is a really gret clientele: nice African Americans and there are no problems. People just come and there is no fighting or any of that. People come here and have a good time.
Eric Holder was here last year and this year and he’s like in a t-shirt and shorts and you want to be like 'can you call Barack so we can say hi?' It’s a real cool laid-back clientele.
Ten years from now? I would like to keep it here and we are going to do another one in 2013. It’s going to be