Urban Exposure to Showcase Female Filmmakers on Facebook March 15 and 22
In honor of Women’s History Month, Urban Exposure Independent Film Project and Azubuike Arts is screening eight short films written and
directed by the summer program’s young women. The festival will be streamed for free on Facebook on Monday, March 15 and 22 at 6 p.m.
Each screening will be followed by a conversation between the first-time filmmakers, host Gaye Shannon Burnett (president of Azubuike African American Council for the Arts), and a special guest independent filmmaker. An online interactive Q&A will follow the short films with the Facebook Live audience.
“This is first time we’ve done women’s only; I was trying to think of what we could do for
Women’s History Month,” Burnett, the council president, who runs the six-year-old Urban Exposure with her filmmaker son, Jon Burnett, said Sunday. “We have films made by young women in our program. We have eight — I didn’t realize that, that’s enough for a whole program.”
Urban Exposure (which kicks off each July 1), is a free 10-week summer program for young people (typically ages 16-22) highlighting filmmaking fundamentals, including writing, directing, and editing. Under the supervision of experienced filmmakers, students work with one another to realize their creative visions and produce their own films from start to finish. By the end of the program, each participant writes, films, edits, and presents their films to the community at a premiere event usually held at the Figge Art Museum.
Because of Covid, most of the 2020 films were created over Zoom and the Figge showing was also online in October, Gaye Burnett said.
“It was just such a stressful year for everyone,” she said. “We were really happy to have had the program. And because we didn’t do everything the normal way, we decided to do master classes. And that worked out really great, because we would have instructors, who would teach master classes on Zoom and open it up to the public so you could see it live on Facebook.”“We got somebody monitoring the comments so we could answer questions and things like that, and we were able to get really different instructors that we wouldn’t normally have access to because they didn’t live here,” Burnett said. “We had to do everything by Zoom, and that was a totally different format for the kids,” she
said of last summer. “As far as the instruction, that worked very well. There was some hands on. If they wanted to have anything that wasn’t done with 100% on Zoom and then there was editing, you know, that’s easy to do because you can share your screen. You can look and see what they’re doing. So it actually worked out really good.”
Urban Exposure also offers a two-week Acting For Film Workshop and a one-day Production Crew Bootcamp, providing all filming, lighting and sound equipment to students free of charge – due to the generosity of funders: the Doris & Victor Day Foundation, Iowa Arts Council, and Quad City Arts Dollars, as well as from private donations.
“There is a great need for underserved young people in our community to have a positive and proactive outlet for self-expression,” the program Facebook page says. “Azubuike and its Urban Exposure film program provide youth the opportunity to do just that in a healthy and culturally rich environment.”
For the online showings of female filmmakers, on March 15th, the featured short films (all typically between 3 and 11 minutes long) are “More Than Color” by Dania Green, “Joy” by Paxton Loquist, “Coming out Straight” by Paris Davis, and “Feathers” by Meranda Castaneda.
On March 22nd, the featured films are “My True Reflections” by Adriane Allen, “Going Nowhere” by Almendra Marquez, “The Write Future” by Vanessa Banks, and “What Have I Done” by Angel Reighard.
Paris Davis and Dania Green’s films were accepted to and honored by the Canada-based Emerging Lens Cultural Film Festival – for best student film and viewers choice, respectively, Burnett said.
A Bettendorf aspiring filmmaker
With Monday morning’s nominations for the 93rd-annual Academy Awards, there have now been seven women nominated for best director: Lina Wertmüller (in 1976 for “Seven Beauties”), Jane Campion (in 1993 for “The Piano”), Sofia Coppola (in 2003 for “Lost in Translation”), Kathryn Bigelow (in 2009 for “The Hurt Locker”), Greta Gerwig (2017’s “Lady Bird”), and this year’s Chloe Zhao for “Nomadland,” and Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman.”
Bigelow is the only female director to win an Oscar , in 2010, for “The Hurt Locker.”
Bettendorf native Paxton Loquist wants to change that fact. She created her short film, “Joy,” through Urban Exposure in 2019, at age 21.
“She’s like the only one, and it’s sad, but at the same time, like, I just have this really good feeling that it’s changing,” Loquist said Sunday of Bigelow and female filmmakers in general.
She expects to graduate this May from University of Iowa, with a bachelor’s in cinema. Loquist was the only female of five students in her Urban Exposure program.
“I learned so much, and feel like I learned more about production in that 10 weeks that I have in the last two years that I have been at school,” she said. “Honestly, I think personally writing the script was the hardest part for me, just coming up with a story that I was proud of.” “I actually learned a lot. One of the biggest things they told you in the program was to show, don’t tell,” Loquist said. “And it’s really hard not to do that. Because when we read our stories, like in our books and stuff, it’s so descriptive. And there’s a lot of dialogue, and in reality, we’re not like that. “We don’t explain a lot of our emotions all the time — we don’t say I’m sad. We have to show it. How are they sad, and that was like a really big thing for me. So in reality, initially my script was almost 15 pages, so I had to cut it down.”
