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  • Writer's pictureKeyaira Boone

Newark International Film Festival Tells a Different Story About The City

This weekend Newark, New Jersey celebrated the 2nd annual Newark International Film Festival. The three day festival consisted of workshops, film screenings, panel discussions, and award ceremonies. It was held at several locations in Newark’s downtown area including Newark Symphony Hall, The Newark Museum, Newark Public Library, Rutgers University, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Essex County College, Military Park and the Cityplex Theater allowing those who often never get to see past the Prudential Center a closer glimpse at the city.

The event's title sponsor was Panasonic who is a participant in Newark’s 2020 unemployment initiative. Additional supporters included Ironbound Film and Television Studios, For Us By Us Television, Essex County College, and Taste Venue.

Media personality Madison Jaye, who has been involved in many city community arts programs including the Lincoln Park Festival, conducted a workshop with some of the youth in attendance about how to conduct on-air interviews at the Hahne & Co. building. She coached the children on how to inspire confidence by treating their subjects with kindness and respect. She advised her students to greet interviewees “with a smile” informing them that “You are the energy you project. They have no choice but to vibrate that positive energy back at you.”

She coaxed some of the students who were shy out of their shell by asking them to describe three things about their personalities that made them unique. Some of the adjectives the children came up with to describe themselves were things like “honest” “blunt” “outgoing” “weird and “goofy” she assured them that these were all assets.

After she demonstrated a mock interview with a friend who was on hand to show support the children stood in front of the step and repeat and gave it a go themselves.

Everyone seemed to have fun as they were learning. A few attendees even flexed for the shoe cam.

And this young lady stepped behind the camera to make sure everything was captured.

Newark native and fashion designer Tiffany Salas sparkled wearing one of her designs after speaking with the children about her experiences in fashion.

Later actor Lance Gross, who stars in this month’s TV One film “When Love Kills”, sat in conversation with producer Tracey Baker-Simmons at NJIT. The two spoke on stepping outside of your comfort zone, hustle, and personal branding, a must for creatives looking to succeed in the digital age.

He explained to the crowd that his success stemmed from genuine commitment to his craft saying that “I don’t do anything I don’t want to do. I don’t want anything to feel forced.” and “When a person loves something and they display it you can tell that they love it.”

The star, who many consider to be heartthrob, got his start as a model and did not have Hollywood connections prior to following his dreams of becoming an actor. “For my family it was a show and prove thing. I told them I could make it and I had to prove it to them.” He didn’t let his lack of resources stop him “as long as I believed in myself and worked hard it didn’t matter.”

He revealed that he has just been added to the cast of Fox’s primetime drama “Star” and disclosed that he padded his resume with plays that he hadn’t performed in while he was on the “hustle” to get an agent. Baker-Simmons reminded the audience that wasn’t wise to do in the age on LinkedIn to which he replied “I can only tell you about that because I never got caught doing it.” resulting in a rousing round of laughter from the audience.

People diligently took notes as he spoke and lined up to ask questions. They also lined up to take selfies with him whispering fervently amongst themselves that they couldn’t wait to meet “bae”.

One woman even gifted Gross with a book that she wrote with the hope that he might considering starring in the adaptation.

The event was the vision of Kenneth Gifford. A Newark native himself Gifford spent years in production working on movies like “Hancock” and “Cadillac Records” before returning home to make a change. In 2014 he accepted the position of Director of the Newark Office of Film & Television to offer opportunities and resources to filmmakers with vision that exceeds their capital and tell a different kind of story about his hometown.

He says “life is amazing when you control the ending” but with his commitment to change manifesting in momentous occasions like these that ending doesn’t seem like it’s coming any time soon.

For more information on the Newark International Film Festival check out their website here.

For more information on how you or the artist in your life can benefit from the Newark Office of Film & Television check out their website.

#LaneGross #NewarkIFF #NewarkInternationalFilmFestival #Panasonic #brickcity #MadisonJaye #Chiffani #tv #film #communityevent

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