Ten-Day Seminar Hosted by the Nate Parker Foundation and Wiley College to
Promote Diversity in the Film Industry
With 31 black rising high school seniors and college students from across the country in attendance, Wiley College and the Nate Parker Foundation successfully kicked off and carried out the inaugural Nate Parker Summer Film Institute on Wiley's campus in July. The 10-day seminar, hosted by acclaimed director, actor and Wiley board trustee Nate Parker, was launched to promote African American representation in the film industry.
The Institute's mission is dedicated to transforming the film industry by increasing representation of minority filmmakers through education, hands-on training, and leadership skills. The industry's lack of diversity is well-documented with a report issued earlier this year by UCLA finding that minorities are underrepresented by nearly every metric examined, including in the number of film leads, directors, and writers.
"We need more people of color working in film today – in front of and behind the camera," said Nate Parker. "Transforming the industry to look more like America won't just benefit those individuals. It will benefit the communities they come from and the industry itself. The first step toward making this a reality is to open the doors of opportunity to young people, empowering them with the skills they will need and inspiring them to pursue their passion."
The students who attended the institute are poets, photographers, writers, directors and actors who were selected based on essays and short stories they submitted addressing the lack of diversity in film.
More than a dozen notable guest lecturers taught, mentored, and worked alongside students during the institute, including: Radha Blank, a playwright and writer for the FOX show Empire; Emir Lewis, an Emmy-nominated producer and editor; Qasim "Q" Basir, an award-winning filmmaker; Cary Anderson, an acclaimed acting coach; Monika Watkins, documentary filmmaker; Kimberly Boehm, scholar of African American and 20th-century US history; and Brian Favors, co-founder of Sankofa Community Empowerment. They led courses in screenwriting, acting, and editing, as well as the history of minority filmmaking.
At the end of the Institute, the sudents hosted a red carpet premiere of "Stain," a seven-minute short film they wrote and directed during the course of the program. Parker has plans to enter the short in film festivals around the country.
He and Wiley's President, Dr. Haywood L. Strickland, have envisioned that Wiley College will develop a reputation of cultivating new voices in the film industry -the summer program was the critical first step toward attaining that goal. It served as a pilot for a new track in Wiley's Interdisciplinary studies program that rolls out in the fall - the Nate Parker area of Film, Theater, and Drama. And there are future plans on Wiley's campus for the Nate Parker School of Film, Theatre, and Drama.
"Wiley College has a rich history and legacy of producing some of the world's leading contributors in the fields of education, science, business, and government," said Dr. Strickland. "Now, with the launching of the Nate Parker Summer Film Institute, and the forthcoming launch of our film program, the College will produce the next generation of filmmakers telling stories steeped in African-American history, culture, experiences and beyond."
Parker's relationship with Wiley College began ten years ago when he appeared in The Great Debaters, a 2007 film based on the 1930s Wiley debate team which went undefeated for ten years in championship competitions. Most recently, the Wiley College A Cappella Choir provided music for the film The Birth of a Nation – Parker's directorial debut – which won the Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
In top photo, director and actor Nate Parker is pictured on campus with students from around the country who participated in the inaugural Nate Parker Summer Film Institute on Wiley's in July.
In second photo, students gain firsthand knowledge about the film industry during a session with Nate Parker and Qasim "Q" Basir, an award-winning filmmaker.
In bottom photo, Radha Blank, a playwright and writer for the FOX show "Empire," shares knowledge with future storytellers during the Nate Parker Summer Film Institute at Wiley College.