by The People’s Minister of Information JR
To all of the filmmakers in the community, the Oakland International Film Festival is accepting submissions until Jan. 30, so if you have something that you want for them to consider, read this article and get your work in. For all the cinema buffs, this festival is one of the premiere events in the Bay Area for you to get your cinematic fix; movies from all over the world from different genres will be screening April 2-5, 2015, at different theaters around the East Bay.
I sat down with one of the founders and the director of the Oakland International Film Fest, David Roach, to talk about the history and importance of this particular film festival, as well as others.
M.O.I. JR: Please give us the history of the Oakland International Film Fest and where does it see itself in the future?
David Roach: After producing the film, “Sydney Byrd, Private Eye,” with my brothers Dr. Mack Roach and Paul Rigne Roach, we four -walled a few theaters in the Bay Area and Los Angeles and invited whoever we knew to see the film.
“Sydney Bryd, Private Eye,” an original feature film, written, directed and produced by my brother Paul, was also selected to screen in a few film festivals around the country – the Pan African Film Festival, the Night of Black Independents in Atlanta and others. We also visited the Sundance Film Festival, the American Black Film Festival and film distribution events such as the American Film Market in Santa Monica and other film-related events in pursuit of meeting the right person or company to distribute our film.
For those who do not know, “four-walling” a film is when you rent out a theater and try to get people to show up and watch the film. What I realized after producing the film, “Sydney Byrd, Private Eye,” is that “four-walling” can be quite costly.
Renting a theater is just a part of the expense. The time one spends on trying to target the right people, reach these people and actually getting them to show up with all your promotional materials can eat up a budget most filmmakers already do not have.
The realization that what we had experienced first hand as independent filmmakers, i.e. putting everything into making the film and having very little left to get people to see it, somewhat led to the idea of starting the Oakland International Film Festival. As filmmakers, we experienced first hand that the benefits of being selected into film festivals, which meant a free screening along with their free publicity to validate the film, must be good. Wouldn’t it be great to go to something like this in Oakland, I thought.
I co-founded the Oakland Film Society in 1996 with Sharon Norwood and Johnny Drake and started screening other indie films periodically at various venues. A couple of years later, I was approached by The Film Life out of New York to make Oakland a new location in a 12-city monthly screening session called Black Cinema Cafe they wanted to expand from the five cities they had already. After hosting Black Cinema Cafe with Paula Harrell, Wayne Green, Kwame Wade and Johnny Drake for a couple of years, the world trade bombing called 9/11 hit New York and all of our sponsors went with it.
A few years passed and the next step for me was to follow up on the idea of starting The Oakland International Festival and make it happen. The first Oakland International Film Festival was in 2002 at the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland.
The Grand Lake Theater has been our main venue over the years. However, we have hosted screenings at the New Parkway Theater, the Oakland Museum, the Bal Theatre in San Leandro, the Black Repertory Theater, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, East Oakland School of the Arts, McClymonds High School, to name a few.
The Oakland International Film Festival is accepting submissions until Jan. 30.
We have also hosted special events and networking parties at various venues throughout the East Bay – too many to name here. This coming April will mark the 13th Oakland International Film Festival.
M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us a little bit about why filmmakers flock to film festivals? What is their function?
David Roach: Film festivals assist filmmakers with an opportunity to gain publicity for their films and sometimes distribution or business connections to pursuit their dreams of making it in the business of filmmaking. Film festivals basically give a filmmaker a free screening they would normally have to pay for if they were four-walling their film – along with an added validation that since it was selected, it must be good.
M.O.I. JR: When and where are some of the big Black film festivals? When and where are some of the biggest film festivals in general?
David Roach: The Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles and the American Black Film Festival in New York (used to be in Miami and Acapulco) are probably two of the biggest Black film festivals in the nation. But around the nation, the San Francisco Black Film Festival and the Silicon Valley African Film Festival have been good festivals for filmmakers to network.
The 13th Oakland International Film Festival will be held April 2-5 at various venues in Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro.
M.O.I. JR: At this point, can you tell us any of the films that you are considering headlining this year?
David Roach: At this time no. We are currently accepting submissions.
M.O.I. JR: How long are submissions open for the Oakland International Film Fest? How do people apply? What are the steps that the film festival takes to come up with each selection?
David Roach: We are currently accepting submissions until Jan. 30, 2015. Filmmakers can apply at this link: https://filmfreeway.com/festival/OaklandInternationalFilmFestival or, if that’s hard to remember, go to our website, http://oiff.org, and find the link called “Call for films.”
M.O.I. JR: When and where is the Oakland International Film Fest this year?
David Roach: The 13th Oakland International Film Festival will be held April 2-5 at various venues in Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro. Thanks in advance. Hotep!
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.