In just its second year, the Jxn Film Festival brings an impressive lineup of film industry talent to the capital city to share their knowledge both in person and virtually.
“What we primarily focus on is entrepreneurship,” said Maximus Wright, a local independent filmmaker and the festival’s founder. “How do you survive as a filmmaker? We want to empower people on how to create their art while making a living.”
The festival will feature films in competition, from not only local filmmakers from Mississippi and the southeast, but from as far as Iran and Paris.
“It’s really becoming international,” said Candice Jackson, the festival’s director. “We support independent filmmaking. And we want to provide opportunities for these filmmakers to talk to industry professionals.”
To that end, the festival features several master classes covering different aspects of the industry.
“We’re focusing on things that qualify as workforce development for our industry,” Wright said. “It’s a training ground for both content creators and the crew they need to work on their projects. It’s about creating better teams and better opportunities.”
Things kick off July 24 with a VIP reception from 4-8 p.m. at the festival’s host hotel, Homewood Suites by Hliton Jackson in the Fondren district.
The centerpiece of this year’s festival is the Bird’s Eye Entertainment (BEE) Pitch Bootcamp. This three-day workshop held July 25-27 at Homewood Suites teaches participants how to prepare a pitch for TV and film projects and gives guidance on how to get them into the right hands.
The camp is led by Ashley McFarlin Buie, vice president of development for WeTV and founder/CEO of BEE. She says TV and film production has always been part of her life as her mother was a producer in Atlanta.
“It dawned on me that the opportunities for people of color to engage with the industry—in the way that I was able to—are very limited,” Buie said. “The idea of the boot camp is to open the door for people who are talented and gifted in filmmaking but don’t know the ‘hows’ and the ‘whos’ to break into the industry.”
She will be joined by other industry professionals like Carlos King, producer of the shot-in-Jackson reality series “Belle Collective” and a former producer of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta;” Chivon Ferguson, owner of Atlanta’s PGP Productions; Luke Burke IV, a producer who has worked with MTV, BET, Bravo, CNN, and Vice News Tonight, where he won an Emmy; and Okema T. Moore, a producer and actress who has worked with Food Network, OWN, DreamWorks, Nickelodeon and Fox.
“They’re all friends and colleagues I’ve invited to join me to help remove the veil and share information,” Buie said. “Like how do you connect with producers? How do you pitch projects that you’re working on? Where do you start when you have an idea for something you want to create? I want people to come out of the boot camp feeling armed and fortified to really follow their dreams.”
Also on July 25, a Film and Cosmetology master class with several stylists and makeup artists will be held from 4-6 p.m. at Homewood Suites.
“A lot of people work in salons, but they may not know the different techniques of how film makeup is applied,” Wright said.
Then on July 26 at 6:30 p.m., a virtual master class on “How to Audition to Major Studios” will be hosted virtually by DeAnce Wyatt of Tyler Perry Studios.
The films competing in the festival will be screened on both July 26 and 27 at the Malco Grandview Cinema in Madison.
“The screenings will feature a lot of local and in-state talent,” Wright said. “I’m glad to be able to provide them the opportunity to see their work on the big screen. I’m excited to just sit back, grab some popcorn and watch.”
The projects made by the students of the Film Jackson Youth Summer Camp, held last month through a partnership with the City of Jackson, will be screened as well. Wright served as an instructor for the camp.
“A big part of the festival’s outreach has been to engage young people in some way,” Jackson said. “They recreated scenes from films like ‘Black Panther,’ ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘Hidden Figures,’ and the campers learned about every aspect of filmmaking from wardrobe to editing.”
A highlight of the films screening will be the documentary “Blurring the Color Line: Chinese in the Segregated South,” by Chinese-American filmmaker Crystal Kwok, who will be in attendance for a Q&A following the screening.
“Emmy-winning comedian W. Kamau Bell served as an executive producer for this film,” Wright said. “It’s a very interesting piece. It’s about Asian-Americans’ role in the civil rights movement, and it’s something most people haven’t really seen before.”
On July 27 at 6 p.m., Wright himself will host a writing master class at Homewood Suites.
Then on July 28 at 9 a.m. at the Jackson Convention Complex, Corey Pearson, a VR product designer for Meta, will give a presentation on the metaverse. The metaverse exploration will continue later that evening at 4 p.m. as Pearson is joined by producer B.K. Fulton, who executive produced the shot-in-Mississippi films “A Day to Die” and “Atone,” for a panel discussion entitled “Filmmakers, Entrepreneurs and the Metaverse.”
Events continue at the convention complex July 29, with an acting master class at 11:30 a.m. hosted by actress and Greenwood native Tonea Stewart, known for her roles in made-in-Mississippi films “A Time to Kill,” “Mississippi Burning” and “Same Kind of Different as Me.” That evening, the festival wraps up with a Black Tie Awards Gala hosted by actor Palmer Williams Jr. of TV’s “House of Payne” fame.
Jackson and Wright both hope that the festival will continue to grow along with the industry in the state.
“We want the Jxn Film Festival to be a destination,” Jackson said. “My vision is that in less than five years it will be the spot for film and filmmaking in the City of Jackson.”
For tickets and more information, visit jxnfilmfestival.com.