Since 2021 I have been working with Las Vegas based Film & Music Producer Ericka Nicole Malone on her short film ‘DREAMS FROM THE EDGE’ which had a successful film festival run. Towards the end of 2021 she had written and exec produced a feature film that she wanted to aim high with called ‘REMEMBER ME – THE MAHALIA JACKSON STORY’ directed by rising black female artist Denise Dowse.
This biopic focuses upon the iconic Gospel Music Icon Mahalia Jackson. The film explores her rise to fame, her unique friendship and devotion to Martin Luther King Jr. and her unsung contribution to the Civil Rights Movement. The film stars 2021 Grammy award winner Ledisi who is also a thirteen-time Grammy nominated powerhouse vocalist with a career spanning almost two decades. Ledisi has garnered three Soul Train Music awards, an NAACP Theater Award and nine NAACP Image Award nominations. https://www.ledisi.com/ The film also features other well-known black actors including Vanessa Williams (CANDYMAN), Keith D. Robinson (DREAMGIRLS), Columbus Short (SCANDAL, E.R.), Keith David (THE PRINCESS & THE FROG) & Janet Hubert (THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR).
Despite this film being very well made, acted, directed and produced, it was not what the big top 5 festivals were looking for, however, I knew exactly what types of festivals the film would be suitable for and would really love this film.
What we needed to do was home in on the film’s niches (including a Black Director, a US Black Gospel music icon, a Black Female Writer, a Black Female Director, a Black Female Producer and a Black Female lead Actress, a Biopic) and submit to all of the higher end Oscar Qualifying and reputable Black and African American film festivals. I foresaw that it would have more luck in the USA since this is where Jackson is very well known but also festivals of this nature outside of the USA.
As soon as there was a trailer available for the film, we reached out to one of the worlds largest African American Oscar Qualifying festivals – the Pan African Film Festival. We introduced the film to them and they were immediately interested as the festival’s programming team were huge fans of Jackson. We kept the film on their radars until it finished post-production and the film was invited to screen as their opening night extravaganza. Legendary actor Danny Glover introduced the film and it secured 2 sold out screenings during the festival. The film also won the Pan African Film Festival’s Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature Film.
So far, the film has won 24 awards. It opened all of the world’s longest running black film festivals, including a centerpiece screening at the Oscar Qualifying Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival in August 2022. It also had 2 sold out screenings at the Oscar Qualifying Heartland International Film Festival and a standing ovation at the Oscar Qualifying St. Louis International Film Festival. It is coming towards the end of its festival run at will screen at the BAFTA qualifying British Urban Film Festival in London, United Kingdom and the Canadian Screen Qualifying Toronto Black Film Festival.
This case study proves how essential and indispensable a film festival strategist’s knowledge, expertise, experience and key contacts are to a film production.