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16th Urban Mediamakers Film Festival — Winners 2017 | Filmmakers & Writers

Congratulations to the UMFF 2017 winning filmmakers and writers. We look forward to working with you in the future as you continue to tell great stories.

UMFF 2017 Audience Award
IF I SHOULD DIE BEFORE I WAKE Feature Film directed by Eric Ayala

UMFF 2017 Founder’s Choice – Activism through Music
directed by G-Dinero – USA

Best AfroFuturism (Black Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror) Trailer
GODDESS directed by Tiara Luten – USA

Best AfroFuturism (Black Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror) Short Film
ORI INU: IN SEARCH OF SELF directed by Chelsea Odufu – USA

Best AfroFuturism (Black Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror) Web Series
MESSIAH WARS directed by The Isabelle Brothers – USA

Best Animation
HEROES OF COLOR directed by David Heredia – USA

Best International Animation
REVELATION – THE CITY OF HAZE directed by Mao Qichao – China

Best Comedy Animation
CHRISTMAS BREAK directed by Ifeelms – Spain

Best Trailer
TRACES OF INDIGNITY directed by Renee Williams – USA

Best Commercial/PSA
CHASE YOUR DREAM directed by Jared Leon – USA

Best Feature Film
LOVE BY CHANCE directed by Samad Davis – USA

Best International Feature Film
AUTUMN’S KISS directed by Minsk Belarus – Russia

Best Feature Documentary Film
directed by Joanne Burke – USA

Best Short Documentary Film
LEGACIES directed by Dominique Fitzgerald – USA

Best International Short Documentary Film
THE FOURTH KINGDOM directed by Adan Aliaga – Spain

Best College Student Short Film
ON TIME directed by Xavier L. Neal-Burgin – USA

Best Music Video
ISONADE directed by Christopher Richardson – USA

Best Creative Music Video
THEIR NAMES – BURNING STAR directed by Romain Laurent – USA

Best Shorty Short Film
ROW directed by Courtney Glaude – USA

Best Short Film
NEW NEIGHBORS directed by E.G. Bailey – USA

Best Socially-Conscious Short Film
PERCEPTION OF VIOLENCE directed by David Joseph – USA

Best Musical Short Film
REPAIRATIONS! THE MUSICAL directed by Courtney Miller – USA

Best International Short Film
30 MINUTES WITH LAURA directed by Juanjo Haro – Spain

Best Web Series
BLUE COLLAR HUSTLE directed by Geoffrey Henderson – USA

Best International Web Series
COURTSIDE directed by Adrian Wallace and Omran Omaid – Canada

Top 10 UMFF 2017 Scripts
2-12-DELTA | David Brichetto , Writer | Feature
BROKEN JUSTICE | Jocelyn Jones, Writer | Feature
I LOVE YOU TO PIECES | LaKesa Cox, Writer | Feature
LETTERS TO MY FATHER | Mike Ray, Writer | Feature
MISSING UNICORN | Jocelyn Jones, Writer | Feature
PINBAL2 | Janyce Lapore, Writer | Feature
THE EXPERIMENT | Lynda Lemberg & Jeffrey Allen Russel, Writers | Feature
DATING ON THE EDGE OF 50 | Wanda Kight, Writer | Short
ATLANTA DOPE | Harry Holland, Writer | Spec/TV/Pilot
WAIT A MINUTE MR. POSTMAN | LaKesa Cox, Writer | Spec/TV

Best Feature Script
LETTERS TO MY FATHER written by Mike Ray – USA

Best Short Script
DATING ON THE EDGE OF 50 written by Wanda Kight – USA

Best Spec/TV Script
WAIT A MINUTE MR. POSTMAN written by LaKesa Cox – USA

Cinematographer AVA BERKOFSKY Masters Properly Lighting Black Faces on HBO’s INSECURE

The actors on HBO’s Insecure are hotter than you. They’re hotter than your friends, they’re hotter than me and they’re even hotter than the ex the show won’t let you forget about. Co-created by writer and star Issa Rae (along with Larry Wilmore), the series gives viewers a window into black life as a late 20-/early 30-something in Los Angeles — the hookups and personal hang-ups, the office politics and friendship dynamics. But whether you’re #TeamIssa or #TeamLawrence, you have to admit the people who portray the show’s female and male leads — Rae and actor Jay Ellis — pop on screen, as do everyone else. This isn’t an accident.

