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BlackStar's Filmmaker Lab inaugural class, from left to right: Xenia Matthews, Bettina Escauriza, Julian Turner, and Jasmine Lynea. Photo: BlackStar
BlackStar's Filmmaker Lab inaugural class, from left to right: Xenia Matthews, Bettina Escauriza, Julian Turner, and Jasmine Lynea. Photo: BlackStar

The BlackStar Filmmaker Lab is advocating for Black, Brown, and Indigenous voices in film

The Philly arts organization BlackStar continues to move forward in innovation with a new filmmaker lab.

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BlackStar has been making hardly any stops this year to push storytelling from communities of color and the African diaspora, offering the stage for voices from these communities.

From their BlackStar Film Festival to the hiring of six new team members, BlackStar does not show signs of losing steam, announcing a new Filmmaker Lab last month.

The BlackStar Film Festival incorporates a cultural magazine, podcast, and year-round programming. 

BlackStar also offers a yearlong fellowship, supporting and uplighting the work of BIPOC filmmakers, mid-career artists, and Philly-based filmmakers.

New investments from philanthropic entities and partners like Xfinity have been keeping the arts organization moving, allowing its staff and festival to grow.

Artistic director and CEO Maori Karmael Holmes and her team of filmmakers recently asked themselves what they wish they had access to when creating work.

The answer, more or less, was BlackStar’s filmmaker lab:

“It was a question we asked ourselves when we were developing the Lab. What were the skills, resources, but most importantly knowledge, we wish we learned or, in many ways, still learning in making it in the business?” Holmes said.

After partnering with Xfinity — who will offer a majority of the funding — in October 2021, BlackStar announced an inaugural class for their Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab. 

The lab will support emerging and mid-career BIPOC filmmakers and Philly-based filmmakers, providing funding,  access to equipment, and mentorship.

The BlackStar Filmmaker Lab’s 2021 class includes Bettina Escauriza, Jasmine Lynea, Julian Turner, and Xenia Matthews.

The 2021 class may study cinematography, screening, editing, and casting, and will receive feedback on works in progress.

BlackStar’s new programming does not stop here, with a Music in Cinema Fellowship taking also jump starting. The arts organization also announced their inaugural fellow, David ‘lil’ dave’ Adams. 

Adams will compose this year’s projects. The projects Adams completes will be included in the BlackStar Film Festival this August and on the Xfinity Channel’s Black Experience.

BlackStar fellows are paired with producers to create a more substantial curriculum, intended so fellows may focus on projects without fears over funding.

Courses are led by Heidi Saman and Ozzie Jones, two local talents and leaders: just another sign of BlackStar’s commitment and attention to local artists and teachers.

“I want people who live in the Philadelphia area to know that there’s a program that on-ramps local filmmakers… There’s so much rich talent in our backyard, and they deserve to be recognized and supported,” said Holmes.

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