Celebrating 15 successful years, the 2017 Run&Shoot Filmworks’ Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAAFF) screened more than 60 features, short films, documentaries, and television series. The six-day festival featured the movies Marshall, Detroit, Crown Heights, and Rodney King; and two episodes from Spike Lee’s new television show She’s Gotta Have It and two episodes from Issa Rae’s Insecure, among other groundbreaking works.
This month, MVAAFF founders Stephanie and Floyd Rance received a special citation from the State of Massachusetts’ Governor’s Office for their significant contributions to the local economy of Martha’s Vineyard. With more than 2,500 participants at this year’s festival, the island saw a marked increase in housing rentals, hotel bookings, restaurant patronage, and lifestyle and consumer shopping.
The Rances held the inaugural festival in July 2002 in Oak Bluffs on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard. “Fifteen years is an outstanding accomplishment and everyone should be applauded,” says Floyd Rance, who co-founded the MVAAFF with his wife, Stephanie. “I always consider this event our third child and just like our other children we are equally as proud of this event. We have nurtured it and watched it crawl, helped it to its feet, and watch[ed] it walk.”
When Corporate and Art Backgrounds Unite
The Rances came to film festival production from backgrounds in corporate media and film production. Stephanie left her corporate job at Westhill Partners as director of public relations more than 15 years ago to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming an entrepreneur and eventually launched her marketing firm, Crescendo.
Floyd, a film producer and cinematographer, started his career working on Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues. The Howard University graduate continued working with Lee and director/cinematographer Ernest Dickerson on the acclaimed films Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, and Clockers, among others. Floyd also produces episodic television and commercials; some of his clients have included HBO, Reebok, Foot Locker, and Family Dollar, to name a few.
After leaving corporate America, Stephanie was taking a much-needed break while her husband was working on an independent short film in Barbados. During that time, she began to think about marketing initiatives that she could bring to the Island of Barbados. After returning home, she arranged a meeting with the management team of the Barbados Tourism Board in New York, which was looking to increase travel to the island by African American visitors. In her proposal, she included a pitch to bring a film festival to Barbados.
In the summer of 2000, the couple rented a house in Martha’s Vineyard, one of their favorite vacation destinations. They met a filmmaker who brought her short films to the Vineyard and convinced the local owner of the former Strand Theatre in Oak Bluffs to allow her to screen her films. He agreed, and the line to see her series of shorts extended around the block.
“Subconsciously, I kept that moment in the back of my mind,” says Stephanie. “If you’ve been to Martha’s Vineyard, [you know] there’s not a ton to do on the island in the evenings.”
SOURCE: Gwendolyn Quinn