Any brown person who’s taken a selfie in the club can tell you cameras aren’t made for us. Yet in Insecure’s club scenes, dark-skinned protagonists like Yvonne Orji’s Molly continue to impress. You can thank Ava Berkofsky, the show’s director of photography, for that. Berkofsky was brought on for the show’s second season (currently airing on HBO) to give the show a more movie-like look, which includes making black faces not only legible, but striking.

Molly (Yvonne Orji) and Issa in a dim club

Source: HBO/Medium

“When I was in film school, no one ever talked about lighting nonwhite people,” Berkofsky said in a phone interview with Mic. “There are all these general rules about lighting people of color, like throw green light or amber light at them. It’s weird.” These rules are a start, but they’re far from a complete picture.

“The conventional way of doing things was that if you put the skin tones around 70 IRE, it’s going to look right,” Berkofsky said. IRE, a unit used in the measurement of composite video signals (named for the initials of the Institute of Radio Engineers), ranges from 0 to 100. “If you’ve got black skin, [dialing it] up to 50 or 70 is just going to make the rest of the image look weird.” The resulting image looks very bright, Berkofsky noted, similar to what you’d see in traditional sitcoms like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The Cosby Show.

Bar scenes, night and day, are well-lit in ‘Insecure.’

Source: HBO/Medium

Lighting people on camera goes back further than old sitcoms, though. The earliest depiction of black faces on film consisted, unfortunately, of white actors in blackface. When actual people of color were seen on screen in black-and-white films, like Dooley Wilson in 1942’s Casablanca and Sidney Poitier in 1963’s Lilies of the Field, they were lit sufficiently but not in any way that could be considered spectacular.

The pre-digital, 1986 film showed how black people could be properly lit

Source: ‘She’s Gotta Have It’/Youtube

When it comes to calibrating film cameras to properly light a subject, we attribute much of what we know to Kodak’s work with “Shirley cards” from the 1940s through 1990s. Color film was adjusted against the cards, named after model and Kodak employee Shirley Page who appeared on the initial set. As Richard Photo Lab worker Jersson Garcia told NPR in 2014, “If Shirley looked good, everything else was OK. If Shirley didn’t look so hot that day, we had to tweak something — something was wrong.”

Despite their worldwide use, for decades the cards featured only white women. According to Vox, things shifted when companies complained to Kodak that they couldn’t tell different-colored wood products apart. But when did this change happen for brown people as opposed to just brown objects? “I’d say it turned around in 2010,” Berkofsky said. “When the

 Arri Alexa came out, it really changed how people were shooting digital and what kind of results we could get.”

“When I was in film school, no one ever talked about lighting nonwhite people.” — Ava Berkofsky

Berkofsky said the secret to making television resemble film is providing different levels of light to the scene. “[In sitcoms], everything is the same level of brightness. That’s what I’m trying to avoid,” she said. “The trick is keeping [light] off the walls. If you keep it off the walls, you can expose for the faces and it still has a cinematic look.” When working on Insecure, the cinematographer wants every scene to look like a painting.

Ava DuVernay’s ‘Selma’ influenced the look of ‘Insecure.’

Source: Atsushi Nishijima/IMDb

So how do you make a show look like a piece of art while also doing justice to black faces? The answer is a special whiteboard and a light dab of shiny makeup.

