Dreams Turned Into Reality

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By Armiel Chandler | September 7th

I gravitated towards film because it gave me an opportunity to use my voice as a platform. Growing up, I was often bullied about my sexuality and weight. I used filmmaking as a mechanism to cope. Filmmaking allowed me to voice my opinion without fear of being judged. Filmmaking not only was my savior, it slowly became my passion, something I could not live without.

I began developing my skills as a filmmaker at DCTV. When I first started, I was lost and often searching for a place to be accepted. DCTV taught me the value of being yourself and showed me techniques that I will continue to use in my career. I created films that I felt share the essence of African American culture and described me as a filmmaker. I wanted my work to be seen by a larger audience and over time I started promoting and applying to film festivals.

Submitting to a film festival is nerve racking because you worry that your story will be misunderstood, but I was motivated to keep trying. I came across BlackStar Film Festival this year through Johnny Ramos, the Director of DCTV’s PRO-TV. Johnny Ramos encouraged me to connect with BlackStar because it showcases films that capture the black experience and the visual and storytelling traditions of African Americans. It seemed like a safe space for people of color, created by people of color. With fear and excitement, I decided to submit my three best works that display my artistry and growth as a filmmaker. Are You An Oreo, Je Suis Noir (I Am Black) and Dyssemia all address what I overcame growing up, dealing with self identity, depression and stereotypes. Little did I know that all three films were selected and nominated for Best Youth Film. My bags were packed for a day trip to Philadelphia.

At BlackStar, I connected with independent filmmakers and creatives in the industry. I received an all-access pass and I had to opportunity to meet Marie Alarcon, a multimedia artist based in Philadelphia. We have similar interests in sharing stories from our past to educate and inspire others. Behind the Camera & Beyond the Reel was a panel discussion with independent filmmakers, including Marie Alarcon, Michael Premo and Heidi Saman. I felt inspired to keep creating original content. Marie told me to trust my creativity. I felt motivated to not give up and keep creating. One day, someone else will be inspired by my work. At the Q&A portion of my screening, I had the chance to connect with the audience and explain the creative process and inspiration behind these films. BlackStar made me feel like part of a family.

Currently I'm working on a 3-part series called Être Noir (Being Black),which discusses aggressions African Americans experience on a daily basis. Black is beautiful and needs to be highlighted in our society and my goal and ambition is to be one of those voices for the African American community. Being accepted and acknowledged at various film festivals like BlackStar, Tribeca, BRIC’s Youth Media Festival, and Maysles Documentary Center showed me that my voice can be the start of a conversation towards change.