Miami creating urban film institute
By Catherine Lackner
Hoping to capitalize on Miami's burgeoning film industry and bring new jobs to the area, Miami's Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency plans to create a film institute.
"The film life institute is the culmination of a lot of efforts," said Clarence Woods, the agency's executive director. "We've been working with the American Black Film Festival and its founder, Jeff Friday, for three to four years to put this together."
In addition to training young people to work behind or in front of the cameras, the institute will lobby to bring more productions into the area, Mr. Woods said.
"This has been one of my major pushes," said Michelle Spence-Jones, a Miami commissioner and redevelopment agency director, "to train young people in hospitality, culinary arts, business and entrepreneurship. We want our young people put on the right career paths."
The institute's inaugural effort will be on a new feature film, "Playin' for Love," by actor and producer Robert Townsend, which will shoot in Overtown.
"We're collaborating with him," said Ed Talavera, assistant professor and chair of the University of Miami's Cinema and Interactive Media Department. "He'll be using real talent from the Overtown community to act and help crew, and he's going to do some seminars here." Some university students will be involved in the movie, as well.
Pre-production begins in October, with auditions Oct. 20 and 27, and shooting will span about 20 days in November, Mr. Talavera said. "Our students will be coming out mostly on the weekends, and we'll probably do a documentary to follow the process."
Mr. Talavera has agreed to act as a consultant to the film institute, though he said it's too early to talk about curriculum and other details that will be ironed out later.
"I like the idea of helping out in the Overtown area, but we have not decided yet on the next part. We're really focusing on this project. This is going to be pretty complicated, pulling together all the schedules. It's a great collaboration."
Once formed, the institute would be open to persons ages 15 to 24, Ms. Spence-Jones said. "These are young people who may have dropped out, may have made some mistakes. What are kids interested in? Music and film."
"This is empowering the community and giving skills that the film industry needs," said Francis Suarez, a Miami commissioner and redevelopment agency director. "We have creative, intelligent people here. What are we doing as leaders to develop them?"
"All this training we're doing is important," said Wifredo "Willy" Gort, a Miami commissioner and redevelopment agency director. "The jobs are in health care, they're in the film industry. We've got to train and retrain, because things keep changing."
The redevelopment agency meets again Monday, when directors probably will discuss the film institute in more detail.
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