Berkofsky said all of Insecure’s actors take light differently, but rather than putting light directly on them, she uses reflection instead. Similar to Dickerson’s use of moisturizer on the She’s Gotta Have It cast, this adds a bit of shine. “Rather than pound someone’s face with light, [I] have the light reflect off them,” she said. “I always use a white or [canvas-like] muslin, so instead of adding more light, the skin can reflect it.”

Instead of a simple whiteboard, the Insecure crew makes use of whiteboards with little LED lights inside, called S2 LiteMat 4s. In the very first image up top, a 1-foot-by-3-foot LiteMat at low intensity was put near Rae’s face. According to the cinematographer, “it’s reflecting on her skin rather than ‘lighting’ it.”

Berkofsky, in an email to Mic, also discussed the value of a filter called a polarizer: “People use them when shooting glass, or cars, or any surface that intensely reflects light. The filter affects how much reflection a window, or any surface has. The same principal works with skin, and this can be a highly effective way to shape the reflected light on an actors face.”

Cinematographer Patrick Cady’s work on the episode ‘Hella LA’ helps showcase how the show lights dark skin even in club scenes

Source: Patrick Cady/HBO

Berkofsky and her crew combined these lighting tricks with a few new stylistic choices. In her job interview with HBO, she pointed out scenes from the show’s first season, where faces were right next to the edge of the picture but with ample headroom. “I think we can make this into a language that’s cohesive and more cinematic,” she remembered saying in the interview. She also mentioned the surplus of B-roll she and executive producer Melina Matsoukas sought to make Los Angeles feel like its own character: “I always advocate for bigger, wider shots when we’re outside.”

The tech Berkofsky uses for these wide shots and proper lighting is expensive, but she has a tip dark-skinned folks can use to improve their club selfies using just their phones. “Stand close to a soft light source and turn three quarters to the light, so that it’s not filling in everything the same way. Kind of like a Rembrandt painting.” That’ll show your ex once and for all.


Reprint of article published by 

16th Urban Mediamakers Film Festival Official Selections Announced

UMFF 2017 LogoThe 16th Urban Mediamakers Film Festival (UMFF) is honored to announce the 2017 official selections. This year, UMFF will showcase international films from Spain, China, Russia, Canada, New Zealand, India, Chile, Romania, France, and throughout the United States including Alabama, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusets, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Virginia.

Congratulations to an exceptional group of content creators representing official selections of UMFF 2017! We invite you to join us October 5-10, 2017 in Atlanta, Duluth, and Lawrenceville, Georgia! See you soon.


  • Christmas Break directed by Ifeelms | Spain
  • Glorious Victory directed by Will Kim | Alabama USA
  • Heroes of Color directed by David Heredia | California USA
  • Revelation – the City of Haze directed by Mao Qichao | China


  • Chase Your Dream directed by Jared Leon | USA
  • Marydean Martin Library directed by Jo Meuris | Nevada USA
  • One Step Forward directed by Jennifer Maxwell | Massachusetts USA
  • The Alphabet of Ben Sirach Lilith directed by Jana Nedzvetkaya
  • Why Use Animation? directed by Jo Meuris | Nevada USA


  • Butch Coyolxauhqui directed by Karleen . Jiménez | Ontario Canada
  • I Promise To Remember directed by Jimmy Castor, Jr. | California USA
  • Ka-dy Comes Home directed by Peter Johnston | Michigan USA
  • Parivara directed by Alex Kruz | Spain
  • Pushing Myanmar directed by James Holman | Otago New Zealand
  • Legacies directed by Dominique Fitzgerald | Virginia USA
  • The Fourth Kingdom directed by Adan Aliaga | Spain
  • Upcycle directed by Sara Linarea | Brampton Canada
  • Where’s the Help? directed by Jeffrey Teitler | Connecticut USA


  • Paris Noir: African-Americans in the City of Lights directed by Joanne Burke | New York USA
  • The Saints of Sin directed by Aniruddha (Oni) Sen| India and USA