In “Joy” (named for a sister in the 10-minute film, and its theme of happiness or lack thereof), when a lamblike young man is dumped, he and his projected conscience confront his manipulative father to heal an old wound. Loquist wrote and directed it (filming partially in
Bettendorf), with cinematography by Elise Edens.
“Although I do have my own equipment, I actually was able to use all of theirs, and they had a lot of great stuff,” Loquist said of the program. “They had all the lighting, the cameras. They offer all of that to the students. And so it was honestly, a great opportunity, because even the stuff I had wasn’t as nice as what they had. And so I just felt more professional.”
She said she grew incredibly from the Urban Exposure program.
“A lot of people are always surprised by me because I’m way ahead of some of the students where they don’t even know how to, like, run a camera,” Loquist (who’s also interned with a Louisiana-based marketing firm) said. “And the program was able to give me the basics and on top of that, it gave me the confidence to actually teach myself more because I want to know how to get better.”
“I just have a passion for telling stories. And I love doing projects from beginning to end,” she said of filmmaking. “I love the fact that it’s always changing and that it’s so innovative. And as I’ve learned more, I keep finding out these new amazing things about how things are
done, and you pretty much create a world within your own world that people can see.”
Loquist also loves maturing as a female in the male-dominated industry.
“Just as a woman, it’s really interesting to me to see the growing number of us that are going into the field. And I feel like we have a lot to offer,” she said. “So I’m pretty excited to kind of put my print, so to speak, on the industry to just pretty much show that other women can do it — because a lot of the time and it’s not just in film, but a lot of industries are very male-dominated. And, I think it’s important to have other women or people who can relate to me, and have that representation.”
Gaye Burnett said it’s a challenge for students to edit down their scripts and footage for short films.
“It’s easier to write the scripts, about one page a minute (of screen time),” she said. “The challenge for them is, they don’t realize you shoot so much more footage. With a three- or four-minute film, you might have two or three hours of footage. They have a lot of film to go through, edit, make decisions on, try to find music, sound effects — it takes them a while.
“It is a challenge because they don’t always understand what to take out and what to leave,” Burnett said. “So that’s why the instructors help them with that. That’s more of the challenge is to get it down so it makes sense.”
Lineup of women’s films
In addition to “Joy” on March 15, the selected films to be shown on the next two Monday nights are:
- “More Than Color” (2017) — Willow, a black girl of darker complexion, dictates her inner thoughts as she experiences the cruel reality of colorism. Based on a poem entitled “Don’t Judge Me By The Color Of My Skin,” by Naomi Johnson. Written and directed by Dania Green, cinematography by Amanda Murray (run time of 4:51).
- “Coming Out Straight” (2018) — The film depicts a flipped world in which the norm is to be gay. It follows Janelle as she comes out as straight to friends, family, and peers within 24 hours. The story is about acceptance and being true to yourself, no matter how difficult. The film was made to create empathy putting viewers in someone else’s shoes. Written and directed by Paris Davis, cinematography by Cooper Harrison (run time of 10:04).
“Feathers” (2017) — Accepting her friends and mother’s alienation, a young artist named Callie finds self-worth and a new friend through Cameron, a curious and abstract young man. Written and directed by Meranda Castańeda, cinematography by Cooper Harrison (run time of 11:26).
- “My True Reflections” (2015) — A film by Adrienne Allen, it explores the day-to-day effects that the media has on a young woman and her self-beauty perception (run time of 7:14)
- “Going Nowhere” (2016) — In this personal short by Almendra Marquez, “Going Nowhere” observes two friends, Gina and Archie, as their relationship ends. Gina tries to hold on to what’s left as Archie becomes more and more distant (run time of 7:17).
- “The Write Future” (2018) — Morgan, a high school student preparing for college, wants to be a writer. However, her parents want her to choose a different path merely for financial security. Morgan wants to be happy, but her parents think she’s taking too much of a risk. Written and directed by Vanessa Banks, cinematography by Paris Davis (run time of 7:31).
- “What Have I Done” (2018) — For many people, young adult life is a time of discovery and exploring who they are. In this film, Sam has the opposite problem and begins losing herself to partying and reckless behavior, and none of her “party friends” want to help her. Written and directed by Angel Reighard, cinematography by Vanessa Banks (run time of 6:41).
For the Facebook Live events, the first Q&A will include Florida filmmaker Ana Gamundi, one of the instructors, and the second week will be a Quad-Cities instructor, Elise Edens.
“I’m so excited. I think it’s gonna be such a empowering thing to see, because I’ve never been a part of an all-female-focused festival before,” Loquist said. “So to be able to see these women that also have been in the group and know Jon and Miss Gaye, it’s gonna be so amazing. Because although I’ve never met them, I’ve seen their work, I like watch them all so many times. “I admire all of them for all the hard work they put in,” she said. “And so I’m just excited to see what they have to say.” Gaye Burnett hopes to get applicants for this summer’s program by May, and it will be conducted in a hybrid of in-person and online. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/UrbanExposureFilms.