When I started production on my second feature film Dishonorable Vendetta back in 2009, I was determined to make the most success out of it than I had with my previous work. Film festivals had discouraged me with my first film Priceless because I agonized over spending hundreds of dollars on entry fees only to be turned down constantly with no refund. Though DV had a lot of help along the way to its completion, my producers and I felt we needed to go straight to distribution which turned out to be a mistake.
With nothing to lose once that company fell apart, we decided that festivals were the answer for DV. Only this time, I had enough success with my short films to take a big risk. The first official screening at Anthology Film Archives for NewFilmmakers NY last February was a very good turnout overall. But it would be a shot in the dark to take a chance on the Cinemax-sponsored Urban Action Showcase and Expo. To my delightful surprise, we were accepted!
The UASE event was founded by martial artist and filmmaker/actor Demetrius Angelo and it celebrates achievements in independent films in the action, sci-fi, horror, and fantasy genres. More importantly, this festival promotes minority filmmakers like myself who do action films. This year’s event was set to be jam packed with anniversary screenings of The Last Dragon, Mortal Kombat, and American Ninja as well as big name stars in the martial arts world. Since my short film Tempted had played at Garden State Film Festival, UASE would be the next truly legit festival that I would be attending.
The night before the event, my dad and I attended the VIP event at HBO’s headquarters in Manhattan. We took part in a panel about self-distribution through Vimeo on Demand which I found to be very informative. As some of you know, I already have a Vimeo channel with some of my films on sale now; however, I learned a lot about marketing strategies and new ways to reorganize my videos on the site. With the exception of getting interviewed on the red carpet, I didn’t network as much as I would the next day. But the biggest moment of the night for me personally was seeing the DV trailer play on the TV monitors in the VIP room. The fact that it was happening at HBO was a little dream come true.
The UASE screenings and expo took place the following morning at AMC theaters on 42nd St. My dad and I were surprised by the way in which the 4th floor of the theater was converted into a mini con filled with comic book artists, independent filmmakers, and celebrities. I got to meet Taimak aka Bruce Leroy from The Last Dragon and we chatted for a bit about potential sequels and the work that I’m doing now. No pictures were taken, but it was wasn’t the last time I would run into him that day. I also met Jose Hernandez Jr., was one of the stars of HBO’s Oz and also a mutual friend of Robert Clohessy who was in my first film. He actually mixed up my dad for another famous martial artist who fought Bruce Lee in the 60s!
As for the film screenings, some were really good and some left our heads scratching. Among the ones I liked included Super Debt (a superhero comedy short about a female superhero forced to sell her gear when she’s overdue on rent), a Mortal Kombat fan short with Scorpion against Noob Saibot, a Last Dragon fan made sequel, and a cute webisode pilot for a series called The Invaders which we thought had potential to go on Nickelodeon one day. The best screening of them all was a showing of The Last Dragon. People went nuts in the isles reciting lines, cheering the fights on, and even throwing high kicks out their seats! When it was over, Taimak and screenwriter Louis Venosta did a Q&A where I was able to ask some burning questions about the writing process on the movie.
At night, Dishonorable Vendetta would play at the end of the last film block. There was one problem: The time would overlap with the awards show as this was a one full day event. I figured between limited seating and the small chance of me winning anything that I was better off watching my movie again. My lead actor J.R. Carter and one of my supporting actors Zoiea showed up along with their guests. At first, the turnout was very small. But something interesting happened midway through the movie where more people started to come in. Of course they were waiting for the next movie to play. Either way, I was just happy to see fresh new eyes on the movie and I even thanked them on the way out.
The overall experience at UASE was very positive. I learned a lot about to help me along in my profession and got a lot of inspiration from the people that I met there, especially the founder Demetrius who took the chance to give me this opportunity to show my film. That experience would soon be punctuated by an email sent by Demetrius yesterday when I learned that DV had won an award for Best Firefight! A win like that is a big victory for the film overall.