  • Autumn’s Kiss directed by Andrey Golubev | Minsk Belarus
  • Boston2Philly directed by Ralph A. Celestin | USA
  • Brown Girl Begins directed by Sharon Lewis | Ontario Canada
  • Call Center directed by Anton Deshawn | Illinois USA
  • Save Me From Love directed by J. Swain | USA
  • The Cardinal Rule directed by chaun pinkston | Georgia USA



  • Hurt directed by Moema Umann | Alaska USA
  • iReal directed by Florent Sabatier | Paris France


  • Ghar Jaana Hai : The Stories Untold directed by Snehasis Das | California USA
  • Isonade directed by Christopher Richardson | Georgia USA
  • Love Takes Time directed by Todd Lien | California USA
  • No Turning Back directed by Brian Green | California USA
  • Plastic Fowers directed by Claudia Ilea | Bucharest Romania
  • The Dance of Those Left Behind directed by Javiera Eyzaguirre | Chile
  • The Moment directed by Jefferson Cardenas, Alain Maiki | Florida USA
  • Their Names – Burning Star directed by Romain Laurent | USA
  • Turn Off the Lights directed by Javiera Eyzaguirre | Chile
  • White Votes Matter directed by Michael Prieto | California USA


  • 2-12-Delta written by David Brichetto | Feature
  • Atlanta Dope – Pilot written by Harry Holland | Georgia USA
  • Broken Justice written by Jocelyn Jones | California USA
  • Bullied written by Shaan Memon | Short | California USA
  • Dating On the Edge of 50 written by Wanda Kight | California USA
  • GCC Strong written by Keegan Moore |Texas USA
  • I Love You to Pieces written by LaKesa Cox | Feature | Virginia USA
  • Kenwood written by Marissa Lee | California USA
  • Letters To My Father written by Mike Ray | Feature | Georgia USA
  • Missing Unicorn written by Jocelyn Jones | California USA
  • Pinball2 written by Janyce Lapore | New Jersey USA
  • School Daze written by Chris Dixson | Short
  • The Experiment written by Lynda Lemberg | Feature | Ontario Canada
  • Wait a Minute Mr. Postman written by LaKesa Cox | Spec/TV | Virginia USA


  • 30 Minutes with Laura directed by Juanjo Haro | Bilbao Spain
  • Adagio directed by Adrian Ramos | Bilbao Spain
  • A Long Way Home directed by Iben Deari | Bilbao Spain
  • BILL 2/29 directed by Maurice Simmons | USA
  • Cowboy and Indian directed by Sujata Day | California USA
  • Cut My Hair Barber directed by Patrick James Thomas | Georgia USA
  • Dignity directed by Orlando Pinder | Maryland USA
  • Dana’s Story directed by Huey Rawls | Texas USA
  • Edge of the Pier directed by Teo Melchishua Williams | Maryland USA
  • EXODUS 20 directed by Jana Nedzvetkaya | Russia
  • Five by Five directed by Kate Herron | Hertfords UK
  • Forgotten Sunset directed by Alex Costello | California USA
  • Frank Embree directed by Skinner Myers | California USA
  • Free Weekend directed by Victor Jones | Georgia USA
  • Gloria directed by Edward Hicks | USA
  • IN2ITION directed by Patrick A. Albright | Georgia USA
  • In The Spotlight directed by Will Robbins | Tennessee USA
  • I Will Wait for You directed by David Wendell Boykins
  • Last Stop directed by Prentice Dupins, Arkansas USA
  • New Neighbors directed by E.G. Bailey | Minnesota USA
  • Ori Inu: In Search of Self directed by Chelsea Odufu | USA
  • Orizaba’s Peak directed by Jaime Fidalgo | Bilbao Spain
  • Perception Of Violence directed by David Joseph | New Jersey USA
  • Postcards directed by Ines Pintor Sierra | Bilbao Spain
  • Reverse : A Poetic Thriller directed by Johnny Dutch | USA
  • Rolling In The Deep directed by Marcellus Cox | California USA
  • Row directed by Courtney Glaude | Texas USA
  • Sanctuary directed by Carl M. Zumatto | New York USA
  • The Boots directed by Leah Cohen-Mays |California USA
  • The Proposal directed Art Jones | USA
  • Tales from Shaolin: Pt One Shakey Dog directed by Louis A. Moore | New York USA
  • Traverse Tides directed by Junior Esu | Georgia USA
  • Undisturbed directed by Farris Williams | Georgia USA
  • Vida Muertos directed by Thomas Javier Castillo
  • White Guilt directed by Ben Edmunds | London UK


