Dropping the Mic on Securing the Bag: Hip-Hop Film Festival’s CR Capers
As the award season celebrating last year’s contributions to cinema beckons us to a close, behind the scenes, filmmakers are still putting in the work and raising the bar one monologue, one shot at a time. Directors are trading sleep for takes, creatives are swapping their nine-to-fives for call sheets, and film entrepreneurs are prepping for festivals months in advance that recognize novice filmmakers as the debut of their Hollywood careers.
Founder and CEO of the Hip Hop Film Festival with the motto, “We rock. We don’t stop," C. R. Capers, graced us with introspection into what it means to have a heart for humanity with a passion for storytelling in the Hip Hop culture.
With the fourth season of the festival approaching in only a matter of months, Capers wants audiences and allies to note that HHFF is not a festival of Hip Hop movies, but for filmmakers and film lovers who grew up in the global Hip Hop culture. “Hip Hop is a culture,” Capers reiterates, “rap is music. We are about collective bargaining, collective resources, collaboration. The best thing that’s come out of our culture is us working together and bringing each other up.”
Induction Into The Film Festival “Hall of Fame”
Capers said that filmmaking, for her, was an accident.
It all started with a podcast in 2010. Then, as the market became flooded, I needed to find a way that separates us. So, I decided to do commercials. I got my team together, my “madmen," and shot a commercial. Then, I caught the bug and that was it.
So how did Capers transition into filmmaking, thus introducing the dopest festival in the circuit today?
The natural evolution was that we are going to create a film festival that not only produces content that people, like myself, in Hip Hop culture would appreciate but was also created by people in Hip Hop culture. It’s a lucrative enough field where we can create economic opportunities for everyone. As I began to do research, I began to see that a lot of us were paying to be excluded and that the ‘tokens’ that did make it in didn’t go any further than a basic showcase. And it made me really mad. Like my podcast called ‘Why You Mad Son’ Radio, we talked about things that made us mad enough to want to enact change. It led me to getting mad enough to do something about us not having a voice.
The zeal in her voice made the interview feel more like a conversation. It was impossible to not hear her heart or feel compelled to want to tackle societal issues in a creative way as well. “Everything I do has to service our community," continued the Cabin in the Hood (2013) director.
HHFF Goes Global
Shifting from pioneering HHFF to reaching masses across the globe and securing funding, Capers was nothing less than transparent.
“[Going international] fell into my lap. There is opportunity and people everywhere that wants that content. As a filmpreneaur, I encourage anybody to see how film is overseas. Here, you’re not told how amazing you are. It’s impossible to get support. Seek international partnership.”
Capers’ call to action, like her irrefutable reputation, precedes her as the HHFF has connected with and featured films representing a global spectrum from France to Saudi Arabia, South Africa to Russia and more, making this festival the first of its kind that not only puts filmmakers raised in the global culture of Hip Hop at the forefront to go beyond the small screen, but also offers box office proceeds to participants (if sufficient.)
Hip Hop Film Fest is more than a festival. It’s an organization.
HHFF also features Master Cyphers where industry professionals lay out on the table their insight on how participants ought to negotiate distribution deals, can achieve a green light for projects, and how big picture movies with modest budgets can gain access to funding.
Though there are countless film festivals in the world that market to independent auteurs, even those that provide a safe space for the Black community, Capers’ vision expands beyond the National Black Theatre where the festival is held each year.
The 411 On Production Companies
Harlem Film House is a corporation spearheaded by C. R. Capers “that services filmmakers that need resources," she added.
When inquired more about what Harlem Film House offers filmmakers, Capers said that it is not a production company and does not simply end with the Hip Hop Film Fest.
“Production companies are a dime a dozen. If you’ve got an iPhone, you can film, baby. But so many people don’t understand that once you film it, there’s a whole other side to it. That’s called in retardation regards to to say ‘finishing. We help them finish and help them stay on target as far as being business-minded in regard to their content. We don’t want our creatives to end up like the music industry guys from long ago. Why isn’t Little Richard as big as Elvis? Well, because people took his stuff. There is no ownership. The recording industry is just now figuring this out. Here we have a unique opportunity to say “Wait a minute”. We own this content. The Harlem Film House is to educate us to own our masters, own our content.”say ‘
“We are the single most influential driver of culture in the world,” Capers added, “and we own none of it.”
#BossChicks Bootcamp, an intensive two-day workgroup for women entrepreneurs, ACT UP! NYC’s only open mic for writers and actors which Capers muses as an “ecosystem of crazy opportunity," and 24/7films.tv, the official network of HHFF, are the brainchildren of Harlem Film House and HHFF.
A Social Justice Warrior And The Future Of Black Tinseltown
At the close of our interview, I asked C R about any of her personal film projects that cinephiles should add to their watchlist.
“I am a social justice warrior, so my constant project is to uplift humans and not just Black folks. My constant project is elevating humanity. So anything that’ll put me on that wavelength, that I can do with my talent, that I know I’ll do it well, that’s what I’m looking for.”
As C. R. Capers continues to push the culture forward and offer a fresh remix to the narrative surrounding the business side of film festivals, we look forward to joining the charge in awe and anticipation of how she and her team will turn the industry on its head next.
The Hip Hop Film Fest takes place in New York, NY on August 1–4, 2019.Tickets available here:https://hhff2019.eventbrite.com