  • After Life directed by Sebastian Kleppe | California USA
  • Olde E directed by Xavier L. Neal-Burgin | California USA
  • On Time directed by Xavier L. Neal-Burgin | California USA
  • Same Fruit, Different Tree directed by Mansur K. Rashid | Washington, DC USA
  • Switch directed by Robin Wang | Shaanxi China
  • The Fix directed by Michael E. Melvin | Maryland USA
  • The Foundation -The Dreamer directed by Michael E. Melvin | Texas, USA


  • 1275 Clayton directed by Michael Alexis Palmer | TV | New York USA
  • Blue Collar Hustle directed by Geoffrey Henderson | Web
  • Courtside directed by Adrian Wallace, Omran Omaid | Ontario Canada | Web
  • Don’t Judge Me directed by Melissa Blue | California USA | Web
  • Downtown Browns directed by Tonia Beglari, Jazmin García and Allison Comrie | California USA | Web
  • Padlock Men directed by Lewis T. Powell | TV | California USA
  • The Midlife directed by Kayla Sutton | Georgia USA | Web


  • 420 directed by Colleen McCreanor | Georgia USA
  • Birds directed by Maia Costea | USA
  • F20 directed by Felipe Rodrigues | High School | Sao Paulo Spain
  • Don’t Get Tagged directed by Jermiah Victor | Middle School | Florida, USA
  • Facade directed by Carol Nguyen | Ontario Canada
  • I Can Help directed by Arin Dineen | New Mexico USA
  • Imaginarium directed by Robert Carrillo, Taylor Chavez and Danyae Souther | California USA
  • Incomplete directed by Ishan Modi and Aadiraj Batlaw | Singapore
  • Naga Pixie directed by Anthony Michael Hobbs | Maryland USA
  • Within directed by Kai Armstrong | California USA
  • Wonderglass directed by Lauryn Johnson | Georgia USA
  • Tempered by Fire directed by Noel Pichardo | USA
  • The Sculptor directed by Ben Ginsburg | New York USA
  • The Evolution of The Jazz Forum directed by Ben Ginsburg | New York USA
  • We Can Change directed by Arin Dineen | USA
  • What’s in the Bag? directed by Ana Lambiase, Andry Vasquez, Felix Gualtieri, Finley Acker, Jeremy Valatka, Kendall Devlin and Leah Alfaro | USA

For more information on the 16th Urban Mediamakers Film Festival, October 5-10, 2017, visit or call 404.460.2793.

The Birth of a Nation: A Cinema Mastery Rebuking A Western Lie


Sundance 2016 was the first time I heard about Nate Parker’s film – The Birth of a Nation. The Black independent filmmaking community was grinning and skinning that Parker’s film was the highest purchase of Sundance’s history. Kudos, kudos, kudos! Talk of Oscar award was spreading like wild fire. Black storytellers everywhere were simply delighted because Nate’s film flipped the script on a racist staple of the rich Hollywood storytelling community.

Then something happened.

White American powers-that-be decided to knock Parker’s film off the award and accolades train track.


Because how dare this Black man – Parker – rewrite a film that exalted America’s white forced thought of supremacy and their signature hate group – the KKK?  How dare Parker rewrite the white version of The Birth of a Nation that America has showcased for decades as cinema excellence while showing the merciless killings of Black men, women and children, and the heartlessness of white America?

As a curator of award-winning international independent films from people of color for over 15 years, I watched 12 Years A Slave several times and saw a white hero save the poor Black man from the torture of slavery.

I now have watched The Birth of a Nation 2016 twice, a film telling the story of Nat Turner’s rebellion from a Black perspective. Hands down, The Birth of a Nation by Parker is cinema mastery for its magnificent storyline based on a true story, acting, cinematography, set design, costume design, music composition, symbolism, messaging, excellence in Hollywood storytelling with an independent budget and TELLING THE TRUTH about western history.

As I watched The Birth of a Nation, I cried, I cussed, I cheered, I damned and I rejoiced when Nat Turner saw the angel.

On behalf of all Black Americans, I want to apologize to Parker for our community not supporting him. We drank the distract and mislead juice that white America always serves up to our community when someone speaks out and up for Black people.

I read the transcript from Parker’s trial, and young consenting adults do freaky things — just as many white actors, directors, producers and candidates for president are still doing well beyond their youthful ignorance. Bless the woman who took her life. But Parker’s actions may not have been the driving force of her suicide.

If Parker was acquitted on charges of rape, how dare people bring that up now to condemn this man who has brought a cultural-mind-changing film to the Black masses?

I see you white America as you strive to discredit The Birth of Nation 2016 – many of us have eyes that are open now!

As far as Parker being married to a white woman, I will admit, that gave me a pause. But I dismissed that as being Parker’s ignorance and cultural conditioning in thinking a white woman is better than a woman of color. I overlooked that because his film – The Birth of a Nation – is much bigger than Parker himself or me for that matter.

If you know anything about the Most High, Spirit will make you do things beyond your own control! The Birth of a Nation 2016 is just that! And it is not a coincident that Nate Parker is the writer, director, productor and starring actor in a movie about Nat Turner. The synergy of the names is prophetic. Black America we MUST go out and support this film!

The Birth of a Nation 2016 is a box office success. Do the numbers for yourself. For the screens the film has been released on, and the total budget of the film, The Birth of a Nation 2016 is a success!

To my beloved Black community — especially young people — and all other people of America who do not realize they are Black — white America included — go out right now and see The Birth of a Nation written, produced, directed and starring Nate Parker along with a fantastic cast of dynamic actors of all colors. Do not deprive yourself of immediate pride and a new knowingness while supporting a brother who stepped out on faith to make this film.

Think about it! Self-preservation is the first law of nature. I know what America has taught us in public schools and history books about the Black slave experience. But I want you to ask yourself one thing. Do you really believe all slaves in America were just happy servants ready to do anything for massa?

The Birth of a Nation cast: Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Bonne Junior, Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Dwight Henry, Aja Naomi King, Esther Scott, Roger Gueneur Smith, Gabrielle Union, Tony Espinosa, Jayson Warner Smith, Jason Stuart, Chike Okonkwo, Katie Garfield, Kai Norris, Chris Greene, Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Steve Coulter, Jeryl Prescott, Justine Randell Brooke, Dominic Bogart, Justin M. Smith, Allen Phoenix, Aiden Flowers, Dane Davenport, Ryan Mulkay, Danny Vinson, Tom Proctor, Dan Cox, Brad Schmidt, William Mark McCullough, Chief Olaitan, Coletrane Williams, Elijah C. Walker, Alkoya Brunson, Hank Stone, Cullen Moss, Gabriela Novogratz, Griffin Freeman, Courtney Julien, Tim McAdams, Todd Terry, David Andrew Nash, Jaye Tyroff, David Paul Lord, Scott Loeser, Greg Sproles, Andy Martin, Kemuel Crossty.

The Birth of a Nation Trailer 2016: Watch Now